I’m sometimes bored by people, but never by life
The Mitford sisters scandalised British society in the 1920s and 1930s.
Diana, beautiful but misguided, married British fascist leader Oswald Mosley. Her sister Unity flirted with fascism too, tragically shooting herself on the day Britain declared war on Germany in 1939 while another sister Jessica ran off with a second cousin while still a teenager to support the anti-fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War.
Nancy, the oldest sister, was perhaps the most talented of them all drawing inspiration from her eccentric and in some ways tragic family, for her two most famous novels Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love.
Sadly, the pursuit of love in Nancy’s own life was less than happy. After her own unhappy marriage failed, she spent many years in an affair with a French army officer only to be left heartbroken when he unexpectedly married someone else.
Fiercely intelligent and with a sparkling wit, Nancy had pleaded for a more formal education beyond the bounds of the schoolroom where she and her sisters were taught, in the rambling family home. She was granted one year at boarding school, before leaving to eke out a meagre allowance granted by her aristocrat father by writing sparkling gossip columns in society magazines.
Nancy published eight novels and four acclaimed historical biographies, coining the phrases U and Non-U in Noblesse Oblige which cast an amused and satirical eye upon the ways of the aristocracy, snobbery and English customs.
“If one can’t be happy,” she once said, “then one must be amused.”