Richard René Silvin is a Palm Beach Historian, an expert on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Addison Mizner, Mar-a-Lago, the SS Normandie and the history of luxury liners on the North Atlantic. Recently he has focused on the lives of wealthy women who all had tragic ends, proving the old adage that all that glitters is not gold.
“I view my role of author and lecturer to be that of a raconteur of intriguing and authentic stories based on major historic events. My goal and passion is to inform and entertain a sophisticated audience interested in famous people, style and elegance on unusual subjects, with books and presentations.
My earlier works were memoirs which covered a broad array of topics. These range from my exposure to Swiss boarding schools during the 1950’s and 1960’s, to a history of the American domination of the international hospital industry during the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980’s. Finally, I discuss an intimate, personal description of the then-widowed Duchess of Windsor’s final, lonely years in the 1970’s when she was secluded in her Paris home.
My later works are about stylish and chic people and objects. These include the magnificent mansions designed by the flamboyant, society architect Addison Mizner during the 1920’s with details about the glorious homes’ eminent owners.
In my coffee table book Normandie, the tragic story of the most majestic ocean liner, I explore the history of the 1930s French Line flagship, the SS Normandie. Its 265 pictures allows readers to feel as if they were aboard the short-lived, stunning, Deco-styled, “floating palace”, surrounded by many of her famous passengers.
The book ends with the true story of Normandie’s tragic “death” in WW2. Dramatic even today, is the horrific image of America’s only large troop carrier lying on her side in New York City, just two months after Pearl Harbor. The reader will learn of the futile efforts to salvage her i great detail.
In 2018 I added the history of Mar-a-Lago to my lecture topics. I begin with a discussion about how Marjorie Merriweather Post built a unique fantasy land, followed by the grand life she enjoyed from the mansion’s opening in 1927 until her death in 1973. I take the audience on a virtual tour of the house, and review what the home was like as a private residence for Donald Trump, later as the Mar-a-Lago Club, and finally as President Trump’s winter white house. I have also added a presentation about Mrs Post’s life.
In 2019 I initially focused on a group of women whom I knew, were very wealthy, but had tragic lives, and who embody that All That Glitters Is Not Gold. These include Ann Woodward, who was very present during my childhood; Christina Onassis, whom I knew well because I was a friend of her brother, Alexander; and Barbara Hutton, whom I saw shortly before she passed away.” Since then I have expanded the topic options to other women who fit the bill, like Edith Piaf, Princess Margaret, and even Whitney Houston. Venues can pick and choose the women and their stories they want to present together to their membership.
In 2020, during the COVID isolation, I have added two more topics which have personal connections. First there is the amazing story of Marlene Dietrich, whom I met when I was in boarding school in Switzerland. Additionally, I was one of the most frequent flyer on the Concorde in its heyday, so adding the history of this marvel of technology only made sense. We hope to bring these new topics to many people in the upcoming season, either virtually or in-person.