Readers like you make our work possible. She said she married her first, photographer Dickson Pierce, because she “had nothing else to do.” No surprise, that union ended in divorce. There's only so far new money goes.". The woman was a 20th-century socialite whom we’ve covered some facts about. Rebakah married for a third time, to Dr Benjamin Keane; the marriage lasted just three years. As it turns out, number three on the album, The Last Great American Dynasty, is based on the story of Rebekah Harkness and her husband William Harkness… An avid dance enthusiast who had studied ballet and Spanish dance, her second marriage – to Standard Oil heir William Hale Harkness – made her one of the wealthiest women in America. She soon became the owner of a vast amount of properties, and indulged in many luxuries. The subject of “Folklore” song “The Last Great American Dynasty,” Harkness — née Rebekah Semple West — was born in 1915 to “a rich, emotionally frigid … Will we pass it on, generation to generation, around a campfire? Story: Swift and Aaron Dessner co-wrote The Last Great American Dynasty based on the eccentric life of socialite Rebekah Harkness, who was known to … Things! It seems fair that the life of Rebekah Harkness is now celebrated through Swift's song and that a new generation can sing along and know her name. Swift’s song, "The Last Great American Dynasty" is actually a tale about Harkness. Send me updates about Slate special offers. Harknes… Slate relies on advertising to support our journalism. Bill's daughter Elizabeth later married actor Robert Montgomery, the mother of actress Elizabeth Montgomery who found fame as Samantha in the classic TV series Bewitched. But Rebekah's story is intricately more complex that the one set out in Swift's lyrics. Fans offering queer readings of the song suggest that James could be a woman, like one of Lively and Reynolds’ daughters, or like Ms. So how did she become Swift's muse? According to author of Blue Blood, Craig Unger, an example of Rebekah's early misbehaving was when she put mineral oil in the punch at her sister's debutante ball. • India: A country in South Asia that’s home to more than 1.3 billion people, and also, for the purposes of this song, a place that the young protagonists in “Seven” hope to escape to avoid a seemingly abusive father. Planets? By joining Slate Plus you support our work and get exclusive content. . In the spirit of treating this album as an important historical artifact, here is an analysis of the subjects Taylor Swift sings about on it. For the purposes of our statistical analysis, let’s say that there were three Bitch Pack members, because with Rebekah, that makes four, and everyone knows the best cliques have four members. Although a friend of the couple had said, "Bill looked on Betty as a naughty child and set about to reform her". And they were right. So who exactly is Rebekah Harkness and why did she inspire Swift's latest track? • Centennial Park: There are several parks with this name, but “Invisible String” is probably referring to the one in Nashville, where Taylor Swift lived for years and still keeps a home. Due to her family's wealth, she was raised by a series of nannies, and attended a finishing school after High School. Her 1955 tone poem, Safari Suite, was performed at Carnegie Hall, and in 1957 she released an album titled Music With a Heartbeat. The truth is Rebekah Harkness was once one of the wealthiest women in America. All contents © 2020 The Slate Group LLC. In 1939, at 24, Harkness married the first of her four husbands, Charles Dickson Walsh Pierce, a Yale graduate who worked for an advertising firm and was described by friends as a Walter Mitty-like character with his head in the clouds. She also founded Harkness Ballet and built a ballet studio, trying to create her own version of the luxurious European ballet schools, with a marble staircase and a crystal chandeliers. She died surrounded by her family: from her husband Alex, her children Isabella and Lucas and her brothers Christopher and Sean," she said. • LA: A city that Taylor Swift (or the narrator) traveled to with a love interest early on in their relationship, as recounted in the song “Invisible String.” Also a notable city for a lot of other reasons, obviously. • The Moon: A rock that’s orbiting our planet, and Swift compares its distance from Earth to how much she loves someone in “Seven.” May not technically qualify as rural or pastoral, but it definitely ain’t urban. • James: The narrator of the song “Betty,” the one who wants to be forgiven. In addition to Charlotte's death, Brosnan has had to live another drama: his son Chris ended up getting hooked on heroin and cocaine. Was she a fictional character drawn from the depths of Taylor's imagination, or had she once been a living woman with a tale to tell? 'Is there a chic way to go?'" Join Slate Plus to continue reading, and you’ll get unlimited access to all our work—and support Slate’s independent journalism. (Are these true stories of the common people? • The High Line: A park in New York City built on out-of-service railway tracks, but also a backdrop for romantic moments in ballads. Clearly, Rebekah's parents wanted to make sure the nanny was tough enough for the job. Swift writes that Harkness was blamed for her husband’s early death, and judged for ending one of America’s richest families. In 1973, at 36 and with his grad-student days not far behind him, Lauersen married 58-year-old Rebekah Harkness, widow to William Hale Harkness, of the Harkness philanthropic dynasty. On June 10, 1939, Harkness married Dickson W. Pierce, the son of Thomas M. Pierce and a descendant of Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States. The couple had a private ceremony attended by Rebekah's parents, her children Allen and Terry, along with William's daughter with his ex-wife Elizabeth. In Taylor Swift's song, "The Last Great American Dynasty," she sings that the wedding "was charming, if a little gauche. It’s unclear if she’s the other woman in a love triangle with Betty and James or just a generally loose-lipped person. • The Bitch Pack: This is the name for Rebekah West Harkness’ group of friends (you might say, squad), who helped Harkness gain her reputation for being outrageous. Watch the Stan Original film A Sunburnt Christmas now on Stan. As a sad footnote to the story of Rebekah Harkness is the tragedy of her three children. Rebekah had full custody of the children and remained living in Manhattan, working in advertising and studying music composition. By the rules of My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas, there are three planets between it and us. The character named Bill is in reference to Rebekah Harkness’s second husband, William Hale Harkness, who was in fact the heir to Standard Oil. Harkness also allowed her passions for dance and music to follow her into adulthood, using much of her inheritance to become a patron of the ballet, as well as to compose music. That married only lasted four years. I had a marvellous time ruining everything. Taylor Swift bought Holiday House for US$17 million in 2013. But despite their immense wealth, home life was anything but rosy. According to Unger, Rebekah's wild side didn't diminish with age. Then, in 1974 she married a physician, Niels H. Lauersen who was 20 years her junior. Read on for a breakdown. The Return of Concorde: Is this the most glamorous Christmas present for 2020? If Rebekah Harkness was playing card games with him, it means she kept some pretty wild company. Meet the previous resident of Swift's stately mansion in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. Rebekah Harkness and her Harkness Ballet in 1966. Being a patron of the ballet was Rebekah’s passion. (Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images) (Getty), "There goes the loudest woman this town has ever seen. She'd inherited Bill's enormous fortune and, without Bill or her father (who had died just the year before) to keep an eye on her, friends feared she'd land herself in trouble. Unger wrote that Rebekah had felt humiliated by the collapse of her "dance empire" and that much of her money had disappeared. © Provided by People Beth Garrabrant Taylor Swift According to the New York Times, Harkness was born in 1915 to "a rich, emotionally frigid St. … That 'town' is Watch Hill, Rhode Island - an affluent coastal village where Swift purchased a cliff side mansion in 2013 that was once owned by Rebekah and her husband William Harkness, a … (Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images), Bill's daughter Elizabeth later married actor Robert Montgomery, the mother of actress Elizabeth Montgomery who found fame as Samantha in the classic TV series, Rebekah Harkness, composer, sculptor, dance patron, and philanthropist, photographed in her office in 1964. (The New York Post via Getty Imag), Taylor Swift to victims of sexual harassment: 'My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard', Taylor Swift has finally been paid the $1 she won in sexual assault lawsuit, Taylor Swift's adorable engagement party appearance, Ed Sheeran drops surprise track 'Afterglow', Madeleine West: 'This year's festivities are feeling a little….. forced', How your Christmas lunch will influence your stress levels this festive period. Rebekah Harkness Rebekah Harkness (1915-1982) Rebekah Harkness, born Rebekah Semple West, was one of the foremost American patrons of dance. • Wendy: The other main character in Peter Pan, the one who ultimately did the responsible thing and left childhood behind. It's easy to imagine Rebekah would have been thrilled to paid tribute to in this way by a woman equally as fabulous as she. "As soon as I walked down the aisle. What Rebekah Harkness, who, at 56 still has the lean, quick‐moving body of a dancer, has used her studio for is class of one: herself. Pastoral tales of the American countryside?). After her husband died, Harkness renovated the house she owned in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. Rebekah died in June 1982 after a battle with cancer, her ashes placed in an urn designed by Salvador Dalí. People! Holiday House was owned by Rebekah Harkness, an eccentric patron of the arts and founder of the Harkness Ballet. • St. Louis: The Missouri city Rebekah West Harkness came from. I knew that I had made a terrible, terrible mistake," Rebekah said. On “The Last Great American Dynasty,” a song about his wife, Rebekah (about whom there is more below), Swift does a good job telling listeners what the other important thing to know about him is: He “was the heir to the Standard Oil name and money.”. The couple was married just seven years before William passed away of a heart attack, leaving the Harkness fortune and Holiday House to Rebekah. The Harknesses were married for a brief period—just seven years. That ‘town’ is Watch Hill, Rhode Island – an affluent coastal village where Swift purchased a cliff side mansion in 2013 that was once owned by Rebekah and her husband William Harkness, a Standard Oil heir who was one of the wealthiest men in America. As Swift writes, "Who knows, if I never showed up, what could've been. • Levi’s: A brand of jeans worn by someone who is an object of the affection of the narrator of the song “Cardigan.”. • Holiday House: The historic name for Swift’s mansion in Rhode Island, which dates back to Rebekah West Harkness’ years there. At this stage, Rebekah was well known as a philanthropist, sponsoring a new medical research building at the New York Hospital, as well as giving financial support to several medical research projects. His grandfather was Daniel M. Harkness, a half … "Gradually, Holiday House, as the Watch Hill estate was called, began to acquire the character of Rebekah's private salon. She and her second husband, Standard Oil heir William Hale Harkness, reportedly had a happy marriage, although “little evidence is given in support of … At one party Rebekah filled the swimming pool with Dom Perignon, and it was also said she was once allegedly kicked off a cruise ship for swimming naked. Rebekah said, "I hope the beauty of Harkness House will persuade some of these people that ballet need not be dingy and that by their patronage they are contributing to the splendid and glamorous.". We’re not sure, based on available info, who was in the Bitch Pack or how many members it had, so we’re going to make some assumptions out of quantitative necessity. • Pennsylvania: A large state with many cities and towns in it that is most notable for being the U.S. state where Swift grew up—specifically at a Christmas tree farm in its southeastern region. Please try again. As to whether she’s a real person, there’s not a whole lot to go on—and yet that hasn’t stopped fans from speculating that she’s named after everyone from Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ third daughter (the other two are named James and Inez, which, see below) to Karlie Elizabeth Kloss to Rebekah Harkness, nickname Betty. • New York: Taylor’s home base for a few years and the city she sings about on 1989’s “Welcome to New York.” She continues to keep a residence there. ’ ll get unlimited access to all our work—and support Slate ’ s passion 20 dancers for a brief seven. 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