Diana Mosley, née Mitford, (1910–2003), one of the prolific Mitford sisters, remained a staunch fascist all her life. She wrote about being married to Oswald Mosely and visiting the Olympics in Berlin in the company of Hitler and Goebbels and his family in her widely-acclaimed autobiography A Life of Contrasts (1977).
Diana Mosley, née Mitford (1910–2003), was the third of six daughters of the aristocratic Mitford family. She was a considerable society beauty, to whom the writer Evelyn Waugh dedicated his novel Vile Bodies (1930). Her younger sister Unity was a Hitler-groupie and introduced Diana Mosley to him. After having married the heir to the Guinness family in 1929, Diana later met Oswald Mosley, founder of the New Party and then of the British Union of Fascists, divorced Guinness, and became Mosley’s mistress for several years before travelling with him to Berlin to observe the Olympic games in the summer of 1936. Diana Mosley became especially good friends with the family of the German propaganda minister Josef Goebbels. According to her autobiography A Life of Contrasts (1977), Hitler helped the Mosleys prepare the documents for their marriage, which was to take place at a German registry in the autumn of the same year, under a reciprocal arrangement between the two states were this was made possible. During the summer, Unity and Diana travelled to the Wagner festival at Bayreuth, dining at Hitler’s table and meeting the Wagner descendants. The account of the wedding ceremony on 6 October 1936 is as chilling as the rest of the memoir, which paints the leading National Socialists in the most genial light possible, emphasising German culture, music, and literature:
‘M. and I were married on the 6th October 1936 in the drawing-room of the Goebbels’s Berlin house in Hermann Goeringstrasse. I was dressed in a pale gold tunic. Unity and I, standing at the window of an upstairs room, saw Hitler walking through the trees of the park-like garden that separated the house and the Reichskanzlei; the leaves were turning yellow and there was bright sunshine. Behind him came an adjutant carrying a box and some flowers. M. was already downstairs.
The ceremony was short; the Registrar said a few words, we exchanged rings, signed our names and the deed was done. Hitler’s gift was a photograph in a silver frame with A.H. and the German eagle.
We all drove out to Schwanenwerder where Magda had arranged a wedding feast. The little girls, Helga and Hilde, came in afterwards to ‘gratulieren’ and give more flowers. Magda and Dr. Goebbels gave me a leather-bound edition of Goethe’s works in twenty volumes.’
The Mosleys returned to England the following day, after attending the opening of the so-called ‘Winterhilfswerk’ at the Sportpalast (which was intended to alleviate social hardship by providing coal and clothing, thus ensuring loyalty to the NSDAP) and dinner at the Reichskanzlei. Diana travelled regularly to the Nuremberg party conferences and to Berlin where she met Hitler privately at the Berlin Reichskanzlei.
In 1940, Diana Mosley was imprisoned shortly after Oswald Mosley. After half a year they were allowed to share accommodation in Holloway Prison, and were freed with the help of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was Diana’s cousin, in spite of severe public criticism from Diana’s sisters, the writers Nancy and Jessica, who protested that fascists should remain imprisoned. After their release in 1943, the Mosleys lived under house arrest on their farm, growing vegetables, with their sons. After the war they lived outside England, mainly near Paris. Both remained staunch fascists till the end of their respective lives, propagating this in numerous journals and publications, including the fascist periodical The European.
A Life of Contrasts was a BBC Radio 4 ‘good read’. Diana Mosley was allowed to appear on the popular BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs, and commentators on the book jacket of the autobiography from the Evening Standard, the Tatler and the Financial Times hail it as ‘Engrossing’, ‘Brilliant and amusing’ and ‘Often pure Woodhouse’ respectively. Gesa Stedman
1—Diana Mosley, A Life of Contrasts. The Autobiography, (London: Gibson Square, 2009 ), p. 131.
Mosley, Diana, A Life of Contrasts. The Autobiography (London: Gibson Square, 2009 )
Kippenberger, Susanne, Das rote Schaf der Familie. Jessica Mitford und ihre Schwestern (Munich: Carl Hanser, 2014)
Williams, Annabel, ‘Touring Political Berlin: War, Revolution, and Fascism’, in Happy in Berlin? English Writers in the City, The 1920s and Beyond, ed. Stefano Evangelista and Gesa Stedman (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2021), 147–169