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In Autumn 1905 on the way back to England Nancy met Waldorf Astor onboard the White Star Line's SS Cedric. He was the wealthy eldest son of William Waldorf, a former American but now British subject. He was also earnest, good looking and charming with a strong sense of responsibility - ideal step-father material for Nancy's young son, Bobbie. They wed on 3 May 1906 after a brief courtship. Although they appeared to be opposites their marriage lasted for many years and was one of the best decisions Nancy made during her life.

A growing family

Between their marriage and the start of the First World War, Nancy and Waldorf had three children: Bill (William Waldorf II) in 1907, Wissie (Nancy Phyllis Louise) in 1909 and David (Francis David Langhorne) in 1912. The birth of Nancy's two 'war babies' - Michael in 1916 and Jakie (John Jacob VII) in 1918 - completed their brood.

Christian Science

Like many upper class families of the age, the children had nannies. Apart from Bobbie, they were all given a Christian Science lesson each morning. This was Nancy's chosen faith - a religious movement developed in America during the 1800s that views the material world as an illusion and does not believe in medicine.

The family had a number of homes including Cliveden, Buckinghamshire; 4 St James' Square, London; 3 Elliot Terrace, Plymouth; Rest Harrow, Kent - their 'cottage by the sea' - plus an estate on the island of Jura, Scotland.

An 'affectionate bully'

Nancy and Waldorf could be tough parents. Waldorf could be severe or distant. Nancy could be possessive or domineering and did not praise easily. The children would eventually go on to forge their own relationships and lives - with the exception of Bobbie whose intense bond with his mother left him 'miserably attached to her, by an invisible, unbroken, umbilical cord'.

Despite any underlying strains, there were also many good times. The children loved Nancy and she loved them too.

Waldorf Astor biography

Lord and Lady Astor
© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)