Friday, April 25, 2008

American Heiresses

Edwardian Promenade has a delightful and informative article about how wealthy American women have long tried to snare European aristocratic husbands in order to gain a noble title.
Between the years 1870 and 1914, hundreds of American heiresses flooded the shores of Continental Europe. To this day, their influence (and lineage) can be traced through many noble European households, and even some royal ones (Princess Diana was descended from New York heiress Frances Work and the mediatized House of Croÿ is lead by the grandson of an American heiress). Despite protestations to the contrary, Americans have always been fascinated by titles, whether royal or noble, and prior to the massive influx of American girls in the late Victorian era, there was a little wave of Anglo-American matches in the colonial and Federal eras (1780s-1830s). In 1798, the governor of Pennsylvania married the Marquess de Casa Irujo, the Spanish minister to the United States, and John Jay, the first US Chief Justice, had two granddaughters who married successively, the 6th Viscount Exmouth. Three Caton granddaughters, descendants of a co-signer of the Declaration of Independence, married the 7th Duke of Leeds, the 8th Baron Stafford, and the 1st Marquess Wellesley, brother of the Iron Duke, and the first royal-American match was made between Betsey Patterson and Jerome Bonaparte, future King of Westphalia.
The Caton girls were the granddaughters of Maryland patriot Charles Carroll of Carrollton. It amuses me how revolutionaries like the Bonapartes also snapped up royal and aristocratic titles, only a few years after such antiquities had been supposedly abolished in France. But poor Elizabeth Patterson, she was not good enough for them! Share

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