Wednesday, June 26, 2013
The Bright Young Diana Mitford Guinness Mosley
I recently reread author D. J. Taylor's excellent book on the "Bright Young People", those 1920s-era young, upper-class whippersnappers of London whose antics were heavily chronicled by the British newspapers of the time. Cecil Beaton, Evelyn Waugh, Brian Howard, Nancy Mitford, and their ilk made up this tightly-knit group of revelers who pretty much partied their way through the decade. I have to say that after reading Taylor's book for the second time, I am left with conflicting opinions of this group. On the one hand, I admire the writers that Waugh and Mitford became. On the other hand, I think that as a whole, the Bright Young People were mostly vacuous, self-centered people who seemed incapable of understanding- and filtering into- the world outside of their clique. No matter whether one finds the bright young set obnoxious or dazzling, I believe most would agree that this group makes for interesting reading.
One Bright Young Person who was mentioned numerous times in Taylor's book was Nancy's sister, Diana Mitford, seen above as a young woman. Mitford married Brian Guinness during the 1920s, and they went on to become two of the leading lights of their social set. (Or, to use today's terminology, they were a "power couple" amongst their cohorts.) As we know, Diana Mitford Guinness scandalized her family by throwing over Guinness for Oswald Mosley, the fascist politician who founded the British Union of Fascists and later, the New Party, which included the infamous Blackshirts. Diana and Oswald would later marry in Germany at Joseph Goebbels' house (where Hitler was in attendance, no less,) espouse fascism, be interned during World War II, and eventually end up living in France.
Political persuasions aside, Diana and Oswald Mosley did have a pretty home in Orsay known rather grandly as Temple of Glory. While the interiors seemed to reflect their French locale, the house also had a very British feel to it, cozy thanks to books and bibelots. According to The Finest Houses in Paris, in which these photos appeared, the house had few rooms, prompting one guest, the Duchess of Windsor, to query, "It's a charming place, but where do you actually live?" Pale blue, Diana's favorite color, made appearances throughout the house, especially via walls and fabrics. An enthusiastic entertainer, Diana often invited guests to Sunday lunches, where her Irish butler prepared the meals. For her table settings, Diana preferred to use her rare Saxon porcelain china, placing it directly on the table sans place mats. And candied fruit (see below) was frequently served after dinner.
All in all, the Mosley house was very elegant and inviting. It's too bad the same thing can't be said for their politics.
All photos from The Finest Houses in Paris by Christiane de Nicolay-Mazery, I. B. Tauris publisher, 2000.