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What happened when the rich stopped intermarrying in Britain (axios.com)
149 points by samizdis 86 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 110 comments

I don't understand the time scales here. Three years of very wealthy noble women marrying less but still very wealthy commoner men lead to major educational reform less than 10 years latter through changes in the house of lords?

Even if such a blip of an event were to have an effect, it would surely happen on a generational timescale (20-30 years) rather 5-7 years later. These peerages are quite literally generational inheritances of titles - you don't suddenly become a lord after getting married.

Note that the article is talking about the Commons, not the Lords.

Still, it fails to mention the Reform Act 1867, passed by a traditionally landed Parliament and which substantially increased the franchise; it is this change that can be thought to have had at least some causal role in decreasing the proportion of members of great landowning or squire families among Members of Parliament from nearly 66% in 1866 to 58% following the 1868 general election;[0] the Commons that passed through the Education Act 1870 was thus still mostly drawn from the traditional landowning class.

[0] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1750-0206...

>Her brothers were 50% less likely to enter parliament


>Constituencies that were no longer represented in parliament by the local peer were much less likely to oppose the introduction of state education

Women of the peerage take lower class husbands, sullying their family name. Their brothers lose their bids to enter parliament to people outside the peerage. Critically, those outsiders support educational reforms.

I'd be curious to know why the peers seemed to be willing to support outsiders over peers who had sisters with "poor taste" in men. Wouldn't such snobs prefer their own kind, however tarnished, over outsiders? Then again, the bitterest feuds are within families or between religions that are barely distinguishable from one another. Perhaps total outsiders were vastly preferable to peers who were letting their class down. If true, the peers own snobbery bit them in the arse.

There were likely multiple concauses. The non-aristocrats winning parliament seats in that period were typically people who had made a lot of money in industry and commerce (or someone directly sponsored by such). Those individuals were very strong-willed; it's entirely possible that they wrestled control from the weakened aristocrats in many ways, and probably gossiping about "disgraced" young women was just one easy tool. Once elected, these people supported education reforms because they needed it: their businesses required a cheap but educated workforce. Not unlike what Google and friends need now (hence the big push to "learn to code").

There's a big conflator here with the industrial revolution then. Note that the 1860s and early 1870s was also a transition decade from an agrarian hereditary nobility to industrial capitalist nationalism in many other countries (notably: U.S. Civil War 1861-1865, German war of unification 1871, Italian war of unification 1871, Meiji restoration in Japan 1868). It's more likely that the economic development leading from the railroad, the oil well, the steel foundry, and the steamship led to capitalists winning seats in Parliament and pushing for policies to benefit their workforce, rather than the Queen's mourning leading to missing debutante balls and the peerage losing their influence.

Let us also admit the repeal of the corn laws and the great agricultural depression to the discussion, with the result that land became much less valuable and rents for great aristocratic estates cratered to the discussion. Lest we find ourselves struck with the obdurate ignorance that has cursed the person who wrote the article.

This feels like the sort of remote social context where we'd need deeper immersion to even know if we were on the right track. The past is a foreign country.

> Women of the peerage

This was relatively rare though and most peerages would never have legally passed to women. Especially if the woman had a brother, the peerages that could have, would have passed to their brothers instead.

> Their brothers lose their bids to enter parliament

afaik at that time, if you had a peerage with the right to enter the house of lords, you could go at any time.

I can imagine a scenario that could fit here. The woman's marriage to a poorer man caused a break up of the estate as a dowry which left her brothers less well off and unable to afford the social standing to acquire peerages in their own name. Her brothers, plural, can't all inherit a peerage, only one of them could. Likewise if her brothers planned to enter the House of Commons. Or maybe her husband chose to represent the location? The way the article is worded it feels like there is a confusion between the House of Commons and House of Lords.

It's also possible the conclusion is just a non sequitur and the marriages of the rich women to poorer men had nothing to do with state education and this was just a correlation.

I think "women of the peerage" here means daughters of peers not peers themselves.

Only the eldest brother would sit in the House of Lords and only after their father died. It was very common for a son due to inherit a peerage to go in to the commons before they inherited their title. Once a title was inherited one could only sit in the House of Lords until Tony Benn.

Some people are too liberal to take their own side in an argument.

Should one consider the great expansion of peerage begun under the House of Hanover?

Plus, brothers not being able or willing to enter parlament might not be caused by hmwomen marrying down. The both phenomenons could have common cause - namely these families were going down socially for both genders.

I love these little nuggets of history, but as any glance at any alternative history (video) essay tells you, there is never just one causal link and usually dozens of factors.

The 1860s were probably the high water mark for British power in the world, but as for weird things that chnaged all that try this one:

- Frederick Tudor created the ice industry (think what the hero from Frozen did), allowing storage of buffalo and cattle beef in trains and ice houses in chicago

- which travelled by boat through the great lakes and over the recently dug Eerie canal and out New York and across the Atlantic to cause world wide economic depression as agricultural societies collapsed due to the competition

- which meant traditional MPs and rural power was upended

- and new industrialists coukd afford to pay their politicians while the landed gentry found there was a massive rural depression

There are so many fascinating threads through history.

The rural economy had its troubles long before the 1860s: look at the history of the Corn Laws. And did Chicago beef really travel by the Erie Canal or by railroad?

Beef travelled by both - the railway cars were also refrigerated (I believe the last wooden style ice cars were decommissioned post WWII!)

But transport by water is roughly two orders of magnitude cheaper than (pre railway) land transport - see also acoup.blog on Land Trains and game of thrones for a interesting segue.

But landholdings are not the only type of wealth, and specifically at that time with the industrial revolution going on, stuff like factories become a source of great riches. So marrying down 44 percentiles in land does not mean marrying 44 percent down in wealth, it could just be marrying the same amount of wealth with a more industrial component.

Also the industrial revolution itself seems more likely to cause education reform than changing peers, who are lifetime appointments. Fewer hands needed in agriculture, plus more jobs requiring people to be able to read means you need kids in schools instead of on farms.

It's probably true that prestige went down. It takes a long time for that sort of thing to change. There are still people around today who are impressed by titles.

It seems very unlikely that the elites would not fight tooth and nail for the best matches for their kids. Not having the queen around makes no difference, it seems most likely there would still be a scene where people went and made connections, and the criteria would be largely the same.

Despite the potential similarities in wealth, the difference in background did make a difference. This is because the bourgeoisie of this period were heavily influenced by the progressive and radical literature and pamphlets of their time.

The main parties in English politics of this period were between the Liberal party (which was a fusion of old Whigs and new radicals) and the Tori/Conservative party which was aligned with nobility. One of their main disagreements was whether the mass populace should be "advanced" through welfare or whether they should be left to their traditional roles and rungs in society.

Many bourgeoisie who had gained their wealth through the early industrial period joined the Whigs and they left a tradition which brought many of the next generation into the Liberal party. This of course aligned with their own interests. A healthy and educated workforce was critical to their ambitions. Though I do think in general they were motivated by a certain amount of ideological good will.

The Tori and Conservative parties in England did not just oppose state welfare. They often opposed industrialization as it was the foundation of their opponents' power and it creates potential for shifts in the roles of individuals in society.

Interestingly this creates a persistent confusion to this day wherein Americans don't understand why the "conservative" party in England is not 1:1 a party for business as it is in America. As they have a historical interest in opposing some development and supporting conservation.

> The Tori and Conservative parties in England did not just oppose state welfare. They often opposed industrialization as it was the foundation of their opponents' power and it creates potential for shifts in the roles of individuals in society.

I was of the opinion that British conservatives at the time viewed state welfare as a form of noblesse oblige. Burke and Disraeli both argued for a paternalistic state in which every man was made to serve others for the sake of Empire, Church, and State.

There's also more nuance than that, in that the Liberals' position changed substantially over time. Gladstone's party was one that very much believed in lowering taxes and lowering state expenditure, with the idea that the individual knew best how to allocate resources and would only be stifled by the fetters of government. This cutting back of the economic role of the state was the "Retrenchment" part of the Liberal slogan "Peace, Retrenchment and Reform". It was the New Liberals, at the turn of the 20th century, who split with the old Liberalism and turned the party into one that supported rudimentary state welfare.

Furthermore, it is not as simple either as saying that the Tories "aligned with nobility". The Whigs were a very aristocratic bunch — just look at the government that passed the Reform Act 1832.[0] In fact, the Whigs enjoyed greater support among the high aristocracy: "Among the very greatest landowners, those who held at least 10,000 acres worth at least £10,000 per year, the proportion of Liberals increases."[1] Overall, the divide between the Tories and the Whig element of the Liberals in the 19th century can be hard to nail down or understand precisely because it doesn't easily correlate with any one factor, such as religion (they were nearly all Anglican, but some had sympathy for nonconformists), social origin (they were largely drawn from landowners, but there were various ranks among them) or ideology (although things tended to be more clean-cut there — there's a reason nonconformist industrialists sided with the Whigs rather than the Tories), but seems rather to have been a combination of these things and more, including family tradition; and the Whigs themselves have been seen as a conservative element who simply had the pragmatism to enact such reform as would allow them to preserve their dominant position in society.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Grey,_2nd_Earl_Grey#Lo... [1] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1750-0206...

If you're interested in answering the question "How, from their peak at around 1870, did this insanely wealthy and powerful group come to lose so much of their wealth and power over the next fifty years", I recommend _The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy_ by David Cannadine. Personally, I find the book's explanation more compelling than the "the London Season was cancelled for three years so rich people stopped marrying each other" explanation.

Haven't read the book -- I assume WWI had a lot to do with it?

WWI is actually one of the most interesting parts of the book. I read this book a long time ago so I'm probably remembering a lot of it wrong, but basically, by WWI, the decline already quite advanced, enough to be a cliche: the Gilded Age mansions and museums of New York were already filled up with art and artifacts bought off of broke British aristocrats.

The causes are complex, and interesting. One of the big challenges for the British aristocracy was that American farming started to destroy the economics of traditional agriculture-oriented landholding in the UK in the late 19th century.

So, the 'bargain' the British aristocracy had sort of explicitly or implicitly made over the centuries with the rest of the British population was that the aristocracy were, you know, the nobles. The knights. We call them 'armigerous' families because the have a _coat of arms_.

The British aristocracy viewed WWI as an opportunity to be like, "Ok, THIS is our time to shine, this is what we've been playing rugby at Rugby for all these years..." The sons of the British aristocracy signed up eagerly, and were put into leadership positions. In the early part of the war, they were still using tactics oriented around personal bravery and charge-leading, so while WWI was horrific for all of Europe with (IIRC) ~10% of the of-age men being killed in the war, the impact on the aristocracy was much worse, with some estimates being around 30% of the young men of the aristocracy dying in the war.

There were far-reaching restructurings of society after WWI, but the aristocracy couldn't come back from the combined loss of a generation of a men, and failure to achieve their gambit: they basically bet it all on "we'll show you, we'll lead the nation through this war" and the public perception was that they completely failed.

So it's not so much that WWI did it, as it was basically done, and WWI was a last gasp.

Like I said though I read this book in...I wanna say 2006? It's been a while.

While I found the historic nuggets worth the read, the article stretches too much to conclude that it resulted in expansion of access to education.

There isn't a single bit of effort to demonstrate the connection factually. Just pure, imaginative speculation.

I'm not contesting. Don't have the evidence to support nor deny the allegation.

This is something that contributes to a feeling that the period from after the Civil War until the mid century as a more prolific period of technological and social progress than the nascent neoliberal period. It's one thing to give blacks the vote; it's another when centuries class distinctions are meaningfully eroded through the force of technological and social progress outright.

Onward and upward.

restated: Indoor plumbing and, "not slavery" were bigger deals than TV, the Internet, and Nike Vapor Max will ever be.

Odd that this coincided with the second industrial revolution, but there you go...

Reading this and the discussion below, it occurs to me that I don’t actually know what a “peer” is. I had assumed it had something to do with being in parliament, but the clearly that’s mistaken, since it doesn’t flow with the article or comments.

Does anybody have a concise summary of all this stuff that even an American can understand?

Peers are people who hold titles from this set of descending order of importance - Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, and Baron (and feminine equivalents). These tended to be hereditary, so that a person who the king or queen gave a title like Duke of Marlborough got to pass it down to a descendant.



A peerage in the United Kingdom is an aristocratic title which confers the right to sit in the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the legislature (parliament). Historically, peerages were hereditary titles passed down to the eldest son. In modern times, peerages are usually appointed for life terms by the government.

What I find confusing about the article is that it's not clear what it means by "her brothers were 50% less likely to enter parliament". Parliament being ambiguous here.

If this refers to entering the House of Lords, then at most one brother (the eldest) could do so upon the death of their father. Is it really saying that the shame of their sisters marrying down dissuaded heirs to peerages from taking up their birthright seats? Seems odd.

Alternatively, is it suggesting that second sons and heir-apparents were standing for elections to the House of Commons (the lower chamber of the legislature, also parliament) and became less successful as their standing dropped?

"Peer" means that they hold a position in the archaic fancy-hats club that sometimes gets referred to as "nobility", except for baronets who are too low to be peers.

What jasonkester might have been thinking of is that peers are eligible to sit in the House of Lords.

however while the House of Lords is an analogous to the US Senate it's NOT a co-equal house with the House of Commons

The real question is, why is every single article of this site posted here.

> Assortative mating eventually bounced back and is still going strong. British matchmakers Gray & Farrar, for instance, with their minimum fee of £15,000, boast of having "the connections and network to attract the right people for the right people."

- That paragraph links to the site of top-tier matchmaker Gray & Farrar [1], which IMO is worth a visit. Beyond parody, and dripping with the smug evils of a British-style class system.

[1] https://www.grayandfarrar.com/

> dripping with the smug evils of a British-style class system

This smacks of a an entrepreneurial young chancer having a go. The business is founded on the hope that the smug evils of the British class system exist, rather than evidence of them.

Many startups are founded on the idea that there is huge profit to be made by targeting the rich. Sell 'high-end' services at crazy prices. The inflated price is one of the KSPs of the product as the exclusivity itself is what's on sale. The fact that these services exist doesn't really prove anything, other than that there is a perception of something there to exploit. Gray & Farrar looks like a website built by young business guys who have watched too much Made In Chelsea, and The Apprentice. The website is genuine, but yes it's a parody of the British class system, just not a knowing one.

I thought you might be right, but the business seems to have been around for a while as a mother and daughter partnership.



All-in-all, toe-curling.

But my guess is that they only need 3 or 4 clients a year to run it as a sideline.

It appears she ironically started the company after her husband left her and their 4 children and they were broke:


> But my guess is that they only need 3 or 4 clients a year to run it as a sideline.

I mean, keeping a website and limited company running for a year costs a lot less than the minimum £15k quoted in TFA. They could have had one client since they incorporated in 2009, and be in the black.

I wonder if the author is just being incredibly naive about the real business here.

I think they were just being playful.

There is some good incidental description of the operation of matchmakers within a mercantile community in the Ming dynasty in 三遂平妖傳 ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Sui_Quash_the_Demons... ). In the story, a girl's father, one of the most successful merchants in the area, visits some matchmakers (who seem to operate as a pair) and commissions them to find a husband for his daughter. He gives them money every time he sees them (initially, plus every time they visit his home to mention a candidate).

There was certainly a lot of money available if you could hold the job.

(It's a humorous episode in the story. The matchmakers are overjoyed to be commissioned to find a husband for a girl widely known to be young, beautiful, intelligent, and rich. They bring back offers from a string of A-list merchant scions, which leads to frustration because the father specifically wants to marry his daughter to someone very stupid.)

> This smacks of a an entrepreneurial young chancer having a go. The business is founded on the hope that the smug evils of the British class system exist, rather than evidence of them.

Reminds me of one of the ads that follows me around the internet, for something called SEI Club. It claims to be a matchmaking service for the creme de la creme, but seems to wear the entrepreneurial chancing even more on its sleeve. None of the we've been around for over 40 years / second generation family business stuff. Just pure aspiration: glamorous pictures of pretty, rich-looking people of the type they hope will use the service.

By the way, SEI, I've been happily married for over a decade, and middle-class at best. But thanks for financing my baby white noise app.

The Gray & Farrar won’t let the turnover & growth get in the way of ensuring real exclusivity. :)


They still list more than a million pounds in assets, 50k in cash, and have been around for 13 years. A bit much for a "side gig".

In June 2021 the managing director owed the company almost £1.1 million, up from £924k in 2020. Not sure how meaningful the assets are. (Update: I think these are unpaid distributions to the LLP members.)

£2.8 million in turnover in 2018 though, £2.1 million of that from outside the UK.

There's also a parent company (Hadleigh PVT Limited) that indirectly owns the business. And the parent company paid £192k in rental income to Gray & Farrar in 2018. It is all quite weird, e.g. in 2013: "strategic marketing and business promotion costs have been charged at arms length by a business wholly owned by one of the partners"

2016 accounts say the principal activity was matchingmaking services.

It's probably a way for ugly and insufferable rich people to feel better about themselves and their kids.

"I have noticed that your son, Phillip von Twattenheim the Fourth, is graying at the temples. Have you betrothed him yet?"

"I have not, but he has recently been accepted by the finest matchmakers in all of Britain, Gray and Farrar."

It doesn't actually have to solve the problem. It just has to make it look like the problem is being solved.

That’s hilarious. A 40 year old second generation business trading off the idea of British classism. The people who they’re implying use them wouldn’t be seen dead on their roster. The peerage know each other either personally or through reputation by friends of friends. Even if you’re going for the broader group of people who went to public school or who are second or more generation public school you wouldn’t find too many of them using the services of a firm that advertises. Where’s the exclusivity or cachet in that? All you need is money.

Netflix made a (mostly true) documentary “Inventing Anna” about someone who moved to New York with the fake identity of a German heiress (whose father occasionally cuts her off). She had a bunch of hotels and some tech investors fooled. I feel like she should have gone into the matchermaker racket instead.

A bit of a tangent, but i found the series to be insufferably bad. The story interested me, but the scenario was pretty bad (easily predictable, weird logical jumps being presented as genius ideas) and the acting was pretty meh bar the lead actress (i found her very annoying which seems to be the idea).

Are you saying real life has bad writing?

I felt that conclusion was unwarranted. So she was a 'fake' heiress. Aren't they all? Just jumped-up rich claiming some sort of divine right? Why wasn't she as good as any of them?

Because of dogma, chiefly. People of the time figured she wasn't 'real' in the sense she didn't follow some imaginary ideas of being deserving or whatever. But only after they initially believed her, which means she was socially as adept at the role as any of them.

> I felt that conclusion was unwarranted. So she was a 'fake' heiress. Aren't they all? Just jumped-up rich claiming some sort of divine right? Why wasn't she as good as any of them?

In many European countries there's still the concept of nobility[1] with titles, lineage, inheritance and all. It isn't some abstract thing that people choose to believe in or not.

The comment is about a young woman living in NYC who faked being one of these nobles, and used it to defraud people. She went to jail for it[2]. I have no idea what your comment is about or how it ties to any of this.

1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CILANE

2 - https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/17503259/where-is-anna-delvey-...

That actually exactly describes some imaginary concept that people choose to believe in or not. I don't believe in it for instance.

You don't have to fake having an imaginary special humanness, well any more than the rest are faking anyway.

You're missing the point. There is an existing social structure of people who do care about these titles and the titles are often attached to assets or positions of power.

To your original point -- she went to jail for committing fraud, as in theft via lying. She did not go to jail for being judged "unworthy" by some dogmatic social circle.

I disagree. She went to jail because she claimed to be a magical being, and others thought they knew she wasn't. Consider: would an actual peer have gone to jail? No? Then she went to jail for 'not being a magical person'.

I honestly can't tell if your series of replies have been GPT-3 generated.

She went to jail because she failed to pay for the goods and services she used. They extended her credit because of the false pretenses, but she went to jail for grand larceny.

Yes, an actual noble would go to jail for a similar crime.

No an 'actual noble' (whatever the heck that is) might not have even been prosecuted.

But how many famous people have avoided jail for similar issues? If you're famous enough it doesn't even go to trial.

That's my point. She didn't pass some popularity contest because {reasons} and got prosecuted. Which may likely not have happened to a duchess or whatnot.

> Why wasn't she as good as any of them?

Because she didn't actually have any money and was ripping everybody off.

She was not what she claimed to be, if you're surprised that lying to people isn't OK then I've got really terrible news for you. Anna created numerous fake documents purporting to show she actually had lots of money in foreign banks (she did not) and there was a family trust that could access the money on her behalf (no such thing existed) and so she'd tell people it's OK, my trust will pay you back - knowing she's just taking services she hasn't paid for and has no intent to ever pay for.

In most jurisdictions Fraud requires two things: Dishonesty and intention thereby to gain or that another loses. For most people it's thus really easy to avoid committing fraud - be honest. If you don't like honesty you need to ensure you never have intention for you to gain or another to lose, which is going to be a really steep climb in many circumstances given we live under capitalism.

No person claiming magical special humanhood is 'what she claimed to be'. That's my point. Say you're a Dutchess if you like; your claim is exactly as valid as anyone else's; which is to say, nonsense.

I applaud her for capitalizing on the public gullibility to believe in devine humans with special rights.

The intriguing part is that if she had secured her final loan she could've covered her immediate debts and may bave had a successful business. In which case most of her malfeasance might've slid under the radar. More than one success has been built on some dicey loans and sketchy figures.

It was actuay quite common in the colonial period for quasi pirate types to overstate their experience, earn the remit of a monarch and secure loans for mercenaries in a bid to take some land from a competing European power and possibly enter the low nobility. There were numerous fraudsters among these. Several are well known for their eventual demise but I imagine more than a few managed to succeed and used their wealth and position to patch over the crumbly parts in their past.

Actually, every single line ever to claim 'nobility' started that way. All have crumbly pasts, meaning of course that they are perfectly normal humans like the rest of us. All are fraudsters.

your comment is akin to using a stolen credit card to eat at fancy restaurants, buy expensive clothing, and stay in hotel suites, and then congratulating the thief for "capitalizing on the public gullibility to believe in" a small plastic rectangle.


even The Onion couldn’t do parody that well

Poe’s law in advertising.

Wow, the rich British must have really good eyes. Can't read anything on that site... all caps light gray text on textured beige wallpaper, surrounded by lynched naked people: https://www.grayandfarrar.com/services/

Kinda makes me glad I'm not in THAT dating circle.

Not to mention, the gratuitous capitalization and the grammar errors.

This is incredibly funny. Here I am thinking the upper echelons operated like Thurn and Taxis, using signals too subtle for the common folk to notice. It's just a .com on the clearnet lmfao

They’re selling the dream to plebeians. Patricians have Burka’s Peerage, the Almanack de Gotha, Who’s Who or the Social Register. This is for insecure strivers.

Maybe it’s for neither. Their marketing blurb is all about being global and very successful - not actually old money and certainly not for plebeians.

The nouveau riche are plebeian by definition. The haute bourgeoisie/gentry/patrician class isn’t just defined by money. It’s defined by no one on the family having a memory of a member of the family not having had wealth, power and prestige.

That’s not really how it works. High nobility can be very poor. They still remain member of high nobility. White Russian still frequented other nobles in exile after the revolution when most of them had become penniless. It’s not strictly about money.

Yeps, thats right... back when i was in school i had a "von" type classmate, they even "owned" a castle (a ruin... back then on the wrong side of the iron curtain), and lived in a social housing project.

At no point did I refer to nobles or nobility. The Roosevelts, Vanderbilts and Hearsts have never been noble but they’re the same social class the British used to call gentry or the French haute bourgeoisie.

That says more about your biases.

IDK it's not like old money is some nonspecific abstraction that you can't characterize with some biases.

Money drives a Ferrari, wealth doesn't drive and all that right?

I particularly enjoyed this trying-too-hard run-on sentence:


They spend years conducting their selective search and succeed against all odds, only to discover that their ideal mate is similarly selective and unwilling to choose them in return.

Has nobody heard of the International Debutante Ball?

The article seems a bit unbelievable to me but on the other hand the First World War had an absolutely massive effect on the British aristocracy so maybe it shouldn’t be totally implausible. I don’t know how you blame the lack of the season rather than other changes at the time though.

My take is that even 100-200 years ago there was really not much moving up oppertunity outside the monarchy. The result was a rather cruel treatment to those lower in the power stucture. Those lower stayed anyway in hopes if moving up.

Now days a person low in the monarchy has better results by defecting while leveraaging their position to some gov or corporate instance. They no longer must endure a less than status with empty hope of falling up luck.

This shows how an aristocratic society that is based on actual class distinction still persists in England. English always say that, but as a foreigner, you dont get it until you read actual studies that solidly demonstrate it like this. England is the only country that has an upper house consisting of appointed, hereditary members with lifetime appointments, consisting of aristocrats, the rich and even theocrats.

My current understanding from reading books like The Millionaire Next Door is that great wealth is currently lost in three generations. I was wondering if this old tradition in Britain used to escape that trend?

There's an interesting and well-researched book about wealth, especially hereditary and linked to land holdings in England, that addresses the question: Who Owns England? by Guy Shrubsole.

There's a Guardian review from 2019 [1] that covers the gist of the subject.

Here's a sample paragraph:

When once asked how young entrepreneurs might succeed in Britain, the late Duke of Westminster, Gerald Grosvenor (owner of 131,000 acres, including much of London’s Belgravia and central Liverpool), observed, drily, that they should “make sure they have an ancestor who was a very close friend of William the Conqueror”. Though Shrubsole estimates that the recent sell-off of ancestral lands to the “new money” of hedge-funders and oligarchs accounts for perhaps 17% of the total in England, 30% rests in the hands of the feudal Norman “cousinhood”, whose offspring have until recently preserved their birthright with a Downton-esque doggedness.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/apr/28/who-owns-engla...

Well it used to be the case that:

- peers didn’t pay taxes

- inheritance tax (aka death duties) didn’t exist

- owning a lot of land was a great source of income

So while intermarrying helped stop the distribution, the industrial revolution (making various businesses return better than land) and very high inheritance (and other) taxes also lead to redistribution.

I’m watching this play out with my sister-in-law right now. Her grandfather made a ton of money, her mom never worked but had enough to live a good life off of inheritance, and my wife and her sister have just inherited the remains (only a million or so left for each of them). I’m wonder how long it takes for my SIL to spend it all because I’ve read so many articles mentioning how wealth disappears over generations trying to prepare for this moment with my wife.

Yet to be seen, but spending has already commenced. Thankfully I think I’ve drilled into my wife’s head the seriousness of psychologically acclimating to having a large sum of money dumped in her lap and to not spend any of it.

You're in danger of being divorced soon

it is a saying in Chinese that rich don't last over 3 gens, but along with it was another phrase meaning morals will last over 10, idea being that having good moral/integrity etc will have more everlasting effects than that dirty dirty money. and it is quite true, it's not the riches that lasts, but the education, mindset, that makes or breaks the family fortune through time.

Complete crap.

The Cultural Revolution couldn’t equalize outcomes in China. The same families are on top in Florence today as in the 1400s, more or less. Gregory Clark’s research oeuvre is all about the persistence of social class. The UK is not unusual.

> Persistence Despite Revolutions

> Can efforts to eradicate inequality in wealth and education eliminate intergenerational persis- tence of socioeconomic status? The Chinese Communist Revolution and Cultural Revolution aimed to do exactly that. Using newly digitized archival records and contemporary census and household survey data, we show that the revolutions were effective in homogenizing the pop- ulation economically in the short run. However, the pattern of inequality that characterized the pre-revolution generation re-emerges almost half a century after the revolutions. Individu- als whose grandparents belonged to the pre-revolution elite earn 12 percent more income and have completed more than 11 percent additional years of schooling than those from the rest of the population. We find evidence that human capital (such as knowledge, skills, and values) has been transmitted within the elite families. Moreover, the pre-revolution elite either move to opportunities or stay to benefit from the social capital embodied in kinship networks that have survived the revolutions. These channels allow the pre-revolution elite to rebound af- ter the revolutions, and their socioeconomic status persists despite one of the most aggressive attempts to eliminate differences in the population.


> Intergenerational mobility in the very long run: Florence 1427-2011

> The paper examines intergenerational mobility in the very long run, across generations that are six centuries apart. We exploit a unique dataset containing detailed information at the individual level for all people living in Florence in 1427. These individuals have been associated, using the surnames, to their pseudo-descendants living in Florence in 2011. We find that earnings elasticity is about 0.04, much higher than that predicted by traditional models of intergenerational mobility. We also find evidence of strong real wealth inheritance. These findings are confirmed when we test the robustness of the pseudo-links and address the potential selectivity


> titled women married husbands 44 percentile ranks poorer in terms of family landholdings

0.66 * super rich is still super rich. I wouldn't go so far as to say "the rich stopped intermarrying", although the article explains how a very tiny oligarchy/aristocracy did stop intermarriage at some point.

It's also worth noting that the bourgeois balls the article mentions to reproduce class through marriage are still very much a thing, at least here in France the "rallies" as they're called are still taking place with the same function of producing quasi-arranged marriages to benefit one's family.

That's not how percentiles work. They could be almost exactly as rich for what we know, but given the context (extremely high wealth inequality) four deciles would likely imply many orders of magnitude in absolute wealth difference.

Right, in the U.K. today there’s a pretty massive difference between 99th %ile wealth and 55th %ile wealth. I don’t know what it looks like for landowners (similar I expect) but maybe in the 1860s most people were not landowners so the e.g. 20th %ile landowner owned more land than say 90% of landowners (people or e.g. farm LLCs/partnerships) do today.

If it happened in 2020 in the US, women in the 99th percentile overall (household net worth over $11 million) would be marrying men in the 55th percentile (99-44) and a net worth of $160,000. Roughly speaking. I'll split the difference with you if it's no big deal.

You're of course correct about the percentile v. percentage difference, but it's worth highlighting that the article is only talking about landed wealth, which presumably distinguished the old money from the nouveau riche. So a more analogous (if silly) modern equivalent might be to talk about percentile of net worth held in cryptocurrencies or meme stocks.

The drop in wealth isn't even close to linear... the pareto principle suggests the decline would follow a much steeper curve...

A percentile drop of that amount is likely 2-3 orders of magnitude smaller.

Probably not poor by any means... I don't see most of those girls being happy pairing up with anyone below upper middle class..

Equivalent of 50mm usd to 1mm

> she was much less likely to become the kind of terrifying matriarch so familiar to readers of PG Wodehouse

My favorite line.

In theory, how would a commoner marry into aristocracy? Asking for a friend.

They would enlist, go to war, and assume the identity of a fallen noble officer.

And thus the inspiration for the backstory in Mad Men ?

Here's a link to a (much) earlier version of the actual paper: http://pseweb.eu/ydepot/semin/texte1314/GON2014ASS.pdf

Offtopic, kind of sad that "publication" now means the opposite of publication, i.e. concealing something from the public behind a paywall.

I'm skeptical, correlation not being causation and all that, but nevertheless I think there's an optimistic message here. The social structure of the bourgeoisie is, in fact, fragile, and that can be used to our benefit.

We don't have to use guillotines if we can, with much less violence (ideally, none at all), destroy the upper class's ability to function as a class. It's not that I care either way for their lives on an individual level; but, as a student of history, I recognize the horrible downstream costs of even justified applications of violence. This is doubly true in the US, where it's the biggest assholes (the far right, many of whom openly fantasize about a bloody civil war) who are most prepared to go that way.

It will not take a whole lot to destroy the elite's ability to function as an elite, and once that is done, they are nothing but a deservingly disliked tiny minority that have lost the support on which they rely (both individually and collectively) in order to function. In practice, the efforts will probably not be entirely nonviolent (they will certainly be unlawful, and one must be prepared to return fire when fired upon) but the bloodshed can be kept to an absolute minimum so long as focus is kept where it belongs.

the thing you're missing is that Americans want elite private networks.

so there will always be universities, private clubs, and consolidation of media organizations that function solely due to their network of prior members and influence.

so even if the .01% are more effectively demonized, a surrogate of why they have ability to function as a class will persist.

unless you have a proposal for that too, it pretty much has nothing to do with "bloodshed or not"

You’re advocating class warfare because you’ve decided a particular class should not exist. Very generously you also decree that this should be done with a minimum of bloodshed.

How utterly cringeworthy.

So, you would prefer the job be done with a maximum of bloodshed?

Maybe you should ask us whether we think the job should be done at all.

The corporate system is running the world off a cliff. The standard of living is falling all over the world and, in much of it, has been for decades. Global warming threatens to destroy the ecosystem. Democracies are turning or have turned into corporate tyrannies. Everything is getting worse and that's by design--because it's getting better (at least, materially speaking) for the Davos psychopaths.

It's better to inconvenience (permanently, if they refuse to accept societal progress) a few thousand people up top now, and get it over with, then lose the entirety of human civilization.

So, you think the job should be done. That's cool, believe what you believe.

But your reply to FredPret presents a false dichotomy - that the only options are do it with little bloodshed, or do it with much. I was (trying to) point out the false dichotomy - FredPret doesn't have to want either of those choices, and in fact, most of us want neither of them.

And presenting people with a false dichotomy, as if those are the only options, is a bit of crummy rhetorical trick. We try to be better than that here.

And to you, specifically, I would say: Beware the fourth option. (First is change with little bloodshed, second is change with a lot of bloodshed, third is no attempt at change.) The fourth option is lots of bloodshed, but no real change (as in the French Revolution, where they swapped a king for the Directory, and then for the Emperor). Just going the bloodshed route doesn't guarantee that you win; if you do win, it doesn't guarantee that the change is progress. Don't be eager to open that door.

Now, in fairness, in your initial post you advocated nonviolent means of making it impossible for the elite to function as the elite. If you are going to try to get rid of them, I applaud your choice of starting point. But you seem far to willing to move to violence if non-violence doesn't get you where you want, and that concerns me.

The historical tendency is for the elite to use violence to preserve what they have, in which case it usually becomes necessary to fight back. However, if their will and morale can be corroded to such a point that they accept declining relevance peacefully, that's obviously the best for everyone.

You didn't stop being bourgeois when you embraced communism, buddy.

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