Thursday, April 27, 2017

How much would you pay to become an English noblewoman?

Lady Churchill, Her sons Jack (l) and Winston (rt.)
Jenny Jerome Churchill

     The courtship was whirlwind. Days, they knew each other before he proposed. Weeks only before they were married. Yes, Jenny Jerome and Lord Randolph Churchill met at a yachting party on Cowes and within days the man had proposed to the American girl whose papa, Leonard, was very, very rich.

     Prior to the passage of the British Married Women's Property Act of 1882, women had no rights to their husband's property. Therefore, the Duke of Marlborough assumed that whatever dowry Jenny had would be given to her future husband. Leonard Jerome demanded any money he offer be controlled by his daughter.

     Once he proposed, Randolph was met with a skeptical father. And his sire wanted a solid financial arrangement to complement the marriage. They haggled for months over the money.

After much debate, Jenny father agreed to 50,000 pounds (approximately 3 million pounds in present day value) producing 2,000 pounds income each user with half of both capital and income going to the husband and half to the wife. This equalled approximately 150,000 pounds per year for them to live on. The fact that Jenny had control of her own money was an extraordinary concept in that day and age, one to which the Duke objected heartily. His argument was that by marrying his son, she would give up her American citizenship and become a British subject. Therefore, she should live as one. Fortunately for her, her father did not agree.

As soon as the families agreed to this amount, Jenny and Randolph were married. However, this was not done at the Marlborough estate, nor any where in England but in Paris at the Hotel Charost, the British Embassy in Paris. (Those of you who read this blog regularly will recall that the Hotel Charost was once Pauline Bonaparte's house bought by the British Government for the Duke of Wellington after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814.)

So read more about these ladies, I hope you will read my own American Heiresses series, THOSE NOTORIOUS AMERICANS, beginning in October!

McCall, Gail, and Wallace, Carol McD., To Marry an English Lord, 1989.
Jenkins, Roy, Churchill, A Biography. 2001.


Tina Donahue said...

I love these posts! I knew living back then was hard, but wow, trying to get ahead must have been murder.

jean hart stewart said...

Fascinating!!!! Love these tidbits of history...