Lady Pamela Hicks was in the room where it happened. Frequently.
The daughter of the last Viceroy of India, Hicks was born in Madrid. She was very nearly homeless during World War 1 because her mother forgot which hotel she had sent her daughters to. She was evacuated from the family manor in London lived with the Vanderbilts in New York during World War 2 while her father commanded the British naval fleet. She goofed around with cousin, Phillip, on the trip where he met and fell in love with Princess Elizabeth and was a bridesmaid at their wedding and later an honored guest at the queen’s coronation.. She was pen pals with Ghandi and Nehru and front and center at some of the most historic moments in India’s fight for independence. And she did it all with a sense of duty and grace.
Hicks is the daughter of heiress Edwina Ashley and Lord Louis Mountbatten. These two people are legends in their own right and together were one of the most influential couples in history. And, according to their daughter, had a loving open marriage with long term paramours that acted as step parents for the couple’s daughters as well as being war heroes and secret agents.
Hicks is straight out of central casting. She talks about her bridesmaid dress and flowers in great detail while barely touching on what it was like to be a bridesmaid at Princess Elizabeth’s wedding. She comes from such a place of privilege that her everyday life frequently involves moments of great historical significance for others, but are full of mundane concerns for herself.
She talks about being a Lady In Waiting for Princess Elizabeth and the hours between the death of George VI and Elizabeth finding out that her father had died and now she was suddenly queen. But mostly she writes about how stuffy the Queen’s social secretaries were.
She talks about the events leading to the self-rule of India under her father and the efforts her parents undertook to prevent and respond to the race riots that broke out as India and Pakistan created their borders. But mostly she talked about how nervous she was going into her first public speaking role at a meeting of the student leaders who were jailed for sedition under British rule. By her father. Oh and of course what she wore.
Don’t mistake Pamela for being a shallow clueless rich kid. She is no Kardashian. Her family places duty to country above all else. While her tasks might have been as simple as collecting the bouquets that were handed to the queen, she took every responsibility seriously and with full realization of the unique and special nature of her life. She experienced very grand adventures, but she made some pretty big sacrifices along the way.
Pamela ends her memoir with the meeting of her husband, David Hicks and a little about the death of her mother. She doesn’t address the death of her father (who was killed along with her nephews and grandmother by an IRA bomb), she doesn’t really talk about his legacy at all. I really hope someday she writes a sequel about her adult life. I can’t wait to hear about 1960’s London from her unique perspective.