And, needless to say, Vanderbilt was eye-wateringly rich. As a child, her wealth played a part in a famous court case, which the media at the time dubbed “the trial of the century.” In 1934, her paternal aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, sued her mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, for custody of Gloria Jr. Whitney also wanted financial control over the child’s considerable monies. The child had been left a fortune following the death of her father from cirrhosis when she was just 18 months old. The aunt’s claim was that her young niece’s mother was an unfit parent and was spending the child’s inheritance on parties and frivolities for herself rather than in her daughter’s interests.
And what’s more, the aunt actually won custody of young Gloria. But the trial was such a notorious and scandalous news sensation that it left psychological marks on the little girl. Among the outrageous things Gloria’s mother was accused of was a lesbian affair with British aristocrat Lady Milford Haven, who was married to a cousin of the King of England. In those days, such a thing was seen as immensely shocking.
Following the trial, Vanderbilt grew up and after three marriages she wed and had two sons with Wyatt Emory Cooper. Sadly, the eldest, Carter Vanderbilt Cooper, born in 1965, committed suicide at the age of 23 by jumping from the balcony of his mother’s 14th-floor apartment. The other son, Anderson Cooper, we already know about. But questioning the loss of his older brother played a part in Anderson’s decision to become an enquiring journalist. His parents had instilled in him a desire to work, so this, coupled with the need for distraction from his grief, made Cooper throw himself into his chosen career.