Few families can boast of not one but two saints among their ancestors, a
great-aunt who was the last tsarina of Russia, a father who was Grace
Kelly’s pinup, and a grandmother who was not only a princess but could
also argue the finer points of naval law. Pamela Mountbatten entered a
remarkable family when she was born at the very end of the Roaring
As the younger daughter of the glamorous heiress Edwina
Ashley and Lord Louis Mountbatten, Pamela spent much of her early life
with her sister, nannies, and servants—and a menagerie that included, at
different times, a bear, two wallabies, a mongoose, and a lion. Her
parents each had lovers who lived openly with the family. The house was
always full of guests like Sir Winston Churchill, Noël Coward, Douglas
Fairbanks, and the Duchess of Windsor (who brought a cold cooked chicken
as a hostess gift).
When World War II broke out, Lord Mountbatten was in command of the HMS Kelly
before being appointed chief of Combined Operations, and Pamela and her
sister were sent to live on Fifth Avenue in New York City with Mrs.
Cornelius Vanderbilt. In 1947 her parents were appointed to be the last
viceroy and vicereine of India and oversee the transfer of power to an
independent Indian government. Amid the turmoil of political change,
Pamela worked with student leaders, developed warm friendships with
Gandhi and Nehru, and witnessed both the joy of Independence Day and its
terrible aftermath. Soon afterwards, she was a bridesmaid in Princess
Elizabeth’s wedding to Prince Philip, and she was a lady-in-waiting at the
young princess’ side when she learned her father had died and she was now queen.
Vivid and engaging, well-paced and superbly detailed, this
witty, intimate memoir is an enchanting lens through which to view the
early part of the twentieth century. Download and start listening now!