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‘I should like to hang a few and burn the rest at the stake.’Maud Burke continually dismayed her rank-obsessed husband by giving orders direct to the footmen instead of through the butler. On her marriage into the Grosvenor family, a nervous Sophia Wells Williams overdressed on her first morning at the family home, Moor Park, and was told off by her snooty new sister-in-law for ‘looking silk-gownified’.

Such attitudes could have put the parvenus from across the pond firmly in their place.

She was soon taking tea with countesses and duchesses and partying with kings and queens.

No wonder that a song from a popular musical had the refrain: In the face of such seemingly boundless riches from the U.

It became such a fashion that a mocking verse of the time spoke of these: Deal-making could be a tough business, however. Invitations to the wedding had already been sent out when, at the last minute, it was all called off.

But such social climbing often came at another price, too — in personal comfort and hygiene.

Those draughty castles and country houses could be hell to a rich gal from the New World accustomed to a nice warm house and plenty of hot water.

Mary Leiter found British servants downright rude and hostile because of her background.

‘They are malignant and stupid fiends,’ she wrote to her mother.

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