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But most of these heirs were grateful for the shower of gold that came their way.

It is estimated that between 18, Americans marrying into the nobility brought with them close to a billion dollars in dowry payments — money that went straight into the pockets of the men they married and saved many a stately home from ruin.

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She also needed ‘sufficient wealth besides to keep up the rank of peeress’.

There was no shortage of takers, even when English journalist William Stead described such bargains as no more than ‘gilded prostitution’ and another writer thundered about ‘heirs to a great name and title selling their birthrights for a mess of American dollar-pottage’.

The gossip was that his financial demands were so extortionate her family decided he wasn’t worth it.

Adele went instead for the widowed Earl of Essex, also in need of a dollar or two to balance the books. When he took her to his stately home as his new bride, his tenants showed their appreciation by unhitching the horses of their carriage and hauling it themselves for the last two miles.Mildred Sherman, from Ohio, who became Lady Camoys, gave up going to formal dinners because she couldn’t stand the icy temperatures in her evening dress.Chicago-born Mary Leiter, on marrying Lord Curzon, was staggered to find that she was expected to bathe in a tin hip bath, which was filled with hot water brought up by a housemaid from the boiler in the kitchen. A young American journalist who lived and worked in 19th-century London, she had an eye for a scandal and specialised in undercover stories, having ‘worked’ as a flower girl, a chambermaid and a laundress to expose them.Now, she’d heard on the grapevine that there was a thriving transatlantic trade in brides.Eager for their pay off, upper-crust English grandes dames were offering their services as go-betweens in a transfer market — not unlike the agents who today ‘sell’ footballers from around the world to high-spending soccer clubs, taking a huge cut along the way. One inquired if she wanted ‘to marry an Englishman of high social position, who could place you in a certain circle.

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