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The Dollar Princesses: How American Social Climbers Sold Their Daughters To British Nobles For Rank

Updated 26 Jul 2019 790.2k views13 items

In th 1870s, rich Americans came up with a new scheme: they sold their daughters abroad, marrying them off to British aristocrats in exchange for a title. In a country without an aristocracy, suddenly every rich American wanted a duchess in the family. The young women, who often didn't have a choice, became known as the Dollar Princesses. 

Buying noble titles was an old practice, of course, but Americans took it to a new level with Gilded-Age marriages. American brides carried huge fortunes across the sea, including some of the most lavish dowries in history. In a matter of decades, the Dollar Princesses sent $25 billion to the United Kingdom, propping up aristocratic families and infusing the European economy with new money.

Many Dollar Princesses, like Consuelo Vanderbilt, weren't happy at all about being sold overseas. Railroad heiress Alice Thaw had to wait in the church while her intended, the Earl of Yarmouth, renegotiated her dowry with her father. On the positive side, these cold-hearted transactions did lead to several notable Brits, including Winston Churchill and Princess Diana. 

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