Deanna Littell's Charm School


In Editor's Desk on January 26, 2012 at 11:30 am


In those bygone romantic times many an American went abroad and married into the British aristocracy. In the late 19th century the financial needs of the estate sometimes outweighed the intensity of the love.  American heiresses managed to get introduced to the right people and many a lord was desperate for help to manage his enormous dwelling.  The most fortunate couples found true love in the bargain.

We are currently spellbound by the second season of Downton Abbey written by Julian Fellowes and staring the English castle Highclere.  Hard to decide what fascinates us more, the upstairs or the downstairs love affairs. Apparently, Fellowes was inspired by the book To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol Wallace.  Everything you might want to know about the American girls who were successful in landing a lord and the tiara that went with it. The present Countess of Carnarvon has written about Highclere’s own money-for-title-swap in 1895, in her book Lady Almina and The Real Downton Abbey ( see reading assignment). 

The story, so romantically compelling makes us yearn for some of this in our own lives. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner we can put our lessons to work.  Here are some charming gifts for one or the other of you.

For the real story on the art of writing love letters-as in putting pen to paper try, Other People’s Love Letters

And for a lovely place to put all those missives perhaps you might hint for this romantic keepsake box filled with two dozen paper roses symbolizing passion and eternal love from RedEnvelope.

An original way to send loving thoughts piece together this charming vintage Valentine puzzle with the one you love- from Gump’s San Francisco.

Wishing you the most charming Valentine’s Day ever and don’t forget to check-out my website at

And don’t forget the Charm School reading assignment is in the next column.

With love,



In Mistress of Charm on January 25, 2012 at 10:25 pm


Consuelo Vanderbilt, daughter of the railroad millionaire, was one of the great beauties of her time and surely of a beauty hard to match since. This dazzling beauty & wealth supposedly earned her five marriage proposals. But her domineering mother engineered a meeting between Consuelo and the 9th Duke of Marlborough, chatelain of Blenheim Palace.

She had no interest in The Duke as she was secretly engaged to an American. When her mother  ordered her  to  marry Marlborough she made plans to elope & was locked in her room as her mother threatened to murder her suitor.  Alva Vanderbilt  feigned such ill health that the gullible daughter acquiesced. When the wedding took place Consuelo stood at the altar apparently weeping behind her veil.  The marriage may have been socially advantageous but sadly loveless.  Her  matchless beauty,wit and generosity should certainly have earned her a more charming fate.


Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey  by Fiona Carnarvon. Lord Carnarvon, proprietor of Highclere  castle, found himself in the same predicament as many a feckless English lord of the 1890’s, having squandered their family riches on girls, yachts, gambling and horses. Enter Lady Almina, daughter of Alfred de Rothschild, to save the day by marrying the financially desperate Lord.

The Buccaneers . Edith Wharton’s unfinished novel that was completed using her own synopsis, chronicles the fortunes of five rich New York girls who traveled to England in search of titled husbands. Try this for a novelized take on the subject.

The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.  A charming novel about a pair of ambitious and wise cracking girls from the mid-west who aimed to set the town afire.  A fortuitous meeting, on New Years eve in 1937, will change the course of both their lives. Sparkling prose and cocktails galore-achingly stylish.


In Master of Charm on January 24, 2012 at 10:32 pm


The prizewinning star at Cannes of the silent film, The Artist, Jean Dujardin plays a Hollywood film star of the late 20s. With the advent of sound, his star falls. He only has his face and body to rely on and he is a master of expressing every emotion without words.  His facial expressions epitomize charm.


The Artist, by Micheal Hazanavicius, had the audience of Cannes on their feet. Anthony Lane, in the New Yorker, writes, “The Artist’ is not just about black and white silent pictures. It is a black and white silent picture and it’s French.” A lush musical score drives the drama and you’re totally swept away by the charm of the filmapparently The Academy agrees.


How about a charming heart lock bracelet for Valentine’s Day, with it’s own key that really works ?  Alternating links of 14k white and rose gold with a checkerboard heart lock. Leave a photo on his night stand…