No, not that kind. Though this one is rather handsome, in a Byronic way. And wasn’t Howard Pyle a marvelous illustrator?
I’m talking about this kind:
As immortalized in Edith Wharton’s last, unfinished novel, the Buccaneers were wealthy young American girls who, snubbed by Old New York society, made the transatlantic crossing to England in search of aristocratic husbands. Their beauty, determination, and money made them highly attractive to cash-strapped peers and ambitious young professionals. Between 1870 and 1910, the “Buccaneers” married into the ruling class, propping it up for at least one more generation.
Arguably, the best-known of these was Consuelo Vanderbilt (above), groomed from childhood to marry a duke. Possessed of rare beauty, enormous wealth, and an ambitious and domineering mama, Consuelo married the ninth Duke of Marlborough in a lavish 1895 ceremony considered by many to be the wedding of the century.
Sadly, the marriage was not a success. After producing the requisite heir and spare, the Marlboroughs separated in 1906. Their marriage was later annulled so that Consuelo could remarry, this time for love. She eventually related her experiences as an English duchess in her memoir, The Glitter and the Gold.
Despite the unhappy outcome of many such matches, the transatlantic marriage market remains a fascinating phenomenon for authors and readers to study. My novel Waltz with a Stranger was influenced by it. And so was the hit TV series Downton Abbey, in which an English earl and his American countess eventually overcame their mercenary beginnings to form a true love match.
So, dear readers, do you know of other stories inspired by the transatlantic marriage market? And do you think such marriages were ultimately a good or bad thing for English society? Comment below for the chance to win an ARC of Waltz with a Stranger.