Tuesday, August 23, 2022


By Mary Davis

Consuelo Vanderbilt
What and who were they?

In the Gilded Age (post Civil War), the nouveau riche (new money) had it all. Vast wealth to buy anything and everything they wanted. Homes that were well insulated and heated, indoor plumbing with hot and cold running water, the most expensive clothes, jewels, and anything else money could buy. They had more money than they knew what to do with.

So why wasn’t that enough?

The old money people thought the upstarts weren’t good enough—even if they had more money—and wouldn’t allow them in high society social circles. All their new wealth couldn’t buy them into this elite class. Old money held power over new money by denying them acceptance. Some things money just couldn’t buy.

Or so they thought.

This is where dollar princesses came in. England had been a huge food producer to the world. When America’s vast prairies and farmland opened up to the west, this unseated England in the agricultural arena. The large estates that survived because of the tenant farmers working the land suddenly weren’t producing and their income dried up. With no revenue, the estates and mansions fell into disrepair and many a penniless noble was at risk of bankruptcy.

Jennie Jerome
Wealthy American businessmen and their wives saw an opportunity to elevate themselves by acquiring a title into the family. So they arranged marriages between their heiress daughters and titled Englishmen. Sell your daughter with a huge dowery and raise yourself in American society. It seemed like a win-win situation.

However, these heiresses went from homes with the most up-to-date modern conveniences to moving across the ocean into ancient, drafty mansions that hadn’t been updated in a century or more. They left all their friends and family behind to marry a man they likely didn’t love or know. But their fathers and family back home gained the prestige of her title, and her new husband had a whole lot of cash to do with as he pleased.

Sounds like a win-win-LOSE situation.

Here are a few notable dollar princesses.

Lord Randolph Churchill and Lady Jennie
The first of these dollar princesses was Jennie Jerome. Unlike most, she was eager to marry an English noble. In 1874, she married Randolph Henry Spencer-Churchill. Churchill, you say? Yep, that Churchill. Jennie was the mother of Winston Churchill who became a British Prime Minister.

L to R: John, Jennie, and Winston
What about American roots in British Royalty? In 1880, Frances Ellen Work married James Boothby Burke Roche, the son of First Baron Fermoy, at her grandmother’s insistence. Her father didn’t approve of the marriage and wrote Frances out of his will so Roche wouldn’t get anymore of his money. Roche gambled away most of Frances’s $2.5 million dowry. They divorced ten years later. However, her great-granddaughter Diana Spencer became Princess Diana when she married Prince Charles, so the marriage wasn’t a total loss.

Frances Work
Next we have Consuelo Vanderbilt. Her parents arranged a marriage between her and the ninth duke of Marlborough. Both Consuelo and the duke were in love with other people. The unhappy couple wed in November of 1895. Consuelo Vanderbilt said, “I spent the morning of my wedding day in tears and alone; no one came near me.” Since the marriage was coerced and their hearts belonged to others, they each had affairs.

Consuelo Vanderbilt

Consuelo Vanderbilt
Between post Civil War and WWII, it is estimated that around 350 American heiresses married English nobility, infusing the equivalent of a billion pounds (around $25 billion in today’s dollar) into the floundering British economy and saved many an estate—at least for a while.

In the series Downton Abbey, Lady Cora Grantham was a dollar princess. Her dowry money helped to save the ancestral home. The fictional “Lady Grantham” character was based on real life Lady Almina married to the Fifth Earl of Carnarvon. Her dowry helped restore Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey was filmed.

Lady Almina, Countess Carnarvon

In my Quilting Circle series, book 2, The Daughter’s Predicament, Isabelle’s stepmother is set on turning her own daughter, Adelaide, into a dollar princess and claim a title for their family. This poses a challenge  for my heroine, Isabelle, who, like all the heroines in this series, has a mind of her own.

To celebrate reaching 3

Million views, HHH is hosting a HUGE
giveaway of over 60 books in 18 prizes, so there are many chances to win! One grand prize will consist of 10 books, two readers will win a second prize containing 5 books, and there will be 15 winners of a third prize containing 2 books each. There are several ways to earn entries, such as following, or commenting on the HHH blog each day. Thank you for being part of the HHH community, and best wishes in the giveaway!


THE LADY’S MISSION (Quilting Circle 5)

Will Cordelia abandon her calling for love? Cordelia Armstrong wants nothing more than to escape the social norms for her station in society. Unless she can skillfully maneuver her father into giving up control of her trust fund, she might have to concede defeat—as well as her freedom—and marry. Every time Lamar Kesner finds a fascinating lady, her heart belongs to another. When a vapid socialite is offered up as a prospective bride, he contemplates flying off in his hot air balloon instead. Is Lamar the one to finally break the determination of Cordelia’s parents to marry her off? Or will this charming bachelor fly away with her heart?

Available for pre-order on Amazon. (Releases October 5, 2022)

MARY DAVIS, bestselling, award-winning novelist, has over thirty titles in both historical and contemporary themes. Her latest release is THE DÉBUTANTE'S SECRET (Quilting Circle 4) THE DAMSEL’S INTENT (Quilting Circle 3) is a Selah Award Winner. Some of her other recent titles include; The Widow’s Plight, The Daughter's Predicament,Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in The MISSAdventure Brides Collection , Prodigal Daughters Amish series, and "Bygones" in Thimbles and Threads. She is a member of ACFW and active in critique groups.
Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of thirty-eight years and one cat. She has three adult children and three incredibly adorable grandchildren. Find her online at:



  1. Thanks for the post today and for contributing to HHH every month. Today's post was a new subject for me and I appreciate that you found a few ties to people that most of us have heard of. That helps make it more relevant....maybe I can remember it because of the associations!!

    1. Hi Connie,
      Thanks for stopping by. This was a new subject to me as well. When I stumbled across it, I knew I needed to learn more.