Ms. Hicks was born to Lord Louis Mountbatten, one of the many royal European families that traced back their heritage to Queen Victoria. The early twentieth century saw that political map of Europe shift resulting in many monarchies being replaced by other forms of government. The Mountbatten family, like many others, became enmeshed in Europe (relying on kinship ties with the English monarchs). For those familiar with the story of India’s independence, the name Mountbatten will be easily recognizable.
As an eye witness to history, Ms. Hicks offers a fascinating viewpoint. While not deep or insightful, she provides those little details that generally elude historians. It’s easy enough to figure out who did what, where, and when. It’s much more difficult to get the details of everyday life, get a view of personalities, and to see history as a progression of daily events. The complete matter-of-fact but chatty tone of the book offers a wonderful view of how the families of historical movers and shakers actually saw it. As readers, we want insight and analysis and yet, the real charm of Daughter of Empire was its lack.
I loved reading about her childhood, so different from what I consider normal. Ms. Hicks and her sister grew up largely in the care of staff, yet clearly had deep emotional connections with their family (including their parents’ long term lovers). They traveled around Europe and the British Empire, a reminder that once the British Empire did span the globe. Their childhood pets included creatures as diverse as wallabies, lions, and bears. It’s a view of a lifestyle that few get to see and even fewer get to live.
The second half of the book focuses on her time in India during the time of Gandhi and her time as lady-in-waiting to Princess Elizabeth (and shortly afterwards Queen Elizabeth). Reading this book was like being back stage in a theater – you know something of what is happening on stage but what you really see is the number of people running around to make it happen. I loved getting a view of those details. What is it like to live a life where meeting world famous people happens every day and seems completely common place? This book gives a great feel for how the world looks to those involved.
Most memoirs I’ve read either bring the reader up to the present or focus on key events and their resolution. This memoir is exactly as stated; the author relates her life as she lived it under her maiden name, ending with her shift into life as Mrs. Hicks. This time frame takes us from 1920s to the 1950s, covering WWII, India’s independence, and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Overall, this was one of the most enjoyable memoirs I’ve read in a while.
Sara Drake has been an avid reader since a young age. She has both a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and a Master’s in History.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Phoenix. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.