‘Wonderful … a magnificently skillful biography of this trio of sexy sisters and the politically turbulent context of their lives. Renton demonstrates her scholarship with butterfly-winged elegance as she tells the story of a generation of Imperialist Victorians Suffused with privilege, power, money and sex that eventually ended in tragedy’ Evening Standard
‘Renton never loses sight of the bigger historical picture. She sets the sisters’ fabulously privileged and sometimes troubled lives against the convulsions of home and international politics through which they lived. The result is an impeccably researched, beautifully written and compellingly readable biography’ Daily Mail
‘Magnificent … [It] has the wisdom, excitement and psychological depth of a very good novel. She succeeds in combining the novelist’s art with the historian’s craft, laying the sources and workings before us. The beauty and romance are captured unforgettably’ Observer
‘Impeccably rehearsed and researched … a serious, spellbinding chronicle of the last days of Edwardian England’ The Times
‘A magnificently skilful biography…based on scrupulous research and enriched by hundreds of deliciously indiscreet, charmingly frank, pre-Mitfordian letters… Renton demonstrates her scholarship with butterfly winged elegance … [a] wonderful book’ Evening Standard
‘This elegantly written tableau of a book is much more than a group biography; it is an elegiac account of the horrors of the First World War from a female perspective. Renton is excellent at setting personal events within their larger political or social context’ Literary Review
‘A lucid and superbly researched book’ Spectator
‘Hilarious, heartbreaking and completely absorbing, Renton has captured the last rays of light of a gilded family of remarkable women’ Amanda Foreman
‘Readers who enjoyed reading about the Mitfords and Stella Tillyard's ‘Aristocrats’ will relish Renton's elegant book. [An] enthralling period portrait’ Daily Express
From the Back Cover
Mary, Madeline and Pamela – the three Wyndham sisters – were painted by John Singer Sergeant in 1899. For The Times it was ‘the greatest picture of modern times’. These beautiful, rich fin de siècle women clad in white came to epitomize a vanishing world: the leisured, gilded, existence of the late Victorian aristocracy that was to be dealt a deathblow by the First World War. Yet the lives of the Wyndham sisters were far more turbulent than their air of calm suggests. Brought up in artistic and liberal circles, their childhood was freedom-loving and filled with medieval fantasies. Their parents were intimate friends with the Pre-Raphaelites, and the sisters, with Mary as a leader, became involved in ‘the Souls’ – an accidental grouping of brilliant, sincere and loyal friends with liberated morals and shocking beliefs about sexual equality. Bowing to convention, all three made excellent marriages, but only one was happy. All found emotional support from others – Mary with Arthur Balfour and the poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt; Pamela with the Liberal statesman and ornithologist Edward Grey.
Their first ever biography, Those Wild Wyndhams charts these enchanting and markedly different lives until the First World War brought devastation to their milieu. For readers of Amanda Foreman’s Georgiana and Stella Tillyard’s Aristocrats, this brilliant debut by Claudia Renton is an unforgettable historical and political biography that captures a family and its dwindling age.