Financial Times literary editor Dalley presents this detailed portrait of the charming and elusive Lady Diana Mosley—highborn society beauty, writer, and fascist.
Much has been written about Diana’s sisters Unity (infatuated with Hitler), Nancy (the celebrated novelist), and Deborah (the Duchess of Devonshire). But this is the first biography of Diana, the wife of the mercurial and notorious Sir Oswald Mosley (leader of the British Union of Fascists). Still alive and quite unrepentant in her late 80s, Diana in her youth was rather more than a free spirit. Her leaving the wealthy Bryan Guinness to become Mosley’s mistress had scandalized London society, true enough. But her late-night chats with Hitler, her frequent appearances at Goebbels’s villa, and her schemes to set up a specially built radio station in Germany to propagandize southeast England during the late 1930s attracted the interest of British Intelligence. When the war broke out, she was imprisoned until 1943 and remained under house arrest for the remainder of the conflict. She and her husband flirted with anti-Semitic and right-wing organizations after the war, but reputation, tax exile, and the burdens of aristocratic life limited their political involvements: Oswald would climb back on the horse and run a couple of times for a seat in Parliament, while Diana would edit such terms as “fuzzie wuzzies” or “hottentots” out of his political writings on Africa (which Oswald envisioned as the future “estate” of an united European nation). Dalley argues that Diana’s life is an example of the search for a coherence during turbulent times, but she rarely offers any comment on Diana’s moral imagination beyond remarks about standing by her man or adhering to the things that mattered most to her. And Dalley’s research is compromised (to put it mildly) by Mosley’s refusal to grant her access to her unpublished papers and diaries until after her death.
A guarded, and frequently routine, presentation of a life that might receive a more searching treatment after it ends.