In 1903, Mitchell Henry sold Kylemore Castle to the Duke (William Angus Drogo Montague) and Duchess of Manchester, Helena Zimmerman. They lived a lavish lifestyle financed by the Duchess’ wealthy father, the American businessman, Eugene Zimmerman. On arrival at Kylemore the couple set about a major renovation, removing much of the Henry’s Italian inspired interiors and making the castle more suitable for the lavish entertainments that they hoped to stage in their new home. The renovation included the removal of the beautiful German stained glass window in the stair case hall and the ripping out of large quantities of Italian and Connemara marble. Local people felt the changes represented a desecration of the memory of the much loved Margaret Henry and her beloved Kylemore Castle.
Born on March 1877, the Duke was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, and succeeded his father when he was still a minor. The Duke inherited a grand estate which included lavish residences such as Tanderagee Castle in Co. Armagh and Kimbolton Castle In Huntington, England. However his inheritance which was administered by trustees was heavily indebted and together with his lavish lifestyle meant that by the age of 23 the Duke was bankrupt. When in 1900 the Duke married the Cincinatti heiress, Helena Zimmerman, it seems that his money problems could be forgotten about. As Helena’s parents frowned on the relationship the couple actually eloped to Paris where they were married. A suitably glamorous start to the marriage of this sparkling pair. It is thought that Helena’s father hoped the life of a country squire at Kylemore would help the Duke to leave behind his days of gambling and partying but this was not to be. The Duke and Duchess left Kylemore in 1914 following the death of Helena’s father. There are many stories in circulation which claim that the Duke lost Kylemore in a late night gambling session in the Castle however it seems more likely that following the death of Eugene Zimmerman there were not sufficient funds available to the Duke to maintain the Kylemore estate. The Duke and Duchess divorced in 1931 and Helena went on to marry the 10th Earl of Kintore, Scotland .
The Duchess was referred to in the English and American press as a ‘dollar princess’, the title was give to wealthy American heiresses who married into the British Royal line. Helena was a beautiful and modern young woman who together with the dashing Duke made a glamorous much talked about young couple. Although her father and mother at first frowned upon her marriage to the Duke because of his reputation as a rakish playboy and gambler, they did eventually come to support the couple financially. Helena seems to have spent a somewhat lonely life at Kylemore with her three young children as the Duke continued to travel widely in Europe and America, often as the paid guest of wealthy Americans such as Randolph Hearst. The Duchess is remembered as speeding along the narrow fuchsia lined laneways of Connemara in her Daimler motor car, a highly unusual site for Connemara of the early 1900s!