The Mitford sisters


Coming of age in the politically charged 1930s, these six aristocratic sisters were born and raised in a remote country house in England. Without much interference from their rather eccentric parents, each sister grew up to be remarkable in her own way. 

There is one precise moment that can be identified as the first time the Mitford sisters made their mark in the bigger world: In 1932, Diana – the family beauty – left her rich husband to become the highly visible mistress of married fascist leader, Sir Oswald Mosley. This was an act that, in those days, was absolutely unheard of. Yet Diana didn’t care at all about the commotion her choice caused inside and outside of her family.

Being unflappable was another trait the Mitford sisters would all turn out to share. After the already eccentric sister Unity accompanied Diana to a Nazi rally in Nuremberg in 1933, she too fell under the spell of the Führer. In turn, and maybe partly in opposition, sister Jessica joined the equally extreme communist movement.

She felt suffocated by her aristocratic milieu, and wanted to get out, to lead a ‘real life’ with the working classes. Everyone knew she had been saving every penny she had in her ‘running away from home jar’ for years, but nobody took it seriously. Unity and Jessica divided their shared bedroom into two by hanging a curtain in the middle: Unity decorated her side with swastikas and portraits of Mussolini, Hitler and Mosley; on the other side, Jessica set out her communist library; a bust of Lenin and a hand-sewn flag with hammer and sickle.

  • You can read more about the Mitford sisters in Issue 21.

Text Liddie Austin Photography Getty Images