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Madame de Pompadour
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An eclectic, affectionate biography of Louis XV's most famous and enduring mistress

About the Author

Nancy Mitford was born in London on November 28 1904, daughter of the second Baron Redesdale, and the eldest of six girls. Her sisters included Lady Diana Mosley; Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire and Jessica, who immortalised the Mitford family in her autobiography Hons and Rebels. The Mitford sisters came of age during the Roaring Twenties and wartime in London, and were well known for their beauty, upper-class bohemianism or political allegiances. Nancy contributed columns to The Lady and the Sunday Times, as well as writing a series of popular novels including The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, which detailed the high-society affairs of the six Radlett sisters. While working in London during the Blitz, Nancy met and fell in love with Gaston Palewski, General de Gaulle's chief of staff, and eventually moved to Paris to be near him. In the 1950s she began writing historical biographies - her life of Louis XIV, The Sun King, became an international bestseller. Nancy completed her last book, Frederick the Great, before she died of Hodgkin's disease on 30 June 1973. Nancy Mitford (1904-1973) was born in London, the eldest child of the second Baron Redesdale. Her childhood in a large, remote country house with her five sisters and one brother is recounted in the early chapters of The Pursuit of Love (1945), which, according to Mitford, is largely autobiographical. Apart from being taught to ride and speak French, Nancy Mitford always claimed she never received a proper education. She started writing before her marriage in 1932 in order 'to relieve the boredom of the intervals between recreations established by the social conventions of her world' and had written four novels before the success of The Pursuit of Love in 1945. After the war she moved to Paris and she spent the rest of her life in France. She followed The Pursuit of Love with Love in a Cold Climate (1949), The Blessing (1951) and Don't Tell Alfred (1960). She also wrote four works of biography- Madame de Pompadour, first published to great acclaim in 1954, Voltaire in Love, The Sun King and Frederick the Great. As well as being a novelist and biographer she also translated Madame de Lafayette's classic novel, La Princesse de Cleves, into English, and edited Noblesse Oblige, a collection of essays concerned with the behaviour of the English aristocracy and the idea of 'U' and 'non-U'. Nancy Mitford was awarded the CBE in 1972.

Reviews

My favourite biography is Nancy Mitford's Madame de Pompadour - a famous 18th-century French beauty who became Louis XV's mistress. The secret of a good biography is not just to tell the person's story but to create the world in which they lived. -- Julian Fellowes * Daily Express *
Mitford brings warmth to everything she touches, and her biography of Madame de Pompadour is testimony to that -- Justine Picardie * Sunday Telegraph *
Reads as if an enchantingly clever woman was pouring out the story to me on the telephone -- Raymond Mortimer
Nancy Mitford excels in depicting both the brilliant romantic showcase and the recessed world of power... No historian writing in English has given a better pen-picture of Versailles in its heyday * Time *
Incontestably her best book, Madame de Pompadour is beautifully written in a rapid, nervous, gay and enthusiastic manner which carries the reader through from first page to last -- Cyril Connolly * Sunday Times *

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