Ella Rives King: mother of Gwendolen King
Ella Louisa Rives was born in 1851 to Francis Robert and Matilda Barclay Rives of Virginia. She was the granddaughter of the distinguished Virginia Senator William Cabell Rives. At the time of her debut, she was regarded as an accomplished equestrienne and linguist. In 1875, she was married to David King Jr. of Newport, who had recently retired from the China Trade. He had accumulated a reasonable fortune while working first at Wetmore, Williams and Co., and later at the firm of Russell and Co. After their marriage, the couple entered into a life of scholarly, leisurely, and political pursuits, which occupied much of their time. They spent a good deal of the late summer and early autumn months at Kingscote, in Newport, while winter months were spent in Washington D.C., and on extended European holidays. Various sojourns and short trips were made to visit family and friends at country estates in the Hudson River Valley and elsewhere.
The whirl of social activity outlined in David King's diaries suggests that Ella King would have had an extensive wardrobe in order to be appropriately attired for her diverse social obligations. Documents in the Preservation Society's archive indicate that, like many of her contemporaries, Ella preferred to shop abroad, especially in Paris. On annual Parisian shopping trips, women would purchase various style gowns to outfit themselves for the up-coming season. Ella was a client of the well-known fashion houses of Worth and Doucet. Charles Frederick Worth and Jacques Doucet had founded their respective fashion houses in the mid-19th century and went on to be widely successful and popular with an American clientele until the early 20th century.
Ella was a quiet, thoughtful, highly intelligent, and cherished companion to David King. She was an ardent supporter of his political and philanthropic ventures. The Kings had two children: Maud Gwendolen, born October 2, 1876 at Kingscote and Philip Wheaton born June 5, 1878 in Paris.
Ella was widowed unexpectedly in 1894 when David King Jr. died after a brief illness. Ella retreated to Europe for a period of mourning. In 1896, she emerged from mourning and hosted a coming out party for Gwendolen at Kingscote.
In the years after her husband's death, Ella sold the family's townhouse in Washington D.C. and spent most of her time at Kingscote. She was a devoted mother and grandmother who preferred the company of her family and an intimate circle of friends. She was, however, an active member of the Newport community with continuous membership in many philanthropic organizations that had traditionally been supported by the King family. She supported the Redwood Library and the Newport Historical Society, while forging new ties with many of the area's Roman Catholic charitable organizations. She continued to travel extensively throughout her long life, but considered Kingscote and Newport her home.