Churchill & The Mitfords: An Excerpt by Thomas Maier


WHEN LIONS ROAR: The Churchills and the Kennedys by author Thomas Maier makes several references to the Mitfords in recounting the history between these two famous political dynasties. Here is a short excerpt:

By 1938, Winston Churchill realized that Hitler’s charismatic brand of evil had infected not only naïve Americans like Charles Lindbergh but also many Britons, including some in his own family.

During this time, Winston implored his daughter Sarah Churchill to visit Paris instead of Munich because, as she later recalled, he worried that his impressionable daughter “might be swept up in the enthusiasm of Fascism, which is what happened to my cousin, Unity Mitford”.

Unity was one of the well-known Mitfords (cousins on Clementine Churchill’s side of the family), who frequently visited Chartwell in the 1920s. While growing up, Randolph felt “very much in love” with Diana Mitford, another of six remarkable sisters in the family. He also counted their brother, Tom Mitford, as his “greatest friend”, one who became part of Randolph’s crowd of friends at Oxford.

The Mitford girls tended toward the radical end of politics, either communism or right-wing fascist causes, and generally disapproved of Winston’s brand of Tory politics. By the mid-1930s, the pro-Nazi sentiments of Unity Mitford, the fourth-oldest of the six sisters, particularly rankled Winston. During a trip to Germany, Unity became obsessed with Adolf Hitler, and the German leader used his bizarre relationship with this mixed-up young woman for his own twisted purposes.

After the Nazis invaded Austria in March 1938, Unity told Winston how “everyone looked happy & full of hope for the future” in that conquered nation. This misguided relative, blind to the hateful frenzy of the Nazi movement, appalled Winston. “A large majority of the people of Austria loathes the idea of coming under Nazi rule,” he corrected her. “It was because Herr Hitler feared the free expression of opinion that we are compelled to witness the present dastardly outrage.”

The Kennedys became aware of Unity’s dalliance with Hitler primarily through the friendship of Kick and her older brothers with the youngest Mitford sister, Deborah. (However, “Debo”, as her friends called her, didn’t share the extreme politics of her older sister.) During a tour of Germany in August 1939, Joe Kennedy Jr. bumped into Unity in Munich. “Unity Mitford is one of the most unusual women I have ever met,” he wrote back to his father. “She is the most fervent Nazi imaginable and is probably in love with Hitler.”

Eventually, despondent over her beloved Führer, Unity shot herself in the head, a botched suicide attempt that left her impaired for years until she died of infection. But in September 1938, when most British officials wanted to avoid conflict with Germany at almost any cost, Winston believed Unity Mitford was just a more virulent example of the growing number willing to appease Hitler. That same month, Churchill condemned Chamberlain for agreeing with Hitler to a peace pact at Munich, calling it a “disaster of the first magnitude”. The agreement soon opened the door for the Nazis to run roughshod over Czechoslovakia, and left them hungering for more lands to conquer. “We have sustained a defeat without a war,” Churchill thundered in Parliament, “the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road.”


Nancy Mitford: A Celebration by Eleanor Doughty


An Extract from The Mitford Society Vol. II

Friday 28th of November 2014 would have been Nancy Mitford’s one-hundred-and-tenth birthday. She has been enchanting the world for more than a century. While she might have described her early childhood as being “shrouded in a thick mist”, thanks to her own pen it has been immortalised and is now kept in libraries.

Almost no one nice, tastes allowing, does not carry at least one Mitford novel on the most well worn shelf of their bookcase. My thesis on Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies was inspired by forms of autobiography in Nancy Mitford’s two most famous novels, The Pursuit of Love (1945) and Love in a Cold Climate (1949). As such, I spent a blissful summer reading every word she had published, in preparation. In doing so, it quickly became apparent that this was preparation for not just a long essay – what now seems a pointless piece of prose – but preparation for just getting on with things. For the novels are learning manuscripts, too. Within the novels come portions of life advice, dressed up to amuse. A Talent to Annoy, the Charlotte Mosley-edited collection of Nancy’s journalism, is a most appropriately chosen title, for at all times, she is provoking a reaction.

The modern age thoroughly ill prepares one for many events, yet lessons for life are found most riotously in Nancy’s novels. Her world, viewed with a piercing stare, might be ridiculous but it is elegant. The now-famous closing line of The Pursuit of Love says it all. The narrator, Fanny, is describing her cousin Linda to her mother, The Bolter. Fabrice, Fanny explains, was “the great love of her life, you know”. (Nancy attaches the crucial “you know” to remind us of that quality self-assurance that runs in the Mitford veins.) The Bolter: “Oh, dulling,” said my mother sadly. “One always thinks that. Every, every time.” In one fell swoop, Nancy eliminates love-affairs from the equation. Perspective shines through. It is an oft-quoted passage, and is, I hope, used by best friends and mothers in times of need. It never dates.

The writer Andrew O’Hagan identifies Nancy’s style as belonging to the “posh aesthetic”. The novels are consciously privileged – it is unmistakable. This quality, O’Hagan claims, “Appeals to readers who want life’s profundities to scatter on the wind like handfuls of confetti.”

To-be readers in bookshops – that is, those that have not been kindly gifted a Mitford novel by a discerning friend or relative – might baulk at the prospect of one of Nancy’s novels. A series of books that consciously prod the upper echelons of society? In this climate? No thank you. Looking past this, the joy of the novels is found in the blinding, piercing satire – in the mocking of her sisters, friends and extended family.

As with all things literary, context will prevail. The “posh aesthetic” has a lot to answer for. O’Hagan claims that for Nancy “everyone is impersonatable”, which they are. She makes it her business to mortify her sisters in Wigs on the Green, satirizing without limit Diana’s second husband Sir Oswald Mosley. In June 1935, writing to Diana, she puts up a defence: “it would be absurd to suppose that anyone who was intellectually or emotionally convinced of the truths of Fascism could be influenced against the movement by such a book.”

Nancy Mitford’s prose was built to surpass the world’s hideous nature with comic tolerance. Her teasing forms alliances that lessen the pain and suffering, from which she was not exempt. To shriek – as the Mitford girls did – was to usurp sadness. It is “so much more stylish to laugh at death,” Andrew O’Hagan claims, encapsulating the appeal. Nancy’s protagonist Linda Radlett in The Pursuit of Love dies on the penultimate page of the book. It is dealt with economically, and moved on from. “It killed her” is sufficient. A parallel is found in Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, published in 1930. Simon Balcairn, gossip columnist and wet-blanket aristo, commits suicide. Waugh writes matter-of-factly of this event: “but soon he fell into a coma and presently died”. The next paragraph notes a family resemblance in death, before the chapter ends. In the next, a new gossip columnist is appointed. Life goes on.

In 1932, aged twenty-eight, Nancy sat down to pen her second novel, Christmas Pudding. Wise beyond her years, on life, love and its necessary accoutrements, she presents her thesis on the world’s woes. Imagine, if you will, this read in her voice:

“The trouble is that people seem to expect happiness in life. I can’t imagine why; but they do. They are unhappy before they marry, and they imagine to themselves that the reason of their unhappiness will be removed when they are married. When it isn’t they blame the other person, which is clearly absurd. I believe that is what generally starts the trouble.”

The solution to this goes unmentioned, but we mustn’t be ungrateful. Nancy Mitford’s talents were not limited to the telling of dangerously close-to-home truths. Too often one searches in vain for just the right way of putting it, and more often than not it is found inside a Nancy novel. She nails emotion through her own experience, limited though some may claim it was. She had when writing, no qualifications – no literary agenda. She just wrote.

“She was filled with a strange, wild, unfamiliar happiness, and knew that this was love. Twice in her life she had mistaken something else for it; it was like seeing somebody in the street who you think is a friend, you whistle and wave and run after him, but it is only not the friend, but not even very like him. A few minutes later the real friend appears in view, and then you can’t imagine how you ever mistook that other person for him.’

It is only right to thank the eldest Mitford sister, Nancy, born 24th of November 1904, for all that she has given to bookshelves worldwide.

Oh, and happy birthday.

Nancy Mitford, 24th November 1904 – 30th June 1973

Eleanor Doughty is a freelance writer whose work can be found most often in the Daily Telegraph. She has been described as “an absolute scream” but admits this might be open to interpretation.

Memories of Debo by Barbara Leaming

New York Times bestselling author Barbara Leaming talks to The Mitford Society about the special friendship she shared with Debo. Her memories are as follows…

If you are very, very lucky, someone comes into your life out of nowhere and changes everything. Debo Devonshire did that for me. I certainly didn’t deserve her—no one could deserve someone quite that wonderful. Actually it was Andrew Devonshire who first invited me to Chatsworth and it was Andrew who gave me the first incredible gifts I was to receive—and the greatest of those gifts was Debo. I shall always remember Debo that first night: that night she was performing for Andrew as well as for me. Sixty years into their marriage, Andrew was a rapt audience. It was not difficult to see why—though to me, during that first dinner at least, Debo was very scary. That night, it was Andrew who was the gentle one, Debo the one with whom I was sure I could never dare relax. But it changed—not least because that first night I realized that one of Debo’s greatest qualities was that she was interested in everything, really everything. She wanted details; she wanted to know how things worked; she wanted to know EXACTLY what you meant when you said something—and not an iota of that interest was faked. And she would ask questions that no one else would dare to ask. Alone together upstairs in her sitting room late that first night, she made me pull up my trouser leg to see if I had the “great legs all American girls have.” I didn’t, but I did pull up the trousers—actually SHE pulled up the trouser leg. It was an extraordinary night—not least because I fell in love with both Andrew and Debo that night—and completely unexpectedly the seeds of a friendship were planted.

I’m so glad that I had the luck to see Debo with Andrew for no matter how much I was later to hear about the two of them from Debo herself and also from their family and friends, I would not have understood the complexity of that relationship had I not actually watched him watch her and her watch him.

I was in England then to research my biography of President John F. Kennedy. My husband and I had a flat on Eaton Place not far from Debo’s Chatsworth Shop on Elizabeth Street. The little shop was a very special place—pure Debo—and she loved it and was deeply involved with it. My husband used to buy all of his lunches there and I still giggle thinking about how I would come home to find David on the phone with Debo in intense discussion of the merits of her soups and especially detailed reports about the prices of an item she was selling versus the price of a similar item in a supermarket on King’s Road. When the Chatsworth Shop closed later, I had an urgent phone call from her cousin Jean, warning me that Debo was so upset that I must be careful not even to mention the closing for a time.

After Andrew died, by which time Debo and I had become friends—initially, I believe, because Andrew made sure it happened—and by which time we had other deep friendships in common, Debo did not draw back, but rather expanded the wings of her friendship.

She and Andrew had been indispensable to my research for my biography of President John F. Kennedy and to my understanding of the man and the world in which JFK lived. But for the book I wrote next, about Winston Churchill, Debo, now alone, went much further. First she listened to what I hoped to do with Churchill—and then she took charge. Debo never had to be asked to help. She just offered—no rather, she ACTED. Before I knew it, she had made up lists of people I must talk to about Churchill, including her cousin Mary Soames—and then moved on to make sure they talked to me—and then made sure that I asked the right questions. She wrote letters; she made calls; she went over ideas with me. It was endless and she was incredible.

Debo loved to give advice—especially about how to do things cheaply. I still laugh thinking about her voice on the phone the day I moved into the flat I’d rented in Mayfair to do Churchill research. Our flat was not far from the Beau Brummell house she still owned, and she was full of detailed instructions about where to go in Shepherd Market—but better, still, about what to do cheaply. Debo loved the idea of doing things cheaply. “Keep your hands in your pockets!”, as she put it.

When I went up to stay with Debo at Edensor, it was strange at first to think that Andrew was gone—or rather, that he was next door, as she reminded me—in St Peter’s churchyard. But she was so funny, so over the top about everything as usual. So welcoming. There was, I think, more emotion now that Andrew was gone—more sense of time passing. And always, more reminders not to waste a minute—to grab everything you can, while you can.

I can still hear her as we sat on the old-fashioned swing on the lawn in front of the vicarage talking about Andrew; talking about “the cousinhood”; talking about people that both of us knew—people she had somehow miraculously brought into my life—who were now gone. As she talked about all that she missed, suddenly the swing started moving faster because Debo also wanted to talk about the future. What she wanted to do next—and a reminder that I must not just be thinking about what I was doing now, but what came NEXT.

Debo and Andrew are also very much there in my new book on Jackie Kennedy [Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story]—all sorts of things they told me about the aftermath of the assassination—as well as about what was going on during the presidency. And I am going to return in detail to that world which they opened to me with unimaginable generosity in the book I am writing next. So much of what they shared with me has vanished now—but my mind is filled with images of that vanished world—a world that strangely enough has become part of my own future.

I can’t bear to think that there will never be another letter from Debo turning up in the post, that the phone will never ring again with her voice on the other end inviting me to stay with her in Edensor, that there will be no more long talks about the members of “The Set,” and, of course, that there will be no more books from her to treasure forever.

Everything about Debo had to do with life and what’s next, and for that reason it is just impossible to imagine she is not out there plotting some future project.

Barbara Leaming’s book Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story will be published in the UK on January 1st 2015. It is already available in the US.


The Mitford Society Loves…

“Christmas cards are such a nightmare to me. I have dozens from totally unknown people, in some cases bearing photographs of their totally unknown faces. But I forget people very soon so this means nothing and I can see from their fervid messages that once we have been very intimate.” – Nancy Mitford

The traditions of the festive season did not charm Nancy. The exchanging of gifts was headache inducing, crossing the Channel to visit the loved ones – too grim to bear – and the custom of writing and receiving cards proved a burden for the French Lady Writer. Although she delighted in sending her godchildren presents of exotic things, such as gilded trinkets and fur mufflers, Nancy was not as gracious when she received a gift she disliked. Perhaps the best example springs from her childhood, when an unsuspecting Diana presented to her a small, neatly wrapped present. Nancy opened the present, and, without a sideways glance, she hurled it into the fire. ‘I appreciated her honestly,’ Diana remarked. The collection of books below should please even the grumpiest of recipients. What are we saying? Books please everyone!


Robert Wainwright’s elegant biography of Sheila Chisholm should charm those who revel in the era of the Mitfords and disgraced royals. Lovely to look at and heavily illustrated, this book – available in hardback (as pictured) or in paperback – would make the perfect gift.


If you enjoy gazing at beautiful things and wish to make an impression on the recipient then Claudia Renton’s dazzling biography of the Wyndham Girls – Mary, Madeleine and Pamela – is just the ticket.


This sophisticated detective novel centres around a glamorous actress-by-day/ spy-by-night working undercover in the Third Reich. The menacing plot features Hitler and Goebbels, and a cameo from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Unity and Diana flit in and out, giving the sinister undertones a touch of Mitford Tease.



Truly a presentation piece, this index of great women’s obituaries doubles as a motivational book when one is indulging in the non-U habit of feeling sorry for oneself. With an array of profiles, this book will certainly cross the murky divide of all personalities. It looks great on a bookshelf, too!

A memoir of the best kind, this zippy book is written in a friendly and engaging way. As the daughter of the Duke of Rutland and niece of Lady Diana Cooper, Lady Ursula’s memoir recalls an era that we can only dream of.


Because we seem to get a lot of books about women here at Mitford HQ it’s only fair that we select a biography with that of a male subject. Not only for Swinbrook Sewers, this lengthy study on Laurie Lee is a treasure trove of a biography.

Written as historical fiction, the plot revolves around the doomed love affair between Dorothy Richardson, member of the famed Bloomsbury set and contemporary of Virginia Woolf, and H.G. Wells. Stylishly written, this atmospheric book is a quick read.


Inspired by the Russian fairytale, The Snow Child is a modern fairytale for adults and cynics alike. Set in Alaska in the 1920s, the book paints a vivid portrait of the cruelties of nature, the isolation in winter and the heartache of a childless couple. A cozy, winter read.


This lovely set of Margaret Kennedy books have been re-issued by Vintage Books. As witty as a Nancy Mitford novel, this trio was deemed quite naughty in their day. Devilishly witty, Kennedy’s efforts remain as fresh and funny today as they were over eighty years ago.


Thinking ahead, there is nothing like buying the first novel of the New Year. Tessa Arlen’s debut novel (Jan. 2015) combines the things that we Mitties love: mystery, scandal, wit and a spectacular stately home. The prose at times is pure Mitfordesque, and having read a preview copy, The Mitford Society is proud to endorse Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

A Fitting at Dior as recalled by Olivia de Havilland

Nancy in Dior

Nancy in Dior

Following my post on Nancy Mitford’s fashion, I have transcribed Olivia de Havilland’s memories of French fashion and a fitting at Christian Dior in the mid 1950s, the same time when Nancy was a loyal customer.


To begin with, ever since coming to live here I’ve been faithful to the House of Dior, which means that I’ve known the establishment under the reign of King Christian the First, under Yves Saint Laurent, who became Prince Regent on the royal demise, and under Marc Bohan, the incumbent. And it is a question as to which of the three has tried the hardest and done the most to flatten my bosom. Not permanent, you understand – just while I’m wearing a dress.

The whole thing started at my first fitting on my first Dior dress, designed by His Highness himself. There I was, standing in merely my stockings, my slip and my bust, and the next minute I was fully clothed and bustless. At first I couldn’t think where I’d gone to. Then I was struck rigid by the idea that some sort of instantaneous and lasting transformation had occurred and that I’d suddenly lost forever what is every girl’s pride. Springing out of my paralysis and into action, I looked frantically down my decollete to see what had happened to me. Fortunately, I was still there, both of me. But bound. And gagged. Like the Japanese female foot. Or feet, rather. By a framework of net and bone. The dress’s basic foundation.

You mustn’t think, here, that I have one of those over-exuberant superstructures that really needs lashing to the decks to keep it from going overboard. No, no, not at all. It is, rather the sort that you might call appropriate, quite becoming, so it’s been said. Neat but not gaudy. However, it’s a wonder what the tender encouragement of a well-placed dart can do to put it “en valuer”. Therefore, all in favour of tender encouragement, I did not take the matter of my binding meekly, but immediately crossed pins with my fitter in the first skirmish of the Great War of Compression. But each time I advanced my cause by withdrawing a peg from my armature, the fitter would swoop in with a fresh squad of cleats and batten down the hatches tighter than ever. I tell you, there have been times during these forays when it has been my mind that cleaved and my bust that boggled.

Now that we are in the full swing of the third regime of the House of Dior, you would think, wouldn’t you, that, pin-scarred and needle-tried, I’d be able to say to you that I’d succeeded in imposing the American silhouette upon at least one dress of French haute couture? But I have not succeeded. As I charge into combat, arrayed as I am in the constraining armour of my basic bodice, oxygen starvation defeated me every time. In the end, I always lose my War of Liberation, and the French always win their War of Containment.

But I must say, I do look darn well dressed. And I’m beginning to accept the French notion that a girl’s bust really is more important when she’s got her clothes off than when she’s got them on.


Extracted from Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia de Havilland, 1961.


A Pretty Hon is Like a Melody


I really prefer the word elegance. “Chic” has lost value in its native country. – Nancy Mitford, The Water Beetle

Reflecting on her love of Parisian couture houses and her annoyance with, what she felt, was the English’s inability to make a decent skirt, Nancy jotted down her fashion advice in the worldly little tome, The Water Beetle. And, she wasted no time with her appraisal. Style, swank, swagger and showing off, she chastised, represents everything that the English most dislike, “a sort of bright up-to-date fashionableness they have never aspired to”. The universal definition of elegance, she warned, was quite different in England. Men and little children, however, were viewed as the model of good dressing, “our Queen and Princess Margaret set the fashion for the world until they were ten”. Elegance to the Englishwoman was based on “a contempt of the current mode and a limitless self-assurance”. Ladylike is the appropriate term. Their sport and country clothes “are deplorable, they are of tweed thick and hard as a board, in various shades of porridge”. The English women residing in town were, to her horror, not much better. They had only one staple: a jacket and a tight skirt with what the fashion lot called a “cunning slit up the back” – to be avoided at all costs, for Nancy realised the slit divided horribly over the calves. Here we go with Farve’s irrational fears of women ruining their legs…

She reflects on the story of two English duchesses being turned away from Christian Dior because the people at the entrance considered the them too dowdy to be admitted into the cavernous House of Dior. The light scent of Miss Dior lingering in the showroom, the mad scramble of fashion models with their wasp waists and exaggerated peplum hips gathering on the staircase, and the “hideous trellis” of crossed nylons was no place for a Lady (in the Burke’s Peerage sense of the word).

“If you are a duchess,” Nancy advises, “you don’t need to be well dressed – it would be thought quite eccentric.” Why Dior, she wondered, when “they would certainly not have ordered anything”. Why indeed. Perhaps they were fatigued from a day of sight-seeing (terribly Non-U) and thought they should like to sit down for a while, having recalled the peaceful, empty salons in the days when their mothers and grandmothers were dressed by Worth. Though, she teased, in those days, Monsieur Worth visited the house like any other tradesman. In the early part of the twentieth century the English were rich and pleasure-loving, foreign currency was no problem, and society women bought their clothes from Paris. When the dresses were delivered they were stored away for at least two years, since in those gilded days, “nothing was considered so common as to be dressed in the height of fashion”. Showgirls and actresses could get away with it, but “one of us, dear child”, never. It was not just the ladies who were self-concious of displaying grandeur, the men, too, would not dream of wearing a new suit until it had spent one or two nights in the garden.

To Nancy, Paris was the most civilised place in the world, and dressing in Paris was an art “not to be come by easily or cheaply”. But what of the Americans?

Having never been to America and confessing to hold its culture in disdain, Nancy somewhat overlooked her prejudices to comment on American fashion. “America is to me some great star observed through a telescope, and I never feel quite sure it exists, now, or whether its light is not coming to me across centuries of time (future time, of course).” Whereas English children were considered smartly dressed, she realised the American teenager was a thing of elegance. “Their neat little clothes have more than an echo of Paris; the skirts are the right length, the waists in the right place, and they are, very suitable for children, understated,” she praised. The praise, however, ended there. She accused Americans of buying often, and cheaply too. The gap between children, teenagers, women and old ladies was muddled: “dolls’ clothes, clean, shining, with regular if rather big, teeth, wonderful figures and china skins”.

After exhausting the perils of dressing an Englishwoman, a Parisienne (Paris, to Nancy, stood apart from France) and an American, Nancy agreed they each had their merits. “In England the women are elegant until they are ten years old and perfect on grand occasions; in France a few women are entirely elegant always; in America most women are smart and impeccable, but with too much of an accent or immaturity for real elegance.” However, neither of the three women triumphed in her scrutiny of fashion. “The Latin American woman dressed in Paris,” she concluded, “is the very height of perfection.”

Olivia de Havilland & Nancy Mitford’s ‘The Blessing’


I remember that during my first weeks as a newly engaged, newly resident of Paris, I received from a malevolent Irishman a copy of Nancy Mitford’s The Blessing, which concerns an Englishwoman who marries a Frenchman and discovers that, although he obliges her beautifully in the evenings, he spends his afternoons with his mistress. The book shook me. At each fresh example of the husband’s perfidy, I exclaimed to Pierre: “So this is the way a Frenchman spends his honeymoon!” Is this the way a French husband toys with the tea hour? Is this…….., etc.”
Pierre was enraged. Finally he threatened to throw the book out the window, howling, “No, eet ees not true about Gaston, Alain, Georges, Robert, Raymond, Thierry, Jean-Pierre, Jean-Claude, or Jean-Paul!” Then he ran out of breath. I was en-heartened, but not wholly convinced. So I studied all our friends — Gaston, Alain, Georges, Robert, Raymond, Thierry, and all three Jeans — and found that it was clearly true, none of them was unfaithful to his wife, and obviously had no desire ever to be so.


Somewhat reassured though I was about my own personal destiny, I felt a curious sensation of dismay and bewilderment about Frenchman as a whole, and confided to Andre Maurois one day at tea that I was rather shocked by the discrepancy between the reputation of the French husband and the low incidence of infidelity that really existed chez lui.


Having agreed that the average Frenchman much preferred to be faithful to his wife, Maurois reflected for a moment and decided that the reputation must once have been well-founded  — “in the romantic period,” he said, “over a century ago, when the life of the feelings was given so much importance, and when the poetic imagination was accorded so much expression. Nowadays the style is different because conditions are difference. The French husband no longer has the leisure that his inheritance used to assure him, because the last two wars have wiped out the old French institution of the carefully nurtured and passed-on family fortune, and almost every modern Frenchman must therefore work. He marries young and has his children promptly. And you know,” concluded Maurois, “to have a mistress, a man must have the money for it — and the time — and the energy!”


With Pierre that evening I did a little careful checking. The family fortune had been thoroughly wiped out by 1946. He must have been bewildered by my expression of pure delight. He was puzzled but pleased when I myself took The Blessing and threw it out the window. After all, it was about the rarest type of modern Frenchman — a marquis, who had the time, the money, and the energy!


Extracted from Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia de Havilland, 1961