Flashback: The socialite and the spy writer’s mother


My Diary postings often contain incidental thoughts or things that flit in and out of my mind so fast I struggle to remember them. Other times I write longer entries on subjects I bother to take a more detailed interest in.

This was the case in February 2020 when we were last here in Winchester visiting friends. It surprises me what a short time ago that was, and slightly spooky in the context of how drastically the world and our lives have changed since. Below is what I wrote at the time. It seems such an innocent entry in what will be shown to have been more innocent times…

Whenever I visit Winchester I like to reacquaint myself with Bapsy. Born 1902 into a posh Indian family, Bapsy Pavry was, from the early 1950s, Marchioness of Winchester. She is said to be the only ever Indian Marchioness in history.

Bapsy Pavry, by Augustus John, circa 1930

From an early age, Bapsy made it her business to move freely throughout the British upper class. She hit the jackpot with her marriage in 1952 to the Marquess of Winchester, 90. Worming her way into the top echelons of power was in Bapsy’s DNA. And she didn’t  seem too bothered who she mixed with. Her contact list included the names Hitler, A and Mussolini, B.

But the man she married, the Marquess, was a cad and, despite Bapsy’s obvious attractions, was still having it off with his old flame, Mrs Eve Fleming, mother of the James Bond author Ian Fleming. Bapsy sued Mrs Fleming for “enticement” and won, but the decision was later overturned and the Marquess and Mrs Fleming ran off to Monte Carlo together.

Bapsy is still big in Winchester. She has a grand hall named after her, and her story is displayed with pride in the city’s Guildhall. She continued her role as a prominent socialite, philanthropist and sucker-up to aristocracies worldwide until her death in 1995.

More from Winchester.

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