Ava Lowle Willing

Lady Ava Ribblesdale
Born Ava Lowle Willing
(1868-09-15)September 15, 1868
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died June 9, 1958(1958-06-09) (aged 89)
Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting place Trinity Church Cemetery
Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.
Spouse(s) John Jacob Astor IV
(m. 1891–1910; divorced)
Thomas Lister, 4th Baron Ribblesdale
(m. 1919–1925; his death)
Children William Vincent Astor
Ava Alice Muriel Astor
Parent(s) Edward Shippen Willing
Alice Bell Barton
Relatives Prince Ivan Sergeyevich Obolensky (grandson)

Ava Lowle Willing (September 15, 1868 – June 9, 1958) was an American socialite. She was the first wife of Colonel John Jacob Astor IV and later married Thomas Lister, 4th Baron Ribblesdale.[1]

Early life

Ava Lowle Willing was born on September 15, 1868 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Edward Shippen Willing (1822-1906) and Alice Bell Barton (1833-1903).[2] She had three elder siblings: (1) Susan Ridgway Willing (1862-1940) who married on November 3, 1899, Francis Cooper Lawrence Jr. (1858-1904), they had no issue; (2) John Rhea Barton Willing (1864-1913) he died from pneumonia unmarried with no issue; and (3) Edward Shippen Willing Jr. (1867-1873) he died at age six.

Personal life

First marriage

On February 17, 1891, she married Colonel John Jacob "Jack" Astor IV (1864–1912), son of William Backhouse Astor, Jr. (1829–1892) and Caroline Webster "Lina" Schermerhorn (1830–1908), at her parents mansion at 510 South Broad Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They went on a 5-week honeymoon in Europe.[3] The newlywed couple was given, among many lavish gifts, a furnished townhouse on Fifth Avenue in New York City.[4] Though the marriage was tumultuous, the Astors had two children:

The family lived in their New York townhouse at 840 Fifth Avenue, their 2,000 acre country estate, Ferncliff in Rhinebeck, New York, and Beechwood, their Newport, Rhode Island mansion. By 1896, Mrs. Ava Astor had become socially active in England. She had a country estate, Sutton Place in Guildford, Surrey, and a townhouse on Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, London.

In 1909, after returning from England, Ava sued Jack for divorce on November 19, and four months later on March 5, 1910 the State of New York decreed in her favor. She received a $10 million (equivalent to $254,393,000 in 2015) settlement.[7] Their son lived with his father before leaving to attend Harvard University. While Ava got custody of their seven-year-old daughter. While Vincent was in his second year at Harvard, Jack was on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, and became one of the casualties while returning from his honeymoon with his new bride, Madeleine Talmage Force.[8] This event left young Vincent[9] as one of the wealthiest men in the United States.[1][10]

Second marriage

In September 1911, Ava and her daughter moved to England. They lived in her townhouse on Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, London (from October-April) and her country estate, Sutton Place in Guildford, Surrey (from May-September). On June 3, 1919, Ava married Thomas Lister, 4th Baron Ribblesdale at St Mary's, Bryanston Square in London and she was known as Lady Ribblesdale. Lister died six years later on October 21, 1925 at their townhouse on Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, London. They had no children together and after Baron Ribblesdale's death, she did not remarry. He was buried in the Lister vault at St Mary the Virgin Churchyard in Gisburn, Lancashire.

In June 1940, she returned to the United States on the liner USS Roosevelt as a war refugee, reclaimed her American citizenship, and became known as Mrs. Ava Willing Ribblesdale.[1]


On June 9, 1958, Ava died in her apartment at 720 Park Avenue in Manhattan, New York City and she was buried in Trinity Church Cemetery.[1] She left a token bequest of $25,000 to her son, Vincent, but the bulk of her $3,000,000 estate was left to her daughter Alice's four children: Prince Ivan Sergeyevich Obolensky, Princess Sylvia Sergeyevna Obolensky Guirey, Romana von Hofmannsthal McEwen, and Emily Edwina Harding.[1]

Names and titles
  • Miss Ava Lowle Willing (September 15, 1868 - February 17, 1891)
  • Mrs. John Jacob Astor IV (February 17, 1891 - March 5, 1910)
  • Mrs. Ava Astor (March 5, 1910 -J une 3, 1919)
  • Lady Ribblesdale (June 3, 1919 - October 21, 1925) [1]
  • The Dowager Lady Ribblesdale (October 21, 1925 - June 1940)
  • Mrs. Ava Willing Ribblesdale (June 1940 - June 9, 1958)

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Lady Ribblesdale Dead. First Wife of John Jacob Astor IV. Mother of Vincent Astor.". The New York Times. June 11, 1958. Retrieved 2008-08-11. Ava Willing Ribblesdale, she took up residence here. She continued to be listed in the telephone directory as Lady Ribblesdale.....
  2. "Will of E. S. Willing. Son Gets Bulk of Estate. The Daughters $225,000 Each." (PDF). The New York Times. April 27, 1906. Retrieved 2008-08-11. The bulk of the $1,000,000 left by Edward S. Willing, who died at his residence, 510 South Broad Street, on April 10, is devised to his son, John R. Barton Willing, and his two daughters, Ava Lowle Willing Astor, wife of John Jacob Astor, and Susan Ridgway Willing Lawrence, widow of Francis Cooper Lawrence, Jr.
  3. "Colonel John Jacob Astor IV". Titanic History Website.
  4. http://www.biography.com/people/madeleine-force-astor-283808#early-life
  5. "Astor Legacy". New York Social Diary. Retrieved 2010-07-27.
  6. "Lost Will Disposes Of $5,305,000 Estate". New York Times. November 6, 1956. Retrieved 2009-02-17. Surrogate William T. Collins admitted to probate yesterday the lost will of Mrs. Ava Pleydell-Bouverie, which disposes of her $5,305,000 estate. She was the sister of Vincent Astor.
  7. "Would Probably Share $100,000,000 Estate with Stepmother in Event of His Father's Death.". The New York Times. April 17, 1912. Retrieved 2008-08-11. Mrs. Ava Willing Astor, obtained her divorce from John Jacob Astor, in November, 1909
  8. "Son for Mrs. Astor. Named for Father. Both Mother and Baby Said to be Very Well, the Child Strong and Well Formed.". The New York Times. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. August 15, 1912. Retrieved June 22, 2008. Baby is the Sixth John Jacob Astor. Mrs. Madeleine Force Astor, survivor of the Titanic.....
  9. "Astor Estate Goes To Son". The Evening News. 7 May 1912.
  10. "Astor Bequests Have All Been Paid". The New York Times. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
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