The End of the Affair

Alas, I’m sorry to tell you that Ursula and Sidney’s marriage was short-lived.

On August 21, 1926—little more than a year after their wedding—the Associated Press announced that the Paris courts had granted divorce decrees to four American couples, Ursula and Sidney among them. Several newspaper outlets across the country picked up the news, including the Los Angeles Time. From the wording, it appears that Sidney initiated the split:

Divorce announcement

Divorce announcement in the Los Angeles Times (August 23, 1926)

Apparently, Parisian courts were more liberal than those in the United States at the time, and traveling there for a relatively quick divorce was becoming more common. According to a 1927 Miami News article, the number of American divorces granted in Paris had tripled from 88 in 1924 to 232 in 1926. Ursula would have had to return to Paris for a month or so, and then appear together with Sidney in front of a judge, who was “obliged by law to ask them if they have firmly decided to sever the matrimonial bonds.” I imagine it was a trying time for Ursula.

Interestingly, I learned in an LA Times news brief that Sidney’s great aunt Nellie Hopkins had died in Naples a few weeks before the divorce announcement, and had bequeathed $100,000—about $1.3 million in today’s dollars—to Sidney and his mother, Pansy Edna Bartlett (Nellie’s niece). It made me wonder if the two events were related…maybe Pansy didn’t like the idea of sharing the wealth with Ursula.

Sidney Lanier Bartlett (Photo from the American Field Service archives)

Sidney Lanier Bartlett (Photo from the American Field Service archives)

We will continue Ursula’s story in future posts, but here we will say au revoir to Sidney, who went on to lead an interesting life. According to a brief bio in a U.S. Department of State Register, Sidney attended the University of Paris through 1927; served as a lieutenant (junior grade) in the U.S. Naval Reserve; was assistant manager of a travel bureau in Paris; became a salesman for oil companies in France and the U.S.; drove an ambulance for the American Field Service in France during World War II (1940); and was appointed vice-consul at Casablanca on April 23, 1941.

In his book FDR’s 12 Apostles: The Spies Who Paved the Way for the Invasion of North Africa, author Hal Vaughan describes Sidney as a “problem vice-consul.” He writes: “Bartlett fell desperately in love with a sultry French lady in Casablanca—later proven to be the Vichy-German spy named ‘Nikki.’” Another vice-consul accused him of “spilling” State Department Cables to her; he was sent home in July 1942. How’s that for intrigue?

Until next time…

 

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Ursula Gets Engaged, and You’ll Never Guess What Happens Next! (Sorry…)

Ursula Cheshire wedding announcement

The March 29, 1925 edition of the “Oakland Tribune” announces Ursula and Sidney’s wedding

Once Ursula and Sidney were engaged, they couldn’t wait to be married. What was the hurry? In the flapper era of shorter skirts and “petting parties” among the younger generation, was Ursula a “nice” girl who considered sex outside of marriage scandalous? Perhaps she truly loved Sidney and wanted to spend the rest of her life with him, or perhaps she mistook lust for love. Short of finding her diary (one could only hope!), we will never know. It seems their romance was intoxicating enough that they were married just a short time later—one week, in fact!

Not only that, but, according to the Oakland Tribune, they also eloped! Apparently, a week after they were engaged in Florence, Ursula and Sidney:

“…left the Cheshire apartment for a luncheon. A message that they had been married in London on February 27 was the next word Mrs. Cheshire had from her daughter.”

Another article in the Tribune, published on March 29, reported that the couple was spending a honeymoon in London, “where the marriage occurred.”

They may have had a ceremony in London, but I discovered that Ursula Claire Cheshire and Sidney Lanier Bartlett were legally married later—on April 16, 1925 in the Chiaia district of Naples, Italy by Barone Michele Chiaranda. Behold, their “Certificate of Marriage,” issued by the Consular Office of the United States of America:

Ursula Cheshire Marriage certificate

Marriage certificate for Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett, April 16, 1925

Naples

1920s postcard depicting a scene in Naples, Italy

At 20 years old, Sidney was considered a minor, and required written permission from his mother, Pansy Edna Bartlett, which she evidently provided.

Whatever will happen next? Stay tuned…

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