The “Most Attractive Bastards in the World”
My favorite Regency romance author, Loretta Chase, had a post up last week on the Two Nerdy History Girls blog she shares with fellow author Isabella Bradford with a delicious quote from the great George S. Patton.
“I present him here,” Loretta says, “between the wars (during the 1920s) as a father, explaining his reasons for declining a position in London in the office of the military attaché:”
We have two marriageable daughters who … will be rich someday. If we go to London it stands to reason that one or both of them will marry an Englishman. Englishmen, well-bred Englishmen, are the most attractive bastards in the world, and they always need all the money they can lay their hands on to keep up the castle, or the grouse moor, or the stud farm, or whatever it is they have inherited. I served with the British in the war*, and I heard their talk. They are men’s men, and they are totally inconsiderate of their wives and daughters; everything goes to their sons, nothing to the girls. I just can’t see Little Bee, or Ruth Ellie in that role.—Carlo D’Este, Patton, a Genius for War.
If anyone could recognize a “man’s man”, it was surely Patton.
In his chatty Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World, Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield reinforces Patton’s assertion as he dishes on Georgian politics and social life, including aristocratic marriages:
Your old acquaintance, Lord Essex, is to be married this week to Harriet Bladen, who has L20,000 down, besides the reasonable expectation of as much at the death of her father. My kinsman, Lord Strathmore, is to be married in a fortnight, to Miss Bowes, the greatest heiress perhaps in Europe. In short, the matrimonial frenzy seems to rage at present, and is epidemical. The men marry for money, and I believe you guess what the women marry for. Letter of February 13, 1767
I’m guessing the women married for titles and social standing. Or could it be love? Certainly, Patton was worried about his daughters falling for English aristocrats wooing them for their money. It happened a lot in the era of Patton’s youth.
In a Vanity Fair article, Charles Spencer (Princess Diana’s brother) writes:
What was the nobleman expected to do to have his life deemed a success? Ideally, he would marry “well,” which meant blending his bloodline with that of another great family, or one of less impressive pedigree but vast wealth.
Consuelo Vanderbilt was contracted to bring a $2.5 million ($66 million today) dowry when she reluctantly married the Ninth Duke of Marlborough. In 1895, nine American heiresses married titled British men…Between 1870 and the First World War, 100—1 in 10—aristocratic marriages were contracted with Americans.
One of the worst aristocratic husbands was Lord Byron. As soon as he and his new wife boarded their carriage after their brief wedding ceremony, he began berating her for the size of her dowry.
Real life husbands in the Regency were not generally romantic heroes, but if you want to understand why fans love the genre, you only need to look to Patton’s quote. In a Regency romance, the heroine finds herself a well-bred, attractive Englishman, and tames that bastard!
On that note, today is release day for Murder in Hindsight, the third installment of my friend Anne Cleeland’s Acton and Doyle series.
If you like detective stories blended with plenty of romantic suspense and a heroine who brings her well-bred Englishman to heel, you’ll love these books!
All images courtesy of Wikimedia, except for the Murder in Hindsight cover from Amazon