Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Don't Tell Alfred

Here is (Alfred) Duff Cooper again; this time, as British Ambassador, at a British Embassy 'do' in Paris just after War II. He is with Susan Mary Patten, then wife of an American diplomat. The DJ has been described by Duff's grand daughter as a 'Dodgy Tux' and she reckons that it was probably made out of satin, by one of the French couturiers who dressed her grandmother as Ambassadress, rather than by Savile Row. Nancy Mitford wrote the amusing novel "Don't Tell Alfred", loosely based on the Coopers' time at the Embassy and Antony Beevor and his wife Artemis Cooper have written a book called Paris After The Liberation 1944-1949 (Penguin, 2007), to some extent based on Duff Cooper's Diaries.

There we are then: a post a day for January 2011.


  1. According to the novel, narrated by the new ambassador’s wife, her predecessor refuses to relinquish her residence upon the end of her husband’s mission (I have been inside the British Ambassador’s residence in Paris, once Pauline Bonaparte’s grand townhouse, and only a few steps from the Palais de l’Élysée and it is easy to share her despair at being cast out…) and secretly removes to one of the corner pavilions in the front courtyard (there is a large garden or smallish park in the back) where she continues to receive the luminaries of Parisian society in her salon, as if she were still ambassadrice en titre. This naturally causes much comedy and diplomatic embarrassment.
    I asked a staff member on the one occasion I was there; she confirmed the story, at least in its essentials, and identified Diana Cooper as the model for that immovable character.
    Frog in Suit

  2. Yes. We don't have ambassadors like them anymore. However efficient they were in the discharge of their other duties, they must have been hugely successful in the main purpose of bringing people together; their quality to do this shines through the pictures, even now.

  3. Cooper was, according to his biographer, quite successful indeed at bringing himself together with Patten.

  4. Yes, the picture says as much, doesn't it? Susan Mary Patten was what Duff's wife called one of his 'flowers'.