The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy by Anne De Courcy: A Book Review

The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy
Author: Anne De Courcy
Genre: History, Nonfiction, Biography
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Pages: 310
Source: Publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: A deliciously told group biography of the young, rich, American heiresses who married into the impoverished British aristocracy at the turn of the twentieth century – The real women who inspired Downton Abbey

    Towards the end of the nineteenth century and for the first few years of the twentieth, a strange invasion took place in Britain. The citadel of power, privilege and breeding in which the titled, land-owning governing class had barricaded itself for so long was breached. The incomers were a group of young women who, fifty years earlier, would have been looked on as the alien denizens of another world - the New World, to be precise. From 1874 - the year that Jennie Jerome, the first known 'Dollar Princess', married Randolph Churchill - to 1905, dozens of young American heiresses married into the British peerage, bringing with them all the fabulous wealth, glamour and sophistication of the Gilded Age.

     Anne de Courcy sets the stories of these young women and their families in the context of their times. Based on extensive first-hand research, drawing on diaries, memoirs and letters, this richly entertaining group biography reveals what they thought of their new lives in England - and what England thought of them.

    My Review: In the late 1800s to the early 1900s, American heiresses married into the English nobility. These women became known as the “Dollar Princesses.” The women received a title while their husbands received a large dowry.  In this nonfiction book, The Husband Hunters sheds light on the Dollar Princesses. It discusses how these women were trained since childhood on how to catch the eye of an English lord. This is the story of these women who were forced to leave their family and homeland in order to become part of the English aristocracy.

     I had heard about the women who married into the English aristocracy, but I was surprised by how these women had spent most of their childhood and adolescence in training to attract an English nobleman. This was because their mothers viewed the English aristocracy to be the cream of society. As Mrs. De Courcy explains, hardly anyone could refuse dinner with an English lord. The Husband Hunters also gives us some biographies on a few of the Dollar Princesses. I liked hearing the story of Jennie Jerome, the mother of Winston Churchill, and Maud Burke. I also found the story of how Alva Vanderbilt forced her daughter Consuelo to marry the Duke of Marlborough to be heartbreaking and tragic.

    Overall, The Husband Hunters tells the true stories of the women who had to leave their homeland and their families in order to win the hand of a impoverished English lord. This nonfiction book opened my eyes on how these women lived. There were times that the information became a bit repetitive and heavily detailed on the glitz and glamour of the English aristocracy. Despite these flaws, The Husband Hunters is very engaging and reads like a soap opera. There is splendour, romance, and scandal within its pages that makes the book compulsive and hard to put down. This book sheds light on a topic that is widely known but very little studied.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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