Diana Mosley was one of the most fascinating and controversial figures of recent times. For some, she was a cult; for many, anathema. Born in 1910 Diana was the most beautiful and the cleverest of the six Mitford sisters. She was eighteen when she married Bryan Guinness, of the brewing dynasty, by whom she had two sons. After four years, she left him for the fascist leader, Oswald Mosley, and set herself up as Mosley's mistress - a course of action that horrified her family and scandalised society. In 1933 she took her sister Unity to Germany; soon both had met the new German leader, Adolf Hitler. Diana became so close to him that when she and Mosley married in 1936 the ceremony took place in the Goebbels drawing room and Hitler was guest of honour. She continued to visit Hitler until a month before the outbreak of war; and afterwards, for many, years, refused to believe in the reality of the Holocaust. This gripping book is a portrait of both an extraordinary individual and the strange, terrible world of political extremism in the 1930s.
De Courcy last wrote (in The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters) about Cimmie Curzon, who married the British Fascist Oswald Mosley. Here, de Courcy examines the life of Mosley's second wife, Diana Mitford, who died this summer. Born into an aristocratic but eccentric family, Mitford was blessed with a mythical beauty and charm that inspired a frenzy among potential suitors Evelyn Waugh and Randolph Churchill. She was married young to the heir of the Guinness ale fortune and hobnobbed with the social and cultural elite of the 1920s. Diana had two children with Guinness before meeting Mosley, then a Labour Party leader and known womanizer still married to Curzon. Mosley was in the process of establishing the British Union of Fascism, and Diana, fervently in love, left her husband to support him and his cause. Later, Diana and her sister Unity became fascinated with the Nazi party in Germany and developed close ties with Hitler. When Curzon died, Diana married Mosley, standing by him through imprisonment and the aftermath of WWII. De Courcy's sympathetic but critical account, based on extensive and exclusive access to Mosley herself and her papers, suggests that Diana was unaware of the extent of the brutality of the Nazi regimes and that, despite her own anti-Semitism, her politics were the sum of her blind romantic and sexual desires. This is a thorough, nuanced reading of a complicated woman, but even more ambitiously, de Courcy has painted her as an icon of between-the-wars Europe, with its crumbling social structure and decadent, violent attempts at self-preservation.