en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Pamela_HicksLady Pamela Carmen Louise Hicks (née Mountbatten; born 19 April 1929) is a British aristocrat. She is the younger daughter of the 1st Earl Mountbatten of ...
Wall Street Journal - 3 hours agoThe king of Spain himself played a nobly intentioned if blundering role in Lady Pamela Hicks's birth. The great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, she grew up in a household where the guest list included Noël Coward, Winston Churchill, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., King Edward VIII and one Mrs. Simpson, whose hostess gift was a cold, cooked chicken from Fortnum & Mason. Lady Pamela witnessed the transfer of power that gave India its independence from Britain, in the process forging a deep bond with Jawaharlal Nehru ("Oh, I wish you had met Nehru," she said in a phone conversation from her home in Oxfordshire, England) and was a bridesmaid when cousin Philip wed another of her cousins, the future Elizabeth II. And she was on the scene as a lady-in-waiting during a postnuptial Commonwealth Tour when word came that King George VI had died. Long live the queen.
Lady Pamela, 84—whose father, Lord Louis Mountbatten, was a supreme allied commander during World War II and later the last viceroy of India—has had a page-turner of a life all right, but laying it all out between covers wasn't her cup of tea. "I didn't contemplate writing a book," she declared in a tone that admirably split the difference between plummy and chummy. "I contemplated not writing a book."
Such reticence could not possibly stand up to the relentless urging of her daughter India. "Well, 'urging' is a very kind word," Lady Pamela said. "'Bullying' might do. She said: 'It's no good just telling your grandchildren these funny anecdotes. You're going to die soon and we won't have a record of them.'
"Seven or eight years ago, she got me to write about my experiences in India, which I said I would never do," added Lady Pamela. "So there was the book 'India Remembered.' And of course after that I said 'no, no, no, no, no, never again.' Like when you have a baby. She let it go for six months, then came back again and said, 'You cannot be so lazy.'"
The result of filial chivvying: "Daughter of Empire," an account of a childhood and adolescence spent amid grandeur and grandees, which is being published in the U.S. on Sept. 3.
While Louis "was an ideal father," her mother, Edwina, who danced the Charleston with Fred Astaire and who, according to the book, slept—rarely alone—between pink satin sheets, seems indistinguishable from the madcap heiress protagonist of a Preston Sturges or Gregory La Cava movie.
Unsuitable souvenirs for Pammy and older sister Patricia from mummy's many extended trips with a long-time inamorata: a lion cub and a pair of wallabies; they were never manor-broken. On one notable occasion, Edwina, all charm and charm bracelets, blithely deposited her daughters and their nannies at lodgings in the Hungarian mountains, failing to return for months because she couldn't recall the name of the hotel.
"My mother wasn't in any way maternal," conceded Lady Pamela mildly. "She was a star and they are impossible people aren't they?
"Until my children saw it in print they hadn't quite realized what a weird youth one had," added Lady Pamela, who frequently refers to herself in the third person. "They were appalled by the fiercely unhappy childhood we had. My sister and I were very insulted and told them we were not unhappy; we were not neglected. We saw our glamorous parents as they came and went, and in between we had loving nannies." (To say nothing of mummy's and daddy's flames, who lived openly with the family.) "And the children told us: 'Nonsense. They should have sent for the child-welfare inspectors.'"
Everybody's a critic. Perhaps that's why Lady Pamela decided against letting the palace press office vet her manuscript, then decided to hold off sending the finished product to her royal relatives until some while after its publication in Britain late last year. Would Prince Philip want the world to know that during one holiday celebration he stuffed a Christmas cracker up each nostril and yet another in his mouth? And what of the revelation that Princess Elizabeth's tiara broke and her bouquet went missing just before the royal wedding, that her favorite corgi Susan went along on the honeymoon, and that during her tenure as lady-in-waiting Lady Pamela was dressed down by HRH for conduct unbecoming?
"I asked Prince Michael," recalled Lady Pamela, referring to the queen's cousin, "'do you think it was awful—I actually skipped the press office?' And he said: 'My dear, never ask permission. Just do it.' Really, the only person who comes off badly in the book is me. So they can't object.
"Of course they're much too busy to have read it, but Prince Charles said he was looking forward to it," continued Lady Pamela. "And one never gets feedback from Philip. I didn't send him the 'India Remembered,' because I thought he already knew about everything in it. Then, funnily enough, the woman who runs his office told me that he'd had her go out and buy it. So typical of him not to just say to me 'Can I have it?'"
Because of its role in broadening Lady Pamela's world view, India gets remembered once again in "Daughter of Empire," with compelling accounts of tense meetings between Muslim and Hindu leaders, of political and religious unrest, of visits to refugee camps, of a prayer meeting led by Gandhi and a yoga demonstration by Nehru. "I would be very glad if people reading the book got a sense of what India was like at that time," Lady Pamela said. "When we came back to England my father was met with such hostility in the men's clubs and by Churchill, who said he was giving away the empire—and too quickly. If only they'd been there to see what a volcano it all was."
The politics of partition, the minutiae of palace protocol: Lady Pamela is now far—and happily—removed from the hurly-burly of it all.
"There's an order of precedence which I think goes to about 30 people, and my father was about two-thirds of the way down in that. But since my father, the queen has had so many grandchildren that my sister and I are in no way in the royal family. It's such a huge family and you don't want the oldies."
Lady Pamela's publisher insisted that "Daughter of Empire" limit itself to matters Mountbatten. Thus, the memoir ends with the author's marriage to 1960s interior-design star David Hicks. "They wanted the subtitle 'My Life as a Mountbatten,'" she said. "I was bombarded with letters from my husband's admirers: 'David is only just coming on the scene when you finish the book. The rest of your life was just as interesting and exciting.'"
But the reluctant author briskly dismissed the idea of a sequel. "I'm 84," she pointed out. "And my daughter India said that even she has realized there is never going to be another book."
Try telling Lord Louis Mountbatten's daughter that one must never say never. "Well," she said. "When you're 84 you can say never."
Ms. Kaufman writes about culture for the Journal.