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Carol MCD. Wallace

Coauthor of Downton Abbey inspiration TO MARRY AN ENGLISH LORD

The release of the Downton Abbey film in the fall of 2019 will bring joy and relief to the scores of fans who mourned the end of the TV series. The film version, scripted by Julian Fellowes, will begin in the fall of 1927 and feature most of the original cast members.

When Fellowes was approached to create the immensely popular Downton Abbey TV series, he was reading To Marry an English Lord, by Gail McColl and Carol McD. Wallace, which he calls “a marvelous and entertaining study of the American girls who came over to England, mostly between 1890 and 1914, to marry into the British aristocracy.” As a result, Lady Cora (played by Elizabeth McGovern) was the first character he imagined. It occurred to him that “while it must have been wonderful for these girls to begin with, what happened twenty-five years later when they were freezing in a house in Cheshire, aching for Long Island?”

To Marry an English Lord explores both the glamour and the misfortune that greeted some 100+ newly minted American heiresses who, having been snubbed by the Social Register, invaded Britannia to swap dollars for titles. From their courtships to their welcome (or not) by new in-laws; from their magnificent wardrobes to the even more magnificent jewels they acquired through marriage; and from the pressure to produce an heir to the affairs that frequently warmed up frigid rooms when husbands were away on expeditions—it’s all here. Carol Wallace has collected photographs and anecdotes into a lively and gossipy talk and PowerPoint presentation, which she has given at historic houses and libraries, and to various organizations both in the US and the UK.

Born in Connecticut to a reporter father and a bookseller mother and having grown up next to a library, Carol Wallace was destined to become a writer. After graduating from Princeton, she worked briefly in book publishing, then coauthored the bestselling The Official Preppy Handbook. Since then she has written twenty more books and dozens of magazine articles in the areas of humor, social history, parenting, and fiction. In 2006, she received an MA in art history from Columbia. Research for her master’s thesis was the basis for her 2011 historical novel Leaving Van Gogh. Since then she has published an adaptation of Ben-Hur, originally written by her great-great-grandfather Lew Wallace, as an accompaniment to the 2016 film. Her novel about Gilded Age New York City, Our Kind of People, will be published by Putnam in 2020.

Carol lives in New York City with her husband, Rick Hamlin, also an author. In their spare time they read—of course.

Speaking Topics

  • TO MARRY AN ENGLISH LORD: True Stories Behind Life at Downton Abbey (with Powerpoint)
  • England and America: Common Language, Uncommon Customs (with Powerpoint)
  • Art and Madness in the Life of Vincent Van Gogh (with Powerpoint)
  • Writing History as Fact and Fiction


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