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To Marry an English Lord

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To Marry an English Lord

Post  Elena on Sun Apr 22, 2012 5:59 pm

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. However, the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, liked American girls; he appreciated their expensive clothes, their willingness to gamble, their pert innocence, and their spontaneous wit. His Royal Highness encouraged the marriages between his subjects and American millionaires' daughters; many a dilapidated country seat was restored to its former grandeur due to money made on Wall Street and in American industries.

The troubles which the heiresses had in adjusting to English life as ladies of the manor is described in detail ranging from the hilarious to the tragic. While some marriages, such as Mary Leiter Curzon's, were spectacular successes others, like Alice Thaw's, were disasters. Throughout the narrative, the Prince of Wales makes his appearance; reading the book is like being at a ball where he suddenly arrives. To Marry An English Lord was an inspiration for Julian Fellowes' Downton Abbey. I now have a great deal more insight into the marriage of Lady Cora and her earl as well as into the world of Downton Abbey in general. I also have a deeper understanding of Edith Wharton's and Henry James' novels. Everything from rules of etiquette to life in the servant's hall to the political highlights of the age are explored. Most interesting to me are some of the American heiresses, such as Jennie Jerome Churchill and Consuelo Vanderbilt Marlborough, who ultimately found fulfillment not in bearing a noble name but in political, cultural and charitable activities. As for Consuelo, she eventually walked away from it all, knowing, as she always knew inside, that money cannot buy a happy marriage or peace of soul.

http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2012/04/to-marry-english-lord.html

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0761171959/ref=as_li_ss_til?tag=httpteaattria-20&camp=213381&creative=390973&linkCode=as4&creativeASIN=0761171959&adid=1MNX6SFAEDGW370PFX5G&&ref-refURL=http%3A%2F%2Fteaattrianon.blogspot.com%2F2012%2F04%2Fto-marry-english-lord.html

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Re: To Marry an English Lord

Post  Elena on Sun Apr 22, 2012 6:03 pm


Reading the delightful book To Marry An English Lord led me to research one of the heiresses mentioned, Consuelo Vanderbilt. Consuelo, an American beauty, had been groomed from childhood to marry into European nobility to satisfy her mother's social ambitions. As a teenager she was forced to marry the Duke of Marlborough, although she was secretly engaged to someone else, and wept behind her wedding veil. Later, her marriage to the Duke was annulled by the Catholic Church and Consuelo was able to licitly marry a French aviator, Jacques Balsan. Throughout her marital ups and downs, Consuelo found peace and consolation in extensive charitable works, particularly on behalf of needy women and children. To quote from a review of Consuelo's autobiography, The Glitter and the Gold:

Despite not playing a part in the Suffragettes movement, [Consuelo Vanderbuilt] Balsan achieved a level of independence for herself...Her acts of charity, though maternal and feminine at heart in their seraphic care and devotion to the weak, allowed Consuelo to infiltrate the political sphere as one of the first women (the very first in the London County Council)...The fact that her role on the London County Council only comprises three pages out of the entire book, however, shows a reserve against excessive self-indulgence, which, in turn, depicts Consuelo as a woman who felt just as much need to write of society itself as her own story; most important to her was not her special roles, but how those roles allowed her to reform the wrongs she saw around her....

After the struggle of marrying for a second time, she did not stop her charitable work. As merely one figure among many in the Vanderbilt family account, she was said to have “withdrawn” from society to “live tranquilly.”[23] Her new home in Paris, true, held many tranquil and happy moments, but it was not long before the “cosmopolitan parties” and “wide circle of friends” began to bore her. After five short years of being “blissfully happy,” she began to “miss the work [she] was accustomed to in England” and helped to establish a hospital for the French middle-class.[25] Much as she did in England, she worked in her fullest capacity as a fund-raiser; and much as she was as Duchess of Marlborough, Madame Balsan held sway as respected speaker and activist—the President of France, when asked to come to a fundraiser event, announced, “If Madame Balsan comes to ask me I may consent.”[26] At these events, however, she never forgot her duty as wife and hostess, and she was still the one to “find arrangements to entertain” all the visitors.

Both entertaining and charity work continued when the Balsans built a summer house in Saint Georges-Motel near Paris. In this little town, Consuelo arranged and built a sanatorium where lived “some eighty young children who were recuperating from operations or in need of preventive care.”[26] Each day, she visited every child and sat with them to comfort them as well as note their progress; and when World War II came, her primary activity was to evacuate the children. In a way, it is difficult to imagine this simple and caring woman as the same who hosted so many society parties in England; her parties in France became simpler, as well. Rather the aristocratic guests who ran in the same circles as the Duke of Marlborough, the Balsans' parties consisted mainly of artists and family friends—more notably, Edith Wharton, Henry James, and Charlie Chaplin. The more political figures included merely the likes of Winston Churchill, who was family, and Lord Curzon and Lady Oxford, who were her friends and frequent guests in England. Though the circle of friends was wide and the parties many, they took on an informal feel; more common than five courses in the lush dining hall at Blenheim was a stroll around the village and a picnic luncheon on the lawn. Along with her husband and country, Consuelo changed the atmosphere in which she lived.
(Read entire article: http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2012/04/consuelo-vanderbilt-balsan.html )

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Re: To Marry an English Lord

Post  Mata Hari on Tue Apr 24, 2012 6:22 pm

Consuelo was named for Consuelo Iznaga, her godmother who married the Duke of Manchester.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Consuelo_Iznaga_Clemens


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Mary Leiter Curzon

Post  Mata Hari on Tue Apr 24, 2012 7:33 pm



Lady Curzon was another American who married an English Lord. Lady Mary became vicereine of India.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Curzon,_Baroness_Curzon_of_Kedleston

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Re: To Marry an English Lord

Post  princess garnet on Tue Apr 24, 2012 7:40 pm

I've visited the Vanderbilt homes in Newport, RI and Ashveille, NC. Very impressive places!

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Re: To Marry an English Lord

Post  Mata Hari on Tue Apr 24, 2012 10:34 pm

I've been to one in the Hudson River valley. Quite sumptuous.

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