During the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the period of history centred around the so-called ‘Gilded Age’ many American heiresses possessing extraordinary wealth and social influence made the move across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. These so-called ‘American Dollar Princesses’ (or ‘buccaneers’) were wealthy American women of social standing at home who were very much open to marrying into titled European families, thereby exchanging wealth for even greater social prestige. Indeed, according to a book called Titled Americans (1915), there were 454 marriages between Gilded Age and Progressive Era American women and European aristocrats. The Library of Congress claimed in a reference guide that “American heiresses married more than a third of the House of Lords.” The Spectator claims that among the marriages were 102 “British aristocrats”, including “six dukes.”
These women not only enriched the ancient aristocratic families financially, but they also literally broadened the gene pool! Jennie Jerome married Lord Randolph Churchill in 1874. Mary ‘Minnie’ Stevens married General Sir Arthur Henry Fitzroy Paget in 1878, Nancy Langhorne married Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor in 1879 and Frances Ellen Work married James Roche, 3rd Baron Fermoy in 1880. Mary Leiter Curzon, a Marshall Field’s heiress, married Lord Curzon in 1895 and became Vicereine of India, making her the highest-ranking American-born woman in the history of the British Empire. Consuelo Vanderbilt married Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough in 1895 and the list goes on. This lecture investigates some of these extraordinary unions of new money and titles.
KENNETH W PARK has served as Curator of Collections at Wesley College, Melbourne for just on thirty years. This role sees him responsible for the school’s extensive art and archival collections. Kenneth also consults in both the corporate and public sectors in philanthropic fundraising (especially in planned giving) as well as marketing, sponsorship, art, membership / loyalty and public relations. An avid traveller, tour leader and lecturer, Kenneth works with a range of tourism organisations and travel companies across the globe. He lives by the motto: ‘Life is a grand tour so make the most of it’. His tertiary studies include political science, administration, museum studies, industrial relations, fine arts, history, and international relations. Kenneth has a passion for travel, food, wine, arts, architecture, history, and good conversation … essentially the good life!
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