Constance Coolidge was born in Boston, and was the niece of Frank Crowninshield, editor of Vanity Fair. She first married the American diplomat Ray Atherton in 1910, but by 1923 was divorced and living in Paris. During her first marriage, her husband had been stationed in China, where she, a determined gambler, had behaved wildly enough to earn herself the nickname ‘The Queen of Peking’.
It was in Paris that she met Harry and Polly ‘Caresse’ Crosby and their circle of hedonistic expatriates. Constance began a tumultuous affair with Harry Crosby, and when he refused to leave his wife and marry her, she married the Comte Pierre de Jumilhac in October 1924. Whilst married to the Comte, she became one of the most prominent racehorse owners in France, but the marriage did not last, and by 1929 they were divorced. D.H. Lawrence wrote to Harry Crosby ‘Good that Constance – la Comtesse – has her divorce – but tell her to spend a year in contemplation before she starts marrying again. Marriage is a treacherous stimulant.’ (K. Sagar & J. Boulton (eds), The Letters of D.H. Lawrence, vol. VII, Cambridge, 2002, p. 291).
Constance remained in Paris, and during the scandal of the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 invited Wallis Simpson to stay with her, and was present at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in France. She was married twice more, and in 1934 met the writer H.G. Wells, twenty-five years her senior, with whom she conducted a passionate affair in the last decade of his life.