So do you want to be that American girl who bags an English lord, but who doesn’t know where to start? Relax – the list of books below should supply some much-needed instruction on becoming the next Countess of Nonesuch.
1. The Buccaneers, by Edith Wharton, finished by Marion Mainwaring. After the marriage market in the United States sours for them because they’re considered to be too nouveau riche, five young American girls travel to England to see if their large fortunes can tantalize some poor, titled gentlemen into seeking their hands in matrimony. Goaded by her plucky governess Laura Testvalley, the heroine, Nan St. George, discovers that money and a title don’t always a happy marriage make, particularly when you’re in love with someone else. The Buccaneers was Wharton’s last novel and left unfinished at the time of her death, but Marion Mainwaring brought it to a very satisfying conclusion that Wharton herself would be quite proud of.
2. The Titled Americans: Three American Sisters and the British Aristocratic World into Which They Married, by Elizabeth Kehoe. This tells the story of the Jerome sisters, three beautiful American heiresses who set the trend for marrying titled, but not-so-wealthy, English gentlemen. Most prominent of the three is Jennie, who married into the Churchill family and became the mother to Winston Churchill, one of the greatest leaders that England would ever see in a time of crisis.
3. The Glitter and the Gold: The American Duchess – In Her Own Words is the autobiography of Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan. Consuelo was a Vanderbilt daughter and one of the wealthiest young heiresses in the United States. Her overbearing mother, Alva, more or less forced her into a marriage to the English Duke of Marlborough instead of allowing her to marry the American suitor she loved. To pour more salt into the wound, Alva divorced her husband to marry the man she loved, a move that shocked and scandalized the upper echelons of American society. Consuelo’s memoir also offers a glimpse into the inner workings of British high society from the perspective of an American who married into it.
4. To Marry an English Lord, by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace, offers another look at the invasion of American heiresses on British soil. We learn not only about the Jerome sisters and Consuelo Vanderbilt, but also about the Langhorne sisters and the other young women who brought their significant fortunes with them to marriages with some of the most powerful families in England. MacColl and Wallace offer a look into how many of these women transitioned from American heiresses to British ladies and left their mark on the world around them.
So whether these books are just for reading pleasure or serve as instruction manuals for those of you who wish to follow Consuelo Vanderbilt’s example, you’ll find that they’re great reads!
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