Diana Mosley: Mitford Beauty, British Fascist, Hitler's Angel Hardcover – 1 Oct 2003
|New from||Used from|
Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
This biography could serve as a model of how the lives of such controversial figures should be chronicled. After researching thousands of sources and writing an engaging yet brutally honest account of her subject s life, de Courcy ultimately steps back and allows readers to draw their own conclusions. --Minneapolis Star Tribune"
A remarkable biography of the most winsome and loathsome of the Mitford girls. --W Magazine" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Anne de Courcy has written eleven books, including Diana Mosley: Mitford Beauty, British Fascist, Hitler's Angel; Debs at War; and The Viceroy's Daughters. She lives in London and Gloucestershire. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Diana Mosley was one of the fabled Mitford sisters, born to a minor, eccentric aristocrat and his equally well-born wife. Blessed with a perfect "face" and considered the beauty of her generation, she married early and well at the age of 18 to an heir to the Guinness fortune. She had two boys almost immediately and became a popular London society hostess of the early 1930's. At some point her path crossed Oswald Mosley's, the heir to a British baronetcy and the founder and leader of the British Fascist Movement, and that was that. Even though Mosley was married (happily too despite the infidelities) and had said he would never leave his wife, Diana left Guinness, his fortune and the good opinion of many including her family.
Soon after, Mosley's wife died and her family hated Diana for the rest of their mutually long lives (Diana died in august '03, Mosley's last sister-in-law in '95.)
Mosley then launched an affair with one of his sisters-in-law while simultaneously romancing Diana. Diana, perhaps to impress Mosley in the beginning, traveled to Germany on many occassions, attended Nuremberg rallies, and befriended Hitler. Her sister Unity Mitford, usually considered the "Mitford" sister most associated with Hitler, was obsessed with the fuhrer in a stalking, almost pathetic way. Diana, cooler, better looking, and far saner, enjoyed talking politics with him (eventually she did negotiate on behalf of the British fascists for a radio wave). Hitler reciprocated the friendship by arranging for her to marry Mosley in secret in Goebbels living room. He attended.
Well, she paid dearly for this friendship and her love for Mosley-she and MOsley were imprisoned during most of WWII, they were snubbed by many for years, they eventually lived out of the country-yet she never recanted her love for one and friendship for the other. Not after the reveleations of the Holocaust, not after her husband's numerous infidelities.
De Courcy does an excellent job of describing all aspects of Diana Mosley's life: not just her politics but her lifestyle, her intelligence, her reading, her friendships, her family. De Courcy admits in the beginning that she loved MOsley but saw her flaws...and she is critical, though at times could have been harder.
Perhaps the most damning section of the book: de Courcy inserts Diana Mosley's exchange with a Prison Advisory committee during her imprisonment. In it, she cooly responds to questions about her friendship with HItler, her dislike of Jews, her criticisms of her cousin Winston Churchill, her belief in fascism. The book ends with this chilling transcript--a fitting endnote to her life.
Diana was probably the most enigmatic of the six Mitford sisters, daughters of Lord and Lady Redesdale and thus members of the highest British social world. In my opinion she was less talented than her older sister Nancy (talented novelist, biographer, and wit) and her next to youngest sister Jessica (one time Communist, muckraker, and wit). She was ambitious to marry well like her baby sister Deborah (Duchess of Devonshire) and managed to wed two prominent men, one a wealthy future Lord, the other a baronet with what looked like a prominent political future. Unfortunately the sister she most resembles was Unity, a Nazi enthusiast and Hitler hanger on. (The other sister, Pam, was a lover of the countryside and rural life, neither of which had much appeal to Diana.)
Diana was an intelligent woman who was largely self educated. She made her first marriage at 18 to Bryan Guiness, who loved her for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, husbandly devotion and two sons were not enough for Diana, who fell in love with Sir Oswald Mosley in her early twenties. Mosley was a rising political star, having moved from the Conservatives to Labour to his own New Party to forming the British Union of Fascists in the early 1930s. De Courcy does a good job of describing Mosley's political appeal as a strong man who could be trusted to put things right (like Mussolini). In the Depression years he must have seemed an appealing alternative to politics as usual in Britain. Diana lived with Mosley and after the death of his first wife married him in Berlin, with Hitler as a wedding guest.
Here is the most enigmatic part of Diana's story. How could an intelligent, pleasant, vivacious woman fall so heavily for the Nazis? De Courcy tries to answer this in terms of Diana's attraction to strong men, but this doesn't seem to be the full story. Whatever the attraction, it was life long and survived every revelation of Hitler's true character after World War II. Diana and her husband Mosley were so committed to Hitler and Fascism that they suffered imprisonment during much of World War II as possible subversives, and were ostracized by much of polite society and the British political world for the rest of their lives.
None of this seemed to matter to Diana. She remained at Mosley's side through what must have been several of his extra-marital affairs (the word that seems to best sum up Oswald Mosley is "cad") and dominated a large family of children and step children and other descendants. She carried grudges with a vengeance, not speaking to her sister Jessica for years (Jessica had no use for her, either) and lambasting her step son for not sufficiently praising his father's memory in a biography. At the same time she was evidently charming, witty, and a delight to be around right up to her death in August 2003. She remains enigmatic but highly entertaining.
It is not that de Courcy did not try to discover what lay behind Diana Mosley's repellant beliefs. On the contrary, I believe that de Courcy did perhaps as well as anyone could have done to lay bare Diana Mitford-Guiness-Mosley's psyche. Many writers, when given unfettered access to a subject end up writing hagiographies. Anne de Courcy, on the other hand, has written an objective, clear-eyed account of Diana Mosley and her milieu.
The author did an admirable job of describing the early Mitford household; the parents, sisters and other people who touched their lives are described in more than sufficient detail to lay the historical and psychological ground work for an understanding of the Mitfords' ensuing years. It was apparent that Diana was destined to lead an interesting life owing to her singular beauty and vivacious personality. She attracted the intellectual and wealthy elite like a magnet. The path that she chose for herself was indeed interesting, but often very uncomfortable. One small example of her interesting life is the fact that she was the last person alive to have personally known both Hitler and Winston Churchill. Most uncomfortable would have been her imprisonment and fractured family and personal relationships owing to her political and personal beliefs.
De Courcy spends a fair amount of time describing the life and times of Diana's second husband, Oswald Mosley, and the British Fascist movement. Many early Fascists during the time of Mussolini's rise in Italy began their political lives as Labour supporters. When the Depression came and Fascism promised a better life for the average worker, many working class people joined Fascist organizations, such as the British Union. It seems incredible from a modern perspective that Leftists could suddenly do a flip to become Rightists, but that is indeed what happened to many political activists, including Mosely and to Diana Guinness, who was already under Mosley's control at the time.
It was both fascinating and appalling to read about Diana Guinness falling under the influence of the charismatic Oswald Mosley, and her life-long dedication to Mosley and Fascist ideals. Both were charismatic people whose talents could have been put to far better use. Diana Mosley could have been the predecessor to another Diana, Diana Spencer, had she followed a different path. Instead, she is probably regarded as an unfortunate historical curiosity, much like her friends, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
As someone who is frankly more interested in the history of Fascism than in biographies of British wealthy elite, I found this book fascinating. I especially recommend this book to Americans who may not have heard of the Mitfords or the Mosleys before. The photographs alone are worth the price of admission.