17 - THE BATTLE AXES
(THE HAVEs & THE HAVE NOTs)
“This will not stand. Do you know what your grandson has done? He has gone and married a doctor, and that’s not even the problem. I sent my people to check on this girl. Her grandfather was a measurably wealthy man. He had a decent career as a surgeon and a founder of a medical school. All of that is well and good, but that girl is not one of us.” Ryder’s mother commented on everything she’d learned about her new daughter-in-law.
“Who cares if she isn’t like us. Does she compliment your son’s life?” His grandmother questioned.
“Mother, that doesn’t matter. That woman is not good enough for MY SON.” His mother continued.
“I hope you don’t mean that. Do you know what it’s like to be told you’re not good enough to be a part of a certain crowd or a family who sees themselves as God’s own gift? No. Of course, you haven’t experienced a thing. Your stepfather and I made sure you were insulated from the problems and prejudices in this world. Even when you married that fool, you had the support of your family, so who are you to judge?” The elder of the two women became irritated by the reply.
(WALKER’s & THORNTON’s)
Amelia Elizabeth Thornton-Walker paced back and forward across the massive parlor in her mother’s Lake Ouachita summer home.
Lady Konstantina lived in the breathtaking chateau from the first week of May until the second week of September. During her four-month in-residence stay at that location, the women typically enjoyed a long vacation. Their work-life had centered around the Thornton and Walker empires for a combined eighty years.
Amelia’s mother was fortunate to have found two of the best men God created. Both were responsible hard-working entrepreneurs who actually cared about the way in which the world perceived their families.
Lady Konstantina was born Konstantina Seraphin Bartholomew. She was the only child of railroad mogul Morton Silas Bartholomew and Helena Abigail Stanhope. Her father worked his fingers to the bone to purchase several shares of a railroad company that was in dire straits during the onset of the Great Depression.
Once the country began its recovery efforts from 1933 to 1945, Morton Bartholomew owned eighty-five percent of the stock in the Southern Meridian Railway Company. At that time, his daughter Konstantina was the most beautiful fifteen-year-old young lady in the state of Oklahoma. The moment the family saw their finances increase, they packed up and moved to New York City to give their daughter a better chance of meeting a suitor who could match her financial status.
The family wasn’t received the way Mr. Bartholomew had imagined. The social elites considered them to be the “Nouveau Riche” or newly rich. Their wealth wasn’t inherited for several generations, so the wealthy households turned their noses up and excluded them from the “Genteel Society” often known as Polite or Elegant Society.
Her family decided it would be best to take their daughter to Europe hoping to find a match while abroad.
When they arrived in France, they found the wealthy and those of the aristocracy consider something of more importance than just their titles. You see in those days, many people held noble titles, but they had no money. Unfortunately for aristocrats, they were prevented from working so they lived based on the money they received from the Crown or those who lived on their lands.
The plight of the Great Depression reached out and around the world. Many people lost their wealth due to the American stock market crash, so the appearance of American money after the great fall was a welcomed sight to the nobility who were dirt poor.
As a wealthy American family, the Bartholomew family was received well. Konstantina was a formidably beautiful ingénue. Her parents raised her to be polite, to sing, and play the piano, but beyond that, they hadn’t trained her to properly interact with those who were raised from the crib on how to carry themselves in the world of the nobles.
Because she was the most alluring creature many of the young men and quite a few of the older gentlemen had ever seen, they overlooked the fact that her manners were a bit crude. The curly platinum blonde with a thick Oklahoma accent, sapphire blue cat-like eyes, and a thick form possessed attributes that made her like honey to a honeybee. Convinced they would be miserable if they didn’t acquire her hand in marriage, many suitors rushed to inquire about her.
The knowledge that she was terribly innocent only served to embolden many of them to state that they would give up everything to marry the exquisitely exotic Konstantina.
She was launched into French society’s crème-de-la-crème without a hitch due to her looks and the fact that word got around that she was the only child of a wealthy railroad magnate. Men from France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom came to call on the uncommon heiress residing in the vibrant city of Paris, France.
It wasn’t long before the seventeen-year-old Konstantina began a whirlwind romance with one Lord Jerome Silas Conroy Earl of Lancashire.
Countess Konstantina lived in a modest residence and had it not been for the dowry her father provided, she and her husband would have been no better than paupers.
Lord Conroy was well-loved in his Earl ship. He was a fair and reasonable man who didn’t press the people on his lands to the point of ruin. Many of them struggled to survive and he was a kind and understanding overseer.
After their first year of marriage, Lady Konstantina had met her duties by giving her husband a child. They welcomed a beautiful baby girl into their family on June 10, 1948, Amelia Elizabeth Conroy was born. Though his extended family hadn’t fully accepted the American heiress, Lord Conroy loved his wife with all his heart and the addition of a baby only made him love her more.
One bright late spring day in 1951, several gentlemen showed up at the Conroy Estate regarding an accident involving his lordship. Upon further discussion, Lady Konstantina was informed that her husband was killed as the result of an argument between two men who were engaged in a dispute over a broken contract. Lord Conroy insisted the gentleman meet with the authorities to settle the dispute and one of the men stabbed him stating he had wrongfully sided with the man he believed to be Lord Conroy’s friend.
The twenty-one-year-old widow telephoned her parents and was instructed to pack her and the baby’s belongings. Her father arrived in Lancashire a month later to collect his daughter and grandchild. He was accompanied by one of his attorneys to legally secure all property belonging to his son-in-law while he made the long journey with his family back to the States.
Lady Konstantina and her daughter were welcomed back home. She was treated as the daughter the Bartholomews had taken to Europe before she was married and had become a mother. Even though she was a widower, her family explained to her that her young age dictated that she should remarry.
After a period of three years in mourning, Lady Konstantina was introduced to a wealthy construction and real estate baron named Malcolm Courtney Walker who hailed from Hot Springs, Arkansas. The two courted for a year before they finally agreed to marry.
Even though she remarried, she retained her title. Known as Lady Konstantina Seraphin Walker, she was one of few American women during her time who owned property in both the United States and the United Kingdom. She was one of few women who through the legal workings of her father’s attorneys continued to pay homage to the Royal English Crown in order to keep her title while retaining her citizenship as an American citizen.
Lady Konstantina held a position of respect well above the bluebloods or Knickerbockers of the American hierarchy. Her title placed her in the highest levels of the most elite members of society, but it wasn’t given to her without some sacrifice and lots of tears.
Her first marriage was acknowledged by “Genteel Society” paving the way to legitimize her parents, her second husband, her children, and her grandchildren. Because she was granted the title of Countess, those who came after her would be saved from the humiliating manner in which she was shunned because her family worked for their money instead of inheriting it from their forefathers.
She vowed to never allow her blood to experience such a ridiculous form of censorship ever again.
“I will choke the life out of him with my bare hands.” Ryder’s mother promised.
“No, you will not. The more you balk against his relationship with that girl, the more he will fight you to keep her.” His grandmother insisted.
“What do you suggest I do? Should I wait until there is a house full of mulatto babies running around? Would that make you happy? I will never consent to my son’s marriage to that black woman. NEVER!" His mother ranted hysterically.
“You can take that stance because you have never been excluded from anything. I experienced what it’s like to be told that I don’t belong somewhere. When I was a young woman, I was told I wasn’t good enough. Regardless of the impressive wealth, my family had amassed, there were those who looked down on us as if we were paupers. It’s not about what a person looks like or where they come from. The most important quality in a woman is how well she compliments her man. That girl is smart. She has risen from crippling abuse. And for crying out loud, just take one look at your son. I have never seen him so happy. The boy is positively beaming since he met her. Do you mean to tell me that you want to take that away from him because she doesn’t meet some preconceived notion you have constructed in your head?”
“Mother, I cannot accept her. She isn’t right for my son. Lydia is not a pretty girl. Have you bothered to look at her pictures? How can I sign off on that dark brown skin... that kinky poofy hair? She’s not even a pretty little black girl. Oh no... she is this lumpy bumpy thing. I have made up my mind. I won’t stand for this mutiny no matter what you say." Mother Thornton insisted.
”Oh... Amelia just shut it. You will leave them alone." Lady Konstantina spoke with a voice of absolute authority.
“I refuse to condone this.” Her daughter insisted.
“If you wish to see what this ninety-eight-year-old woman can do, try me. Go ahead and continue this foolishness and see what happens. I want my grandson to be happy and I could careless with whom he chooses to find that happiness. Do not test me, Amelia. I want you to shut your mouth and I mean SHUT IT THIS MOMENT!" The eldest of the two women shut down the conversation.