María Consuelo Montagu, Duchess of Manchester , née Doña María Consuelo Iznaga y Clement, (1858 – 20 November 1909) was a Cuban American woman who married Viscount Mandeville and later became the Duchess of Manchester.
María Consuelo Iznaga y Clement was born in 1858 on the Ravenswood plantation in Concordia Parish, Louisiana, and was the third of four children of diplomat Antonio Iznaga y del Valle and Ellen Maria Clement y Little. Her father hailed from an old and wealthy Cuban family who owned sugar mills, and they had also connections to several Spanish aristocratic houses. Her mother grew up at Ravenswood Plantation in Louisiana.
On 22 May 1876 in Grace Church, New York, Consuelo married George Montagu, Viscount Mandeville. After that they settled on the Duke of Manchester's estate in Ireland. The couple had three children:
William Montagu, 9th Duke of Manchester (1877–1947)
Lady Jacqueline Mary Alva Montagu (b 27 November 1879 † 1895 of consumption)
Lady Alice Eleanor Louise Montagu (b 27 November 1879 † 10 January 1900 Davos of consumption
In her teenage years Consuelo became known on New York's social scene as one of the group called the Buccaneers.
The Duchess of Manchester was a renowned beauty. The same were her sisters, Emily Iznaga y Clement and Natividad (Natica) Iznaga y Clement. The latter was the wife of Sir John Pepys Lister-Kaye, 3rd Baronet. The Duchess was a celebrated society figure, belonging to the intimate circle of Edward VII of the United Kingdom, formerly the Prince of Wales.
Maria Consuelo Yznaga del Valle was born in the plantation of Ravenswood, Louisiana in the year 1858, three years before the war between the states.
She was the third child of Antonio and Ellen Yznaga. They made Ravenswood and New York City their homes.
For all their connections, New York society refused to accept them as their own. Ellen had been denied invitations to society events which eventually drove her and her family to Paris, where they were well received. It was there Consuelo was introduced to Empress Eugenie de Montijo. Eugenie, like Consuelo, was half Spanish, half American and very beautiful. Eugenie presided over a brilliant court in Paris. Consuelo and Eugenie became lifelong friends.
Several years later, the Yznagas traveled to Saratoga, New York to introduce their daughters to society as well as getting husbands for them. It was there Consuelo met a dashing, but impoverished duke from England. His name was George Victor Drogo Montagu, the future duke of Manchester. They were married in a lavish ceremony at Grace Church in New York City in 1876. Although the wedding made front page news at the New York Times, she and her family were dismissed as "nobodies" by the NYT editorial. She received no dowry for the wedding from her father.
On the other side of the ocean, the future duke's family wasn't thrilled about the match between him and Consuelo. He didn't think his daughter-in-law was good enough for his eldest son and heir. For one thing, he didn't receive a dowry from her family, for her family thought he would take care of her and that her father couldn't afford to siphon off his wealth at the time, although he gave his oldest daughter $50,000 dowry upon marrying Lord Lister-Kaye in 1882. He wondered whether his son had married a red Indian woman, for her behavior didn't conform to the ideal of a proper young English lady for she sang country songs to the tune of the banjo, smoked cigars, and behavined in a casual way as she would back home in Mississipi of her youth.