Doris Duke (on right), shown with her first husband James H. R. Cromwell
November 22, 1912
New York, New York
|Died||October 28, 1993 (aged 80)
Beverly Hills, California
Hillsborough Township, New Jersey
New York City, New York
Newport, Rhode Island
|Spouse(s)||James H. R. Cromwell
Porfirio Rubirosa (m. 1947–1951)
|Children||Arden Cromwell (1940) died after one
Chandi Duke Heffner
|Parents||James Buchanan Duke
Nanaline Holt Inman
|Relatives||Washington Duke, grandfather|
Duke was the only child of tobacco and electric energy tycoon James Buchanan Duke and his second wife, Nanaline Holt Inman, widow of Dr. William Patterson Inman. Her father died in 1925 when Doris was twelve, leaving approximately half of his estate to The Duke Endowment with the remainder, estimated at $100 million, going to Doris.
Duke spent her early childhood at Duke Farms, James Buchanan Duke's 2,700 acre (11 km²) estate in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey. At the age of 14, Duke took her mother to court and successfully prevented the sale of the property. Following the death of her father, Duke was raised in a Manhattan mansion at 1 East 78th Street which later became the home of New York University's Institute of Fine Arts.
Duke's mother died in 1962, leaving her jewelry and a coat.
When Duke came of age, she used her wealth to pursue a variety of interests, including extensive world travel and the arts. During World War II, she worked in a canteen for sailors in Egypt, taking a salary of one dollar a year. She spoke nine languages. In 1945, Duke began a short-lived career as a foreign correspondent for the International News Service, reporting from different cities across the war-ravaged Europe. After the war, she moved to Paris and wrote for the magazine Harper's Bazaar.
While living in Hawaii, Duke became the first woman to take up competition surfing under the tutelage of surfing champion and Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku and his brothers. A lover of animals, in particular her dogs and pet camels, in her later years Duke became a wildlife refuge supporter, an environmental conservationist, and a patron of historic preservation.
Duke's interest in horticulture led to a friendship with Pulitzer Prize winning author and renowned scientific farmer Louis Bromfield, who operated Malabar Farm, his country home in Lucas, Ohio in Richland County. Today, his farm is part of Malabar Farm State Park, made possible by a donation from Duke that helped purchase the property after Bromfield's death. A section of woods there is dedicated to her and bears her name to this day.
At age 46, Duke started to create Duke Gardens, an exotic public-display garden, to honor her father James Buchanan Duke. She extended new greenhouses from the Horace Trumbauer conservatory  at her home in Duke Farms, New Jersey. Each of the eleven interconnected gardens was a full-scale re-creation of a garden theme, country or period, inspired by DuPont's Longwood Gardens. She designed the architectural, artistic and botanical elements of the displays based on observations from her extensive international travels. She also labored on their installation, sometimes working 16 hour days. Display construction began in 1958; a rediscovered image of the night-lighting of the French Gardens in the 1970s is an example of the attention to detail that Duke continued to lavish on the gardens throughout her life.
In 1966 Duke was behind the wheel of a rented car when it lurched forward and crushed interior designer Eduardo Tirella as he was opening the gates of the mansion they were restoring in Newport, R.I. While it was ruled a freak accident by the police, Tirella's family sued and won $75,000 when Duke was found negligent. 
Duke acquired a number of homes. Her principal residence and official domicile was Duke Farms, her father's 2,700 acre (11 km²) estate in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey. Here she created Duke Gardens, 60,000-square-foot (5,600 m2) public Display Gardens that were among the largest in America .
Duke's other residences were private during her lifetime: she spent summer weekends working on her Newport Restoration Foundation projects while staying at Rough Point, the 115-room English manor-style mansion that she inherited in Newport, Rhode Island. Winters were spent at an estate she built in the 1930s and named "Shangri La" in Honolulu, Hawaii; and at "Falcon's Lair" in Beverly Hills, California, once the home of Rudolph Valentino. She also maintained two apartments in Manhattan: a 9-room penthouse with a 1,000-square-foot (93 m2) veranda at 475 Park Avenue that is currently owned by journalist Cindy Adams ; and another apartment near Times Square that she used exclusively as an office for the management of her financial affairs. She purchased her own Boeing 737 jet and redecorated the interior to travel between homes and on her trips to collect art and plants. Duke was a hands-on homeowner, climbing a ladder to a three-story scaffolding to clean tile murals in the courtyard of Shangri La, and working side by side with her gardeners at Duke Farms.
Three of Duke's residences are currently managed by subsidiaries of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and have some public access. Duke Farms in New Jersey is managed by the Duke Farms Foundation; a video tour of former Duke Gardens is available. Rough Point was deeded to the Newport Restoration Foundation in 1999 and opened to the public in 2000. Tours are limited to 12 people each. Shangri-La is operated by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art; small personal tours and an online virtual tour are available.
Duke married twice, the first time in 1935 to James H. R. Cromwell, the son of Palm Beach, Florida society doyenne Eva Stotesbury. Cromwell, a New Deal advocate, used his wife's fortune to enter the political arena, becoming U.S. Ambassador to Canada in 1940. The couple had a daughter, Arden, who lived for only a day. They divorced in 1943.
On September 1, 1947, while in Paris, Duke became the third wife of Porfirio Rubirosa, a diplomat from the Dominican Republic and notorious playboy. She reportedly paid his wife, Danielle Darrieux, $1 million to agree to an uncontested divorce. Because of her great wealth, Duke's marriage to Rubirosa attracted the attention of the U.S. State Department, which cautioned her against using her money to promote political agendas in this alliance. Although her lawyers had protected her financial interests with a pre-nuptial agreement, she still gave Rubirosa several million dollars in gifts, including a stable of polo ponies, sports cars, a converted B-25 bomber, and, finally, a 17th-century house in Paris in the divorce settlement. While she subsequently had a number of relationships, Duke never remarried.
Duke’s first major philanthropic act was to establish the Duke Gardens Foundation to endow the public display gardens she started to create at Duke Farms in 1958. Her Foundation stated that Duke Gardens "reveal the interests and philanthropic aspirations of Duke, as well as an appreciation for other cultures and a yearning for global understanding.". Duke Gardens were the center of a controversy over the decision by the trustees of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to close them on May 25, 2008.
In 1968, Duke created the Newport Restoration Foundation with the goal of preserving more than eighty colonial buildings in the town. Historic properties include Rough Point, Samuel Whitehorne House, Prescott Farm, the Buloid-Perry House, the King's Arms Tavern, the Baptist Meetinghouse, and the Cotton House. Seventy-one buildings are rented to tenants. Only five function as museums.
Duke's extensive travels led to an interest in a variety of cultures, and during her lifetime she amassed a considerable collection of Islamic and Southeast Asian art. After her death, numerous pieces were donated to The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and the Walters Art Museum of Baltimore.
Duke did much additional philanthropic work and was a major benefactor of medical research and child welfare programs. Her foundation, Dependent Aid, created when she was twelve months old, became the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
In 1992, at the age of 79, Duke had a facelift. She began trying to walk while she was still heavily medicated and fell, breaking her hip. In January 1993, she underwent surgery for a knee replacement. She was hospitalized from February 2 to April 15. She underwent a second knee surgery in July of that year. A day after returning home from this second surgery, she suffered a severe stroke. Doris Duke died at home on October 28, 1993, at the age of 80. The cause was progressive pulmonary edema resulting in cardiac arrest, according to a spokesman for Bernard Lafferty, the executor named by Duke's last will, who was with her at her death. Although Duke was cremated 24 hours after her death and her ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean as her last will specified, her executor, Bernard Lafferty also sent a small container of the ashes to Marshfield, Missouri, a town that Duke had grown to admire during her years as a world traveler. Duke had visited Marshfield during a large tent revival, where she enjoyed the music. She was a guest in The Dickey House, which is today a bed and breakfast. Duke's ashes were buried in a local cemetery and a stone was placed to honor her memory. She was locally known as a philanthropist, since she often sent large sums of money for various projects, typically without publicity.
Duke was the life beneficiary of two trusts created by her father, James Buchanan Duke, in 1917 and 1924. The income from the trusts was payable to any children after her death. In 1988, at the age of 75, Duke legally adopted a woman named Chandi Heffner, a 35-year-old Hare Krishna devotee. Duke initially maintained that Heffner was the reincarnation of her only biological child Arden, who died soon after birth in 1940. The two women had a falling out, and the final version of Duke's will specified that she did not wish Heffner to benefit from her father's trusts; she also negated the adoption. Despite the negation, after Duke's death, the estate's trustees settled a law suit brought by Heffner for $65 million.[18 ]
In her final will, Duke left virtually all of her fortune to several existing and new charitable foundations. She appointed her Irish-born butler Bernard Lafferty as executor, who then appointed, as corporate co-executor, US Trust company; Lafferty and her friend Marion Oates Charles were named as her trustees. However a number of lawsuits were filed against the will. At death, Duke's fortune was estimated at $1.3 billion. The most notorious lawsuit was initiated by Harry Demopoulos, whose company 'Health Maintenance Programs' owed the Duke Estate $600,000. Demopoulos found out that he had been named co-executor in an earlier will and challenged Lafferty's appointment. Demopoulos also hired a psychiatrist to assist the credibility of convicted felon Tammy Payette, who alleged that Lafferty killed Duke. However, in 1996, the Los Angeles District Attorney's office ruled there was no evidence of murder.[18 ]
A suit was also filed by Duke University, claiming entitlement to a larger share of the Duke assets than the $10 million provided in the will (although Duke's will also stated that any beneficiary who disputed its provisions should receive nothing).
Litigation involving 40 lawyers at 10 different law firms tied up the Duke estate for nearly three years. Lafferty was ultimately removed by NY courts for using estate funds to support his own lifestyle, and US Trust for failing "to do anything to stop him."[18 ] The Surrogate Court of Manhattan overrode Duke's will and appointed new trustees from among those who had challenged it: Harry Demopoulos; J. Carter Brown (later also involved in overturning the will of Dr. Albert C. Barnes); Marion Oates Charles, the sole trustee from Duke's last will; James Gill, a lawyer; Nannerl O. Keohane, president of Duke University, and John J. Mack, president of Morgan Stanley. The fees for their lawsuits exceeded $10 million, and were paid by the Duke estate. These trustees now control all assets of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which Doris Duke directed should support medical research, anti-vivisectionism, prevention of cruelty to children or animals, performance arts, wildlife and ecology. The DDCF also controls funding for the three separate Foundations created to operate Duke's former homes: the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Duke Farms and Newport Restoration Foundation. The trustees have progressively reduced funding for these foundations, stating that Doris Duke's own works are "perpetuating the Duke family history of personal passions and conspicuous consumption.". Recently these foundations have been forced to sell assets to meet their expenses, and in the case of Duke Gardens, to close entirely.
Several biographies of Duke have been published, most notably Stephanie Mansfield's "The Richest Girl in The World" (Putnam 1994). In 1999, a four-hour made-for-television mini-series (starring Lauren Bacall as Duke and Richard Chamberlain as Lafferty) was aired with the title, Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke. Her life is also the subject of the 2007 HBO film Bernard and Doris, starring Susan Sarandon as Duke and Ralph Fiennes as the butler Lafferty.