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Society on the high seas
They were among the famous high society names of their time, the richest and the most influential, “a great gathering of men and women to whom life had given its best gifts’’.
As Titanic’s first class passengers came into the elegant dining room on that first evening out of Southampton, it was like an international who’s who of commerce, diplomacy and intellect, a glittering cross section of the world’s wealthiest and respected figures.
There was a group of American millionaires whose fortunes amounted to at least £120million, industrialists who between them controlled much of the global markets. They were “the princes of trade, banking and art’’.
Joining them was Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, and Thomas Andrews, managing director of Titanic’s builders, Harland and Wolff.
Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon rubbed shoulders with the Countess of Rothes, crossing the Atlantic to meet her husband, while among the American guests were Colonel John Jacob Astor, a member of one of the world’s richest families, Major Archibold Butt, aide-de-camp to President Taft, and Isidor Straus, the wealthy philanthropist.
As a newspaper said in 1912: “There were many other people of interesting personality, of good fortune, and of good hope’’.
For others, “young husbands and wives happy in their loves’’ it was a honeymoon voyage. Colonel and Mrs Astor were returning from their honeymoon tour of Egypt, Mr and Mrs Beane had married in Norfolk three days before joining Titanic and another couple were setting off for a new life in California.
A journalist writing 100 years ago said: “There was all the drama of life within that floating city, all that interchange of social courtesies, all those beginnings of |pleasant friendship, all those partnerships of love which are to be found on a transatlantic liner.
“There were many unfinished conversations on Titanic and they may only be continued in eternity. But at that time in the dining rooms no-one saw the spectre at the feast. It was a ship of laughter and lightheartedness.’’