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The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  1,609 ratings  ·  253 reviews

A deliciously told group biography of the young, rich, American heiresses who married impoverished, British gentry at the turn of the twentieth century The real women who inspired Downton Abbey

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

Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published August 7th 2018 by St. Martin's Press (first published June 1st 2017)
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Average rating 3.52  · 
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Dec 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
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
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 ...more
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...more
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
This review can also be found here!

Thanks to Netgalley and St Martins Press for an ARC!

DNF at 13%

Another one that just really put me to sleep. Its 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 dont 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 couldnt break into the denseness of this text to
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

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 ...more
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
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Perfect nonfiction background material... now I'm ready to read The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton.
3.5 / 5 stars
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
Another clunker I was forced to read for book club.
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 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. ...more
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jane Greensmith
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent non-fiction for background and context for Edith Whartons novels. ...more
Carolyn Harris
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Churchills 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 of ...more
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[See this and other reviews at my website,]

Lately, Ive 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 upper
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
Kate Guinan
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Fascinating look at the Downtown Abbey aristocracy. The Gilded Age produced Americans of immense wealth and some of the daughters of those social climbing millionaires traded fortunes for titles. The British aristocracy of that time were in dire need of cash to maintain estates and lavish lifestyles. A few were love matches but most were transactions that injected more than 50 million dollars into the British economy of that time. American heiress, Consuelo Vanderbult forced into her marriage by ...more
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jadis LeFeu
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Very interesting (and by turns horrifying) overview of the American heiresses that married into the European aristocracy, the New York social scene from which most of them came, and the effects of their marriages on both sides of the Atlantic. Chapters focus on individual girls--Tennie Claflin and her sister Victoria were particularly delightful, as suffragettes and pioneers of womens' rights. Poor Consuelo Vanderbilt was one of the most tragic.
Toni Skaff
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Who knew the enormity of the wealth during the Guilded Age? I really did not. I was awestruck at the Millions of dollars these women inherited, the pounds of diamonds and pearls that they wore and the extravagance of the social life. Very illuminating of the social life during this time. what a great way to learn about history. Loved listening to this on audible. Loved the narrator.
Melissa Dee
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book entirely fascinating. Ive read a lot of Regency historicals, and it was illuminating to read a factual account of this period, along with the true-life marriages of the time. Particularly of interest was the contrasting of American and English expectations for women and for marriage. Dress, personal hygiene, valuation of money Nothing is too small for De Courceys attention. ...more
Kathryn Pritchett
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating anecdotes. Could have used a little more narrative connection.
Mary Jo
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting information and a fascinating portrait of the Gilded Age with its excessive spending. I sometimes had a hard time keeping names sorted out but it was worth the effort.
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Anne de Courcy is a well-known writer, journalist and book reviewer. In the 1970s she was Womans 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 ...more

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