|Dame Barbara Cartland in 1987 by Allan Warren|
I remember her well, batting her enormous black eyelashes on TV, swathed in glorious frothy frills and furs and lace and hats. Oh, and enormous hair! There was no one like her and never will be again. Of course, she was madly non-pc, especially by today's terms. But, for all that, she had a certain, rather terrifying, panache. She wrote over 700 romantic novels - heaven knows where she managed to find 700 different romantic plots. (Is that possible? I really couldn't say.)
She was born in Birmingham Mary Barbara Hamilton Cartland.
Her writing career was not confined to the romance novels. She was a reporter for The Daily Express in 1920, specialising in writing society material. Some time ago I read one of her biographies, the one about Napoleon's Josephine, and I remember being impressed with the quality of her writing, having had it drummed into me that everything she wrote was formulaic, predictable and trivial. Not entirely true!
Her romances may not have been literature, but they were extraordinarily successful for all that and gave immense pleasure to many women during difficult times, although they may not have furthered the causes of feminism! The main charges against them was they were always about "ideal" upper class women who always did the right thing, beat the bad girl to get their man through their virtuous sweetness, and were rewarded with long and lasting happiness for their rightness and their commitment to the greater good of the male sex.
Cartland married two McCorquodales, cousins Alexander and Hugh (although not at the same time, of course.) Her daughter, Raine, was the result of her marriage to Alexander McCorquodale, and Raine, as we know, married the 8th Earl Spencer, and became the step-grandmother of Princess Diana.
Barbara Cartland also concerned herself vigorously with human rights and achieved some fine results. According to the website www.thefamouspeople.com:
"She also campaigned for better condition and salaries for midwives and nurses. For her contribution in this field, she received Dame of Grace of the Order of St John of Jerusalem."
This multi-faceted woman died of cancer in the year 2000 aged 98.