The Astonishing Mitfords (Part 1 of 2)*

Nancy m

Nancy Mitford (b. 1904)

Nancy Mitford’s hilarious novels had her friends in stitches and her family in constant embarrassment. The smart set of the 1920s—called the Bright Young Things—roared over the adventures of a quirky English family living in the country who were easily recognized as the Mitfords themselves. Everything from the time their father transported a pony in a cab to the fact that their parents allowed  daughter Unity to eat nothing but mashed potatoes for two years found their way into Nancy’s writing or conversations.

Her gossip about her six siblings was worth hearing.


  Pamela Mitford.  Her sister Pamela (b. 1907) had an affair with brilliant physicist, horseman, millionaire Derek Ainslie Jackson.


 Tom Mitford.   Her brother Tom (b. 1909), a handsome ladies’ man, skated with Olympic skater Sonja Henie and charmed the journalist Sheilah Graham (later the lover of F. Scott Fitzgerald).


 Diana Mitford.  But beginning with her swipes at sister Diana (b. 1910), Nancy’s comments on her remaining sisters became acid. Diana, considered the most beautiful woman in England of her time, was at the heart of English aristocracy when she married beer heir Bryan Guinness.  In a few years, though, she shocked that same society by becoming the lover of fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley.  Shock piled upon shock.  When Moseley’s wife died of peritonitis, Diana and Mosley married in Germany–with Hitler as a guest. Upon their return to England, Nancy wrote a secret letter to the British government and—partly because of this letter– the Mosleys were imprisoned for most of World War II.  Diana never knew of this letter until after Nancy’s death.

Next time:  “’Whenever I see the words “Peer’s Daughter” in a headline…I know it’s going to be something about one of you children’”

*Apologies for the recent lapse in blogs, but I just finished my book about English aristocrats and their great houses which I will be publishing later this year. Look for Flight of the English Gods:  Great Houses, Churchills and Mitfords!

Primary Source:  Lovell, Mary S.  The Sisters:  The Saga of the Mitford Family.  New York:

                                                  W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001: 31, 61, 131, 144, 214, 215.

Photo credits:  Portraits are from open sources. Pub photo of the tea room owned by the youngest Mitford sibling (Deborah) is by Nancy Parrish

9 thoughts on “The Astonishing Mitfords (Part 1 of 2)*”

  1. I once ate nothing but yogurt for two months — but being allowed to eat “nothing but mashed potatoes for TWO YEARS”?! What a wonderful nugget of British eccentricity. Thank you! Keep ’em coming…


  2. I will be first in line for my copies of the book. These blogs keep me laughing, learning, and loving all the details of life in the Mitford era.

    Sent from my iPhone



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