In HBO’s ‘The Gilded Age,’ George and Bertha Russell are portrayed as an ambitious couple who are ready to do whatever it takes to get what they want. George is more concerned with the business and making sure that his wife and children have whatever they want. Bertha, on the other hand, is completely focused on getting their family into the elite social circles and improving their standing in society. They often have clear lines drawn between their work, and they often don’t involve their children in it either. But that changes when Bertha Russell makes a deal with the Duke, which involves her daughter, Gladys. SPOILERS AHEAD
Gladys Might Clash With Her Mother About the Duke in Season 3
The second season of ‘The Gilded Age’ focuses on the opera war between Mrs. Russell and Mrs. Astor. The Duke of Buckingham becomes the focal point of this war as both parties try to win him over to their side, knowing that he will draw the crowd wherever he goes. Mrs. Astor offers the Duke her connections and an easy entry into the elite “old money” society. Mrs. Russell cannot offer this, so she offers him something better: Gladys.
From Season 1, Mrs. Russell had made it clear that having her daughter marry well is one of her top priorities. She bides her time to introduce Gladys into society and then meddles whenever some young man tries to get close to her. In Season 1, Gladys got close to Archie Baldwin, and when Bertha realised that things might go further between them, she asked George to intervene, and he scared Archie away. In Season 2 as well, Gladys develops a friendship with a man her age, but Bertha shuts them down at every turn, proving that she has some other plans for her daughter.
When the Duke of Buckingham arrives in New York, Mrs. Russell immediately puts a clever plan in motion. She sets her eyes on the Duke, desiring his friendship as it might elevate her status in society. But then, when it seems like Mrs. Astor might steal him, Mrs. Russell realizes that Gladys might be the key to lock him down. Moreover, would it really be so bad for Gladys if she married a duke? Wouldn’t it actually benefit her?
It would have been great if Gladys liked the Duke that way, but she clearly doesn’t seem interested in him at all. So, when she finds out about the deal her mother has made, she will surely resist it. If she cannot marry a guy without her parents’ approval, she won’t get married to someone she doesn’t like either. By now, she has made it clear that she can stand her ground. She is a Russell, after all!
Another thing that confirms that Gladys and the Duke don’t have a future together is George’s love for his daughter. When he scares away Archie Baldwin, he promises Gladys that the day she comes to him about a boy she’s actually in love with, he will support her marriage wholeheartedly, no matter what the boy’s financial situation. The only criterion for him is his daughter’s happiness, and he knows it isn’t with the Duke.
Moreover, while Bertha might be obsessed with her place in society, George doesn’t necessarily care for it. The only reason he intervenes is because he wants his wife to be happy, and if bringing people like Mrs. Astor to their knees is what it takes, he is ready to do it. However, he will not do it at the cost of his daughter’s happiness. Time and again, he has shown that while he indulges Bertha’s ambitions, there is a limit to what he can support. When she asks him to buy the Duke, he vehemently refuses because he doesn’t think it’s necessary. If George didn’t bother spending a penny on the Duke, why would he agree to let him have his daughter?
While considering all this, another thing that must be kept in mind is that we don’t yet know the details of Bertha’s deal with the Duke. Perhaps she just offered him more time with Gladys, expanding his window of opportunity to woo the young girl by himself. If he does so, great; if not, then he’ll have to back down. Perhaps Bertha found a way to offer Gladys to the Duke without actually doing it. In fact, she does love her daughter, and no matter her ambitions, it seems crude on her part to trade Gladys like this. Whatever the deal may have been, it’s clear that Gladys will not be ending up with the Duke, though the third season will most certainly focus on their relationship, no matter how it might turn out.
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