Martha (Sunny) von Bülow, was an American heiress who first married Austrian playboy prince and then to a Danish-born man-about-society who was twice tried on charges of attempting to murder her, died on December 6th, 2008 on a Saturday at a nursing home in Manhattan. Mrs. von Bülow, who was 76, had been in a coma for nearly 28 years.
Maureen Connelly, a spokeswoman for the family, confirmed the death. Mrs. von Bülow’s three children said in a statement that they “were blessed to have an extraordinary loving and caring mother.” The cause pulmonary arrest, Ms. Connelly said. Her was 27 years, 11 months and 15 days after she was found unconscious on the floor of her bathroom in her mansion in Newport, R.I., on Dec. 21, 1980.
In her long, silent years at the Milstein Building at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital, and then at a nursing home on the Upper East Side, doctors said Mrs. von Bülow never showed any signs of brain activity. She was fed through a tube in her stomach. There were always fresh flowers in her room, and photographs of her children and grandchildren sat on a bedside table. She was attended by private nurses, and her room, for a while at least, was guarded by private security.
She is survived by her daughters, Annie-Laurie von Auersperg Kneissl Isham and Cosima Pavoncelli; her son, Alexander (Ala) von Auersperg; and nine grandchildren.
In his first trial, in Newport in 1982, Mr. von Bülow was found guilty of twice trying to kill his wife and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He appealed and posted a $1 million bond believed to have been put up by his friend J. Paul Getty Jr., the oil tycoon.Sunny von Bülow in 1976, four years before she entered a coma that led to two trials for her second husband, Claus von Bülow.
The first appeal was guided by Alan M. Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor who asserted that information had not been made available to the defense, and there had been no search warrant when Maria Schrallhammer, Mrs. von Bülow’s longtime maid, confiscated the pills from the black bag that belonged to Mr. von Bulow. So true to form, he did this later in the famous O.J. Simpson case, Dersh got Mr. von Bulow off on a technicality.
In reality, the contents of the black bag were given by the maid to Mrs. von Bulow’s daughter Ala, who passed to the family physician for chemical analysis. A lab determined them to be Seconal and a paste form of Valium. As the seizure was illegal, the lab report was inadmissible as evidence.
On Dec. 21, 1980, Mrs. von Bülow was again found unconscious and taken to Newport Hospital. Shortly afterward, an investigator working on behalf of the two older children searched the house and found a black bag said to contain three hypodermic needles, one with traces of a sedative, again, and insulin. Another trial and another acquittal; Sunny in the meantime lingered on in a comatose state.
Boo Koo Bucks
Mrs. von Bülow, who had inherited $75 million, was depicted by the defense as a quiet woman who drowned her insecurities in alcohol and was familiar with drugs. The von Auersperg children, backed by Ms. Schrallhammer, claimed that Mrs. von Bülow needed as little as two drinks to appear that she had had too much.
The prosecution put Alexandra Isles, a socialite and former actress who had been Mr. von Bülow’s mistress, on the stand to admit that she had given Mr. von Bülow an ultimatum about dissolving his marriage. It was noted, too, that a divorce would have voided the $14 million that Mr. von Bülow would have inherited under his wife’s will and left him with a measly annual income of $120,000 from a trust. This would be about 1,000th of her total welcome.
Mr. von Bülow acknowledged that he and his wife had discussed divorce, but he denied that the issue was another woman. He initiated the talks, he said, because he wished to return to work and his wife did not agree. He had been working intermittingly as a stock broker.
Claus von Bülow in court during his attempted murder trial on Feb. 9, 1982. Credit Associated Press
The early Years
Mrs. von Bülow, the former Martha Sharp Crawford, was born in Manassas, Va., on Sept. 1, 1932, the only child of Annie-Laurie and George W. Crawford.
Originally nicknamed Choo-Choo because she was born in her father’s railway car but later called Sunny because of her disposition. She attended the Chapin School in Manhattan and St. Timothy’s School in Maryland, and had an elaborate debut in 1949.
She was 24 when she married Prince Alfred von Auersperg, a 20-year-old tennis pro at the private Schloss Mittersell in Austria. The couple settled in Munich and later in Kitzbühel, Austria. Anne-Laurie von Auersperg (known as Ala) was born in 1958 and Alexander the following year, June 13, 1959. The marriage ended in divorce in 1965. The princess had few interests in common with her husband, did not share his ardor for big-game hunting in Africa or his womanizing. She also missed the United States. The prince received $1 million and two houses in a settlement.
(In a twist of fate, Prince von Auersperg also went into an irreversible coma in 1983 after an automobile accident in Austria. He died in 1992.)
The year after her divorce, the princess married Claus von Bülow, whom she had met years earlier in London. He was originally neither a von nor a Bülow. His mother was divorced from his father, Svend Borberg, a playwright and drama critic who was convicted of collaborating with the Nazis by a Danish court after the war. He was sentenced to four years in prison, released after 18 months and died shortly after.
Claus grew up with his mother and maternal grandfather, Frits Bülow, a former minister of justice in Denmark and a successful businessman. Claus adopted the Bülow name and added “von” as a young adult.
At the time of his marriage, Mr. von Bülow was a senior aide to Mr. Getty.
Clarendon Court at Newport
The couple settled in an imposing Fifth Avenue apartment facing Central Park. A short time later, following the lead of her mother, Mrs. von Bülow acquired a Newport estate, Clarendon Court, a 23-room Georgian mansion on 10 acres overlooking the sea. Mrs. von Bülow had the huge lawn lowered 17 feet to improve the view of the ocean.
The house had been the setting for the 1956 musical “High Society,” starring Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby. The property was sold in 1988 for $4.2 million; the same year, an auction of von Bülow furniture, paintings, porcelains and silver brought more than $11.5 million.
A daughter, Cosima, was born April 10, 1967, and the three siblings apparently got along well until their mother’s Marriage-Legacy aroused the suspicions of the von Auersperg children. Miss von Bülow supported her father during his trials and as a result was cut out of her maternal grandmother’s will.
When Mrs. Aitken died in 1984, Miss von Bülow filed suit claiming that family members had turned her grandmother against her. In a 1987 settlement, Mr. von Bülow renounced all his claims to his wife’s fortune in return for his daughter’s receiving a share of Mrs. Aitken’s estate, equal to those of her half sister and half brother.
Ms. Connelly, the family spokeswoman, said the three siblings, after a long period of estrangement, are “reconciling and moving forward together as a family, because that is what their mother would have wanted.” Anne-Laurie married Ralph Isham of New York, June 10, 1989.
After the trials, the von Auerspergs founded the Sunny von Bülow National Victim Advocacy Center, with headquarters in Fort Worth, Tex., and the Sunny von Bülow Coma and Head Trauma Research Foundation in New York.
Hollywood made the scandal the subject of the 1990 movie “Reversal of Fortune” with Glenn Close as Mrs. von Bülow and Jeremy Irons as Mr. von Bülow.
The author Dominick Dunne wrote about the case for Vanity Fair. He had known Mrs. von Bulow since she was a debutante. Dunne said she had been portrayed unfairly in the film as an emotionally frail alcoholic but that she was a “beautiful and shy” woman who “really did not like the social life, although she was associated with it.”
We have rectified Mrs. von Bulow’s chart to 04.25.Libra that has the symbol is a “woman teaching real inner knowledge,” the keyword affinity. It has the warning, and one which we believe Mrs. von Bulow should have heeded in “subtle attempts to dominate her environment.” She has Cardinal Grand Cross & a stellium of planets in the twelfth house suggesting both hidden enemies and a bond with large institutions. Her temperament type is a bucket with a Saturn handle, with no intercepted houses via the Koch layout.
That Saturn handle is at 16.44 Capricorn. It is also is part of her boomerang Yod (see the Aqua on the chart) as the inconjunct point between Pluto in Cancer and Mercury in Virgo (its Lord). It is an impressive set of aspects because the Yod shows how the ghoulish publicity about her health, all those planets in Virgo. The Saturn, in High Focus, as it is the turning point of her chart, whether it is part of the bucket’s handle, the apex Yod, or within the Grand Cross. Its symbol tells of a “girl surreptitiously bathing in the nude” suggesting furtive activity around her.
Part of her Fixed X-cross is a translation of light between Uranus and the Moon on the seventh-eighth house cusps as Mrs. von Bulow shifts emphasis in her life between the four points of institutions, home. Marriage-Legacy and limelight.
In the end…
Was Mrs. von Bulow murdered? Or was this negligence or perhaps even an attempt at suicide? We think that the answer lays in her Midheaven, a calculated point, and not an aspect.It has the symbol of a dark “archway and ten logs at the bottom,” that competence in handling life’s affairs, but with the warning of being in bondage to them. E.C. Chambers in book “Fixed Stars” cuts to the chase and says “Miserly.”