ABBEY’S BOOKSELLER PICK —— This new book from the best known chronicler of upper class women is concerned with the influx of young American women who married into aristocratic British families (and occasionally other European peerages) in the 19th century. While the transAtlantic trade in brides was often characterised as American money for European titles, de Courcy takes a slightly different slant. Often, it seems, the trade was driven by socially ambitious mothers who gained a surefire entrée into the consumerist high society of New York, a rarefied and exclusive 'club' that had strict and rigid codes and was not easily breached by the outsider, no matter how much of her wealthy husband's money she might spend in pursuit of social acceptance. Yet, if your daughter had married a baronet or an earl or better still a Duke, you had instant cachet…
Telling the stories of many a young heiress who was foisted onto penurious peers (or sons thereof) this is a sparkling and well researched read. It catches the sophistication of the Gilded Age, as well as conspicuous consumption that was de rigueur - how else would anyone know how rich you were if your wife didn't spend enormous quantities - and wasn't that her prime occupation? Lovely descriptions of balls and jewels and gowns by Worth counterpoint the stories of what the American girls were exchanging for their coronets, the vast differences in expectations and lifestyles they were plunged into with their marriages. Greatly entertaining, but also a wonderful dissection of high society in the latter parts of the 19th century. Lindy Jones
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 alien denizens of another world - the New World, to be precise.
From 1874 - the year that Jennie Jerome, the first known 'Dollar Princess', married Randolph Churchill - to 1905, dozens of young American heiresses married into the British peerage, bringing with them all the fabulous wealth, glamour and sophistication of the Gilded Age.
Anne de Courcy sets the stories of these young women and their families in the context of their times. Based on extensive first-hand research, drawing on diaries, memoirs and letters, this richly entertaining group biography reveals what they thought of their new lives in England - and what England thought of them.