Pamela Mitford: The Forgotten Sister

Read Jessica Fellowes's profile of Pamela Mitford, then make sure youre signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of the latest Mitford Murders Mystery, Bright Young Dead!

The second born of the six Mitford sisters, Pamela Mitford is perhaps the one most easily overlooked. Where her siblings achieved fame and notoriety for their novels, extreme political opinions, enormous stately homes, or racy living, Pamela was best known—if at all—as “the country girl.”

In some ways, this made her the most interesting to my mind. I knew she was clever—she ultimately married the brilliant, if difficult, scientist Derek Jackson—and while she did not have the staggering beauty of Diana, she was a good-looking girl with large, limpid eyes and shining blonde hair. The witty poet laureate John Betjeman was in love with her for years, and it is perhaps to that which she owes her rather solid reputation; he wrote a poem dedicated to the sisters, ending with the line, “Miss Pamela, most rural of them all.”

It is true that she was the most domesticated—a gardener and a keen horsewoman—and probably the only one of them all who ever learned how to cook. (Deborah, the youngest, who became the Duchess of Devonshire, introduced a cookbook in the 1980s with an apology that she was hardly qualified as she “last cooked in the war.”) When Diana was first married, to Bryan Guinness, Pamela moved onto their country estate to manage the farm, and these are supposed to have been some of her happiest years. Though she never had children of her own, she looked after the young Guinness sons when Diana was imprisoned for her fascist connections during World War II.

Her early years may have been troubled. Nancy confessed that she was deeply jealous of Pamela’s arrival when she was three years old, usurping her singular position in the household. And when Pamela developed a fuller figure in her early teens, Nancy cruelly nicknamed her “Woman.” But Pamela was not known to answer back—an early bout of polio is said to have blunted the quick wit the other sisters had—and bore all the outrageous events of her sisters with stoicism.

In the end, it was this that drew me to her most of all. I came to see her as the ballast of the family, the rock-steady calm one that kept her head when all around her were losing theirs. She was uncomfortable in the limelight, unlike the others; in a photograph of her 18th birthday party, she stands awkwardly in the line-up in a costume that does not become her. She kept herself generally out of the papers—their mother once remarked that every time she saw “Peer’s daughter” in the headlines, “I know it’s one of you girls—and made herself available to her sisters as a stolid pillar of support or a shoulder to cry on. After her divorce, her remaining years were spent with an Italian “companion,” as they were referred to then, another horsewoman.

She died known for her peaceful life among friends and animals, as well as her generosity of spirit to all. Could one ask for a better reputation? In this way, I think she outshines all her Mitford sisters.

Read an excerpt from Bright Young Dead!

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Comments

  1. Daniel M

    sounds interesting

  2. John Smith

    I’ve been a fan of the Mitford wit for decades, so I’m always happy to read more of them and their world!

  3. Susan Marshall

    As a second child of 4- plus 2 cousins who lived with us, this description is quite intriguing! Fingers crossed 🤞🏻

  4. Thomas Walker

    would like to win the book…..

  5. Anne

    Compelling and captivating. What a treasure.

  6. Pearl

    Fascinating. Transport me to this era.

  7. ellie

    This book interests me greatly. Love British fiction and non-fiction. Impressive giveaway.

  8. Michele McAlister

    Wow! Very intriguing. I am excited to read more!

  9. Susan Ferris

    I’ve heard so much about the Mitford sisters but confess that I still know so little about them.

  10. Lana Maskus

    It would be great to win Bright Young Dead.

  11. Beverly Steuver

    would love to win!

  12. John Williams

    Stands to reason that each sister would have some unique personality features–and why shouldn’t that of “the country girl” be interesting as well?

  13. Bonnie W

    I’ve found the Mitford and Langhorne sisters to be fascinating!

  14. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  15. Crystal Blackburn

    I would love to win the book.

  16. Marisa Young

    Would like to read this book

  17. pablo101

    Interesting article about Pamela Mitford.

  18. Lori P

    Sounds like a very interesting family dynamic, amplified by privilege and the opportunity that comes with it. Had mostly heard about Jessica Mitford throughout the years but never knew she sprang from this.

  19. carloshmarlo

    I’ve found the Mitford sisters fascinating since I first heard of them. Thrilled to see this series getting underway. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

  20. Jenny B

    Makes me want to read “Love in a Cold Climate” again!

  21. lasvegasnv

    interesting

  22. susan beamon

    Wow and gosh, what a hoot of a book. Give me a copy, sport.

  23. Michael Carter

    The ‘other’ sister in a very interesting family.
    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks!

  24. Melissa Lawrence

    Seems very interesting. Thanks for the contest!

  25. Denise Duvall

    I have always been fascinated by these famous or should I say infamous sisters. After reading the excerpt, I would love the chance to win a copy.

  26. Catherine Myers

    Interesting bio of Pamela

  27. Sheryl Sens

    I’ve found Pamela Mitford quite interesting!

  28. Linda Cosby

    I would like to read this.

  29. Janet Gould

    Sounds like a fascinating family.

  30. Carolyn

    Looks like a great book!

  31. Susan D Elliott

    I’ve read a book about the Mitford Sisters before, and can’t wait for the second novel by Ms. Fellowes. She is an excellent story teller.

  32. Dianna Young

    Interesting!

  33. Mary Viggiano

    This sounds like a fascinating book.

  34. Caryn Neumann

    Fascinating family!

  35. Carole Knoles

    Any one of the fabulous Mitfords would be a fascinating subject for a novel.

  36. Joyce Benzing

    Interesting.

  37. Joyce

    It must have been interesting being this sister of the bunch.

  38. Lady May

    Looking forward to reading about Pamela Mitford – Jessica Fellowes favorite Mitford!

  39. Lady May

    Looking forward to reading about Jessica Fellowes favorite Mitford!

  40. SusanD

    The Mitford sisters are so interesting and Jessica Fellowes bring them front and center in her beautifully written mystery. Love, love, love it!

  41. Monique Cuillerier

    I find the Mitford sisters’ story so interesting. This books sounds great.

  42. Monique Cuillerier

    I find the Mitford sisters’ story to be so interesting and this books sounds great.

  43. Beth Talmage

    What a sensitive profile–so often the things I read about the Mitford sisters are glib and glitzy. I would have loved to have known her.

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