Daughter of Empire: The Fascinating Tale of the Mountbatten Family
Pamela Mountbatten Hicks. Her early life
Did I really want to read the memoirs of an aristocratic English lady? I wasn't sure. Did I really want to know about that privileged life and upbringing - so very different to my own? Again, I wasn't really sure but I'm so glad I did.
She is the youngest daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten. Even those who know little about British history may be aware that he was a largely much-loved Briton who was murdered by the IRA in 1979. (The book does not cover that period in history.)
But as she was born in 1929, she has lived through the turbulent twentieth century and the story in this book (which goes through until the early part of Queen Elizabeth's reign) is a captivating account of a time which, although really not too long ago, was like another world.
I was hooked on the first page but completely entrapped within just a few pages when Pamela's Grandmama appeared on page nineteen. I was delighted by the eccentricities of superb personality of this older lady. Then, later in the book, I realised that Grandmama was Princess Victoria of Hesse, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
These surprises keep cropping up.
Intrigue and scandal too (of course)
Lady Pamela writes about her early years in a completely natural, non-snooty and non-name-dropping way but we learn:
- That before Grace Kelly met Prince Rainier of Monaco, she had Pamela's father's photo as her pin up
- 'Cousin Philip'? We know him better these days as Prince Philip,the Duke of Edinburgh
- How Pamela's Spanish godmother ran off with a bullfighter,never to be seen again
- That Pamela was lady-in-waiting to Princess Elizabeth during the commonwealth tour - and therefore with her when she found out that her father had died and that she had become queen
- How there is conjecture that Pamela's mother was embroiled in an affair with Nehru
- About Pamela's first-hand account of the royal wedding - when Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip of Greece
- About her parents' friends, people such as Douglas Fairbanks, Noel Coward and other familiar names
- How Grandmama cut down on smoking simply by cutting her cigarettes in half, how she had encyclopedic knowledge of naval regulations and how she routinely used a bay leaf as a bookmark
And, much to my delight:
- How her mother's lover and her father's mistress were an important part of family life and how - in the light of this - the family stayed together
I mean, truly, this book is a wonderful blend of travel, royalty, amazing characters and fascinating stories and reminiscences.
It's interesting that people like Pamela were brought up in privileged backgrounds. But that meant something very different in those days.
Pamela, both in her book and in the video below, is extremely down to earth. I recommend this book highly - it's a fascinating story.
The Case of the Russell Baby. This is also a story about an aristocratic British family and the scandal that rocked the country.
Anthony Russell, also born to an aristocratic family has his own tales to tell and they, in common with Lady Pamela Hicks, have a 'grandmother' theme. Anthony had two but it was his paternal grandmother, Grannie A as she was known, who had been part of a major scandal in the 1920s.
As a young married woman, she became pregnant and yet insisted that the marriage had not been consummated. Her doctors agreed. Despite the fact that she gave birth to a healthy baby after the scandalous divorce case, the doctors - in court and under oath - confirmed that she was a virgin. That's just one story in this fascinating book.
Did Nehru and Lady Edwina Mountbatten have an affair?
Pamela does not believe that her mother had an affair with Nehru although she willingly admits that there was great deal of love between the two of them. She says that Nehru, who was also a good friend of her father's, was far too honourable a man to take advantage of the wife of a close friend.
There is, of course, an elderly lady's wish to maintain her mother's reputation but did that really matter in those days and in those circles? Does it matter now?
It's interesting to watch the video though. The interviewer is determined to catch her out and discover that the relationship was physical but Pamela won't have it. I do love these strong, aristocratic, elderly British ladies,