The Sphinx: The Life of Gladys DeaconDuchess of Marlborough by Hugo Vickers

All his writing life, Hugo Vickers has been obsessed by the beau monde, above all the aristocracy and the crown. His first book was We Want the Queen (1977), which was not, shall we say, overly critical either of the institution of the crown or its current incumbent. But since then he has become an increasingly probing chronicler of the glittering scene, with a forensic eye for the complexities beyond its gaudy surface.

Already, in his second book, a 1979 biography of Gladys Deacon, Duchess of Marlborough, he was casting a critical eye on his chosen milieu, recounting the extraordinary journey of an exquisitely beautiful young American who flitted like a firefly in the early 1900s across the now entirely vanished world of European high society, bewitching crown princes, novelists, painters, philosophers, wits.

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