If you think Meghan is all that, let me tell you, girlfriend, she wasn’t the first. This post kicks off my series on Real Princesses. Buying into the fairytale is nothing new. For most girls, it ended in heartbreak. Makes me wonder why we still think our prince will come at all. Fact is, my parents divorced when I was a baby, so I grew up believing it was all a load of horse do-do. But, I was wrong, thank God. Sometimes Happily Ever After does work out.
Just so you know, I’m using the term PRINCESS in this context for American girls who married into nobility or royalty. For example, the character, Cora, in Downton Abbey was an American heiress who married an English earl, Robert. In present day real life, Meghan Markle is an American who married actual royalty, Prince Harry.
I’m sure Meghan’s motives were completely different than American girls marrying English lords during the Gilded Age, however. Sometimes, they weren’t even given a choice.
The economy was booming after the Civil War and we didn’t have all these laws in place to protect the regular employee. This gave rise to ridiculously wealthy families who wanted to spend their money on convincing the rest of us that they were masters of the universe. Their daughters were never expected to attend a university or earn their own money.
And someone hit on the brilliant idea of raising the family status by marrying a daughter to an impoverished English lord. She got the title and he got the money. Win-win, right? Well…not if you’re looking for true love, although sometimes that happened too.
These chicks came with huge dowries, sometimes into the millions. Also, sometimes they didn’t fit as brilliantly into American high society and this was a way to skip that nasty clique.
Almina was the illegitimate daughter of American tycoon Alfred de Rothschild and nothing was too good for his little girl. Being illegitimate limited her marriage prospects in the United States. Her dowry helped save Highclere Castle which is used as the fictional Downton Abbey.
Interestingly, Lady Carnarvon is writing a series of books about the castle and her family. I haven’t read any of them yet, but I will.
If you’re a fan of the show Downton Abbey too, check out this book. Besides recipes, you get all sorts of interesting tidbits, anecdotes, and beautiful images, truly a beautiful book.
Much has been made of another, more unwilling American princess, Consuelo Vanderbilt, who became the Duchess of Marlborough. She was in already in love with a fellow American dude, but it turned out he wasn’t good enough for her mother. Consuelo had been raised very strictly for the purpose of marrying exactly the way her mama wanted her. She actually had an amazing education, but not the kind you expect to find at a university today. Needless to say, she didn’t live happily ever after with the Duke. The following is a new edition of her own memoirs. I try to link all books to Goodreads, the author, or the publisher, but I couldn’t find a better one than at Amazon. Maybe I should become an Affiliate for them too. THE GLITTER AND THE GOLD at Amazon
You can also find historical documentaries on her life. She did end up rich and famous, like her mama wanted, but did that make her happy? Uh, no. Nevertheless, people keep falling into the same trap, sure they’ll find happiness in the glitter and the gold.
We do owe the American princesses of the Gilded Age some measure of gratitude, and not just for boosting the economy and showcasing dazzling style. One of them was the mother of one of the men who helped save the world in World War II. AMERICAN JENNIE on Goodreads
If you haven’t already, you really should watch at least the first episode of THE CROWN on Netflix.
If you do, you’ll notice how the British people respond to the arrival of Sir Winston Churchill to the wedding of the future Queen Elizabeth II, their present monarch, to Prince Phillip of Greece. The fact is I know more about the British experience during World War II than my own country. It’s simply that I was astonished, as a history buff, by their extraordinary tenacity. Truly, that war brought out the very best and the very worst of humanity.
Well, looks like I got through this post without any eBay links, because all potential products are books. Hmm…
Anyway, have a lovely day.
Be Kind & Stay Safe.
P.S. Next week will be ‘Princesses of Old Hollywood.’ Big Hint: Grace Kelly wasn’t the only one.