Friday, January 14, 2011

Isn't It Romantic?

I've had this photo of Barbara Cartland for a few years now. Torn from a British magazine, it shows a young Barbara in quite a pretty gown. I don't really know why I've kept it, although perhaps it's because I'm a fan of the late romance writer. I've never read a single one of her books as historical romances aren't my cup of tea. No, I guess I'm a fan because I like the idea of Barbara Cartland- her signature shade of pink, that ever present canine companion, and her über-feminine persona. Oh, and the false lashes don't hurt either.

I'm glad that I hung on to that black and white photo of her, because I finally found the opportunity to use it. Who knew that The Englishwoman's House had an entire chapter on her home in Hatfield, Hertfordshire? Until earlier this week, I didn't! The interiors are a bit what you might expect, especially in Cartland's bedroom. The two colors used most frequently in the house are Nile blue and coral pink, colors that were taken from the murals in the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt. This color combination is a little strong in the master bedroom, but I must say that it looks rather nice in the library, a room that housed over 6,000 books. And the kitchen and its cheery Bird of Paradise wallpaper and curtains? Cartland wrote that "digestion starts with the eyes, and just as my dishes are lovely, many of them being a picture on the plate and as colourful and attractive as I can make them, so is where they are cooked." What can I say? I'm an even bigger fan now.

Cartland's bedroom in shades of blue and coral. Would you have expected any less than a heart throw pillow on the bed?

The library, also in Nile blue and coral. How beautiful is that blue paneling? Take away the pink carpet and the room looks great today.

The all-important kitchen. I can't quite tell what was being served on her china, but it looks good.

A c. 1650 French four-poster bed that graced one of the bedrooms. Cartland deemed it "the most beautiful bed in the world."

The gentlemen's cloakroom featured numerous Barbara Cartland caricatures.

(Cartland house photos from The Englishwoman's House by Alvilda Lees-Milne, Derry Moore photographer.)


  1. Do you know Clive James's description of Dame Barbara's maquillage? He called it “twin miracles of mascara, her eyes looked like the corpses of two crows that had crashed into a chalk cliff”. I interviewed her once; she was a hoot. And I found this curious/depressing/courageous article online:,+gas+bottles+heating+her+mansion,+a+warehouse...-a062358720. Her house, like the lady herself, is thrillingly retro, very much as if it had been last decorated in the 1950s, by some very posh decorator. I actually like its intensity.

  2. I have to admit to being a fan... back when I was eight or so;partly because of the descriptions of clothes and houses. Its fun to see a photo of her before she became a complete caricature.

  3. Anonymous9:33 AM

    Great post! I never read her books either, but she was a legend!
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  4. Is that a Barbie doll cake I spy on the table!??

  5. I would say, just looking at her bedroom, that this doyen loved plenty of gold and cherubs frosting her rooms. Amazing. Thanks.

  6. There was something very likable about her and her persona. The intense colors fit her larger than life personality!

  7. Newell- Hard to tell, but I think you're right. Kind of like a hoop skirt cake. Perhaps the figure at top is Royal Doulton or something??? I bet it didn't taste half-bad, either!

  8. Also meant to say that Clive James' description is a riot.

  9. I too have never read her books but gotta give the girl credit,she had a look! Thanks for your grand post!

  10. LOVE the library - minus the carpeting of course. The paneling is indeed spectacular!

  11. if it IS barbie she's dressed like a cowboy - FAB-U-LOUS. x

  12. and wasn't she princess diana's step grandmother? i love "the englishwoman's house" great book!

  13. Not too bad...actually, I expected much worse!

  14. Meg- You are correct! Her daughter was Raine Spencer, Diana's stepmother. Great book, I agree.

  15. Anonymous12:13 AM

    My sister had the pleasure of having luch at her country home which was the original house of Beatrix potters birth! They clapped in the salmon which had been caught in the stream and was presented to the table by the butler. My sister can still smell the beautiful oldie world perfume that floated thru the house. I always remember her saying that Cartland was a very striking lady without the pink and was more tweeds and grey hair.She also said the house was typically English with broken furniture around the pool area and very shabby chic!

  16. Oh you silly people!

    Newell! You never ever saw a Barbie doll! (I was an abusive mother who did not allow them) If Barbie's had looked like this......I would never have banned them!

    Without the pink carpet......that room would be perfect in a mortuary! the shocking pink carpet saved it from doom! Brilliant. the carpet. Total brilliance.

    Any woman who looks just perfect next to her adorable doggie....they for me. And could she ever write!

    All you criticizers........have you ever read even one of her books?

    Try it. Just start in the morning. Otherwise; you may have to stay up all I did. I watched the sun come up. I started at 7 pm.

    How many millions of books did she sell?
    Don't be jealous! now!!

    I don't like what Clive James said one bit! Not one bit!

    I think it is mean-spirited.......and unkind. And ugly.

    I sure like this post!!

    and I think we all have to be a lot nicer. Just my opinion!

    it is so easy to be critical and sarcastic and mean. I think we need to stop it.
    Kindness. That is what I want to hear about. Gentleness, kindness, nurturing........that is going to be the subject of MY new blog!

    (maybe no one will read it!)


  17. Anon- Your sister was quite lucky! I think I now have even more respect for Cartland and her home.

  18. I love the blue and coral in her bedroom! Great combination.

  19. She was simply the epitomy of lushness and femininity!! She could write indeed.

    Look at how the stars of today present an image...maybe part of her was that image of all of the romance in her novels!

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  20. I have her cookbook, published in the early 1980s. It's amazing, over the top and joyfully silly like the author. It worth having just for the fantastic bric-à-brac decorating the food illustrations!

    1. Glen, I must try to find a copy of that cookbook. It sounds right up my alley!

    2. It's worth it! BTW, the cake with the doll in it is known as a Dolly Varden cake. It was named after a style of crinoline dress associated with one of Charles Dickens characters.