Friday, October 18, 2013

A Life That Can Only Be Imagined

"Daughter of Empire - My Life As a Mountbatten" by Lady Pamela Hicks   Simon and Schuster   240 pages   $26

The "Empire" refers to the fact that Hicks' parents Lord Louis and Lady Edwina Mountbatten were the last Viceroy and Vicerine of India.

When Lord Louis married Lady Edwina Ashley, he not only got her, but "Broadlands" as well, a 60-room Palladian-style mansion set on 5,000 acres of prime land.  During WW2 it served as a troop hospital.

Hicks, born at the end of the Roaring '20s, missed WW1.  During WW2, her parents sent her and her older sister, Patricia, to stay "for the duration" with Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt who was hardly on her last bean!  The "cottage" in Newport and the huge house at 640 Park Avenue were quite spacious to accommodate the two sisters plus an orphanage or two.

At the end of the war, Mountbatten and wife were sent to Delhi by the British government to dismantle the various states of India and divide them into two, single states..  India and Pakistan. 

Hicks wrote that the living quarters there were so vast that it took her mother and self two hours to finish touring the place.  "Our bedrooms and private sitting rooms were so far from the dining room that you had to allow 10 minutes to get there."

The three family members wanted to take along two guests for a short stay in the mountains where it was cooler.  Mountbatten's military aide was shocked and insisted on sending 180 servants to care for them -- out of a staff of 5,000 people!

No wonder that for years and years, the Brits moaned about losing The Raj - you just don't see things or places like that today. 

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