Happy Birthday Nancy


‘I never dreamt of such happiness. I had never any idea of what it would be like — Now I hardly think of anything else…Sydney will make just such another mother as I had so he ought to be a very happy little boy.’ David Mitford in a letter to his mother.

At 6 o’clock, on the evening of the 28th November 1904, the baby was born. With her thick black hair, pale skin and grey green eyes (once she opened them!) Farve immediately decided the child should be named Ruby. ‘The baby is splendid 91/2 lbs at birth and the prettiest little child you could see…Our happiness is great..’ he wrote to his mother, Lady Redesdale.

One week later Sydney was well enough to take an interest in the baby and decided that the name Ruby would have to go. David put up little protest and on January 26 1905, the baby was christened Nancy Freeman-Mitford.


Nancy was a spoilt little girl and through such indulges she became a temperamental toddler prone to violent rages. ‘Nancy bellowing in her pram all the way to the park; Nancy on a pony screaming to be put down,’ Selina Hastings wrote in her biography, Nancy Mitford. ‘The houses are smiling at me,’ Nancy would say, suddenly grinning at Sydney from her pram, having roared all the way from Graham Street to Belgrave Square.


Despite her characteristic tantrums, predictable to her nanny, Ninny and her exasperated parents, Nancy’s entire childhood was dismantled at the age of three when Ninny guided her to the nursery to gaze at the new baby, Pamela. ‘Oh, Ninny, I WISH you could love me! WHY don’t you love me any more?’ Nancy implored. Sydney found the pleas to be pitiful and she dismissed poor Ninny. Nancy discovered her knack for teasing, transferring her rage on to gentle, unsuspecting Pam. Through such nursery pranks and cruelties Nancy honed her skills for teasing.  And they would be refined through the years as Tom, Diana, Unity, Jessica and Deborah were introduced to the family.



2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Nancy

  1. how does one dismantle a childhood? also, indulge is a verb – i think you may have meant ‘indulgences,’ and the quote used to open the article clearly refers to Tom, the only son, rather than to Nancy. lastly, it is highly unlikely that Nancy’s eyes were any color other than blue ‘when she opened them’ as most all caucasian babies are blue-eyed until 6-18 months after birth no matter what their eventual color is.

    • Actually Nancy the opening quote was a letter written by David to his mother before Nancy was born, he was certain the child would be a boy. Also, when Sydney was pregnant with Diana she also thought the baby would be a boy and had chosen the name Paul. With both children only boys’ names had been selected and it took a while to think up suitable girls’ names.

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