‘Life is less sad with money’, said Emerald Cunard; Barbara Hutton was the ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’, but which is true?
Laura Thompson explores the phenomenon of the heiress from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries. Take Mary Davies, a child bride at the age of twelve, and her thousand-acre dowry of today’s Mayfair and Belgravia, which gave the Grosvenors their stupendous wealth. Or Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough, whose American railroad fortune helped sustain Blenheim Palace. Winnaretta Singer showcased the work of Debussy in her Parisian salon; Daisy Fellowes enjoyed parties, fashion – and other people’s husbands – without shame or conscience. Alice de Janze shot one of her lovers and was suspected of murdering a second; Woolworth heiress, Barbara Hutton, married seven times.
Money should mean power and opportunity, but in the hands of these women it was so often absent. Why did so many struggle to live with so much? Did the removal of need render their life meaningless? Were they riven with guilt at all they had, knowing they really should be happy? With her signature intelligence and wit, Laura Thompson tells these women’s stories – glittering and fascinating but often sad and scandalous – on a gripping search for the answer.