Thursday, March 26, 2015

Do English Gentlemen Make Good Husbands?

Thursday, March 26, 2015
General George S. Patton
Loretta reports:

General George S. Patton was a complicated, controversial man.  His military career, however, is not our topic.  The Two Nerdy History Girls focus on social history—people and their everyday lives, mainly—rather than politics and wars.  If you want more information about his triumphs and his not-so-stellar moments, you’ll find an abundance of material online, along with the many thousands of pages written about him.

Instead, I present him here between the wars (during the 1920s) as a father, explaining his reasons for declining a position in London in the office of the military attaché:

“We have two marriageable daughters who ... will be rich someday.  If we go to London it stands to reason that one or both of them will marry an Englishman.  Englishmen, well-bred Englishmen, are the most attractive bastards in the world, and they always need all the money they can lay their hands on to keep up the castle, or the grouse moor, or the stud farm, or whatever it is they have inherited.  I served with the British in the war*, and I heard their talk.  They are men’s men, and they are totally inconsiderate of their wives and daughters; everything goes to their sons, nothing to the girls.  I just can’t see Little Bee, or Ruth Ellie in that role.  Someday, just tell them what I did for them and maybe they won’t think I’m such an old bastard after all.”—Carlo D’Este, Patton: A Genius for War
*The Great War/WWI

Image:  George S. Patton signed photo by U.S. Army. Scanned from a file in Patton's personnel record available at the Military Personnel Records Center

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


MrsC (Maryanne) said...

That is utterly delightful.

Helena said...

He was (is?) so right. Presumably American men were different? Were his daughters' marriages happy?

Regencyresearcher said...

Who would have thought that hard nose Patton would even think of his daughtes! I thought this hilarious.

Yve said...

Hmmmm, never thought I would be defending the English (I'm Welsh) but let's just say that Patton obviously went in for vast generalisations and stereotypes! I hope his poor daughters made happy marriages whoever they chose and weren't as closed minded as their father.

Karen Anne said...

Ruth seems to have had an interesting life: "His greatest link to his grandfather was Ruth Ellen Patton Totten, the general's daughter, who Mr. Patton [Patton's grandson] described fondly as "a very earthy and boisterous woman, who kept 10 dogs and would wear overalls, L. L. Bean shoes with $100,000 worth of jewelry." As the family genealogist, she had collected and preserved the family's letters and papers."

Beatrice seems to have died at about 40.

Amanda said...

Coming from the generation he did, Patton would have been familiar with the "Titles for Cash" phenomenon where land-rich, cash-poor English nobility married the daughters of American industrialists for the express purpose of getting their hands on their inheritances. (Cora of Downton Abby is supposed to be one of these brides.)What that statement makes clear is that Patton resented the idea of somebody seeing his daughters as cash cows whose fortunes could keep their estates afloat - and who could blame him? Considering his era, I'm sure he had heard of, may have even known, women this had happened to. Why do we find the idea of a man wanting his daughters to marry men who valued them above their wealth so laughable? And let's give the man credit for recognizing the injustice of the English laws that could render a woman penniless by disinheriting her in favor of her son, even when the wealth had originally been hers. This was a system that sucked up American women's money and what did they get in return, really? A title, a tiara, and the husband, then the son, or if there was no son, her brother-in-law, controlled what had been her money and she got only whatever they cared to dole out - which legally could be nothing. Why do we find Patton not wanting his daughters within a country mile of a system that he is recognizing as incredibly unjust so amusing?

Anonymous said...

This makes me think of the character of Uncle Matthew Radlett, Lord Alconleigh, in Nancy Mitford's "The Pursuit of Love" - "an eccentric, bullying patriarch who periodically uses bloodhounds to hunt his children across the Oxfordshire countryside". (Or as someone else described him on Goodreads: "Uncle Matthew, lord of the manor, a colonel-blimp who gnashes his way thru a couple sets of dentures a year --- has set up an excercise called the 'Child Hunt' on the estate, to air the horses, run the dogs, and keep the children in line. They don't actually shoot at the game, which after all is the children, they just "run them to ground". Good show.)

Elena Jardiniz said...

I strongly suspect Patton was right about down at their heels nobility eager to latch onto a rich, impressionable American girl. And that would be true of any 'noble', not just English. The sense of superiority the boys were raised with, coupled with the need for 'lots of money' without an accompanying 'desire to work' or even a good head for managing said money is not a pretty combination, no matter how charming the boy can be when he feels like it.

Yve said...

Anonymous, you made me chortle bringing back memories of reading The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate years ago. I had forgot about the children getting hunted to keep the hounds in good practice ;o) I think the idea that Patton is talking about is the flip side of Nancy Mitford's idea of "U' and "Non-U": the rich can buy themselves a title and a huge old country estate but they will only ever be 'tolerated' because they don't have breeding. She meant it tongue in cheek but there is a twinge of truth to some upper class attitudes.

Looking at the subject from the Brit point of view there is also the stereotype of the brash American Heiress over here on the hunt for a title and a castle/"Country Pile" to marry into this fantasy of that "Downton" lifestyle. Gents with an aristocratic lineage and inherited property are not exactly the average guy here in the UK and were always a tiny fraction of the male population. Those rich US gals would go to great lengths to be in the right place to get an introduction and become part of their "set" back then. Despite Britain being brought to it's knees financially by two World Wars there were plenty of other rich potential suitors but that "type" of woman was set on bagging an inherited title and experiencing the trappings of the aristocracy. They were not interested in "Self-Made Men" and so very attractive to those with a title and no money... so frankly they deserved each other? It all seems very cynical from both sides and I wonder how many people actually married for such superficial and calculated reasons. I imagine Patton's daughter's would have had the good sense to have chosen more wisely.

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