Diana Mosley was a society beauty who fell from grace when she left her husband, brewery heir Bryan Guinness, for Sir Oswald Mosley, an admirer of Mussolini and a notorious womanizer. This horrified her family and scandalized society.
In 1933, Diana met the new German leader, Adolf Hitler. They became close friends and he attended her wedding as the guest of honor. During the war, the Mosleys' association with Hitler led them to be arrested and interned for three and a half years. Diana's relationships with Hitler and Mosley defined her life in the public eye and marked her as a woman who possessed a singular lack of empathy for those less blessed at birth.
Anne de Courcy's revealing biography chronicles one of the most intriguing, controversial women of the twentieth century. It is a riveting tell-all memoir of a leading society hostess, a woman with intimate access to the highest literary, political, and social circles of her time. Written with Mosley's exclusive cooperation and based upon hundreds of hours of taped interviews and unprecedented access to her private papers, letters, and diaries, Lady Mosley's only stipulation was that the book not be published until after her death.
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.
Very detailed and endlessly fascinating.