Today marks the 35th Anniversary of the Death of Lady Diana Cooper, Viscountess Norwich, who died on this day in 1985! Officially the daughter of the 8th Duke and Duchess of Rutland, she was the biological daughter of Harry Cust, saying about her paternity:
It didn’t seem to matter—I was devoted to my father and I liked Harry Cust too.”
Growing up at the splendid Belvoir Castle, the family seat of the Dukes of Rutland, Lady Diana came out to society in 1910, and quickly gained a reputation as the most beautiful young woman in England, appearing in countless profiles, photographs and articles in newspapers and magazines, as a member of the Coterie, an influential group of young English aristocrats and intellectuals of the 1910s, many of whom died during the First World War, while she served as a a VAD Nurse at a hospital set up by her mother. In 1919, she married Duff Cooper, a nephew of the Duke of Fife, but not deemed too suitable because of his lack of title and wealth. The couple had one son, John Julius Norwich, the popular historian, travel writer, and television personality.
Lady Diana worked as an editor of Femina Magazine and wrote a newspaper column, before becoming an actress in the early 1920s, notably in The Great Love (1918), Hearts of the World (1918), The Glorious Adventure (1922), The Virgin Queen (1923), and The Miracle (1924), gaining international success. She used her fame for her husband’s election to Parliament in 1924 and was an active member of interwar society, close to the later King Edward VIII. Travelling with Duff Cooper on his diplomatic postings around the Empire, she their homes into the centre of society. When he was appointed the British Ambassador to France from 1944 to 1948, Lady Diana turned the British Embassy into the centrepoint of immediate post-Second World War French culture. entertaining many cultural and societal figures.
The couple remained in France after his retirement, and when he has made Viscount Norwich in 1952, she refused to be styled as such, officially announcing after his death two years later that she has “reverted to the name and title of Lady Diana Cooper”. Lady Diana remained an eccentric society figure, famously helping to organise the legendary Le Bal Oriental hosted by Carlos de Beistegui in Venice in 1951, and published her memoirs in three volumes: The Rainbow Comes and Goes, The Light of Common Day, and Trumpets from the Steep. She passed away in London in 1986, at the age of 93, and is interned in the Manners Family Mausoleum at Belvoir Castle.
Some of Lady Diana’s well known quotes include:
“Oh- I’m so sorry, I didn’t recognize you without your crown.” Talking to the Queen at a party
“First you are young; then you are middle-aged; then you are old; then you are wonderful.”
“It helped me in the air to keep my small mind contained in earthly human limits, not lost in vertiginous space and elements unknown.”
“It has always been my temptation to put myself in other people’s shoes: even into a horse’s shoes as he strains before the heavy dray; into a ballerina’s points as she feels age weigh upon her spring; into Cinderella’s slippers as she danced till midnight; into the jackboot that kicks; into the Tommy’s boots that tramp; into the magic seven-leaguers. With experience of age I have learned to control this habit of sympathy which deforms truth.”