Guest blog by Wendy Holden, author of Marrying Up
I’m a big fan of gold-diggers, which is why I’ve got one as the main character in my new novel. Girls who use what they’ve got to get what they want have always had a bad press, but this seems to me unfair. Until the twentieth century anyway, women had restricted access to education and the workplace and therefore no room for manoeuvre. Gold-digging was only a form of self-determination, one of the few fields in which a woman could be an entrepreneur.
Brits make great gold-diggers and I’ve always enjoyed the stories of the women in my native islands who’ve managed to turn their rags to riches. Kate Middleton is, of course, the patron saint of all aspiring marriers-up, having pulled off the astonishing coup of coming from a humble family and ending up on the Buckingham Palace balcony. But she has plenty of precedents. Take Bess of Hardwick, a sixteenth-century landowner who started out on a farm but traded up via four increasingly rich husbands to become the second wealthiest woman in England after Elizabeth I. Way to go, baby! This serial widow was so clever and charming that no-one seemed to question exactly what had happened to all these husbands.
People who are scathing about women who run after money and power don’t always realise just how difficult ‘marrying up’ can be. To successfully snare the rich man of your dreams, you have to plot like a military commander, fend off all the competition and look as hot as hell into the bargain. How many of us are up to that?
The story of the gold-digger has its Cinderella elements, but while Cinderella in the fairytale got her man through sweet innocence and natural goodness, women in the real world know it doesn’t quite work like that. Alexa in my novel is therefore an anti-Cinderella – she ticks the poor and good-looking boxes, but she’s otherwise primed like a cruise missile to bag the first prince in her sights. Her campaign to get one is a sequence of carefully-planned moments, none of which she can afford to go wrong, although they do, which gives me lots of scope for humour.
These breakthrough moments have always fascinated me in real life. Women who have married up always enter the final straight through some particular event. For Princess Diana, it happened on a haybale; she was commiserating with Charles after a member of his family had died and apparently this piqued his interest. For Kate Middleton, it was that famous see-through dress on the university catwalk. ‘Kate’s hot!’ William is supposed to have exclaimed.
Of course, both Kate and Diana had already managed through various other means – family connections in Di’s case, expensive private education in Kate’s – to enter the charmed royal circles, and these are not available to all. But there are other ways of marrying up, the right job, for example. Propinquity is all, so a position close to a rich and powerful male is an obvious starting point. Until quite recently, being an air hostess worked well – Queen Noor of Jordan and Roman Abramovich’s first wife both met their glamorous destinies that way. And it is no coincidence that the famous Carole Middleton, mother of the Duchess of Cambridge, was a trolley dolly herself at one stage.
Alexa in Marrying Up hits the jackpot. She lands a position on a glossy magazine, slap bang in the middle of the rich and glamorous. She gets to work straightaway, switching invitations round at dinner parties so she sits next to eligible males, and purloining invitations to get to society parties. A real-life gold-digger I know did just this on a glossy magazine I used to work on. She used to come in early and open all the post. A lot of the girls on the magazine were shocked, but I rather admired my friend with the letter-knife. Unlike most of the other staff she did not have an independent income, nor grand family connections. She was not even all that good-looking. She was the inspiration for Alexa – and guess what? She got her rich and famous man, although the affair didn’t last all that long. He left her for another gold-digger in the end.
Author Bio: Wendy Holden (UK) was a journalist on the Sunday Times, Tatler, and The Mail on Sunday before becoming a full time author. She has now published nine novels, all top 10 bestsellers in the UK. Her novels include Beautiful People, Farm Fatale, Simply Divine, Gossip Hound, The Wives of Bath, The School for Husbands, Azur Like it, and Filthy Rich.
Buy: Marrying Up: A Right Royal Romantic Comedy