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When Nellie Smith from Oakland, California met Charlie Tower, a young millionaire from Philadelphia on a cruise to Alaska in l887, it was love at first sight. They soon married and moved to Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square.
In 1897, President McKinley appointed Charlie, now called Charlemagne, Minister to Austria-Hungary. The Towers moved with their five small children to a palace in Vienna where Mark Twain became a regular visitor.
Charlemagne was named Ambassador to Russia in 1899. He and Nellie witnessed the sumptuous grandeur of the Court of Tsar Nicholas II in St. Petersburg. Upon the Towers' departure from Russia in 1902, they were accorded the singular honor of visiting the royal family at their vacation home in the Crimea.
During Charlemagne's six years as American Ambassador to Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm II considered him a friend and thought Nellie the most brilliant hostess on the international scene.
Returning home to Philadelphia, family scandal and personal tragedy awaited as Nellie and Charlemagne saw the Europe they had known destroyed by war.
Through diaries, letters and contemporary accounts, Nellie and Charlie gives a personal history of an American family living on two continents at the turn of the century.