|Birth: ||Jun. 17, 1873|
|Death: ||Dec. 9, 1916, Italy|
For some years in the early 1890s she was the toast of the United States. She was widely known, envied and admired, desired, loathed and reviled.
The daughter of a rather wealthy man, often stated to be a millionaire, sometimes called "Captain" Ward. A French manuscript calls him roi du cochon or "hog king", and he was perhaps a major dealer in pork.
Her mother was Catherine Lyon, who remarried after the death of Ward.
She came to the public's attention in 1889 or early 1890 when it was announced that the distinguished Belgian visitor to the United States, Prince Marie Joseph Anatole Pierre Alphonse de Riquet of Chimay and Camaran, had proposed marriage to the very young, very attractive daughter of a very wealthy family.
The Chateau of Chimay then, as now, was in the county of Hainaut, Belgium, near the French border. The holder of the title "Prince" did so rightfully, and possessed a long and proper royal, or at least semi-royal pedigree. The title was of the type of the old French monarchy, in which "Prince" is a rank, rather than a method showing the degree of relationship to the crown. The wife of that sort of prince becomes a "Princess", and so Clara became, entirely legitimately, a European princess.
Clara was now properly called "Princesse de Caraman-Chimay", but usually went by "Clara, Princess of Chimay". Americans were ecstatic about their new princess. The first American princess had been Catherine Willis, grand-niece of George Washington, who married Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew, Achille, Prince Murat of the Kingdom of Naples. (Both the Prince and Princess Murat may now be found buried in Tallahassee, Florida).
Some time after the birth of their second child, probably in 1896, the Prince and Princess Chimay were dining in Paris, at what may be expected to have been a suitably elegant establishment. Present at the restaurant, in some capacity, was an exceptionally handsome Hungarian, Rigo Janczi. (Being Hungarian, "Rigo" was the gentleman's family name and "Janczi" his given name.) Most accounts credit M. Rigo with being a Gypsy musician or violinist, although he is sometimes listed as a chef.
Since a moderately well-known chocolate pastry is named "Rigo Janczi" after him, perhaps one should give credence to the probability that the man was a chef rather than a musician. In any case, all accounts agree that Clara and Janczi were mutually smitten.
The Prince and Princess Chimay were divorced on January 19th, 1897, and this event was probably occasioned by Clara and Janczi becoming lovers, perhaps with some attendant public knowledge. The new couple are believed to have traveled to Hungary, in a cloud of publicity. It is believed that they were married there, presumably after the 1897 divorce. Some accounts indicate that they soon moved to Egypt, of all places, where Clara taught the love of her life the intricacies of reading and writing (in French, perhaps?). It took until 1904 for the couple to marry.
Her main talents were being good looking by the standards of the time, and being famous. She combined the two by posing on various stages, including at least the Folies Bergère and probably the Moulin Rouge, while wearing skin-tight costumes. She called her art-form her poses plastiques. Her level of fame, and presumably notoriety, grew. Henri Toulouse-Lautrec made a scarce lithograph of her and Rigo in 1897, "Idylle Princière". Many photographs were taken of her poses by the Parisian photographer, Léopold-Emile Reutlinger, which became highly sought-after cabinet cards (as shown above) and later a large series of post cards, many of which were hand colored after printing (see below, left).
Perhaps the income from this odd occupation was sufficient for the couple to live reasonably well. The idyll was not to last. They were divorced fairly soon after their 1904 marriage, either shortly before or after Clara met her next true love, one Peppino Ricciardo, sometimes stated to have been Spanish, but who was most likely Italian.
He is believed to have been a waiter whom she met on a train.
They were soon married, but Peppino Ricciardo probably did not last long.
The timing is vague, but Clara's next true love, and her last husband, is thought to have been a station manager of the little Italian railroad that helped visitors tour Mount Vesuvius, a Signore Cassalota.
Clara is believed to have still been married to her fourth husband when she died in Padua, Italy, on December 9th, 1916. She was 43.
Eber Brock Ward (1811 - 1875)
Catharine Lyon Morrow (1841 - 1915)
Jancsi Rigó (1858 - 1927)
Samuel Duane Ward (1844 - 1845)**
Elizabeth Virginia Ward (1846 - 1924)**
Frederick Potter Ward (1853 - 1872)**
Mary Ward Wilkins (1860 - 1952)**
Clara Ward Chimay Rigo Ricciardo Cassalota (1873 - 1916)
Created by: Athanatos
Record added: Jun 21, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 53936060