Blanca Elena Errazuriz Vergara , also known as Bianca de Saulles and famous for having been accused and acquitted of killing her first husband, John de Saulles.
Early life and marriage
Blanca Errazuriz was born in Vina del Mar, the eldest daughter of Guillermo Errazuriz Urmeneta and of Blanca Vergara Alvarez, a beauty known as the Star of Santiago, and thus a member of the politically influential Errazuriz family, of Basque descent. Her father, a mining magnate, died when she was two and was educated at Sacred Heart Convent in London, England. In 1911, when she was 16 years old, she met John Gerald Longer de Saulles, an American businessman and society figure 15 years her senior; he had travelled to Chile as representative of the South American Concessions Syndicate to negotiate a new railway line. After some initial difficulties with her family (mostly due to the difference in age and religion) they were soon engaged and on December 14, 1911 married at an English Catholic chapel The New York Times, December 14, 1911 in Paris, France. (The civil ceremony had taken place the previous day.) Cass City Chronicle, Cass City, Michigan, July 5, 1912.
De Saulles had previously been engaged to the heiresses Elsie Moore (later Princess Torlonia) and Eleanor Granville Brown. He was later briefly appointed as U. S. Minister to Paraguay in 1914, a post he resigned shortly after accepting and without ever leaving the U.S.
The newly married couple settled in New York City. They had one child, John Longer de Saulles, who was born on December 25, 1912, and for whom the steel magnate Charles H. Schwab stood as godfather.
In 1915 Blanca Errazuriz, by then unhappily married, befriended Rudolph Valentino in New York City, where he was working as an exhibition dancer (taxi dancer) and had gained attention for his rendition of the Argentine tango, which was the craze at the time. Whether the two actually had a romantic relationship is unknown, but Valentino did agreed to provide proof in court during the de Saulles' divorce case that Joan Sawyer, his dancing partner, was having an adulterous relationship with John de Saulles; he himself took the stand to support Blanca's claim of John's infidelities. De Saulles was also accused of various financial improprieties involving his misuse of his wife's fortune, claims that received greater validity when it became clear upon his death that de Saulles was deeply in debt.
John de Saulles was not pleased with this, and once the divorce was granted on December 1916, he used his political connections to have Valentino arrested along with a madam named Mrs. Thyme (the exact charges are unknown). The evidence was flimsy at best (Valentino having been near the wrong place at the wrong time) and after a few days in jail, Valentino's bail was lowered from $10,000 to $1,500.Leider, Emily W., Dark Lover: The life and death of Rudolph Valentino, p. 68-76 The scandal was well publicized along with the trial, and Valentino felt degraded and misused. No one would hire him, his old friends would no longer talk to him and Blanca seemed to not even thank him for his testimony.
The murder and trial
Shortly after the divorce was final, on August 3, 1917, Blanca had herself driven from her home in Roslyn, New York to the home of her ex-husband, The Box, in Meadowbrook Colony, near Westbury. She had legal claims over the custody of their son, since she and her husband had been given shared custody over him, but de Saulles refused to acknowledge the court's decision. She arrived at The Box shortly after 8 PM, and found her former husband sitting on the porch of the house. They argued, and she pointed a gun at his head demanding of him to immediately hand over the child to her. When he tried to disarm her, she shot him five times. He was rushed to the Nassau County Hospital, but died there at 10:20 PM of his injuries. The New York Times, August 4, 1917 In the meantime, she awaited at the house for the arrival of the police, to whom she surrendered. She was charged with murder in the first degree and imprisoned in the Nassau County Jail at Mineola, New York, leading to a sensational trial. Cass City Chronicle, Cass City, Michigan, August 24, 1917
The widely reported case went on for months. Blanca was defended by Henry Uterhart, a noted criminalist of the time, and the principal witness for the defense was Suzanne Monteau, Blanca's French maid, who had accompanied her that night and completely supported her version of the events. Blanca Errazuriz became the darling of the press, and the champion of the suffragettes who portrayed her as the victim of the chauvinism prevalent in the society of the time, while Valentino's name was again dragged through the mud though he had nothing to do with Blanca by this point.
Blanca Errazuriz was unanimously acquitted of the murder charges on December 1, 1917 in what was called a "popular" verdict.
Aftermath and later life
Following the trial, Blanca Errazuriz moved first to San Francisco, California, where she sought and obtained full custody of her son, and later to Japan. Eventually she and her son returned to Chile and settled there. On December 22, 1921 she remarried, this time to Fernando Santa Cruz Wilson in Santiago; the couple later divorced.
Blanca Errazuriz lived until 1940, when she committed suicide in Vina del Mar.
The case was the basis for the 1918 silent movie The Woman and the Law, directed by Raoul Walsh. It featured Jack Connors, Miriam Cooper and Peggy Hopkins Joyce. The name "de Saulles" was changed to "La Salle" but the film's opening credits admit to being based on the story. Producer William Fox wanted Miriam Cooper to play in the film, as she so closely resembled the woman she was to portray. According to Cooper, people on the street would mistake her for Blanca de Saulles. Cooper fell ill when the film was to go into production, bowed out, and was replaced by another actress, who proved to be so terrible that Fox laid down the law with Cooper, telling her to make the film no matter how sick or how well she felt. It also helped that Raoul Walsh was her husband.
Jack de Saulles' capture of Chili's richest beauty
Hansboro News newspaper for December 7, 1917
Short biographical antecedents of Blanca Errazuriz
Memories of the eventsShort biography and genealogical page
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Blanca Errazuriz