Hearts Through History Romance Writers

The Princess Diana Connection

by | April 7, 2013 | 1 comment

Frances Work

Frances Work

My research into the Victorian Gilded Age revealed that from the late 1800’s through the Edwardian era, more than a 100 American heiresses were married off to British nobility with the result that most of the great British noble families can now trace their ancestry through American bloodlines. And that includes the Royal family. Princess Diana’s great grandmother, Frances Work (an American stockbroker’s daughter) married the Hon. James Burke-Roche and gave birth to twin sons, the elder of whom was the maternal grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales and, therefore, great-grandfather of William, Duke of Cambridge. Diana’s middle name, Frances, is taken from her mother and great-grandmother.

The Hon. James Burke-Roche was a younger brother of an Irish baron named Lord Fermoy (James became the 3rd Baron Fermoy after his brother’s death in 1920). While the family owned some 16,000 acres in County Cork and County Waterford, the land only earned about £7000/year leaving little for a younger brother. So James set out for America to use his good looks to advantage. After attempting to raise cattle in Wyoming, he made his way to New York City and then Newport in 1880 where he met Frances Work, a beautiful daughter of stockbroker, Frank Work, protégé of Commodore Vanderbilt, and married her that September.

Romantic, yes. But alas, the marriage did not run smoothly despite the issue of four children. They separated in 1886 and Frances Burke-Roche sued for divorce in 1891 on the grounds of desertion. Like her granddaughter would painfully learn, marrying nobility does not necessarily guarantee your husband will be of noble character.

Perhaps Diana’s popularity in the States was due in part to that bit of American flair we recognized in her. I remember so well getting up before dawn to watch her fairy tale wedding to Prince Charles. I was lucky enough to be in London later that year and got to see her wedding gifts on display. I treasure a little souvenir plate I picked up commemorating the wedding, despite, or perhaps because of, the way things ended. Any of you remember the wedding?

I’ll have more on American heiresses and British nobility on next month’s blog.

Anne Carrole writes about cowboys who have grit, integrity and little romance on their mind and the women who love them. Check out her contemporary novella, Falling for a Cowboy, and her western historical novella, Saving Cole Turner at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com or Kobobooks.com. Or find her at  www.facebook.com/annecarrole, www.facebook.com/lovewesternromances or www.annecarrole.com

1 Comment

  1. Angelyn

    That plate’s probably worth something. Nice post.



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