In the latter part of the 19th Century in NYC, 2 very beautiful young women, both daughters of immensely wealthy New Yorkers, married into the very aristocratic Spencer-Churchill family, though 20 years apart. Both women echoed the story line of the TV show ‘Downton Abbey’, crossing the ocean to stately homes, bringing much needed million dollar doweries to their new family and both subsequently becoming influential figures in British society in their own right because of their beauty and their intellect.
The earliest NYC immigrant to England was Jenny Jerome, daughter of a successful Wall Street speculator who, while still 19, met and fell madly in love with Lord Randolph Churchill, 3rd son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough and they married in April 1874. It was initially a passionate marriage and they had 2 sons, Winston, later to become the famed war time Prime Minister of England during the 2nd world War and John. The marriage lasted for 20 years until Lord Randolph died in 1895 though in the fashion of the times in the circles in which they moved, neither was faithfull to the other.
The second NYC heiress was Consuelo Vanderbilt, daughter of William Kissam Vanderbuilt, the railroad millionaire. The only daugher of William and his wife Alva, they had 2 other children both sons. She was raised by her mother to one day marry into the aristocracy and was tutored rigorously in languages, a wide range of subjects and in correct social decorum. When she reached marriageable age, she was tricke by her mother into marrying the 9th Duke of Marlborough, Charles Spencer-Churchill in 1895 in Manhattan. She also had 2 sons, the elder of whom, John, subsequently became the 19th Duke of Marlborough.
Both women, in the Downton Abbey tradition delivered great wealth to their aristocratic but impoverished husbands. Both ultimately had to endure unhappy marriages, aristocracy proving no path to marital bliss and both had close relationships with Winston Churchill. Jenny became her son’s political mentor and enabler and Conseulo and Winston, became firm and ongoing friends despite her early exit from the Spencer-Churchill family only 11 years after her marriage to the Duke.