Sep 7, 2007

The last of the Mitford girls

Interesting piece on Deborah Mitford, now the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, on the occasion of the publication of a book of letters the notorious Mitford sisters wrote to each other.

The Duchess known as Debo, was probably one of the least controversial of the Mitford girls. Her sister Unity used to stalk Hitler and shot herself in the head, and lived, when Britain declared war on Germany. Diana, one of the great beauties of the day, was also a chum of Hitler's. She married the reigning British fascist, Oswald Mosley, and was imprisoned for the duration of the war. Jessica, known as Decca, eloped, became a Communist and settled in America. Nancy, the novelist, wrote lightly fictionalized accounts of her family in The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate.

I had forgotten that Debo was still alive; the Mitford sisters seem to belong to another age. But at 86 Debo's still going strong. She's also an Elvis fan.
In the Dowager Duchess's downstairs lavatory there is a large poster of Elvis Presley gazing down from the shiny silver-papered wall. There are other bits of Elvis memorabilia dotted round the house, too - photographs, a roll of cloth with his image printed on it. Deborah may not have discovered Elvis until she was in her sixties, but once smitten there was no holding her back - another symptom, perhaps, of the Mitford sisters' tendency towards hero-worship.

'I turned on the telly one day and there was a programme about him. Suddenly, I saw genius - simple as that. I've been to Graceland twice, you know. Wonderful place; I can't recommend it highly enough.'

If she could choose to have tea with either Elvis or Hitler, which would it be? She looks at me in astonishment. 'Elvis, of course. What an extraordinary question.
Of course, she's already had tea with Hitler.

No comments: