Today is the anniversary of the birth of Dame Barbara Cartland. Happy Birthday Babs!
Some time ago, I stumbled upon a documentary about Dame Barbara Cartland. I paused for a moment to amuse myself, and found, to my total surprise that I was transfixed. She was an incredible woman. I had always imagined her pink outfits and thick make-up to be an indication of a woman of little substancce. I was wrong. She became a mainstay of the popular media in her trademark pink dresses and plumed hats, an expert on matters of love, marriage, politics, religion, health and fashion. To most people she was known for her prolific romance writing, but in reality she was so much more. Barbara Cartland was an amazing woman.
Not only was she a successful and well-loved author but she also lived a truly amazing life which spanned two world wars.
She was born 9th July, 1901 and her father was killed on a Flanders battlefield in World War 1 and her mother raised her and her two brothers - who were both killed (one day apart) in World War 2.
Cartland became successful as a society reporter and writer of romantic fiction. After a year as a gossip columnist for the Daily Express, Cartland published her first novel, Jigsaw (1923), a slightly naughty society thriller that became a bestseller. One of her plays, Blood Money (1926), was banned by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office. She sold over 1,000 million books sold in over 36 countries, giving her a place in the Guinness book of Records.
During the Second World War Barbara Cartland was Chief Lady Welfare Officer in Bedfordshire looking after 20,000 service men and women. She had the idea of gathering as many wedding dresses as she could for hire, so that service brides would have a white dress to wear on their wedding day. She bought 1,000 second hand gowns without coupons and made many brides’ big day, very special. In 1945 Barbara Cartland received the Certificate of Merit from Eastern Command.
The war marked the beginning of a life-long interest in civic welfare and politics for Barbara Cartland, who served the War Office in various charitable capacities as well as the St. John Ambulance Brigade; in 1953 she was invested at Buckingham Palace as a Commander of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem for her services.
In 1955 Barbara Cartland was elected a councillor on Hertfordshire County Council and served for nine years. One of Barbara’s passions was fighting for better conditions and salaries for midwives and nurses. Through this cause she became a Dame of Grace of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, Chairman of the St John Council in Hertfordshire and Deputy President of the St John Ambulance Brigade.
In the early 1960’s she campaigned for the rights of gypsies’ to have a permanent place to live which resulted in an act of Parliament. One of the first gypsy camps was opened by Barbara Cartland in 1964 and called Barbaraville and there are now 14 in Hertfordshire. This has meant thousands of gypsies and their families have a place to call home and their children can be educated in their local area.
In 1964 Barbara founded the National Association for Health in the UK, of which she was President.
As well as her romantic novels she also wrote books on health and vitamins and was a great believer in the healing power of honey and the benefits of vitamins. She also wrote a number of cookery books; the recipes from which were often used in the House of Commons.
In 1978 she sang an Album of Love Songs with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 1981 Barbara was made a Dame of the Order of the British Empire in the New Year’s Honours List by Her Majesty the Queen, for her contribution to literature and for her work for the Community.
Barbara Cartland produced a total of 723 titles. After years of wearing her trademark anti-wrinkle cream and heavy makeup, she had herself photographed repeatedly without any cosmetics before she died. She was 98 years of age at her death.
Due to her concern for the environment, she requested to be buried in a cardboard coffin. This request was honoured and she was buried at her estate in Hatfield under a tree that had been planted by Queen Elizabeth I.
Much of the information for this post was found at barbaracartland.com