Daughter of Empire: Life as a Mountbatten by Pamela Hicks

Review published on April 21, 2017.

This is a memoir of Pamela Hicks, younger daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma. It covers three main themes: her childhood, her trip with her parents to India for the negotiations that led to that country’s independence and partition, and then her years as lady in waiting to the queen, both immediately before and after she inherited the throne in 1952. It should also be said this book is marketed as a link-in or “inspiration” for the film “Viceroy’s House”.

Early on, we are told that Lady Pamela Hicks is descended from not one, but two saints – laying the ground rules for somebody bedded deep in the history of royalty across Europe. Having said that, and being aware that discretion might be required as some characters are still alive, I still found this book deeply boring, feeling that it was intent on reflecting royalty as “celebrity” rather than history. But celebrity where any mention is more important than substance.

I admit I am not interested in royalty as such, but history is an interest. So the great disappointment is that the potential of the story was so huge, but the reality was that the book was extremely limited. To compound the annoyance, the style of the book (a running of events largely in date order) is littered with vacuous exclamations of “wonder” etc, but no detailed descriptions giving a sense of place or time and with no real analysis of character either – other than those revealed almost by accident and never explored.

In terms of topics covered, the book bore the distinct impression of a rapidly produced text with ideas and themes “Googled” from popular biographies, texts, photographs and recent TV programmes, albeit coupled with one or two original memories. I suspect that this book will only appeal to those who are interested in everything royal, while others will look elsewhere for information on the “great events” depicted.

Hilary White 1/3

Daughter of Empire: Life as a Mountbatten by Pamela Hicks
W&N 9781474606929 pbk Mar 2017

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