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To Marry an English Lord: Or How Anglomania Really Got Started

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From the Gilded Age until 1914, more than 100 American heiresses invaded Britannia and swapped dollars for titles--just like Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, the first of the Downton Abbey characters Julian Fellowes was inspired to create after reading To Marry An English Lord. Filled with vivid personalities, gossipy anecdotes, grand houses, and a wealth of period details--plus photographs, illustrations, quotes, and the finer points of Victorian and Edwardian etiquette--To Marry An English Lord is social history at its liveliest and most accessible.

403 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1989

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About the author

Gail MacColl

6 books7 followers
Gail MacColl Jarrett is a writer who lives in England.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 762 reviews
Profile Image for La Crosse County Library.
550 reviews132 followers
January 27, 2022
Tales of Wealth and Marriage, Sex and Snobbery!

Silly me! I married for love! It has worked out for 37 years, so I guess I’m lucky! I didn’t know that in the 1800s and early 1900s it was fashionable to send your daughters who hadn’t attracted a suitable mate in America across the sea!

This gossipy and entertaining book tells of the fair maidens who added a title like "Duchess" or "Lady" to their name. Often, the American family paid dearly for the title in the form of a dowry to the royal who must keep up a castle or country home. Follow the tales of Conseulo Vanderbilt and Jeannie Chamberlain and other ladies who attracted royalty.

This book features vignettes throughout that give glimpses into court life, fabulous balls, wardrobes needed and the often-dreary life as an English wife, and the responsibility to provide an heir and a spare.

See also:

The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married Into The British Aristocracy (2017) by Anne de Courcy

It is a well-researched and more complete history of the trend of American women marrying into aristocracy, complete with a bibliography and index. If one is interested in the societal trends and effects these women produced in England, it is worth the read.

I enjoyed both books but liked the lighter style and added features of To Marry an English Lord.

~Lady Sherri Sinniger of the South Side

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Profile Image for Hannah.
794 reviews
February 12, 2014
5 stars for content. Great information. Loads of pictures. Kept me turning the pages (my anglophile-ecstasy-meter was in overdrive). Extra brownie points to the authors for their fulsome praise over how awesome American girls are were. Well, duh...

1 stars for the literary sadist formatting this book. Very frustrating layout. Annoying as all get-out.

Giving it 4 stars since the content won out over the format. Plus, who doesn't like a trans-Atlantic romance with a titled Englishman?

Julian Fellowes is said to have gotten the germ of the idea of Downton Abbey from reading this years ago. Understandable.

Would love to see a mini-series on "The Real Titled American Housewives of Victorian/Edwardian England" featured in this book.
Profile Image for Melindam.
612 reviews266 followers
September 18, 2020
“The almighty dollar will buy, you bet
A superior class of coronet;
That’s why I’ve come from over the way, From New York City of U. S. A.”

This was interesting, informative and fun. No wonder it inspired Julian Fellows in creating Downton Abbey.

Full review to come.
Profile Image for Bronwyn.
654 reviews47 followers
July 15, 2014
It's only three stars because, while I really enjoyed the majority of the book, the format and constant interruptions to the text took away some of the enjoyment. I also didn't technically read the entire thing since I just skimmed the bios and locations at the end. I want a book like this about the women but without the asides. It did make me finally purchase Five Sisters though.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
678 reviews207 followers
June 6, 2013
I am so disappointed in this book. I went looking for it (and it was later given to me as a gift) in part because Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, cited it as an inspiration. Now, I love Downton Abbey because of the well-spun insights into characters whose lives are only 100 years removed from mine, but seem so dramatically different, and was excited to see if I could find hints of Cora or Mary or Bates in any of the real people MacColl highlighted.

This book contains lots of information about people of that era (real, in this case), but thrown together in such a maddening way as to negate any benefit from the stories it tries to tell. No sense of continuity, no story telling ability, and whoever formatted this book should be put out of their misery because there is clearly something very wrong in their life that they are taking out on the readers.

Two page long mini-info-dumps appear every 20 pages, often just when you turn the page, mid-sentence, so you must choose whether to turn ahead to finish the thought (paragraph?) and hope you remember to turn back, or read the new section and then turn back to figure out where you were previously, which I know is my favorite way to try to track 87 or so characters, half of whom share names.

And if you would like to try to track the progress of any girl (or girls) in particular, you will need to take notes. The book moves chronologically. Unless there's a theme the authors want to focus on, in which case: screw timelines! Sisters, cousins, in-laws - just list them off, of course people reading this book in the 21st century will know who they are and will remember these people when they are suddenly referenced again, out of the blue, four chapters later. In a caption of a fuzzy picture. In a two page mini-section that has nothing to do with the sentence you were just reading.

Also, there might or might not have been half a dozen young girls named Consuelo running around. Or they might all have been the same young woman. I just remember that name and then some divorced woman who caused a scandal when she married a man half her age. And that might have been Consuelo, I honestly don't remember.

My take away from this book: just watch Downton Abbey instead. And if you don't buy all your dresses from Worth, no one will speak to you.
Profile Image for Noran Miss Pumkin.
463 reviews94 followers
December 24, 2012
The lack of editing, the mis-spellings, the lack of flow, the disorganization of information, the repetition, the too small illustrations, the repetition, and the boring writing style--really ruined a possible 4 star read! This books explains the set-up of Downton Abbey. The wealthy young American girls, that fled snobbish NYC for titles, and society. Many found poor marriages and despair. Yet, they had their daughters marry the same way as well. The topic is fascinating, but this book is just a chore to read.
Profile Image for Jill Hutchinson.
1,445 reviews105 followers
June 10, 2020
I read this book 8 years ago and forgot all about it. That's what happens when you read too many books......just kidding. There isn't such a thing as reading too many books. I am going to stick with my original review which follows:

"The American heiress gets her man!! This history of the glut of rich young American women invading Britain during the last decade of the 19th century in search of a titled husband is humorous, informative and gossipy. The bride had the money and no standing in British society....the groom had social position but no money. Sounds like the perfect scenario but in most cases it wasn't as both parties struggled to adapt. The societal "rules" bordered on the ludicrous and the author provides a glimpse into what was expected or demanded from those who married into the aristocracy....dress, how to entertain royalty, marital fidelity or discreet lack thereof, and where to be seen, just to name a few. It was the golden age of excess and the cost of one dress designed by Worth of Paris still boggles the mind. An entertaining book which has an underlying theme of the frivolousness and somewhat purposeless lives of high society of the times."

Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,633 followers
April 9, 2012
Fans of Downton Abbey and other Anglophiles will enjoy this book, which tells the stories of the American women who married into English aristocracy in the late-1800s. (Usually because the titled British families needed the money from wealthy Americans.) It's filled with photographs and interesting facts about their lives, such as how much it really cost to maintain a country estate, how difficult it was to run a household with servants and how wives adjusted to cold English society. It may spoil your fantasy of marrying a Duke, but it's still a delightful read.
Profile Image for Treece.
521 reviews137 followers
June 21, 2018
Rating: 4 stars

With all the media hype over Megan Markle and Prince Harry being from separate continents, I thought I would read this book. Surely marriages between the English peerage and American ruling classes happened in the past?

Of course.

The book explains how Princess Diana's grandfather was American. And for those who don't know, Winston Churchill's mother was also an American. In fact, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, American heiresses made countless marriages into the British peerage. Quite a few of them had common origins, worker class and menial labor included. There were even some who had "ethnic antecedents". It is a joke when the media displays its ignorance and sensationalizes something that at one point in history became a way of life for a time. Loads of American funds from American heiresses bolstered the coffers of the moth-ridden pockets of UK blueblood and other European climes. Trust me, the trip was not one-sided. Once it became known that American heiresses were for the asking if one had a title, then quite a few of the English elite traveled to our shores to seek out a MOC. Marriages were not limited to the sweet young debutantes either. Also, some widowed matrons made successful matches as well. Scandals of all scandals, there were cougar/cub alliances--or misalliances (you decide)--thrown into the mix.

The book was enjoyable and interesting in how the New York set's exclusivity (headed by the infamous Mrs. Asor) set the ball rolling as it were, by forcing the nouveau riche crowd to expand their horizons for their daughters. Once the connections were set in place, and the rest, as they say, is all history through these women's trials and errors.

Loaded with pictures and tons of facts and stories, I was a bit annoyed when my page was interrupted by a spread about say, attire (though I loved all the info about the designer, Worth). Everything was fascinating so I was forced to stop briefly to read that section before continuing. I suppose it keeps this book from being monotonous. At the back, there is a large, detailed appendix about all the heiresses, the men they married and other small bits of info.

The author of Downton Abbey was inspired by To Marry an English Lord which may tell you all you need to know.
Profile Image for Suzannah.
Author 27 books463 followers
October 19, 2022
It's very impressive how much historical detail is packed into this book, given how easy it was to read - this is partly a factor of the prose, which is witty and conversational, and partly a factor of the layout, which makes plentiful use of illustrations, sidebars and insets: giving the same information in bricks of text would make the whole book much, much drier reading.

I mainly wanted to read this as an introduction to American high society of the 1890s and a history of Anglo-American relations of the period, and it worked. I also gleaned a wealth of VERY helpful information on London high society of the period.

Probably the most interesting historical takeaway is the difference between how American women and Englishwomen were expected to behave. While English girls were brought up to very sheltered lives, American girls tended to live far more freely, were often better educated and were much more comfortable around men, to whom they'd had far more exposure. On the other hand, an American woman never expected to have anything to do with finance or politics once she married, whereas Englishwomen were welcomed by their husbands into a far more equal partnership where they would be able to act as political hostesses or diplomatic envoys. This made perfect sense to me because that's precisely how we see English wives behaving in Anthony Trollope's novels, especially the Palliser series. On the other hand, it also suggests an American origin for the ubiquitous historical-fiction trope of the fiancee patronisingly telling his intended bride that he doesn't mean for her to worry her pretty head about things like politics or finance. So this is a warning - if I see any more Americans writing English people this way I WILL point and shout.
Profile Image for Austen to Zafón.
751 reviews27 followers
May 28, 2015
If you want to better understand the novels of Edith Wharton and Henry James, to get the jokes of Charles Dana Gibson and Oscar Wilde, or just to enjoy the highbrow soap opera that is Downtown Abbey more deeply, this book will help. Covering the years between the end of the American civil war and the death of King Edward VII in 1910, this book gave me a fairly good understanding of why American heiresses were marrying titled Englishmen in droves (more than 100 did, including Winston Churchill's mother) and what that meant for both (high-society) cultures.

It wasn't just that the moribund English upper crust needed vulgar American bucks to prop up their pricey habits and accouterments (which included huge, drafty, crumbling, damp houses and the army of servants those required). The heiresses had their goals too. They were often from families whose shiny new money wasn't enough to impress that stiff-backed New York star-maker, Mrs. William Astor. Mrs. Astor had some serious rules. For example, if you bought a Paris dress, you couldn't wear it. God no. What are you, a Philistine? You had to store it for a year or two so it didn't look like you were showing off your wealth, although you certainly were. That was key to most the rules: To show off without seeming to, using a complicated code of card-leaving and cutting. Mrs. Astor was a woman who made her husband drop his middle name, Backhouse, because she thought it vulgar. Mrs. Astor and New York society had many words to describe upstart nouveau riche people who thought they could break into rigid Knickerbocker NY Society, including arrivistes, parvenus (French is so good for insults, right?), bouncers, shoddees, swells, vulgarians, detrimentals...the list goes on.

In short, if Mrs. Astor didn't "know" you, you might as well use your oodles of money to buy status overseas. The bummer there was that most the guys with that kind of status were, well, assholes really. And then their dour families and dank, isolated homes weren't much fun either. Still, some of the heiresses managed to pull it off, usually with an invigorating stream of affairs or a bent for charity work or politics. This book reads like a gossip magazine and even though the gossip is over 100 years old, it still feels fresh. There are loads of fascinating details about the cultures of the respective richy-rich cultures. My take-away is that you couldn't pay me to live in either culture, but it's interesting to investigate it under a microscope.

I'd give it four stars, but the layout drove me crazy. Every couple pages, there's a double-page spread with side information. So if you want to read the text, you have to keep skipping pages and then remembering to go back to read the side information. It made it choppy and hard to follow. It would have been better to group those spreads in chunks, leaving more pages between of uninterrupted text. Also, most of the many illustrations are useless because they're so small and poorly reproduced. I'd rather have fewer, better pictures.
Profile Image for Mela.
1,417 reviews175 followers
November 13, 2022
Once upon a time there was a world when a young girl lived a stable, secure and predictable life.
"The débutante, daydreaming in the dark parlor, could easily envision her future: two or three seasons of paying calls with Mama, looking at albums of Venice with young men at parties, blushingly sharing a hymnal at church, having her hand pressed meaningfully on the dance floor. A proposal, and marriage to an upstanding young banker or lawyer. Her own brownstone on a side street, and managing the house and children. Being a matron, and wearing elegant dark colors, perhaps even (if she’d chosen the right young banker) dresses from Paris, though they would have to lie unworn in trunks for a season or two to be right for New York—a Knickerbocker woman should not be too fashionable. A box for the opera at the Academy of Music; possibly a summer cottage; and, in time, a débutante daughter of her own, looking at albums of Venice with her best friend’s son"

Then came 'New people' which were rich and want to be accepted. But 'Nobs' (the old oligarchy) don't want to invite the 'Swells' (the high-living possessors of new money) to their social circles. "In 1861, America had a mere handful of millionaires. By 1900, there would be four thousand of them" So, these 'new heiress' started search her future and rank in the other world.

This other old world was in many aspects very different. There were Dukes (always only 27), Marquesses, Earls (numbering in the hundreds), Viscounts, Barons. There was a very strict hierarchy among servants (from butler to housemaids). Ladies changed costumes a few times during one day. And there were many other rules, for example:

"Unlike Americans, who always introduce themselves, the English wait for a formal introduction—which very often is not forthcoming"

"When outdriving with his mistress, a gentleman places her at his left hand so that everyone he meets will know she is not his wife"

"as long as you were being faithful to someone, it didn’t really matter whether you were married to that someone or not."

For many 'new heiress' it was a fairy world, with queen, castles and so on. They want to have a prince charming.

This book is a really good nonfiction book with many historical facts. You find here for instance the schedule of life of Newport residents, a list of the putative amounts paid in dowries, a list of royal godchildren, a list of rules in a marriage and really many more lists and information.

I could quote endlessly:

"The heiress was only eighteen, perhaps twenty. She felt herself closed off from home and loved ones, surrounded by resentful dowagers, narrow-minded neighbors, haughty servants, soft-headed sisters-in-law and forbidding, unbending patriarchs. She was in a house that was too big, too old and, most of all, too, too cold. Things looked grim. Was life not going to be, as she had always been led to believe, fun"

"It seems only fair, perhaps even predictable, that all the dollars and energy and verve contributed by American heiresses to British politics should result in Nancy Astor’s becoming, in 1918, the first woman to take a seat in the House of Commons. And then in Winston Churchill’s finally avenging his father’s name and his mother’s disappointment by becoming, in 1940, “that half-breed American” prime minister of Great Britain"

"There were heiresses who made a success of life in England by rarely rising before noon, by exploiting their American thirst for fun and high adventure, by applying all their cleverness to entertaining the Prince of Wales. But there were other heiresses who rose early, had little to do with the Prince of Wales and exploited their middle-class sense of duty and propriety for their success. These heiresses, converting an American democratic sympathy for those down on their luck to an aristocratic concern for the lower orders, fit seamlessly into the English upper-class pattern"

If you like this period of history (the second half of the XIX century and the beginning of XX century) you should read it. If you like The Age of Innocence and The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton or Daisy Miller and The Europeans by Henry James you will find here prototype of characters in those books.

There are many reasons why you should read this book. One of them is that it shows the clash of two worlds, how they intermingled and influenced each other.
Profile Image for Emilia Barnes.
542 reviews97 followers
November 22, 2018
Informative and entertaining, this is an account of the American heiresses (Wharton's Buccaneers) that invaded Britain in search of titled husbands. It's thoroughly researched and yet presented in so entertaining a way that you don't really feel like you're learning. It feels more like reading a Victorian gossip magazine. I wish there had been more, along the way, about where the authors have sourced their information (a bibliography, footnotes etc.), but that's my only gripe.
Profile Image for Jaylia3.
752 reviews129 followers
August 13, 2016
This book, a cultural history of American heiresses marrying English Lords, is just plain fun and fascinating. The Kindle version is currently on sale in the US, but To Marry an English Lord is so lavishly illustrated with photos and drawings on every page that I can’t imagine reading an ebook copy.

By the late 1800’s--early 1900’s there was a growing number of young ladies in the US who had lots of family money, but who couldn’t break into proper American “Society” because being nouveau riche they had no social status. At the same time across the Atlantic noble British families were having trouble paying for the upkeep and modernization of their estates--which is understandable since it wasn’t considered proper for the aristocracy to work--so marriage between the two groups made sense, but whoa! The culture shock! All of which is entertainingly recounted in this book.

After growing up in a fancy, almost palace-like mansion the American heiress often started married life in her British husband’s dark, deteriorating ancestral manor without indoor plumbing. The large (and very interesting) contrasts in attitudes about married life, gender roles, infidelity, money, servants, and politics further complicated her assimilation into her new life. There were a variety of ways to cope and the book delves into the personal stories of many of the women, including Jennie Jerome Churchill (mother of Winston) and Consuelo Vanderbilt.

To Marry an English Lord makes lively use of its rich historical material and is full of fruitful background information for further enjoying fiction and film. Edith Wharton and Henry James used the Victorian-Edwardian era tension between British and American customs in their novels and Julian Fellows, the creator of Downton Abbey, says this book inspired the Cora character in that series.
Profile Image for Kay.
1,004 reviews169 followers
February 6, 2008
A history and social examination of Anglo-American alliances, including the fate of such heiresses as Jennie Jerome (Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston's mother), Consuelo Vanderbilt (Duchess of Marlborough), and Nancy Langhorne Astor, who later became the first woman to ever sit in Parliament.

In the manner of What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, this book contains a wealth of information about what life was like for the American heiresses (many dubbed 'Buccaneers' after the Edith Wharton novel). Thus, the reader learns what they wore (where, when, designed by whom, costing how much), where they went (including all the details of the social calendar), and whom they met (at court, at the races, at balls, etc.). It's a terrific look at the top strata of the Gilded Age on both sides of the Atlantic, written in a saucy tone but containing some intriguing social observations.

Throughout are ample illustrations, including photos of Gilded Age mansions and many society-page portraits, as well as a "Registry of Heiresses" with pithy bios at the end of the book. My one complaint might be that the scope of the book is a bit scattershot -- it's pretty hard to keep track of all the comings and goings of the major players, which is where the "registry" comes in handy.
Profile Image for Melisa.
324 reviews513 followers
March 26, 2016
This book contains some pretty fascinating facts about the history of society life! I found this especially interesting since I lived in New York City for a few years - you kind of take for granted that something is called "Astor Place" but then to read about the actual Astor family that it is named after is something pretty cool.

The photography was such a great enhancement of the facts, I loved putting faces and locations with the names.

My only complaint would be that it jumped around chronologically which became a bit confusing. The footnotes also distracted away from the text, and the layout was frustrating, but this didn't take away from my enjoyment.

A definite must read for Downton Abbey fans!
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,081 reviews8 followers
June 4, 2012
Holy cow, was this book fascinating!

Contrary to what bodice ripping romance novels would have you believe, it was NOT easy to marry an English Lord in the Victorian/Edwardian age, especially if you were an English girl! You had better luck if you were a rich American girl whose uber-wealthy (and not just by today's standards, either- these people were spending some MEGA MONEY) father was willing to open the purse in order to gain a bit more cachet at home.

Really, this book has so much to offer on many levels- info about Anglo/USA relations, fashion, business, gossip, politics, customs, etc. I think almost anyone could read it and find something interesting in it.
Profile Image for Brian.
647 reviews79 followers
June 24, 2015
Whoever had created humanity had left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the knees.
-Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay
I wasn't really sure what I was going to get here, since I just grabbed it off the shelf off the library because it looked interesting. The cover claims it's an inspiration for Downton Abbey, but I haven't seen that, so it didn't influence my reading of the book.

But I did really like it. It was much different than I was expecting--instead of a dense text packed with names and dates and footnotes like A World on Fire, it's done almost more like a school textbook, with quotes in the margins, lots and lots of pictures, and frequent single- or double-page splashes about topics related to the main area the text is covering, often fashions or questions about daily life. These do severely interrupt the flow of the text, and while I didn't find it a problem, a lot of the other reviews did, so be warned.

A lot of what I found interesting was just how different a lot of cultural assumptions were in the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods. A World on Fire deals with this too, but for a large part of America's history we viewed Britain with suspicion and some disdain. We were sober and industrious and hard-working and democratic, and they were imperious and decadent and flashy and, above all, our former enemies. The descriptions of old New York society, where they would order dresses from Paris but then not wear them for a few months because trying to obviously to chase the latest fashion was vulgar, definitely resonated with my own personal behavior as well as showing how much rich New York society has changed. And not for the better, if you ask me.

New York society was founded on iron rules of etiquette among the Four Hundred designed to keep out any unwanted arrivistes, and one way that wealthy members of the bourgeoisie dealt with that mostly-closed society was to go abroad seeking matches there. After all, Mrs. Astor was wealthy and had most of the power in New York, but was she a duchess? Definitely not! And the rich heiresses picked England for the simple reason of exclusivity--since English peerage was based on agnatic primogeniture, there were only 27 dukes in all of England in late Victorian times, and supply and demand thus made them more valuable.

The relatively small number of peers meant that there weren't that many heiresses in absolute terms seeking marriages, but the press on both sides of the Atlantic covered them in extensive detail, and To Marry an English Lord implies that this did a lot to help thaw relations between England and America. Not only were the goings-on of interest to the public, all of a sudden many of the most powerful men in England had American wives with an interest in keeping things going well for their families back home.

Society continually praised the beauty and dress sense of American women as well, comparing it unfavorable to wan complexions of aristocratic English women. Though I have to admit, it's pretty obvious that beauty standards for men and women have changed a lot in the last 150 years. There are a lot fewer walrus moustaches, for one.

Not to imply that everything was great. There were actually a lot of downsides that the book goes into detail on. One is that a modern New York home was light-years more comfortable than an ancestral home that dated back centuries, which might still have wood-burning fireplaces and baths drawn by hand. Affairs were not just common but expected among the British aristocracy, with social schedules set up to accommodate them as long as everyone was discrete, and new wives would have to get used to their husbands affairs--as well as having to fend off advances made toward them. Or agree to them, if they desired, but only after they fulfilled their primary function in England: providing the heir and a spare that kept the ancestral titles and lands in the family.

There's a section about how shocking this was to a lot of people, because Americans wanted aristocratic titles, and the lavish pomp and lifestyle that goes with it, but not really aristocracy mores, which were decadent and vulgar and not fit for the red-blooded descendants of yeoman farmers.

It was also pretty obvious to everyone that the nobility's main interest in America was for the money. This was back when a gentleman did not engage in trade, but an agricultural depression meant that land rents plunged during the 1870s. One example is that the Duke of Manchester's main estates went from a £95,000 surplus to £2,000 deficit, or in modern American dollars, from nearly $13 million in the black to $150,000 in the red. The incomes of American businessmen looks pretty attractive when changes like that are eating into the family earnings.

One other thing I thought was interesting was the discussion near the end of the decline of the Old New York social scene because it was pointless. In Britain, social climbing had an end goal--the favor of the king. But in America, it was just rodents scrabbling around to be at the top of the heap with no real point to it. There were no official functions, just worthless amusements, and eventually everyone realized it.

After Edward VII's death, the pull of aristocratic titles started to fade, and many American families got tired of pouring their money into the black holes of the English nobility. Also, the long aristocratic disdain for trade mostly collapsed in the face of increasing debts, and if the duke has to go to work just like everyone else, than how much is that title worth anyway?

An interesting account of a little-remembered period of history.
Profile Image for Sandy .
356 reviews10 followers
December 4, 2015
The book is chock full of facts about ostentatious wealth and extravagance, about huge dowries of American money which protected many a broke English noble family from bankruptcy, about obscene amounts of money spent on clothing, interior decoration, and entertaining the Prince of Wales (who eventually became King Edward VII).

The presentation of this abundance of information was not well-organized. Overall, the chapters seem to move forward in chronological order, but within each of the chapters the presentation is extremely confusing. Seemingly unrelated anecdotes are placed together and the narrative is interrupted by random quotes and photographs (for example, at long last, the narrative on page 502 explains the significance of photos which had appeared, and interrupted the flow of the writing, on pages 90, 375, 395, and 462). The system of sub-titles, sub-sub-titles, and sub-sub-sub-titles is inconsistent in typeface, and merely serves as an annoying interruption.

Nomenclature is another source of frustration for the reader. Each of the English nobles is referred to by a variety of names and/or titles (for example, given name and surname, title before inheritance, title after inheritance, name of the family country seat, name of the family's London home). A non-British reader who is unfamiliar with the complexity of the historical system of English land-ownership can spend a lot of time researching these names in an effort to make sense of the book.

On a more positive note, the book is an interesting comment on the changes in attitude about the American heiresses who married English nobles. Many of the young American women moved to England with "stars in their eyes", believing that their own wealth combined with the title and status of their English husbands would be a perfect recipe for "happily ever after". Many were disappointed by the ostracism they experienced, the isolation in cold country houses (after the hustle and bustle of American high society), and the (not only accepted, but actually expected) sexual infidelity of the English noblemen. In spite of the initial discouragement, many of these American heiresses proved to be confident, out-going, assertive, resourceful, and resilient and their activism in Good Works (especially throughout World War One) endeared them to both English society and the English population in general.

Two stars for lack of organization and poor editing.
Profile Image for Wendy.
181 reviews7 followers
May 17, 2012
I'm giving this book 5 stars, not because it is an example of outstanding literature, but because this book is like crack for anyone who can't get enough of the Mitfords, Langhorns, Curzons, et al. This book was full of lots of interesting pictures, trivia and info about the American heiresses who migrated to Great Britain at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries to marry into the British aristocracy. Their money enabled this old aristocratic (but short on cash) families to refurbish, restore and modernize their ancestral homes, in exchange for which they got a title and a great deal of social prestige.

I read this book shortly after completing New York: The Novel and a lot of what was in this book was reflected in Rutherfurd's fictionalized account as well. After reading this one, I would also like to read The Glitter And The Gold to get Consuelo Vanderbilt's first-hand account of her experiences.

If you suffer from Anglomania, then this book is for YOU! I enjoyed every minute of it!
Profile Image for Veronika.
Author 1 book69 followers
December 11, 2020
Super unterhaltsam, hat sich wegsnacken lassen wie eine Packung Kekse. Witzig, bissig und sehr informativ, wenn man sich für die Upperclass-Skandale der Edwardianischen Gesellschaft interessiert.
Viele haben die Aufmachung bemängelt, aber genau die fand ich besonders toll. Es ist halt aufgemacht wie eine Klatschzeitung - d.h. man hat mitten im Text Bilder und eingerahmte Kurztexte, Mini-Biographien, Specials etc. Man kann sich immer entscheiden ob man einen Abschnitt konsequent durchliest und dann zurückgeht und die kleinen Einschübe liest oder ob man zwischendurch die Einschübe liest und den Artikel dafür unterbricht. Ich habe es mal so, mal so gemacht und hatte nie Probleme dem Inhalt zu folgen.
Da das ganze wortwörtliche über den High Society Skandale des späten 19. Jahrhunderts berichtet, war das meiner Meinung nach einer sehr passende Aufmachung und ich hatte viel Spaß damit.
Profile Image for Madeline.
211 reviews4 followers
June 3, 2021
interesting tidbits! bizarre formatting! it was like they had too many little quippy titles so they put a title on each page or two? so the book is many, many divisions. I did enjoy the photos, it really adds to understanding the scope of the finery and fashion. as a leftist, of course, the extravagance boiled my blood. just forget everything you know about imperialism, slavery, exploitation under captains of industry for this read to enjoy the little anecdotes.
200 reviews
June 9, 2012
What fun! I was thrilled to see this book, which was the original inspiration for Downton Abbey, pop up in the Amazon Kindle store. This is a breezy, easy to read history of the generations of American heiresses who took Europe, and especially England, by storm. Full of beauty, charm, American confidence, and most all, American money, these women re-shaped the political and social landscape of Europe in ways that echoed well into the 20th century. From the original Buccaneers (including Winston Churchill's own mother) who blazed the first trail from socially hide-bound New York to more permissive Europe, to the Self Made Girls and the American Aristocrats, each new wave of American femininity is catalogued here in a fun, readable way.

The heiresses went to Europe because New York excluded them out of fear of damaging the exclusivity of their society. In Europe, and especially Britain, on the other hand, these wealthy women were welcomed into the best of society. The Prince of Wales in particular took a liking to Americans and their breezy, well financed ways, flinging open the door for many transatlantic alliances. Europe was not afraid of new money, because their society was ruled by the nobility system, which money could only improve, but could never buy.

A must add to any complete Downton Abbey Fanatic's shelf, but the true histories of some of these ill-fated marriages will make you seriously grateful that you have other options besides landing a titled husband.
Profile Image for Jenn "JR".
444 reviews80 followers
December 29, 2017
So much data

This book seem to rely heavily on historical data and facts, more than primary sources. Some primary sources were used and that provided great context in spots. Mostly it felt like reading an almanac for the rich and famous, lots of names, dates and tidbits of the cost and value of dresses and houses and such.

It felt like there could have been more context and continuity to weave a story -- there are so many characters involved it was really easy to lose track.
Profile Image for Robin P.
4 reviews
March 14, 2012
For those who said this book was hard to find, you'll be happy to know it is newly reissued and highly marketed since Julian Fellowes said it was part of his inspiration for Downton Abbey.(He wondered what life would be like 20 years later for the American brides.) It's full of photos and facts about society life on both sides of the Atlantic and written in an entertaining style.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Camden.
Author 24 books2,346 followers
April 11, 2016
I love a good, juicy non-fiction book, and this was chock-full of fascinating, real life stories. My ONLY quibble was with the quality of the photographs, most of which were grainy and poorly reproduced. But hey, almost every page had photos of the people, houses, city corners, etc. It was a great read.
Profile Image for Thomas George Phillips.
320 reviews18 followers
February 12, 2022
The historical account of "Old New York" was written with accurate research from these authors. This period in history is know as "The Gilded Age." And Ms. MacColl and Ms. Wallace accurately portrayed the era and the people involved. Presently on HBO there is a series titled "The Gilded Age." Many of those characters are outlined in this book.
Profile Image for Elaine Ruth Boe.
548 reviews30 followers
June 9, 2015
Any Downton Abbey fan worth his or her salt would salivate at the chance to understand the backstories of the real women who inspired Downton’s popular character Lady Grantham. And so, my mom and I drove south toward the gulf as the lives of past American heiresses unfolded before us.

Before listening to this book, all I knew about the hordes of American women who married into the British aristocracy was that hordes of American women married into the British aristocracy. This I ascertained from Downton Abbey. Cora, the lady of Downton, traded her American money for an English title that saved the abbey from bankruptcy. As I learned during the 7.5 hours to NOLA, her character reflects the personal trajectory of many American heiresses at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.

In the 1870s and 1880s, many British aristocrats needed millions to restore their family estates, and the American nouveau riche needed eligible matches for their daughters outside New York’s mercilessly exclusive social circles. Wily American mothers realized that their fresh-faced, vivacious (and filthy rich) daughters had better prospects across the pond, where Prince Bertie (eldest son of Queen Victoria), worshipped beautiful women, and so supported the American girls in their matrimonial enterprises.

One such match between an American heiress and British Lord produced Winston Churchill (how many people know that one of Britain’s most famous Prime Ministers was half American?).

I never realized that, before this glamorous American invasion, British-American relations were not at the level of amicability we enjoy today. The Revolutionary War and War of 1812 were still recent history in the 1870s, and the U.S. had yet to become its own Imperial power. The American women who married into the British aristocracy, and later helped many of their husbands campaign for political office, fostered friendship between the two nations.

Although American enthusiasm for these transatlantic marriages waned in the 1900s–as Americans took issue with the loss of American fortunes to support British aristocrats’ whims and debts–the height of the trend in the 1890s sounded so dazzling and so over the top I can hardly believe the details. MacColl and Wallace did such a splendid job of describing the society women’s balls that the amount of detail devoted to the ladies’ dresses even tired me! The wealth of some Americans astounds me: one lady wore the jewels of Marie Antoinette to compliment her French costume, while another wore Catherine the Great’s precious stones to a costume ball.

As we drove toward a city renowned for its own extravagant parties, my mom and I thoroughly enjoyed imagining another era of American extravagance, epitomized by 55-carat diamond crowns and mink coats rather than plastic tiaras and hot pink boas.
Profile Image for Melissa.
401 reviews70 followers
January 17, 2016
An entertaining, gossipy look at the phenomenon of American heiresses marrying titled British aristocrats, which took place from the 1870s to the early 1900s. Shut out by the old money society of New York epitomized by Caroline Astor's "400," these nouveau riche families sought out social acceptability across the Atlantic instead. They launched their pert, pretty, privileged daughters into a hidebound British society which at first balked at the girls as little more than savages, but soon came to see that the girls' vast fortunes were just what their crumbling estates needed.

The book moves more or less chronologically, showing the phases of this phenomenon, from the "Buccaneers" like Jennie Jerome (mother of Winston Churchill) and Consuelo Yznaga, who led the charge into aristocratic marriages, to the Self-Made Girls like midwestern beauty Jeannie Chamberlain, to the later American Aristocrats, who often had spent more time in England than in America and saw themselves as every bit as worthy as the British aristocrats they married. Threaded through all these eras of "dollar princesses" is the fascination and support of Prince Albert, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), who admired and accepted the American arrivistes, giving them social acceptability and even encouraging matches between the girls and various titled men. The book also delves into lots of fascinating detail about the fashions, entertainments, manners, morals, and etiquette of both the British ruling families and the American families determined to crack into their insular institution. Worth gowns by the dozen, luxurious "cottages" in Newport, portraits done by John Singer Sargent, house parties with Prince Albert -- the book paints a vivid picture of the world in which these women lived.

A fascinating look at what was truly a fairly tawdry trend of the daughters of American robber barons and industrialists being groomed and brought up to be more or less sold off to impecunious dukes, earls, marquesses, and barons. A short-lived but intriguing period of time, and one that had a huge impact on the British aristocracy which is still felt today. Without the marriage of heiress Frances Work to the Baron Fermoy, after all, there would have been no Princess Diana, and no Princes William or George -- future kings, both.
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