Million Dollar American Princesses on The Smithsonian Channel is a 3 part series premiering January 4th. It explores the time between the 1870s and the outbreak of World War One, when more than 200 daughters of America's new industrial millionaires marry into the money-strapped British aristocracy. They use their affluence, allure and ingenuity to their advantage, and they bring dramatic changes to the English ruling class and eventually the world.
The series is narrated by Elizabeth McGovern, our Lady Cora from Downton Abbey, whose character embodies just such an American heiress married to an English nobleman during that period. The series is fascinating for Downton Abbey fans. It's a great peak into what Cora's life in America and her tranistion to Lady might have been. It makes me long for a Downton Abbey prequel!
Premieres Sunday, January 4th at 8 p.m. ET/PT
The series begins with the gentility of the late Victorian period and a profile of America’s Jennie Jerome, whose son, Winston Churchill, was arguably the most famous statesman of the 20th century. Beautiful, educated and headstrong, Jennie met Lord Randolph Churchill at a dance, and it reportedly was love at first sight for both. Jennie was a wonderful spirit, writing to her betrothed: “I won’t marry you unless you let me do exactly as I like.” A Brooklyn-born heiress, she grew up in a Manhattan mansion worth $253 million (in today’s dollars, accounting for inflation), but still was not accepted by Manhattan society. In England, it was not much better. No matter how much of her father’s money was pumped into the family estate, Jennie was keenly aware of always being looked down upon by the gentry.
MILLION DOLLAR AMERICAN PRINCESSES: WEDDING OF THE CENTURY
Premieres Sunday, January 11th at 8 p.m. ET/PT
More than a century before paparazzi buzzed overhead in helicopters to take photos of celebrity weddings, people clamored for gossip about the unions of the fabulously rich and famous. Consuelo Vanderbilt – of those Vanderbilts – was reared to be a princess. As an American, she had no claim on title. Instead, her mother, who could give assertiveness training to any stage mother or tiger mom, groomed Consuelo for nobility. Once Consuelo was old enough, her mother sought a world stage for the girl, with no thought given to anything as superfluous as love. And so she was married off to the Duke of Marlborough on Nov. 6, 1895, at Manhattan’s St. Thomas Episcopal Church, while throngs ringed the block, hoping for a glimpse of them. Tabloid press was salacious then, too, and there were even stories about her undergarments. Theirs, though, was hardly a fairy tale marriage; in fact, she was late to the church because she was crying. At the altar, the duke never even glanced at her, which was, unfortunately, a preview of their relationship.
MILLION DOLLAR AMERICAN PRINCESSES: Movers and Shakers
Premieres Sunday, January 18 at 8 p.m. ET/PT
In the final installment of the series, the Jazz Age is in full swing and the Depression sets in. Through news clips and interviews, viewers learn about an infamous romance between an American and a member of British royalty that is considered one of the greatest love affairs in history. What else could it be when a king abdicates his throne for a woman? Edward VIII loved the twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson more than his birthright. Historians acknowledge that his abdication may very well have been a boon for history. “I am perfectly sure that it is one of the best things that ever could have happened,” says Viscount John Julius Norwich, “because I think he was so stupid, and I think he was completely unfit to be king of England, particularly with the war coming on, because he was at this time talking to everyone about what a wonderful chap he thought Hitler was. So I think you could say Mrs. Simpson had saved the country, the empire, and quite possibly the world."