Nancy Mitford The Pursuit of Love
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The Pursuit of Love: Writer Nancy Mitford was from an immensely controversial family

The Mitford sisters were scandalous!

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The Pursuit of Love on BBC One, based on the book by Nancy Mitford, is delighting period drama fans with its story of love and romance in the 1920s upper classes.

With the series attracting positive reviews, the spotlight has turned to writer Nancy.

But who was Nancy Mitford, and why was her family one of the most scandalous in Britain during the 20th century?

Nancy Mitford
Nancy was the writer of the family (Credit: YouTube)

The Pursuit of Love – who were the Mitford sisters and why were they so controversial?

Nancy Mitford

Nancy was born in 1904 and was the eldest daughter of David Freeman-Mitford, the 2nd Baron Redesdale.

By the time the ‘roaring’ 1920s came around she was considered to be one of the infamous ‘bright young things’.

Read more: The Pursuit of Love disappoints BBC viewers as they ‘miss’ Line of Duty

However, Nancy soon took to writing.

Her post-war novels, The Pursuit of Love and Love In A Cold Climate, are regarded as classics.

When it comes to her private life, Nancy divorced her husband in 1957.

She then lived in France with her companion Gaston Palewski and wrote more books – this time historical biographies.

Nancy died, aged 68, in 1973.

Pamela Mitford
Pamela was known as the ‘rural’ Mitford (Credit: YouTube)

Pamela Mitford

In 1936, Pamela – known simply as ‘Woman’ to many – married the bisexual physicist Derek Jackson in 1936.

They lived together at Tullamaine Castle in Ireland, but their marriage ended in 1951.

The future Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman – who was in love with Pamela – described her as “the most rural of them all”.

Herself bisexual, Pamela lived out her days with Italian horsewoman Giuditta Tommasi in Gloucestershire.

Diane Mitford
Diana led a controversial life (Credit: YouTube)

Diana Mitford

A socialite and a member of the ‘bright young things’ group in 1920s London, Diane soon travelled down a controversial road.

Her marriage to the aristocrat Bryan Walter Guinness ended in failure in 1932 after she pursued British fascist leader, Oswald Mosley.

She married the controversial Mosley in 1936, in the home of Joseph Goebbels – a prominent member of Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Party.

Hitler himself was a guest.

Because of her ties to the far right, she was arrested during the war and sent to Holloway Prison in north London, eventually being released in 1943.

MI5 said in their file on her: “Diana Mosley, wife of Sir Oswald Mosley, is reported on the ‘best authority’…

“… that of her family and intimate circle, to be a public danger at the present time.

“Is said to be far cleverer and more dangerous than her husband and will stick at nothing to achieve her ambitions.

“She is wildly ambitious.”

Unity Mitford
Unity with Adolf Hitler (Credit: YouTube)

Unity Mitford

A supporter of Adolf Hitler, Nazism, fascism and antisemitism, Unity first travelled to Germany as part of a delegation of British fascists in 1933.

Attending the infamous Nuremberg Rally she became besotted with the dictator.

She said: “The first time I saw him I knew there was no one I would rather meet.”

The first time I saw him I knew there was no one I would rather meet.

Spending more and more time in Germany before the war and becoming closer and closer to the führer, she urged Hitler to strike a deal with the British government.

However, when Hitler invaded Poland and the UK declared war, she went off the rails.

Subsequently, Unity shot herself in the head with a pearl-handled pistol given to her by Hitler for protection.

Although the bullet didn’t kill her, she died in 1948 aged only 33.

Jessica Mitford
Jessica led an eventful life (Credit: YouTube)

Jessica Mitford

Keen to leave her privileged upbringing behind, Jessica Mitford married her second cousin Esmund and eloped to Spain.

Sadly, Esmund died in World War II after the couple had moved to the United States.

Jessica then married civil rights lawyer Robert Treuhaft, and together they became involved in a number of high-profile civil rights campaigns.

They were also active members of the Communist Party, and Jessica was even interrogated in the infamous McCarthy trials during the 1950s.

After leaving the Communist Party in 1960, Jessica became an investigative journalist.

One of her assignments saw her travel to Alabama where she found herself holed up in a church with Martin Luther King Jr.

The church was under attack by the notorious hate group, the Ku Klux Klan.

After an eventful life, Jessica died in 1996, aged 78.

Deborah Mitford
Deborah and her husband in front of Chatsworth (Credit: YouTube)

Deborah Mitford

In 1941, Deborah married the 10th Duke of Devonshire and became Deborah Cavendish, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire.

Part of the ancestral seat was Chatsworth House.

Deborah dedicated the rest of her life to turning the grand stately home in Derbyshire into a tourist attraction and also a viable business.

Read more: The Pursuit of Love: What happened between Dominic West and Lily James?

Today, it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the UK.

Deborah, the last remaining Mitford sister, died aged 94 in 2014.

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