7 Oct 2010
"Diana Mosley" - All for Love
Anne de Courcy has the gift of making history come alive on the pages of a book and she certainly uses this gift in her biography of Diana Mosley née Mitford. Diana was one of the famous Mitford sisters, part of the British acristocracy and part of a family who impacted their time. She was one of six sisters and shared her childhood home with the writer Decca Mitford, her sister Debo, now the Duchess of Devonshire, the writer Nancy Mitford plus Pamela and Unity Mitford.
Diana was acknowledged for being the most beautiful of the Mitford sister and aged just 18 she made a spectacular marriage to Bryan Guinness. However, only four years after - now a mum of two - she left Bryan for Oswals Mosley, the infamous fascist leader. Diana's abandoning the marriage made headlines, not only because left a seemingly great marriage but also because she left to become a mistress of married man with a bit of a reputation. The love affair with Mosley was to define Diana's life. Her love for him overcame everything and shaped her adult life, as she followed him into fascism becoming a close friend of Hitler and spending several years in Holloway prison.
The book tells Diana's story well, not hiding her nazi-sympathies and not defending them either. It is hard to understand how a girl from a good family ends up being more or less an enemy of the country, especially since her sister Decca who she was very close to in childhood became a devoted supporter to the communist case.
De Courcy does not ask any questions about why Diana's life went in the direction it went and she neither critises nor sympathises - mostly she just chronicles the facts. Her focus is very much on the intense love story of Diana and Mosley which is indeed a fascinating tale but I wish that she had dared diving deeper into the difficult and unpleasant questions such as how she could leave her two boys with Guinness to pursue her love of Mosley and whi she never questioned nazi Germany.
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. But if you don't know the story of Diana Mitford, this biography is a good place to start - or if you want to know about all the Mitford sisters, try "The Mitford Girls" by Mary S. Lovell.