Nevada Stoody Hayes


Nevada in 1920
Born (1885-10-21)21 October 1885
Sandyville, Ohio
Died 11 January 1941(1941-01-11) (aged 55)
Tampa, Florida
Spouse Lee Agnew, Sr
(m. 1906; div. 1906)

William Henry Chapman
(m. 1906; d. 1907)

Philip Van Valkenburgh
(m. 1909; div. 1914)

Afonso, Duke of Porto and Prince Royal of Portugal
(m. 1917; d. 1920)
Issue David Agnew
Father Jacob Walter Stoody
Mother Nancy Miranda McNeel
Occupation Socialite

Nevada Stoody Hayes (21 October 1885 at Sandyville, Ohio, 11 January 1941 at Tampa, Florida), sometimes called Nevada de Bragança, was an American socialite who became the wife of Infante Afonso, Duke of Porto, whose nephew, Manuel II, was the last king of Portugal. She was never accepted as a member of the exiled Portuguese royal family, yet by Portuguese law her marriage to Afonso was legal.


Her first husband was the noted inventor, Lee Agnew, whom she divorced in 1906. After being divorced from Ms. Hayes for one year, Agnew became a multi-millionaire. His fortune derived from the assignment of patents and royalties related to his automated newspaper-folding machine, a device used in conjunction with the large presses used to print newspapers. Despite the divorce, Mr. Agnew maintained his warm feelings toward his former wife, and, after he died, on 31 January 1924, his will left her the residual income from his estate, the income not earmarked for the support of their son, Lee "David" Agnew, Jr. It amounted to a substantial annuity for Ms. Hayes.

During the year just prior to his invention's taking flight, she had been busy. In fact, the day after her divorce from Lee Agnew, Sr., in 1906, she married William Henry Chapman, who was then in his early seventies. When he left her more than $8 million at his death, merely one year later, the newspapers dubbed her "the $10 million widow": Nevada Stoody Hayes, from her wealth amassing comes the Edwardian gossips' pithy-maxim, "marry well at the altar, but become truly rich at the grave, like Nevada."

As can be expected for a very attractive not too old widow (she claimed a birth-date of born 21 October 1885; however, several sources say as early as 1870 which seems more likely considering her parents' ages, and those of her siblings: she was known to take exceeding private and stringent health and beauty protocols, with visits to Europe's best natural water spas) of substantial means, Nevada, herself, became too an obsessive marriage target for many a "penniless and ambitious", which, of course, included an array of less wealthy men, of all social rank worldwide, such was her fame.

She bore one child, a son, David Agnew, sired by her first husband, the inventor.

Excerpted from Mrs. Astor’s 400:

“… She immediately went to Europe where it was reported that those vying for her hand included Lord Falconer (later the 10th Earl of Kintore who married American heiress Helen Zimmerman, formerly Duchess of Manchester), Count A. F. Chereff-Spiritovitch (a younger officer in the army of the Tsar), Prince Mohammed Ali Hassan of Egypt, and Count Aubert de Sonies who came from Paris to New York on the same ship with the widow. While the Count was in the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel waiting to present flowers and a proposal of marriage, she departed by a rear exit with Philip Van Valkenburgh, a prominent member of an old New York family (but, obviously in need of some of her money, she would soon come to find out). They were married in Connecticut on 23 November 1909 and were divorced after a short-time amid protracted legal battles; she finally settled $200,000 upon him in 1910 …”


Nevada four husband were a varied lot, representing a broad spectrum of abilities, achievements and ambitions. Recapping, her first three husbands were these:

1) Lee Agnew, Sr. (multi-millionaire: self-made) 2) William Henry Chapman (multi-millionaire; inherited and self-made)) 3) Philip Van Valkenburgh (never made a million; it was not commonly known in New York City society circles, until after his divorce settlement, that his entire namesake family’s wealth was well below a half-a-million dollars)

Her fourth and last husband was the 3rd Duke of Porto, Dom Afonso of Braganza (1865–1920), whom she married morganatically on 26 September 1917 in Rome, and, again, in a civil ceremony, on 23 November of that year, in Madrid. Nevada began calling herself "Her Royal Highness, Nevada, the Duchess of Porto", but the Portuguese royal family never recognised her as a member. Afonso tried to have his wife accepted by his family, but he was rebuffed.

Afonso of Braganza (1865-1920)

Three years later, on 21 February 1920, at Naples, Italy, the duke died. Even though the terms of a morganatic marriage exclude the surviving spouse from inheriting any of the titles or privileges that are the prerogatives of royalty, they do not exclude the survivor from inheriting property. In his will, Dom Afonso left his entire estate to Nevada Stoody Hayes. Not surprisingly, the duke's family found this incomprehensible.

The 35-year-old (her actual, biological, age most likely, at that time would have been 50 years old; she was known to intimates, included among them were several Grande-dames, hailing from the former Mrs. Astor's New York and Newport, Rhode Island fabled 400-High Society. She prudently eschewed all sugar (except raw fruit), caffeine and most dairy products: she was an ardent health food advocate, who ate many green vegetables, raw and lightly steamed. Her routine included moderate exercise and beauty treatments, including mud facials. She was mindful of too much sun exposure, determined not to gain weight, and used a tape measure daily. She simply would not allow her feminine figure or delicate muscles to atrophy: in her private alternate daily regime, she lifted weighty wood pins) former Duchess of Porto traveled to Portugal from Italy with the body of her late husband, and she arranged for its installation in the Braganza pantheon in the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora in Lisbon.

She remained in Lisbon during the contentious period when the duke's possessions were gathered and crated.

Excerpted from Mrs. Astor's 400:

".... He forfeited his inheritance rights to the throne by his marriage and his financial allowance from the royal family was cut."

Nevada styled herself as the Crown Princess of Portugal. Her husband was the uncle of King Manuel of Portugal and only brother of King Manuel's father, the murdered King Carlos. King Victor Emanuel, a cousin of the Duke of Oporto, gave him asylum in the Royal Palace in Naples and a reported allowance of $10,000 per year. The Duke of Oporto died in Naples in 1920 having fled there after the Portuguese Revolution. After the death of the King of Portugal Nevada petitioned the republican government – to no avail - to grant her all the royal family’s funds as she considered herself its senior member.

She sailed to the U. S. in 1921 to have made a silver casket on a bronze base (weighing half a ton) in which to convey her late husband’s body from Naples to Lisbon. There it would be displayed in the Pantheon before the Duke of Porto was buried next to his murdered brother, the late King. In 1935 the Duchess of Porto traveled on the Ile de France to New York where she reported that, having spent two months in Germany, she was "greatly impressed by Adolf Hitler."

She jealously guarded (and according to all precedent, she and the hypocritical status phoniness of that period, she was correct in asserting her marital rights) what she perceived as her rights as Crown Princess and once, on a trans-Atlantic cruise which also included the Grand Duchess Marie of Russia, to ensure that she be seated on the Captain’s right at dinner rather than the Grand Duchess, she entered the dining room ahead of all other guests to take her seat. She died 11 January 1941 in Tampa, Florida, at St. Joseph's Hospital after an illness of 10 days. She had spent the winter in Tampa for the preceding 10-years. She left a son, David Agnew, of New York, and four sisters ...."

Nevada Stoody Hayes died at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Florida, in 1941, at the age of fifty-five years. Only after her death was it possible for the Foundation of the House of Bragança to buy the painting, "Battle of Cape St. Vincent", a Portuguese national treasure, depicting a victory of the fleet of Maria II of Portugal over the fleet of Miguel I of Portugal during the Liberal Wars. It is now located in the Maritime Museum in Lisbon. The work had been included in her inheritance.

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