The Real Woman Who Wore Rose's Necklace On The Titanic Was A Pregnant Teenager
The love story on the Titanic was a much gentler story, trust me.
You probably know Jack and Rose in The Titanic were a fictional love story woven into the true story of the sinking of the Titanic. Even James Cameron said so, and he ought to know. He wrote the script.
After writing the script for Titanic, he met with 20th Century Fox executives and pitched the movie as “Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic.”
Here’s what he didn’t tell anyone.
There really were star-crossed lovers on the Titanic. Not Jack and Rose, no. But there was a woman wearing that necklace when the ship went down.
She lived to tell the story.
The Love Story on the Titanic was a gentler story
In the movie, Rose was 17 and engaged to a man she didn’t want to marry. He was full of himself and mean. But he had money. Rose and her mom needed money.
He bought Rose an expensive necklace with a big blue diamond from the crown of King Louis XVI, encircled by diamonds. That necklace was to be her wedding gift.
When the movie opens, Rose is getting ready to jump overboard because she feels like her only options in life are poverty or marrying that creep. Then she meets Jack. A poor artist who won a ticket on the Titanic. Of course, they fall in love.
Know what everyone asks about the movie? Why didn’t she just move over and make room for him on the door. lol.
Well, there’s a real answer to that.
Because it wasn’t a door. It was a piece of wainscoting. That’s actual Titanic trivia. After the Titanic sank, a piece of wainscoting was found floating in the water. It was not big enough to safely hold two people. It could have held one person afloat.
Cameron used that piece of wainscoting in Jack and Rose’s fictional love story. It was a lot more palatable than what happened to the real woman wearing that necklace.
Was Kate Winslet a coincidence or synchronicity?
It strikes me as strange that Kate Winslet got the part of Rose. I’m not sure if that was a coincidence or more of James Cameron quietly including actual Titanic trivia.
The woman who wore the real necklace was also named Kate.
Kate Florence Phillips was 19 when she boarded the Titanic. She was running away from home to elope with her boss. His name was Henry Morley. He was 42 and abandoning his wife and 12 year old daughter to run away and marry Kate.
Henry owned a chain of confectioner’s stores. Not low end candy stores, but stores where rich people bought fancy confections. Kate was a counter clerk in one of his stores. Henry fell in love with her.
Henry was not a poor man, like Jack. Henry was very wealthy. He’d sold two of his stores so he’d be able to send money to his wife and kid and call the marriage done.
After selling two stores, he bought tickets on the Titanic under fake names. The couple boarded as “Mr. and Mrs. Marshall.” They weren’t married yet. But they were going to get married as soon as they got to San Francisco.
You know why Henry bought the tickets under fake names, of course. So he and his teenage girlfriend could make it to America before anyone found them.
The only person who knew was Henry’s brother. He drove them to board the ship and didn’t tell anyone until after the ship went down.
Kate was asleep when the Titanic hit the iceberg…
By the time Henry woke Kate and brought her to the deck, all the lifeboats were gone except one. Kate was shivering, wearing nothing but a thin cotton nightgown.
They were loading boat number 11. It was the last lifeboat.
Henry wrapped his arms around her, like he didn’t want to let go.
A crew member ran over and started forcibly trying to pull Kate out of his arms. As Kate was yanked from his arms, Henry put a necklace around her neck. It was a big blue sapphire, encircled with diamonds. It was to be her wedding gift.
Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Wearing a thin nightgown, with that necklace around her neck, Kate was dropped unceremoniously into the last lifeboat. A crew member in the boat put his coat around her because she was shivering so badly.
She was in that lifeboat for eight hours before she was rescued.
Kate didn’t grow old and throw the necklace overboard
There’s a beautiful scene at the end of the movie. Rose is an old woman with white hair and trembling hands as she tells her story and throws the necklace in the ocean.
That didn’t happen in real life. Here’s what did.
With no money and her lover dead, Kate went back to her hometown. Nine months after the Titanic sank, she had a little girl. Named her Ellen.
Kate was shamed, whispered about and utterly ostracized. She wasn’t just a home wrecker but a single mother. In 1913 England, if you can imagine.
She tried to be a good mother to little Ellen. But she couldn’t stop seeing Henry on the boat as she sailed away in the lifeboat. Her little girl had his eyes. It haunted her. Today we’d know she was suffering trauma.
Unable to cope with her grief and trauma, Kate gave little Ellen to her parents to raise. For 10 years, little Ellen was raised by her grandparents.
Then Kate’s parents played matchmaker and married Kate off. They were getting old and didn’t know what else to do. Ellen moved in with her mom and new stepdaddy.
Kate never recovered from the trauma. Slowly, she became more and more unstable until her husband took her to an asylum and abandoned here there. Signed her over, for life. She lived in the asylum until she died there at age 71.
Broke and struggling, her daughter Ellen eventually sold her mother’s necklace.
Broke her heart to sell it but she needed the money.
She said some lady in Florida bought it.
“The shock of the Titanic must have disturbed my mother’s mind. [She] became more and more disturbed — once she swallowed some acid and it burned the walls of her stomach. She was eventually put in an asylum.” ~Ellen, Kate’s daughter
Oh my. How sad...
I've read a lot about the Titanic, but never this story. Thanks for sharing it.