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The Glitter and the Gold: The American Duchess - In Her Own Words [Paperback]

Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 April 2012

Consuelo Vanderbilt was young, beautiful and the heir to a vast family fortune. She was also deeply in love with an American suitor when her mother chose instead for her to fulfil her social ambitions and marry an English Duke. Leaving her life in America, she came to England as the Duchess of Marlborough in 1895 and took up residence in her new home - Blenheim Palace.

The 9th Duchess gives unique first-hand insight into life at the very pinnacle of English society in the Edwardian era. An unsnobbish, but often amused observer of the intricate hierarchy both upstairs and downstairs at Blenheim Palace, she is also a revealing witness to the glittering balls, huge weekend parties and major state occasions she attended or hosted. Here are her encounters with every important figure of the day - from Queen Victoria, Edward V11 and Queen Alexandra to Tsar Nicholas, Prince Metternich and the young Winston Churchill.

This intimate, richly enjoyable memoir is a wonderfully revealing portrait of a golden age.

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The Glitter and the Gold: The American Duchess - In Her Own Words + To Marry an English Lord + The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters (Women in History)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (12 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444730991
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444730999
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 12.8 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Wonderfully evocative [...] now reissued in an elegant new edition' (Country Life)

Book Description

For fans of Downton Abbey, this is the riveting real-life story of the Vanderbilt heiress who married the Duke of Marlborough in 1895. A fascinating insight into upstairs-downstairs life and the highest circles of Edwardian aristocracy.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem which captures the human spirit 3 May 2001
By "mhca"
This easy to read book is an amazingly revealing insight into the life the England of Country Houses of some 80 years ago. Written by Consuelo Vanderbilt an American heiress who married the Duke of Marlborough the marriage was arranged by the two families, for the usual reasons - money to marry title. Consuelo was a really amazing person, beautiful, well educated, caring and fun - however this marriage was not to last, infact it was something of an ordeal. After she produced the 'heir and spare' she realised there was more to life than being a Duchess. What followes in her life makes up for all the sadness of her first marriage. This is a book well worth reading. If you are interested in history it helps you understand the way of life so much more.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars all the unhappiness money can buy 21 Jan 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When visiting as a youing student Blenheim Palce I had my first "encounter" with Consuela Vanderbilt, the first wife of the 9th Duke of Marlborough, by seeing the fabulous portrait of her and her husband and the her two boys. When reading Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill's marveloous book on Blenheim Palace I came become interested in reading the memoires of the Duchess.
The book makes an interesting read as it tells quite a lot about the life and the life style of the British and international nobility at the turn of the last centuary. It is highly amusing to see how the US Dollars bought several US girls British titles but not necessarily happy marriages. Consuela Vanderbilt's life is the most famous example. She is frank about it, but she never gets nasty on her husband and her mother who forced her into this. She even finds nice words for her husband's long-standing mistress and later second wife. She shows real character. Of course, her desciption of her second marriage makes it crystal clear how unhappy she was in her first marriage. However I feel she makes a bit too much out of her " democratic credentials" as an American. Well, she is and remains a "dollar princess". A bit sad how few words she finds about her two sons.
All in all, an interesting book from and about a lady who demands respect. I enjoyed reading it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable biography 25 May 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Quite an enjyable biography, if maybe not quite honest with itself. The author has lived a unique life and it makes for an interesting read, although it's clearly a bit sanitised. Recommended if you enjoy biographies about aristos but maybe a bit coy for the modern celeb bio market!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant but quite light touch 18 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This autobiography brings to life a period of glamour, class and wealth long dead. Vanderbilt spends a great deal of time talking about her youth and adult life but rarely casts any opinion on the events that befell her, merely repeating them. Whilst the autobiography moves on at a brisk pace and oversees a great deal of change in society it ultimately doesn't go anywhere near deep enough to feel satisfying.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 19 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Really interesting biography of Consuelo Vanderbilt, page turner of the first order. Once started, almost impossible to put down. Highly recommended.
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I was introduced to this book when I visited Blenheim Palace and heard about Consuela's story. She led an extremely unusual life. Firstly her privileged upbringing, then the difficulties she faced during a marriage with a man with whom she was incompatible and which had been forced on her, then her second marriage which was one of love and finally, her flight from France during the War. Through it all she tried to use her position in society to enable projects which would help those far less-privileged than herself. This autobiography contains no recriminations of any kind but the unhappiness of her early married life can clearly be seen. A book written by a very brave and special lady and one that in my opinion, deserves to be read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A museum piece 5 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an interesting book, not because of what it says about the author (which is very little) but because of what it actually is. Important to realise the date it was written, and the nature of the person writing it. It gives a fascinating insight into the world of very high society at the beginning of last century and makes one realise how totally the world has changed. Most of the attitudes and mores of the time will be incomprehensible and inexplicable to to-day's younger generation, and will probably raise blood-pressure rates among the liberally- or socialist-minded! It is also a pleasure to read the prose, which again is of it's time, but so beautifully constructed that it is a joy to read.

Not, perhaps, everyone's cup of tea, but if you are interested in social history it rings bells on several levels.
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