The popularity of the PBS series, Downton Abbey, has piqued the interest of
many Americans about the phenomena of the American Dollar Princesses. The character of Cora is one of these dollar princesses who married into British royalty giving up their inheritance in the process.
How did this strange arrangement come about? In the late 1800's New York society was ruled with an iron hand by Caroline Schermerhorn Astor. Her 400 elite, known as the Knickerbockers, shut out of the hallowed halls of New York society divorcees, the new rich, and Jews. Many newly monied Americans, spurned by the Knickerbockers, fled to Europe to find suitable matches for their daughters. This, coupled with the rise of American wheat and the loss of income on the vast British estates, plowed the fertile ground for American heiresses to become British aristocracy and the aristocracy in turn to save their treasured estates. Over 200 American heiresses married into British aristocracy from the late 1800's after the Civil War into the early 20th century up until World War I. The caveat was that the said American heiresses gave over to their husbands their entire inheritance. It was no longer theirs, but belonged to the head of the estate.
The complicated social scene offered "dating" opportunities at lavish balls and polo games. Some couples fell in love at first sight, like Jenny Jerome and Randolph Churchill, and some married purely for convenience. Unlike the limited 400 elite in New York City, London's elite brimmed at 1500. And England's own Prince of Wale, Albert Edward, encouraged the American/British matches. He was enchanted by the vivacious, bold, sexual American women and put his stamp of approval on the practice.
After Jenny Jerome became Lady Churchill and returned to New York with that royal title, the Knickerbocker 400 had to "eat crow" and admit the Churchills to American society. Of course, their son, Winston Churchill became the most highly esteemed British politician of all time.
Sadly, most of the marriages ended unhappily. Many of the estates were destroyed after World War I. One exception is the estate of Princess Diana's family, the Spencers, of which her brother is currently head of the estate.
Although a multi-published fiction author, Golden Keyes Parsons’ first published non-fiction work, Spiritual Spring Cleaning, (BoldVision Books) just released in April 2015. Her series, Darkness to Light, (Thomas Nelson) chronicled the journey of her ancestors in 17th century France and was a finalist for ACFW’s Debut Author of the Year in 2008. Her fourth novel, His Steadfast Love, a Civil War novel, was a National Readers Choice finalist. Parsons has also written a biblical fiction series entitled Hidden Faces, Portraits of Nameless Women in the Gospels (WhiteFire Publishing). Golden lives in Waco, TX, with her husband, Blaine. www.goldenkeyesparsons.com