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To Marry an English Lord: Victorian and Edwardian Experience Hardcover – November 20, 1989

3.8 out of 5 stars 538 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This delightful account of how American heiresses in the post-Civil War era packed up their trunks and went husband-hunting in England demonstrates that our national infatuation with British aristocracy is nothing new. The young women had good looks and big bucks; the often debt-ridden Brits had titles, castles and a society that was "more stimulating and more permissive, more leisurely and more sophisticated than Old New York." MacColl and Wallace (editor of and contributor to, respectively, The Preppy Handbook ) chronicle the lives of the rich and famous on both sides of the ocean, dishing up spicy gossip, pithy social commentary (by 1910, "Society in America became more sure of itself. Social climbers no longer needed titles for legitimacy") and obscure historical tidbits (because they were almost never allowed to sit in Queen Victoria's presence, her ladies-in-waiting "habitually bought shoes a size too big since their feet swelled so badly"). The book also includes witty profiles of leading American ladies and their British lords, piquant period photographs and handy tips on proper etiquette, such as "Any man who reverses changes the direction in which he's spinning his partner during a waltz is a cad." BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Library Journal

Large fortunes were made in post-Civil War America. Young heiresses, cold-shouldered by an entrenched aristocracy that scorned new money, looked across the sea to find husbands among titled young Englishmen who were long on status but very short of cash. Nancy Astor and Jennie Churchill are the most famous of more than 100 of these trans-Atlantic brides. This light-hearted bit of social history is lavishly illustrated and bedecked with sidebars and boxes of charts, lively quotes, and other supplementary material. A full register of these enterprising young ladies and a "Walking Tour" are included. Not only fun, but a definitive round-up of the players. Recommended.
- Nancy C. Cridland, Indiana Univ. Libs., Bloomington
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd (November 20, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0283999721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0283999727
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (538 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,426,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Margaret P Harvey on September 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
"To Marry An English Lord" may sound like a how-to guide, but it is really one of the most fascinating history books on the English Peerage ever written. This book specifically follows the migration of rich American girls to England and, subsequently, to marrying a member of the English peerage. It also reveals life in both England and America at the dawn of the 20th century. This book contains the most fascinating and seldom-explored facts from the period, and really takes an in-depth look at the everyday lives of the privileged during the Gilded Age. If for nothing else, buy this book for the pictures! With cartoons, photographs, maps and paintings, you get a visual guide to the period. This book is so well organized that practically every page gives you detailed information on a specific subject, and a picture to illustrate it. Most pages also have small factoids that are some of the best parts of the book. Certainly the best part of the book is how it follows a few American heiresses throughout the book, which really makes you care about the 'characters' and gives you the full story: from start to finish. If you love Victorian/Edwardian history, or the English Peerage, you will absolutely love this book. I refer to it almost once a week and enjoy re-reading it whenever I have some spare time!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I already own the 1989 out-of-print version of 'To Marry an English Lord' in my collection and its one of my absolute favorites! So when I saw that it was going to be republished I thought that there was going to be new information or pictures (and possibly a color section), but I was mistaken, the only thing new is the lovely cover of Consuelo Vanderbilt-Balsan. On the flip side, I am happy to have it nonetheless, and thanks to the great success of Downton Abbey and Julian Fellowes, this gem may have never been back on the shelves.

Without giving too much away, the book is full of pictures and information of everything you need to know about the many American heiresses who went across the waters (some by force)to marry a money-poor, land-rich English peer during the late 19th to the early 20th centuries. There is also plenty of background information and images of the American, Victorian, and Edwardian high societies, as well as enlightening and amusing facts concerning these Aristocratic American ladies and their British spouses. In the back there is even a directory of every American heiress (that is at least known) to have married into the English aristocracy.
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Format: Paperback
Those few of us who have wondered why in the world a comfortable, cosseted American girl would want to marry an Englishman and live in a cold climate in an even colder stone castle will find answers here, even if the answers aren't satisfactory to the modern ear.
Think of it: wealthy American society girls, products of generations of men and women who gave lives and fortunes to escape a Royalist society, thought it a worthy investment of their lives, loves and wealth to buy an English title in the form of a husband. It's understandable that men who have no money and are saddled with huge estates and titles with no way to support themselves "in the manner to which they have become accustomed" would search out these women. It's another matter to understand the women, especially if they were bright and energetic (like the fabled Jenny Jerome).
Of course the first women to get involved in this weird method of social climbing didn't realize what was involved. (Though why American society decided that an English title was important in the United States, especially if it could be bought with money, still escapes me.) The problems included loveless husbands who paid little attention to their wives and carried on affairs; cold and drafty castles into which Papa sank tons of money to no avail as far as comfort was concerned; families who refused to accept them in spite (or because) of the fact that they provided the money to keep the lifestyle intact; servants who often were sulky and rebellious ("but we've ALWAYS done it that way"); children they handed over to nannies. The first brides must have kept the hardships and loneliness from the succeeding generation, for the rage for English titles prevailed from the mid-19th century almost through the mid-20th century.
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Format: Paperback
On November 6, 1895 at St. Thomas' Episcopal Church in New York City, a groom waited at the altar for a bride who appeared to be delayed. The groom was no ordinary groom, but Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough; the bride he waited for was the American railroad heiress, Consuelo Vanderbilt. The wedding was considered a triumph for both families, since the Duke would be delivered from his debts by Consuelo's millions, while Consuelo would gain a noble title. It was all the work of Consuelo's mother Alva, who coerced her teenage daughter into agreeing to marry the Duke. Now there have been many arranged marriages between well-to-do people in the history of the world, but usually they were intended to form necessary political alliances. The Marlborough-Vanderbilt marriage had as its main purpose the exaltation of Alva's vanity by enhancing her social status. As for Consuelo, she kept her groom waiting at the altar for twenty minutes as she cried her eyes out in sheer misery.

In the re-release of their book To Marry An English Lord, Gail MacColl and Carol Wallace include the stories of many wealthy American girls who went to England in pursuit of a titled husband. Unlike Consuelo Vanderbilt, most were eager to marry into British high society and some, like Jennie Jerome, who married Lord Randolph Churchill with whom she had fallen in love, were very eager indeed. The book traces the tendency of American heiresses to marry abroad to the rigidity of the old New York Knickerbocker aristocrats who would not tolerate new money families like the Vanderbilts, the Jeromes, the Leiters, the Iznagas to join the ranks of the established Four Hundred. All the money in the world could not force certain exclusive doors to open.
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