The battle for Huguette Clark's fortune: Relatives' fight for the
reclusive New York heiress's $300million intensifies as the death of an
'heir' means they have even more to gain…or lose
Death of homeless man who didn't even know he was a millionaire adds an extra $19million to surviving relatives' 'inheritance'
Fight will go before a jury this year if no settlement is reached
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Wealth: Huguette (right) is pictured as an 11-year-old with her father and sister Andree in this 1917 photo
Great wealth in the Gilded Age but Huguette's copper mining fortune never brought her happiness
Huguette's is a strange
and sorry tale. When she died two weeks shy of her 105th birthday the
only people present at her burial were funeral home employees.
'Everything stopped for her when her mother died'
She had spent the the final two decades of her life in seclusion in New York's Beth Israel Hospital. She wasn't ill. Ironically it was her fear of illness and dying that saw her effectively give up her life some 20 years before her death.
While she lived a solitary life her three fabulous homes sat empty: the $100million Bellosguardo estate, a $24million country house in Conneticut and a $100million co-op, the largest apartment on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park.
At 42 rooms Huguette's was the largest apartment on Fifth Avenue and overlooked Central Park
Huguette's Connecticut country house worth $24million
Bellosguardo, Santa Barbara, a vast estate that has lain empty since 1963
According to Andre Baeyens, Huguette's great-half-nephew, a former French Ambassador and one of the relatives embroiled in the legal battle, 'Everything stopped for her when her mother died.'
Huguette's mother, Anna, was 39 years younger than Sen Clark who was a widower when they met following the death of his first wife. Most of the relatives fighting for the family fortune are descendants from that first marriage.
From the very beginning Huguette's life was touched by intrigue and tragedy. No record was ever found of the marriage between French-born Anna and Sen Clark which supposedly took place in France five years before her birth.
Unfazed by public opinion Sen Clark, who paid little attention to ethics and fulfilled his ambition to enter politics by buying votes, set Anna and his daughter up in a Fifth Avenue apartment that cost three times more than the Yankee Stadium.
He was as wealthy as Rockefeller, a product of the Gilded Age who made his fortune in copper mines, timber and banks and owned the land that would one day become Las Vegas.
Former U.S. Senator William A. Clark, center, joins his daughter, Huguette, at the Easter Parade in New York.
Huguette's only sister, Andree died of meningitis age 16 and Huguette grieved her loss to the end.
She briefly married a bank clerk, William Gower but the marriage foundered within months and ended in divorce after two years. And so Huguette's retreat from adulthood began.
Speaking to NBC last year Msr Baeyer said: 'She didn't want to go out. She didn't want to have beautiful things. She just wanted to be home and play with her dolls.'
Huguette collected dolls obsessively – on her mother's death she filled her apartment with them.
Huguette occupied the entire eighth floor of the Fifth Avenue building while her mother had an almost equally large apartment on the 12th. She always referred to it as 'mummy's apartment.'
The two women were constant companions following the end of Huguette's brief marriage. In stark contrast to her father's greed Huguette was generous to the point of extravagance.
During the Great Depression she and her mother tore down their Santa Barbara home and rebuilt it just to give people jobs. She sent dolls to friends as surprises, once buying two first class seats to Paris: one for a doll and one for her personal physician to make sure it arrived safely.
She paid $342,000 a year in tax and upkeep on her New York apartment, employed gardeners and groundkeepers and effectively funded a life she herself did not live.