Mona then went on marring her fifth husband Albrecht von Bismarck’s personal physician, Dr. Umberto de Martini, who was 14 years her junior. In 1979, Martini died in a car accident, and it was only after his death she realized that Martini had in fact married her only for her money and position.
There are a couple of funny anecdotes regarding Balenciaga
A railroad accident once destroyed many of Bismarck’s clothes, prompting her to order 150 dresses from Balenciaga in a single sitting. And more famously, when Balenciaga closed his atelier in 1968,Diana Vreeland reported that Bismarck refused to leave her bedroom for three whole days!
1955 Mona von Bismarck at the Hotel Lambert in Paris by Cecil Beaton
Her couturer of choice was Cristobal Balenciaga, with whom she developed a close friendship over more than 30 years. She was her muse, perfectly embodying his silhouettes and characteristic volumes. At his Atelier she also met his apprentice Hubert de Givenchy who, as we all know, grew up to be a magnificent designer of his own.
1955 Mona von Bismarck at the Hotel Lambert in Paris
One year after Harrison William’s death, she took her fourth husband, Count Albrecht von Bismarck the nephew of the famous Otto von Bismarck, a longtime friend of the family, an interior decorator by profession and the Grandson of the former German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. The couple spent most of their time in Paris, and lived at an apartment in the prestigious Hotel Lambert. This marriage too proved to be a successful one and lasted for 16 years, until the death of Count Albrecht von Bismarck in 1970.
During her marriage with Harrison Williams she led a life of leisure and opulence traveling all around the globe and purchasing several apartments in Paris and the famous Villa il Fortino overlooking Marina Grande, in the Italian island of Capri, which once belonged to Augustus Caesar, and later to Emperor Tiberius.
Here she is in the garden of her Villa in Capri.
“She was splendid as could be seen in the portrait that Dali had painted of her, and had seduced five husbands. She was mad about pearls and brought them in kilos during cruises in the China Sea and the ports of Japan. She had two lifts of different speeds installed in her apartment in Ave de New York; the faster one was for the domestics so that they could reach the landing before her to open the door.”
Monsieur de Givenchy on Mona von Bismarck
“Mr. and Mrs. Harrison Williams at home with their dogs, against a Chinese wallpaper that’s as vivid as the tropical vegetation outside,” Palm Beach, Fla., Christmas, 1936. From Vogue, February 15, 1937.
Mona Harrison, photographed by her friend Cecil Beaton, in front of her portrait by Sorin. From Vogue, October 1, 1933.
By 1933, Bismarck was proclaimed The Best Dressed Woman in the World by Chanel, Molyneux, Vionnet, Lelong and Lanvin.
In 1926 she opened a dress shop in New York, in partnership with her friend Laura Merriam Curtis who was engaged to one of the richest man in America, Harrison Williams Williams. But it was Mona who married Williams on July 2, 1926, and this marriage turned out to be the most successful of the five marriages she contracted.
Mona Williams, in Palm Beach. From Vogue, April 1, 1931.
Mona von Bismarck, born as Mona Travis Strader in Louisville, Kentucky in 1897 after her parents divorce she was raised by her grandparents.
In 1917, at the age of 20 years, she married her first husband, Henry J. Schlesinger, who was 18 years senior to her, and who owned the farm where her father worked. The marriage lasted only 3 years and was dissolved in 1920. Mona gave the custody of her only son by this marriage, Robert Henry, to Schlesinger, in exchange for $500,000 at the time of the divorce.
The following year in 1921, she married her second husband, banker James Irving Bush, reputed to be the “most handsome man in America” but 14 years her senior. This marriage too was short-lived, and the couple divorced in Paris, in 1925.