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Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Mitford Mystery



Throughout my life, the name Nancy Mitford has cropped up from time to time. I knew roughly who she was, but her books are extremely difficult to find. I knew she wrote 'Love in a Cold Climate' but I've never seen it in a book shop or even in the library.
As you may know, we live quite near Chatsworth House, a beautiful stately home in Derbyshire, that has always been open to the public, and we are both fond of Deborah Devonshire, who is now the Dowager Duchess.
We went to Chatsworth in May, as I love the gift shop, and we hadn't been there for quite a while. A lot of the shop had been rearranged, and in one section on the wall, was a picture of six women, with the title of 'The Mitford Girls' above it. I thought, 'Why are you telling me this?' On further inspection, it turns out that Deborah Devonshire was Deborah Mitford, the youngest of the Mitford girls. I was astounded - when did this get out? Nobody tells me anything!
So imagine my delight when a couple of months later I came across the book, 'The Mitford Girls' by Mary S. Lovell. What a revelation. The six sisters were Nancy, Pam, Diana, Unity Jessica, and Deborah. There was a brother called Tom, too. They led such incredible lives. Nancy was obviously an author, but Unity became an ardent fascist and was a good friend of Hitler's. It was even rumoured that they would marry. Diana was a fascist too, and married Oswald Mosley, which was a total scandal at the time. (And their son is Max Mosley, of F1 motor racing fame). Oswald Mosley was arrested during the war for his fascist activities, but Nancy said, "It's really Diana you want, she's involved in it too," so they arrested Diana and put her in Holloway. Imagine doing that to your own sister, especially as her children were so young at the time.
Jessica (Decca) was strongly into Communism. And poor old Deborah, stuck on the end, said that when she grew up she was going to marry a Duke, and she did.
They are also selling 'Love in a Cold Climate' at Chatsworth, so I have asked Mr O to buy it for me as a Christmas present, which will be wonderful.
I have Deborah Devonshire's book, 'Counting My Chickens' and have read it again very recently. In it she refers to 'my sister Nancy' but I never knew who she was talking about. I have read it with fresh eyes, as you can imagine.
So I am embarking on a project over the winter to find out as much as I can about the family, and all the things going on at the time. On a recent visit to the library I found my old 'A' Level History course book and bought it for 50p. It's called, 'The World Since 1900' so obviously it covers all this time period, and is quite fascinating. There should be lots of Kruschev and Kennedy, and hopefully even a bit of Peron, so I am sticking with it. I suppose if you like history, you like history, don't you?

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