Julia (French) Williams (1893-1963)

Mrs Julia Stell (French) Geraghty, Williams

Associated Houses

Tuck's Eden

Tuxedo Park

She was born in Tuxedo Park, New York, a niece of the former Mrs Elsie Vanderbilt and her sister Lady Cheylesmore. In 1911, days after her eighteenth birthday, she shocked society by eloping with her family's chauffeur, "Handsome Jack" Geraghty, whose father kept a small livery stable at Newport. Sounding like a mash-up between a Charlie Chaplin movie and Downtown Abbey, it was reported that Julia's aunt, Mrs Elsie Vanderbilt (of whom Julia was a favorite) set off in her fastest automobile in hot pursuit of the young couple, accompanied by a bevy of concerned relatives and followed by two further cars containing six Newport policemen and Boston detectives. 

The lovers had intended to go to Putnam in Connecticut to be married but missed the turning which threw their pursuers into confusion. The three cars took different routes to cut them off at various cross-roads, but as it happened the lovers had got lost on some backroads in the woods, which proved to be their saving grace. At 4 o'clock the next morning, the lovers were still trying to find their way back to the main road when their car broke down near Central Village, Connecticut. Jack repaired the break, but barely had they started again when a tire blew out for the fifth time. Having no spare, the couple decided to walk into the village and get married there and then, at the Central Hotel.  

After they were married, the Geraghtys settled in Boston where Jack became a car salesman. Julia was at first estranged from her family, but eventually most of her family reconciled with her and came to visit her in Boston, her mother among them, and even if it took a bit longer, her father too by 1913. The Geraghtys had a son, but the marriage did not last. In 1919 they were divorced and Julia dropped the Geraghty name in favor of French once more. She also had her son's name legally changed from John French Geraghty to John LeRoy French. In 1920, at Newport, she announced her engagement to Howard T. Williams, an insurance man from Boston. However, she made the announcement out of his presence so when he was quizzed by reporters about it, he confessed that it was the first he'd heard about it. Nonetheless, they were married the following year in the Drawing Room at Julia's mother's home in Newport, "Mapleshade".
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 13/10/2021 and last updated on 07/11/2022.