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The Sphinx: The Life of Gladys Deacon - Duchess of Marlborough

Hugo Vickers

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Hodder & Stoughton
11 January 2020
Biography; Biography: historical, political & military; Biography: royalty
**Picked as One of the Best Books So Far in 2020 by the Sunday Times** 'A continuously astonishing and ultimately moving account of a unique figure, the stuff of great literature' Simon Callow, THE SUNDAY TIMES 'Gripping . . . jaw-dropping story, brilliantly told' Ysenda Maxtone Graham, THE TIMES 'Hugo Vickers has ensured that Marlborough's last duchess won't return to obscurity any time soon by giving us this richly anecdotal and oddly captivating book' Miranda Seymour, FINANCIAL TIMES 'At the end of the book the reader can only say, Whew! What a story! ' Anne de Courcy, SPECTATOR 'Hugo Vickers's life of Gladys Marlborough is an extraordinary and tragic story, with special resonance today' EVENING STANDARD ******************* One of the most beautiful and brilliant women of her time, Gladys Deacon dazzled and puzzled the glittering social circles in which she moved.

Born in Paris to American parents in 1881, Gladys emerged from a traumatic childhood - her father having shot her mother's lover dead when Gladys was only eleven - to captivate and inspire some of the greatest literary and artistic names of the Belle Epoque. Marcel Proust wrote of her, 'I never saw a girl with such beauty, such magnificent intelligence, such goodness and charm.' Berenson considered marrying her, Rodin and Monet befriended her, Boldini painted her and Epstein sculpted her. She inspired love from diverse Dukes and Princes, and the interest of women such as the Comtesse Greffulhe and Gertrude Stein.

In 1921, when Gladys was forty, she achieved the wish she had held since the age of fourteen to marry the 9th Duke of Marlborough, then freshly divorced from fellow American Consuelo Vanderbilt. Gladys's circle now included Lady Ottoline Morrell, Lytton Strachey and Winston Churchill, who described her as 'a strange, glittering being'. But life at Blenheim was not a success: when the Duke evicted her in 1933, the only remaining signs of Gladys were two sphinxes bearing her features on the west terraces and mysterious blue eyes in the grand portico. She became a recluse, and the wax injections she'd had to straighten her nose when she was 22 had by now ravaged her beauty. Gladys was to spend her last years in the psycho-geriatric ward of a mental hospital, where she was discovered by a young Hugo Vickers.

Intrigued and compelled to unmask the truth of her mysterious life, Vickers visited her over the course of two years, eventually publishing Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough, a biography of her life - and his first book - in 1979, two years after Gladys's death. Forty years on, Vickers has now complete
By:   Hugo Vickers
Imprint:   Hodder & Stoughton
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm, 
ISBN:   9781529390711
ISBN 10:   1529390710
Pages:   336
Publication Date:   11 January 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Hugo Vickers is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster, and an acknowledged expert on the British Royal Family. He has written biographies of the Queen Mother, Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough, Cecil Beaton, Vivien Leigh, Princess Andrew of Greece and the Duchess of Windsor. The Sphinx has been a forty-year journey for him since his first meeting with Gladys Deacon in 1975.

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