I didn’t write this book because I particularly wanted to, but because I was invited to do so. However, this request never assumed the celebrated status of a ‘commission’, for before we got to that stage, it was ‘suggested’ by the publisher that the character that I would be writing about was an unattractive, unintelligent, clumsy lump of a girl who had a romantic crush on Adolf Hitler. Unfortunately this was not the character that had previously been described to me by various friends and relatives; including my own mother. She was, in fact, quite the opposite.
Unity Valkyrie Freeman Mitford was physically attractive, free-spirited, athletic and highly intelligent. She was also a committed fascist who was quite determined to meet and have an affair with Hitler, while enjoying various other sexual adventures on the way. All in all, a far more interesting subject for a biography. So I decided to proceed, with another publisher.
It may seem puzzling that such a book hadn’t already been written because, God knows, there had been no shortage of books concerning the Mitford girls and the family in general. But before the War their Nazi sympathies were not particularly unusual amongst the privileged classes. Afterwards it was a somewhat different story; particularly for ‘Debo’ in her new role as The Duchess of Devonshire and saviour of Chatsworth House.
To this end the Duchess took it upon herself to polish the Mitfords’ tarnished reputation by ‘encouraging’ their portrayal as beautiful and charming eccentrics which reflected everything that was glorious about the English aristocracy. So successful was she in this endeavour that the Mitford girls soon became an icon which those with more social ambition than distinction could aspire to. Some of them even formed a little society and labelled themselves ‘Mitties’. Something that would of course have quite appalled the Mitfords themselves.
In truth they weren’t really a very ‘nice’ family, apart from Jessica; the token black sheep, committed communist and favourite of J K Rowling’s; and perhaps Pamela, once she had become a lesbian and ceased to be mentioned. Otherwise they were outrageous snobs, malicious bullies, and doubtless right-wing fascists who were vehemently committed to Nazi principles. Predictably the ‘Mitties’ do not share my views and reacted to the publication of ‘Hitler’s Valkyrie’ with caustic indignation and vitriolic criticism. But that doesn’t prevent the story of the relationship between Unity Mitford and Adolf Hitler remaining quite fascinating.