Nancy: The Story of Lady Astor by Adrian Fort - review by David Astor

David Astor

An American in Parliament

Nancy: The Story of Lady Astor


Jonathan Cape 378pp £25

Nancy Astor was my grandmother and I knew her well, as I was nearly 21 when she died in 1964. Every summer from 1946 I, together with other grandchildren and nephews and nieces, would go to stay with her at Rest Harrow in Sandwich Bay – her cottage by the sea, as she called it. Some cottage. It has 15 bedrooms, a huge lawn where we all learned to ride bicycles, a tennis court and a squash court. We played golf, tennis and cricket, we swam in the sea, we read from the complete Everyman, and Nancy joined in everything. She loved games and she loved playing with children. She told us that sea water was good for us and that we must chew our food 77 times and read the Bible. Indeed, the only part of the annual visit to Rest Harrow that I didn’t enjoy was the Bible-reading and compulsory attendance at Sunday school. I also saw a lot of her when I was at Eton. The school had a rule that boys were restricted to a five-mile radius on days out. Nancy had managed to persuade them that, as the gates of Cliveden were within five miles of Eton, it fell within the rule.

Nancy Astor is famous for being the first woman to hold a seat in Parliament, an extraordinary achievement because she was an American. She may have adopted British citizenship when she married my grand-father, Waldorf Astor, but she remained an American in spirit. She never completely lost her Virginian accent,

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