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Sheila: The Australian ingenue who bewitched British society [Hardcover]

Robert Wainwright
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Feb 2014
Vivacious, confident and striking, young Australian Sheila Chisholm met her first husband, Lord Loughborough, in Egypt during the First World War. Arriving in London as a young married woman, she quickly conquered English society, and would spend the next half a century inside the palaces, mansions and clubs of the elite. Her clandestine affair with young Bertie, the future George VI, caused ruptures at Buckingham Palace, with King George offering his son the title Duke of York in exchange for never hearing of Sheila again.

She subsequently became Lady Milbanke, one of London's most admired fashion icons and society fundraisers and ended her days as Princess Dimitri of Russia, juggling her royal duties with a successful career as a travel agent. Throughout her remarkable life, Sheila won the hearts of men ranging from Rudolph Valentino and Vincent Astor to Prince Obolensky, and maintained longstanding friendships with Evelyn Waugh, Noel Coward, Idina Sackville and Nancy Mitford.

A story unknown to most, Sheila is a spellbinding account of an utterly fascinating woman.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin (6 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1743316828
  • ISBN-13: 978-1743316825
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 275,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


As social history Sheila Chisholm's life is fascinating... it's undeniably enjoyable to read of all that glitter and gold. --Selina Hastings, Spectator

A marvellously entertaining story that at times resembles a glossy television period drama. --Daily Express

A sensational look at how a country girl became a city socialite... a rip-roaring biography. --Marie Claire

The charm of Wainwright's biography is that he makes us see what an engaging, admirable and sometimes heroic quality it is to be a life-enhancer like Sheila. --Jane Shilling, Daily Mail

A seductively antipodean Auntie Mame. --The Times

About the Author

Robert Wainwright has worked as a journalist for thirty years and is the author of five books. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another world, but what to say about this book? 12 Sep 2014
By Grahame
Sheila, what to say? This takes you into a world of great privilege via British and international aristocracy, royalty, Hollywood film stars, noted writers and artists, all set in the international five star locations of grand country houses, luxury apartments and hotels, hosting grand hunting parties and balls and also glamorous charity events.

But what of Shelia herself? A woman from a good Australian family who appeared to enchant everyone who came into contact with her by her grace, charm and great beauty. This is a fascinating look into the early part of the 20th century and how the very rich lived. It takes you through two world wars and you see that Sheila experienced both great happiness and incredible sadness.

The author Richard Wainwright has clearly done a great deal of research to write this biography and all credit to him for his great efforts. However, by the end of this book, I still didn't really know Sheila. For me the book lacks the depth needed for a biography.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Sheila 14 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Sheila was obviously a great charmer and had a fascinating life. I congratulate Wainwright on unearthing her. Now however she deserves a better biography Wainright has scant knowledge of British families and titles and the book is full of glaring errors and fawning verbiage. Where was the editor? Such a shame. Let's hope this book spurs someone else to look at Sheila's life.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheila 15 April 2014
By lai
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Another most enjoyable read. This period of the late 19th and early 20th century is most interesting. I wish there was more about her life with her third husband which would have been a fitting end to this book.
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By Claire
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A well written memoir with very detailed events. The people involved in the book were well described. It is worth to spend the time to read and digest the content.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 18 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Most interesting insight into London Society in the inter war period
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mesmerising read. 28 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this whilst travelling across Australia.The references to the smells and sights in Oz were just spot on. I found the book fascinating and a treasure to read about such a wonderful woman.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
After all the hype this book has received, I was rather disappointed in it. The story of Sheila Chisholm, the Australian girl who married into the British aristocracy and became intimate with many famous people, including royalty, has a great deal of intrinsic interest. I suppose I therefore expected more of her personality and character to emerge -- but as the author points out, Sheila was discreet in her unpublished memoir, and probably there aren't enough other original sources to give us more of her "voice". The book is excellent at telling us where and when Sheila did what, and due credit is given to her wartime nursing and other charitable work. Many of the socialites she knew are familiar from other books, so this one doesn't cover much new ground. The author seems unsure of whether Sheila actually had a love affair with Prince Albert (later George VI) or not, but there is almost certainly no evidence either way. Overall, I found the book rather superficial, a list of fabulous social events and prominent people. I was interested, but wanted more depth, but I suspect there just weren't enough sources available. As Sheila withdrew somewhat from social life, the book loses impetus and rather fizzles out. One niggle was that the author often gets titles wrong -- "Viscount of Norwich", "Lady Sheila Loughborough" instead of "Sheila, Lady Loughborough", "Lady Diana Mosley" for "Lady Mosley" (and this in reference to an event before Diana Guinness married Sir Oswald Mosley.) Small things, but important in a book about titled people. So -- an interesting enough book, but without much depth. At least it makes a change to read about an Australian rather than an America marrying into British high society.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Australian socialite 18 Aug 2014
By Caz
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Interesting insight into social life during 20's and 30's
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