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Originally published Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 5:19 AM

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‘Daughter of Empire’: life at the top of England’s aristocracy

In “Daughter of Empire: My Life as a Mountbatten,” Lady Pamela Hicks recounts the first 30 years of her aristocratic life, from her exotic childhood to her friendship with Elizabeth, the current Queen of England.

The Washington Post

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‘Daughter of Empire: My Life as a Mountbatten’

by Lady Pamela Hicks

Simon & Schuster, 240 pp., $26

Are you still recovering from royal-baby fever? Counting down the days until the newest season of “Downton Abbey”? A new memoir, “Daughter of Empire,” by Lady Pamela Hicks — whose father was Lord Louis Mountbatten, whose cousin is Prince Philip and whose great-great grandmother was Queen Victoria — may be just what you need. Now 84 and the widow of designer David Nightingale Hicks, Lady Pamela lightheartedly reflects on the first 30 years of her aristocratic life. Highlights include living with Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt during World War II, witnessing firsthand the partition of India (her father was the last viceroy of India), and serving as a bridesmaid and lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth.

While Lady Pamela adored her father, she found her mother distant. Mother preferred traveling; rubbing shoulders with celebrity houseguests such as Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and Laurence Olivier; and taking comfort with other men. Lady Pamela’s mother compensated for her absence by providing nannies and a menagerie of exotic pets, including two wallabies, a lion and a honey bear. The author attributes the success of her parents’ open marriage to her father’s “complete lack of jealousy and total desire for my mother’s happiness.”

In his role as viceroy of India, Lady Pamela’s father oversaw the partition of the nation, at the time considered “the last jewel in the Empire.” Unlike his predecessors, he was “not there to uphold the laws and traditions of the Empire but to dismantle them.”

She was also at Elizabeth’s side when, at age 25, the princess learned of the death of her father, King George VI. “I instinctively gave her a hug,” Pamela writes, “but quickly, remembering that she was now queen, dropped into a deep curtsy.”

Lady Pamela presents an honest yet blithe portrayal of her famous, eccentric family and offers a rare glimpse into the inner circle of Britain’s royalty.

Megan McDonough can be reached at

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