They had the cash, but needed more class ... Those excluded from New York’s smart set took their revenge by buying a title, reasoning that if you were barred from American society then you would jolly well up sticks and marry into the impoverished but landed English aristocracy ... The transaction was simple. American heiresses traded money for social position. However, de Courcy argues with conviction that it wasn’t simply about money. Englishmen found the dollar princesses irresistible and were drawn to their vitality, social ease and lack of stuffiness.
In The Husband Hunters, Anne de Courcy’s latest social history ... With the economy lagging in the second half of the 19th century, these men lacked the ready funds to match their exalted status and maintain their grand estates — and since going into business simply was not done, it’s not as if they could go out and earn a fortune. To maintain their lifestyles, they needed to marry one. Enter the Americans. The United States in the Gilded Age was awash in nouveau riche families eager for establishment recognition. Marry a daughter off to an earl, et voilà: instant cachet that even the most horrendous New York snobs could not deny, given their enchantment with nobility ... The Husband Hunters is a forthrightly feminist history. De Courcy takes seriously the lives of the women she writes about, who surprisingly include the brave and remarkably savvy American suffragist Victoria Woodhull.
De Courcy documents the exhaustive efforts undertaken by wealthy nineteenth-century American mothers to secure titled British husbands for their hapless daughters ... Stories abound about American mamas who sacrificed their offspring to ensure entrance into the inner circles of New York society and invitations to posh summer affairs at Newport. Vanderbilts, Astors, Churchills, Marlboroughs; diamonds, tiaras, yachts, mansions; all are documented in glorious detail and should satisfy those readers with insatiable thirst for all things peerage.