Brooke Astor Trial Verdict Latest in Long Family Drama

But the verdict is just the latest chapter in a long family drama.

"You rarely see a famous family like this falling apart in public," said Meryl Gordon, author of the biography, "Mrs. Astor Regrets." "I kept thinking whatever happened here, it started a long time ago."

Brooke Astor: Icon's Rise to Riches

The daughter of a socially ambitious southern belle, Brooke Astor was not born rich but she did marry well. In 1953 she married Vincent Astor, whose father, American millionaire John Jacob Astor, died on the Titanic in 1912.

Her courtship with her third husband Vincent was somewhat of a precursor of the scandals to come. Vincent was then married to socialite Minnie Cushing, who wanted a divorce and, in essence, handpicked Brooke as her replacement.

"Vincent wouldn't give her a divorce until he found someone else," biographer Gordon said. "Minnie was shopping for a replacement wife. And they invited Brooke to the country, for the weekend, and Vincent apparently proposed on the spot."

Astor Marriage: Convenience or Love?

For Brooke Astor, who was in a financial bind after the death of her second husband, Charles Marshall, in 1952, the tremendously wealthy Vincent Astor provided the financial security and status to bring stability to the life of the bereaved widow. But was it a marriage of convenience or did she love Astor?

"She seems to have married him because she was panicked, and he provided a level of security and also a sort of social entree that ... she had been in society, but not of that high of an echelon," Gordon said.

Brooke Astor tried to make it a happy marriage, entertaining Vincent by singing and playing the piano for him, but he was both a difficult and jealous man.

And Vincent Astor wasn't the only man in Brooke's life. She had one son -- Anthony or Tony -- with whom some say she had always had a strained relationship. It was one that continued after her death, with a public battle for her fortune and a criminal case of elder abuse.

Tony's father was Dryden Kuser, Brooke's first husband, whom she referred to as "a perfectly terrible man."

"She implied that Tony was the product of marital rape," Gordon said. "That Dryden Kuser had beaten her up and broken her jaw when she was pregnant with Tony. You really get the sense that was one of the reasons she never really bonded with Tony."

Brooke Astor's second marriage to stock broker Charles "Buddie" Marshall was a happy one. Her son took Marshall's name although there still seemed to be little room for him in his mother's life.

"She seemed to be perfectly happy to go off for several months and travel and then she would suddenly remember her maternal responsibilities and be thrilled to see him again," Gordon said.

When Buddie died and Brooke married millionaire Vincent Astor, Tony Marshall was sidelined once again.

David Patrick Columbia, co-founder of newyorksocialdiary.com, said there was an animosity between Vincent Astor and Tony Marshall, which came to a head "when Vincent Astor came into the room on a Sunday morning and saw Tony sitting in his suit and his tie talking to his mother, who was having breakfast in bed.

"Vincent Astor said, 'Get that man out of this house right now. I never want to see him again and if he does come back here and I do see him again, you're going to leave, too,'" Columbia said. "And, from there, he left. And Tony did not speak to his mother until Vincent Astor died."

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