Monday, October 22, 2012

To Marry an English Lord

I've been reading another book inspired by Downton Abbey.  "To Marry an English Lord" predates Downton Abby by 20 years as the copyright date is 1989.

It is written and laid out in a newspaper fashion with columns and many illustrations.  It tells the stories of American heiresses and their mothers who scrabble and scheme for entry into the peerage system of English lords and ladies using their wealth to gain husbands with prestige.  Such nuptials were not always happy ones but were common in the later part of the 1800's and early 1900's.  They were helped along by the love and admiration of Edward the VII, oldest son of Queen Victoria, for the beautiful and well dressed American women.  To the dismay of his mother he was an indulgent playboy.  Queen Victoria said of him, ‘I never can, or shall, look at him without a shudder.’

I'm looking forward to season three of Downton Abbey but after reading this book feel a bit more jaded about it all.  Dealing with mistresses was common as was becoming a mistress after producing a male heir or two for these American brides.  Winston Churchill's American mother, Jennie, was known for her beauty and good works but had lovers eventually marrying one half her age long after the death of Winston's father.

The book includes an index at the end listing the many, many wealthy American brides including information about their parentage, source of wealth, and their husbands' British nobility and honors.  One wonders why the large country estate style houses of Newport, Rhode Island and the society life of New York City weren't enough.

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