Sisters of Fortune
Wake offers a riveting joint biography of four remarkable sisters: Marianne, Bess, Louisa and Emily Caton. These half-English, devoutly Catholic descendants of the prominent—politically and financially—Carroll family of Maryland were heiresses to their grandfather’s fortune. Raised by slaves, extensively educated, they were acquainted with presidents and princesses—one of them was the sister-in-law of the Baltimore belle Betsy Patterson, so briefly married to Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother Jerome. Another became lady-in-waiting to the Queen of England.
Three of the band arrived in Regency England as precursors to the American “dollar princesses” of the late 19th century, moving in aristocratic circles in both Britain and France. In her widowhood Marianne, the Duke of Wellington’s beloved, married his brother, an eccentric marquess. Louisa also married a marquess and in due time became the Duchess of Leeds. Bess, preferring wealthy spinsterhood, had a passion for investing and advised her sisters. Only Emily lived out her life in Maryland, presiding over the family’s various mansions and plantations, occasionally visiting England and sending her children to be educated there.
Drawn from the Catons’ extensive and detailed correspondence, Wake presents their social triumphs, their spiritual struggles, and their astute management of their own property and funds. A magnificently entertaining and informative work, illuminating American-Anglo relations in a time of change and progress.