Fans of Downton Abbey won’t have trouble with the main plot of Crimson Peak — impoverished English nobleman goes to America in search of an heiress whose fortune can save the family home and estate, Allerdale Hall.
Historically, it was quite a trend during the late 1800s to the first quarter or so of the 1900s. Modern life no longer granted massive financial privileges to titled noblemen and American nouveau riche families were only too willing to marry off their daughters — The American Dollar Princesses — to these impoverished European lords to gain stature and, to their mind, respectability.
Such is the backstory of Downton Abbey — Lord Grantham resolved his financial problems by marrying American heiress Cora and her dowry saved Downton Abbey, the family estate. The good news is that Lord Grantham and his bride did fall in love and they enjoyed a happy married life.
But, for Allerdale Hall owner, the baronet Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), marrying an American heiress did not mean living with her as husband and wife until the end of their natural lives. His intention was to marry Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), his chosen heiress, get her to sign over her money and then kill her. His heart, after all, already belonged to another — Lucille (Jessica Chastain), his sister. In his campaign to win his heiress, he asked Lucille for the ring on her finger to put on Edith’s.
Thomas: “I’m going to need the ring.”
Lucille: “The ring is mine. I earned it. I will want it back.”
Thomas: “Then you better hope I’m successful. This is the last thing we have to sell.”
Lucille: “You are not selling it; we are buying something with it.”
And the ring found its way on Edith’s finger.
Later, much later, at Allerdale Hall, after Edith discovered the other rich wives — both dead — and the true nature of the relationship between the siblings, Lucille would snatch that ring off Edith’s finger before pushing her over the balcony railing.
Was the ring especially designed for the film? Was it loaned to the production by an antique jeweler?
In an interview given by Crimson Peak director Guillermo del Toro, a casual reference to the ring might be a clue. Talking about the painting of Thomas’ and Lucille’s mother wearing the ring and a brooch that Lucille almost always had on, he said:
The cameo on her neck is the cameo that was my grandmothers (laughs), and it is the cameo that is on The Devil’s Backbone on the character of Marissa Paredes and it is the cameo that Jessica wears. The ring on her finger, the ring that Thomas gives Mia as an engangement ring…
The ring might be Del Toro’s grandmother’s. Or, maybe not.