I write historical mystery, which takes a great deal of research. Every now and then I come across a little historical gem that stirs my imagination and I have to write about it.
One of the most intriguing of those gems, is the phenomena of the transatlantic marriages between American heiresses and European (mostly British) aristocrats during the last quarter of the 19th century. The book, To Marry an English Lord lists over 100 such marriages taking place during that time. The brides were from some of the wealthiest families in the United States, (where we declared all me to be created equal) yet they didn’t have the social status to join the Knickerbocker set. And that rankled. But with enough wealth, one could buy status in the form of an aristocratic son-in-law.
For their part, the cash-strapped peers were happy to make the exchange—titles for dollars. Lots of dollars. When Anita Murphy of San Francisco married Sir Charles Michael Wolseley, 9th Baronet in 1883, it’s reported her father provided a dowry of two million dollars. But when May Goelet became the Duchess of Roxburgh in 1903, the price of the title was two million pounds! At that time a pound was worth about five U.S. dollars.
I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of marriages this type of transaction produced. After all, marrying for love was definitely a thing by that time. If you read Edith Wharton, these marriages ended in misery, but that’s fiction. In reality it was kind of a crap-shoot. Some couples found a way to make a life together more or less happily. Some, like Consuelo Vanderbilt’s, (image left) were miserable matches. Divorce was rarely an option so other couples simply led separate lives.
This is what led me to writing A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, where one such bride, ten years down the road, deals with her disappointment and works toward a happier ending. And in the case of my heiress, she finds out she has a knack for solving crimes.
I’m working on book 3 in the series now and expect to find some fun facts to share as I research Victorian sports. I’m not disciplined enough to post something new every two weeks, but when I find some interesting item, or new book I’ll post it here.
Thanks for stopping by!