Sisters of Fortune
Three rich and beautiful sisters from Maryland descend on Regency London, while sister Emily stays at home, marries and has children. The three are a sensation, in Paris and England, and ultimately marry into titled English families. All are interested in politics, and control their own fortunes with knowledge and flair.
Marianne, the eldest, already married, falls in love with the Duke of Wellington, and he with her, though she marries, as her second husband, Wellington’s older brother, Arthur Wellesley. The Duke is a good friend to all the sisters. English Society is more reluctant to embrace American republican ‘savages’, particularly if they are Catholics, than they are when poverty-stricken dukes deliberately sought American heiresses.
Using a vast array of material, much in private archives, Wake’s book is a brilliant and very readable description of the sisters’ lives. She quotes extensively from the letters the sisters exchange with Emily and other family members in America, and from diaries, newspapers and journals. In both Maryland and England, they mix with senior politicians, and in England with royalty. To have distilled these many elements from such a mass of material and made it all so fascinating is a tour de force.