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The Glitter and the Gold: The American Duchess---in Her Own Words Hardcover – October 2, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250017181
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250017185
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Consuelo Vanderbilt was the original poor little rich girl.  A wonderful account of the glitz and glamour of the Gilded Age and how money really can't buy you love.” —Daisy Goodwin, author of The American Heiress

About the Author

CONSEULO VANDERBILT BALSAN  was born in 1877. She became the Duchess of Marlborough on her marriage in 1895. She died in 1964.

Customer Reviews

And hate her sometimes a little bit too.
Diva W
Great book with, easy read and very insightful of a period of time and an influential family.
Igor Mihajlovic
I found her story interesting and the book a fast read.
Deborah L. Kirk

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 83 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan had one of the most amazing, extraordinary lives of anyone in American history. Raised into mind-boggling wealth on Fifth Avenue, Consuelo had the misfortune of having Alva as her power-mad mother. Alva, in fact, locked away her strikingly tall, dark daughter and kept her prisoner until she agreed to marry the arrogant, weak and some say violent, Duke of Marlborough. She became the mistress, in l895, of Blenheim, a palace so big that she never even knew how many rooms it had. The author describes fascinating years of having royalty as her guests, visiting Czarist Russis before the Revolution, life as a dutchess, her divorce and subsequent marriage to Jacques Balsan. Unfortunately, Consuelo glosses over the sensational headlines in the 20s, caused by her divorce from the Duke. Even for a Vanderbilt woman, born into inconceivable wealth and power, Consuelo stood out with her extraordinary personality. Of all the "Dollar Princesses", those wealthy American women who wed royalty in the late l890s and early 20th Century, Consuelo is the only one who acted like she was born into royalty. This is a knockout memoir, despite its glossing over of sensitive segments of her life. By the way, the paperback edition curiously omits the great shots of Blenheim Palace found in the original hardback. A must-read. A genuine classic.
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth R on September 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
This did read more like a legerbook of facts and names than a memoir- I think Mrs. Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan was being particularly deliberate about the way this was structured. It was almost like a series of notes to herself- 1945, specific house, x and y were there. x was charming. I wonder if this is just how memoirs have changed- enh, but then again, I have read some much older memoirs that were more personal. Balsan did put a lot of herself into this, and her opinions were present, contrary to what others asserted in their reviews. The reader definitely gets an impression of her, however, we're only let so far in. I guess this kind of reads like the social column of a newspaper... 300+ pages of it. I have read a lot of contempory memoirs and they very much describe daily events, how they were, what they felt. Somehow this is different. She stops right before giving anything real away, I suppose. She is like so many older women I have known (not quite her contemporaries) who will tell you that something was unpleasant for them, and then won't tell you why or what they did about it, or how it's linked to other events. I don't think it's fair to call her a name-dropper. Her friends did happen to be people who are well known, and one can't write a memoir without talking about one's friends! I don't get the impression that she thought mentioning all of these people by names validated her life, but rather that she expected that's what would interest other people. She was wrong, in my case! I was most drawn in by the early part of the book, when she detailed how much she suffered at the hands of her mother. But she was sparse and careful there too. I admit to being bored reading this, but I learned a lot from it!
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Lee R. Whelchel on January 31, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Although ghost-written this book is a fascinating look at the turn of the (last) century practice of marrying American heiresses to impoverished English noblemen. Although not exactly a "tell-all" it is definately a "tell some."

Consoelo Vanderbilt, being the richest heiress around, made the "best" catch, the 9th Duke of Marlborough owner of Blenheim Palance, England's largest private house, built by his ancestor John Churchill, the First Duke. Unfortunately Blenheim, although a fabulous pile, did not have the thousands of acres of land needed to generate revenue to support it and the Duke was in desperate need of the railroad stock that was Consoelo's dowry.

What he was less in need of was Consoelo herself, and, as this book makes clear, had no regard, much less affection for her at all. Consoelo describes living in Blenheim and having to deal with the oddities of the British and the Duke, who would play tricks like "stealing" valuable ornaments from Blenheim so that Consoelo would have to deal with the alledgedly larcenous servants. She also describes the boredom and hassle of entertaining King Edward VII at house parties which involved numerous clothes changes and meal after elaborate meal all in the company of the insular (and sometimes insulting) British aristocrats. Thanks to the "table of precedence" she would have to sit next to the same crashing bores for every meal.

Eventually...well I won't give everything up except to say with the popularity of "Downton Abbey" I think this book should get some attention since it was written by someone who was really among the British aristocracy.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Megan on July 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is so much fun. If you're interested in the history of the upper class in the US or England, it is well worth checking this book out. Parts of it are laugh-out-loud funny, such as the description of dinner with the Duke; others are edge-of-your-seat exciting, such has her escape from the oncoming Germans in WWI; and others are just poignant, such as some of the anecdotes from her childhood. Like other reviewers, I do wish she had given more detail. She is a classy lady, though, and only kisses and tells about those she thinks really deserve it (mainly her first husband). Less fun for the reader, but there's still enough juicy gossip to keep me interested.
It is inexpertly written, but I think this ads to the book's charm. Mrs. Balsan obviously wrote it herself instead of taking the modern route and finding a ghost-writer.
If you enjoy this book, check out "To Marry and English Lord," which expands on Consuelo's story by talking about many other young hieresses of the time who married abroad.
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The Glitter and the Gold: The American Duchess---in Her Own Words
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