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The Viceroy’s Daughters – Anne De Courcy

I went to a talk on ‘The Mitfords’ by Susannah Fullerton (President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia) and she recommended this book.

Based on unpublished letters and diaries, “The Viceroy’s Daughters” is a riveting portrait of three spirited and wilful women who were born at the height of British upper-class wealth and privilege.

The oldest, Irene, never married but pursued her passion for foxes, alcohol, and married men. The middle, Cimmie, was a Labour Party activist turned Fascist. And Baba, the youngest and most beautiful, possessed an appetite for adultery that was as dangerous as it was outrageous.

As the sisters dance, dine, and romance their way through England’s most hallowed halls, we get an intimate look at a country clinging to its history in the midst of war and rapid change. We obtain fresh perspectives on such personalities as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Oswald Mosley, Nancy Astor and the Cliveden Set, and Lord Halifax. And we discover a world of women, impeccably bred and unabashedly wilful, whose passion and spirit were endlessly fascinating.

This book was great – well researched and full of interesting social detail. These women lead fascinating (and salacious) lives. They seemed to know everyone in the public eye, e.g. Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson, Winston Churchill, Oswald Mosley (one of them married him, another one slept with him and the third one had an affair with him!), Nancy Astor and Lord Halifax (the foreign secretary during Word War Two). It was a time of excess in all things, which, of course, makes for fascinating reading. I found the bits about the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward V111) compelling – he was so self-centred and self-serving. It’s not just about people behaving badly though – these women supported many charities (Baba was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her work with the Save The Children Fund).

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