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The Husband Hunters: Social Climbing in London and New York
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The Husband Hunters: Social Climbing in London and New York

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  1,889 ratings  ·  287 reviews
Towards the end of the nineteenth century and for the first few years of the twentieth, a strange invasion took place in Britain. The citadel of power, privilege and breeding in which the titled, land-owning governing class had barricaded itself for so long was breached. The incomers were a group of young women who, fifty years earlier, would have been looked on as the ali ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published June 1st 2017 by W&N
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Dec 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
This was an interesting look at social life in America and England during the late 1800s. The author highlighted several American women who married into the British aristocracy, but also described society in general in both countries during this time. As a fan of Edith Wharton, I was especially pleased that the author referenced several of Wharton's works and discussed the real-life influences for her novels.

I had previously read "To Marry an English Lord" by Gail MacColl, which covers similar g
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Husband Hunters, written by Anne de Courcy is a fascinating look how American and British culture shaped The Gilded Age (1870-1910) and how the young daughters from prestigious wealthy American families married into the elite English aristocratic class. These ambitious young brides included Jennie Jerome (1854-1921) who married Lord Randolph Churchill mother of Sir Winston Churchill (1875-1965). The stunning beauty Adele Beach Grant who was the portrait for “The Lady in White” was also a fri ...more
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 ever so interesting stars

They say money can't buy you happiness but in the late 1800s and early 1900s, it could buy you a husband. "Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping." (Bo Derek) ...and shopping these girls and their mothers did. They were shopping for an entrance into high society and were willing with their bags filled with money to climb that social ladder no matter what it took. This was the world of The Husband Hunters: Social Climbing in Lon
Jill Hutchinson
Economist Thorstein Veblen coined the phrase "conspicuous consumption" and this book illustrates it perfectly. Wealthy high society in NYC was a very complicated system of genealogy, manners, money, and the right connections. And the more money spent on achieving and "one upping" each other, the better. While the wealthy husbands were involved in the business of making more money, the wives were the arbiters of what was socially acceptable and fought to be considered a part of Mrs. Astor's "400 ...more
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: social-history
More than a bit disappointed with this book. The subject matter sounded perfect for me, and I've enjoyed de Courcy's works in the past.
I marvel at how sometimes writers can turn the most interesting subjects into dull books.
So many clichés. Basically it seemed to boil down to 'American girls had money, were lively, confident, educated and outspoken. Impoverished English gentlemen found them far more attractive than English girls who were undereducated, quiet and retiring and lived their lives in
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Netgalley #53

Many thanks go to Anne de Courcy, W & N, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Edith Wharton's classic The Buccaneers comes to life in this page-turner. So many young ladies of the great monied classic in America sought the hand and titles of the royalty in Europe, or should I say their mothers did for their daughters. No price was too large, no trip too far, no peerage too high for these esteemed, and sometimes somewhat tacky women.
Caidyn (he/him/his)
This review can also be found here!

Thanks to Netgalley and St Martin’s Press for an ARC!

DNF at 13%

Another one that just really put me to sleep. It’s not a good sign when the introduction — which tells me who the subjects are — is too long and drawn out and puts me to sleep. I don’t even remember who the heiresses are, honestly. Too many names said and never mentioned again.

I could tell this was meticulously researched, but it was very repetitive and I couldn’t break into the denseness of this te
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was ok

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the stately homes of England have always been in dire need of an injection of capital. Equally, that American money looks to the English aristocracy for an injection of class. At the turn of the last century, this mutual requirement reached its apotheosis in the Gilded Age. Superrich American matrons raked the ranks of English noblemen in search of the most desirable titles for their daughters (nothing less than an earl would do). This was not
Oct 30, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure: I only made it through the first two chapters. I'm as down for a gossipy romp through the lives of rich Americans marrying cash-poor British aristocrats as the next person, but honestly, de Courcy spewed so many broad generalizations about American women's history that I had to put it down. I get it: she's a journalist, not a historian, but there are PLENTY of accounts of the history of US women that she could have read in order to properly contextualize her subjects. None of th ...more
Every so often I do what you should never do on the internet: I read the comments. Almost invariably on a news story or a YouTube video that's about anything that took place in the 1950s or earlier, you'll see someone pontificating about how they long for the good old days like this, when women dressed like ladies and manners were valued and yadda yadda, you know what a reactionary sounds like.

Even a cursory glance through The Husband Hunters gives the lie to that way of thinking. Whether you'r
Christina (Confessions of a Book Addict)
This non-fiction audio book was just as riveting as some of the fictional tales I've listened to lately. De Courcy focuses on the Victorian and the Edwardian eras and the American heiresses who married into the British aristocracy. I was worried a non-fiction audio book wouldn't work for me and that I'd be lost. However, not once did I get confused; de Courcy brings it all to life in an easy way to understand. The Husband Hunters was deliciously addicting, especially for fans of this time period ...more
Saturday's Child
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full of names, stories and history, this one was an interesting read.
Meh, I liked To Marry An English Lord by Gail MacColl and Catol Wallace much better
Perfect nonfiction background material... now I'm ready to read The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton.
3.5 / 5 stars
Carolyn Harris
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Anne de Courcy's social histories are always fun to read - I have previously read 1939: The Last Season, Debs at War and The Fishing Fleet - and The Husband Hunters is equally packed with fascinating details about elite society in late 19th and early 20th century Britain and the United States. The phenomenon of American heiresses marrying British and European nobleman has been covered in other books - including "To Marry an English Lord" - but de Courcy's book is notable for focusing as closely ...more
Literary Soirée
THE HUSBAND HUNTERS tells the real story of the Cora Crawleys of Downton Abbey, the American heiresses who traversed the Atlantic with their riches for marriage with British blood bloods. Author Anne de Courcy has penned an addictive read, as we follow this coterie of American debs England-ward. Winston Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome, was considered the first “Dollar Princess” after she left America and married Randolph Churchill in 1874. The heiress exodus continued to 1905, bringing dozens ...more
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought the book was thorough & interesting. I expected more of a narrative of the matchmaking & follow up to the lives lived after meeting their chosen royal match. However, the book focused more on the social hierarchies and manipulation of social status both in NY during the Gilded Age and abroad. The author did a great job of character developing for each family, their motivations, wealth, limitations in traditional society and the fallout that came from their matchmaking. Sometimes I foun ...more
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
Fascinating history of rich American women who sought and found husbands among European royals. The money the wives brought to the marriages was what helped these men whose fortunes had declined and who needed massive amounts of cash to keep their estates afloat. The titles made these women whose fortunes were new access to the high society of New York previously denied them.
This was a fun listen, and made me want to dive deeper into the stories of some of the women featured. The book moves pretty quickly across the lives of many people, so I did have to rewind several times in order to remind myself what heiress was currently being discussed- might be easier to read in print, plus the print book has photos! Recommend.
I didn't love the structure of this--all individual stories, little cohesion--but the content itself was fascinating. This is such an interesting period to me. The excess is all too much, but it's so interesting to think about. An interesting alternate history would be what if the american fortunes didn't make it back to the UK. What would the state of old english manor houses be now?
Jan 10, 2019 added it
Another clunker I was forced to read for book club.
Jane Greensmith
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent non-fiction for background and context for Edith Wharton’s novels.
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[See this and other reviews at my website,]

Lately, I’ve had so many books come into my life at just the right time. I had just finished Master of His Fate by Barbara Taylor Bradford, and towards the end of the book, there was a reference to the phrase “Buccaneers.” While I immediately thought of pirates, The phrase stems from the Edith Wharton novel The Buccaneers, which refers to a group of wealthy American women who were groomed for marriage to the privileged uppe
The Gilded Age was a crazy time. Those guys were crazy rich in a way I can't quite fathom. And the way that all that money was used was one of the really fun things to learn. That so much of this money ended up over in the UK where it helped shore up the broke aristocracy and preserve estates and the like is so interesting. What would the US be like if that money had stayed here and been used to build more Biltmores and Breakers or the society matrons had had to use starting more arts foundation ...more
I'd been watching the Million Dollar Princesses series on the Smithsonian channel and wanted to go further in-depth. I got that with this book, although it was a mixed bag.

The good news is that de Courcy starts off with an interesting premise--that it was less about ambitious daughters trading cash for class, and more about their mothers seeking social mobility. I found the discussion of early New York being run (socially) by the matriarchs to be pretty interesting. The drawback to this is that
Oct 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting book, but it's weirdly book-ended by two thesis statement chapters that I don't think the stories within the center neccessarily support. I think the issue lies with the fact that these first and last chapters are heavily based on inferring the feelings and motivations of the people within the chapters, but the individual stories of the families are done in a very factual manner without putting a lot of motivation into the people's actions. And it seems like there were lot ...more
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was thrilled when I received this book as a gift. However the information is very disjointed and down right incoherent in some chapters. So unfortunate! These stories could have made for a wonderful read if they had been woven together more carefully.
Jul 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The Husband Hunters is ostensibly about those heiresses who popped over the pond for a quick season and stayed forever. It's well-written, atmospheric, but it is not about these heiresses. It is about the times they lived in. There are long paragraphs about only Newport and New York society, mostly about people with no connection across the Atlantic. Astors are not discussed in the UK, only the New York ones and about their societal reign. It's done very well, but it is not what was bleeping pro ...more
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was some of the most wonderfully indulgent non-fiction I have ever read. It was a series of anecdotes about gilded age American women who traded cash for coronets and moved to England. Among the wildly entertaining anecdotes themselves, I also learned some big-picture trends in both societies. For instance, American women had relatively permissive lives during that era and often chafed under more misogynistic English society. Also, it was often not the women themselves who wished to marry B ...more
Sep 16, 2019 rated it liked it
This was the Page Turners' September book selection, and of the four of us who read it, only one liked it. The author obviously did her homework about the rich American families who married off their daughters to British royalty to advance their social standing, but we agreed that the level of pretension and snobbery on both sides of the Atlantic were, by 21st-century standards, quite distasteful, as was the excessive amount of money spent on clothes, jewels, and social gatherings. The narrative ...more
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Anne de Courcy is a well-known writer, journalist and book reviewer. In the 1970s she was Woman’s Editor on the London Evening News until its demise in 1980, when she joined the Evening Standard as a columnist and feature-writer. In 1982 she joined the Daily Mail as a feature writer, with a special interest in historical subjects, leaving in 2003 to concentrate on books, on which she has talked wi ...more

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“The young Winston Churchill used to stand in the doorway of a ballroom, rating female looks on the Helen of Troy basis: ‘Is this the face that launched a thousand ships?’ he would ask a friend standing with him, receiving in answer a murmured: ‘Two hundred ships?’ as a young woman passed. ‘By no means,’ Winston would respond. ‘A covered sampan or a small gunboat at most.” 0 likes
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