My History: A Memoir of Growing Up
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The acclaimed New York Times bestselling author shares vivid memories of her childhood and recalls the experiences that set her on the path to a writing life.
Ever since she received Our Island Story by H. E. Marshall as a Christmas present in 1936, Antonia Fraser's deep love of history has been a constant in her remarkable life. The book made such an impression that it inspired her to write Mary, Queen of Scots thirty years later.
Born into British aristocracy, the author's idyllic early childhood was interrupted by a wartime evacuation to North Oxford. The relocation had profound effects on her life, not the least of which was her education at a Catholic convent and her eventual conversion from the Protestant faith to Catholicism. Her memories of holidays spent at Dunsany Castle and Pakenham Hall, a stint as "Miss Tony" selling hats in a London department store, and her early days working in publishing are all told in her singular, irresistible voice.
My History is a heartfelt memoir that is also a love letter to a British way of life that has all but disappeared. Anglophiles, history lovers, and Downton Abbey fans are sure to be enthralled.
From the Hardcover edition.
you know there’s a war on?” Then again, perhaps our house was especially cold, due first of all to Elizabeth’s natural puritanism—some women were said to greet food-rationing with joy, and if true, she was one of them. Fish was a staple: we were always being told that we lived in an island surrounded by fish. Consequently it was unrationed. Unfortunately after that all the fish in our house (which would now be served at vast prices in elegant restaurants) had to be draped in a thick white
Kenneth Kirk of Oxford, as a kind of testing-ground for future developments. What the Bishop, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, correctly understood about Elizabeth was that her marriage to Frank was the centre of her existence. She had to find a way to reconcile herself to his deeply held Faith. In 1969, after the tragic death of my youngest sister Catherine in a motor accident at the age of twenty-three, I spent some of the first period of mourning alone with my mother; she
is not veritas hominis, verity of men, nor the verity of women, but veritas Domini”—the truth of God. She added, after citing the example of the female saints: “And I hope in God it will be seen that women in time will do much.” Studying the life of this remarkable woman for my book on woman’s lot in seventeenth-century England, in the 1980s, I was gloomily unsurprised by the fact that Mary Ward and her new order ran into trouble with the Papacy. It was not until 1703, long after her own death,
declaration was a deliberate challenge. Mother Ig smiled that sweet smile. She bided her time. A few days later she made an announcement. “Saturday morning is as you all know a free period. Except for Antonia. She is going to be a journalist on the Daily Express. So she will spend Saturday morning learning how to type in the gym, with the benefit of postal lessons supervised by Mother Hilary.” So there I sat, with a kind of iron band masking the keys of the typewriter, beneath which my sightless
encouraged to slink away, and slink away I did. In all fairness, I should balance the introduction of Dominic Elwes into my life by my parents against their other very different social introduction, which also involved a ball. My father’s interest in Germany had by no means waned with his appointment as Minister for Civil Aviation. The need for practical reconciliation in the post-war world had been, and remained, a passionately held belief. As a mark of respect for Frank’s position, I was among