Meet my character by Lyndsy Spence

Hello Mitties! I was nominated by the talented Diana Birchall to take part in this lovely blog post called Meet My Character, please feel free to nominate your fellow writer friends/bloggers to also carry on the theme. It was started by author Debbie Brown of the English Historical Fiction Authors Blog and writers around the world are answering questions about the main character of their work in progress. In my case, the character is the non-fictional, infamous and complex Diana Mitford!


1) What is the name of your character? Is she fictional or a historic person?

A historic person, born Diana Freeman-Mitford, later the Hon. Mrs. Bryan Guinness and Lady Mosley. Judging by the Mitford canon, Diana could also be perceived as a fictional person!

2) When and where is the story set?

The story begins on the day of Diana’s birth in June 1910. She was born at the family’s small London house on Graham Street. The afternoon of Diana’s birth was as dramatic and conflicting as the life she would go on to lead. Diana was born during a ferocious thunder storm which eventually gave way to a blistering hot afternoon. Her mother, Sydney (later Lady Redesdale) cried for she wanted a boy, and the nurse announced: ‘She’s too beautiful, she can’t live long.’ Needless to say, it was not a happy day. When Diana was six she moved with her family to Oxfordshire and experiencing the gradual decline of her father’s fortunes she lived in a series of country houses. Paris, Rome, Naples, Capri and Germany are other locations mentioned in the book.

3) What should we know about her?

Readers familiar with the Mitford story are also familiar with Diana’s story. It is a double edged sword for a biographer because, unfortunately, everything known about Diana is less than flattering. Her friendship with Hitler pre-1939 and her affair with Sir Oswald Mosley is well documented, however, there was a different side to Diana prior to meeting those dangerous men, and I hope to covey that in my book. Clever men fell in love with Diana and amongst her admirers were Helleu, James Lees-Milne, Bill Astor, Randolph Churchill, Professor Lindemann, and of course, ‘Cousin’ Winston Churchill. The latter was not in love with Diana as such, but he adored her when she was a girl.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

Diana’s non-conformist outlook, an attitude honed in the nursery, would eventually become her downfall. Randolph Churchill bemoaned Diana’s lack of morals and the fact that she did not see a problem in sinning. To escape the boredom of family life in the countryside Diana quickly married Bryan Guinness when she was just 18. By the age of 21 Diana had outgrown her husband and her outlook on life conflicted with Bryan’s gentle, easy-going ways. Diana’s affair with Oswald Mosley, and leaving Bryan to become his full time mistress, was the ruin of her. Her actions provoked scandal, and a lack of sympathy from her once devoted friends, when Mosley’s wife, Lady Cynthia ‘Cimmie’, died. In theory it left Mosley free to marry Diana but he did just the opposite – he strung her a long whilst he carried out an affair with his sister-in-law. During this dubious interval in their romance, Diana decided to go to Munich with her younger sister, Unity Mitford, and the casual trip changed their lives forever. Aside from Diana’s involvement with Mosley and his British Union of Fascists, Diana befriended Hitler, although there was nothing odd in this given that many important people did, in fact, visit the Fuhrer. As an old lady, Diana never denounced her friendship with Hitler (in her later years she condemned his actions in an audio interview) and given the murder of the Jews and the other evil deeds the Nazis committed, quite naturally, not a lot of people were prepared to listen to Diana’s tales of Hitler’s lovely manners, charming conversations and faultless hospitality.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

In my opinion the personal goal of Diana was to live as she pleased. Unfortunately, given the era when Diana was a young woman, and being the mother of two little boys when she made this decision ‘to live for pleasure’ social views on the matter were very dim. And due to this delicate situation, Diana’s goal to have complete independence became warped and she ended up a prisoner, literally and socially, in every sense of the word.

6) Is this a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

Yes, the novel is titled Mrs. Guinness: The Rise and Fall of Diana Mitford. You can read more about it on my agent’s website by clicking here.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?

The book will be published in March 2015 by The History Press.


I nominate my fellow authors on The Mitford Society.


Our forthcoming annual

The Mitford Society’s annual has been a whirlwind of preparation but in the space of a month all of the submissions are in! I can tell you now that you’re in for a treat, the annual is a combination of academic essays, fun reviews, personal stories, photographs, a re-cap of Mitfords Eve at Sutton House and of course, the Mitford murder mystery which opens the book. I wanted to channel something quite unique, though paying homage to Nancy Mitford’s The Water Beetle and A talent to Annoy, and also The Pursuit of Laughter, though with less restraint than Diana’s critical essays. It has turned from a magazine sized vision into a full scale book! I have included the table of contents below, I hope you all approve!

Murder in the Hons Cupboard:- Meredith Whitford & Lyndsy Spence

Stranger than dreams and far more disordered:- An extract from The Fertile Fact

 The Most Charming Duchess:- Charles Twigger

 Pamela’s Irish Castle:- Stephen Kennedy

 Living in a Mitford House:- Debbie Catling

 Nancy’s True Love: Versailles:- Rebecca McWattie

 Nancy in Versailles:- Chiara Martinelli

 Esmond Romilly:-Meredith Mitford

 Diana Mosley :- David Platzer

 Understanding Unity:- Meems Ellenberg

 To the editor of the Daily Mail, a mock letter from Unity Mitford: – Emma Reilly

 Muv’s American Adventure:- Lyndsy Spence

 A Honnish Reunion:- Lyndsy Spence

 Stargazing with the Mitfords:- Astrology Charts by Victor Olliver

 From Countryside to Couture:- Natalie Tilbury

 The Mitford Sisters & The Turbulent Thirties:- by Lyndsy Spence, printed in Vintage Life magazine.

 The Photography Face:-Lyndsy Spence

 Laying the Foundations of The Mitford Industry:– David Ronneburg

 The Mitford Industry: An editor’s point of view:- An interview with Mark Beynon by Lyndsy Spence

 Re-issuing Nancy Mitford:- Emma Howard Capuchin Classics, Series Editor

 In Search of Nancy:- Barbara Cooke

 Evelyn Waugh & The Mitfords:- Jeffrey Manley of the Evelyn Waugh Society

 The American Way of Death & Pop Culture:- Terence Towles Canote

 The Pursuit of Love: The perils of a would-be film:- Lyndsy Spence

 Moths to the Flame: The Mitfords of Mull:- An extract of a play by Willie Orr

 Mitfords Eve:– A Mitford themed event hosted by The Amy Grimehouse in association with The National Trust & the BFI.

 The Mitfords & Modern Writers. Blog interviews with:

 – Meredith Whitford

– Deanna Raybourn

– Tessa Arlen

– Judith Kinghorn

 Extraorder Extras: Those Honnish by association:

 – Joan Wyndham

– Diana Skeffington

– Mariga Guinness

 Mitford sketches commissioned for The Mitford Girls’ Guide to Life:- Tessa Simpson



The Mitford Girls’ Guide To Life

My editor at The History Press has given me permission to announce that my book, The Mitford Girls’ Guide To Life by Lyndsy Spence (that’s me!) will be published next September!

I have been working on this book for just over a year and a half, and it has been such a learning curve. I’ve researched newspaper archives and interviewed people connected to the Mitfords’. Along the way I have learned new facts which has (I hope) enabled me to tell a unique story. I have purposely avoided discussing their political ideologies in a lot of detail as I feel there was much more to their personalities. The political element is discussed from a sociological point of view. (No, I don’t condone Nazism).

My deadline is January 2nd 2013, this is just around the corner. Thankfully a kind relative of Diana’s first husband has given me some family snaps for my book, but I am on a quest to find more. I must source 25 images for my publisher. As you can imagine, the topic of copyright is quite complex, so really, I’d prefer my images to be in the public domain or from a personal collection. I have found some images from archived articles but I really need some more!

This is where you lovely readers might be able to help: If you have any personal photographs of the girls’, or any newspaper clippings dating from 50+ yrs ago, then do get in touch. I am also appreciative of any photos you might have of buildings relating to the Mitfords’ i.e. Heywood Hill, Rutland Gate, Swinbrook etc.

All credit will be given.