Lady Antonia Fraser
Fraser in 2010
|Born||Antonia Margaret Caroline Pakenham|
27 August 1932
|Alma mater||Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford|
|Genre||Biography, detective fiction|
|Children||6, including Flora Fraser|
Lady Antonia Margaret Caroline Fraser née Pakenham; born 27 August 1932) is a British author of history, novels, biographies and detective fiction. She is the widow of the 2005 Nobel Laureate in Literature, Harold Pinter (1930–2008), and prior to his death was also known as Lady Antonia Pinter.(
Family background and education
Fraser is the first-born of the eight children of Frank Pakenham, 7th Earl of Longford (1905–2001), and his wife, Elizabeth Pakenham, Countess of Longford, née Elizabeth Harman (1906–2002). As the daughter of an earl, she is accorded the courtesy title "Lady" and thus customarily addressed formally as "Lady Antonia".
As a teenager, she and her siblings converted to Catholicism, following the conversions of their parents. Her "maternal grandparents were Unitarians – a non-conformist faith with a strong emphasis on social reform ...". In response to criticism of her writing about Oliver Cromwell, she has said, "I have no Catholic blood". Before his own conversion in his thirties following a nervous breakdown in the Army, as she explains, "My father was Protestant Church of Ireland, and my mother was Unitarian up to the age of 20 when she abandoned it."
She was educated at the Dragon School in Oxford, St Mary's School, Ascot, and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford; the last was also her mother's alma mater. Prior to going up to Oxford in 1950, she was a debutante in the London social season.
Fraser began work as an "all-purpose assistant" for George Weidenfeld at Weidenfeld & Nicolson (her "only job"), which later became her own publisher and part of Orion Publishing Group, which publishes her works in the UK.
Her first major work, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, was Mary, Queen of Scots (1969), which was followed by several other biographies, including Cromwell, Our Chief of Men (1973). She won the Wolfson History Award in 1984 for The Weaker Vessel, a study of women's lives in 17th century England. From 1988 to 1989, she was president of English PEN, and she chaired its Writers in Prison Committee.
Fraser's study, The Warrior Queens (1989), is an account of military royal women since the days of Boadicea and Cleopatra. In 1992, a year after Alison Weir's book The Six Wives of Henry VIII, she published a book with the same title.
She chronicled the life and times of Charles II in a well-reviewed 1979 eponymous biography. The book was cited as an influence on the 2003 BBC/A&E mini-series, Charles II: The Power & the Passion, in a featurette on the DVD, by Rufus Sewell who played the title character. Fraser served as editor for many monarchical biographies, including those featured in the Kings and Queens of England and Royal History of England series, and, in 1996, she also published a book entitled The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605, which won both the St. Louis Literary Award and the Crime Writers' Association (CWA) Non-Fiction Gold Dagger.
Her biography, Marie Antoinette: The Journey (2001, 2002), was adapted for the film Marie Antoinette (2006), directed by Sofia Coppola, with Kirsten Dunst in the title role, and Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King (2006).
Fraser's memoir Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter was published in January 2010 and she read a shortened version as BBC Radio Four's Book of the Week that month.
At the Cheltenham Literary Festival on 17 October 2010, Lady Antonia announced that her next work would be on the subject of the Great Reform Bill 1832. She is no longer planning a biography of Queen Elizabeth I, as this subject has already been extensively covered.
Perspective and criticism
Fraser acknowledges she is "less interested in ideas than in 'the people who led nations' and so on. I don't think I could ever have written a history of political thought or anything like that. I'd have to come at it another way."
Marriages and later life
From 1956 until their divorce in 1977, she was married to Sir Hugh Fraser (1918–1984), a descendant of Scottish aristocracy 14 years her senior and a Roman Catholic Conservative Unionist MP in the House of Commons (sitting for Stafford), who was a friend of the American Kennedy family. They had six children: three sons, Benjamin, Damian, and Orlando; and three daughters, Rebecca Fitzgerald, wife of barrister Edward Fitzgerald, QC, Flora Fraser and Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni. All three daughters are writers and biographers. Benjamin Fraser works for JPMorgan, Damian Fraser is the managing director of the investment banking firm UBS AG (formerly S.G. Warburg) in Mexico, and Orlando Fraser is a barrister specializing in commercial law (Wroe). Antonia Fraser has 18 grandchildren.
On 22 October 1975, Hugh and Antonia Fraser, together with Caroline Kennedy, who was visiting them at their Holland Park home, in Kensington, west London, were almost blown up by an IRA car bomb placed under the wheels of his Jaguar, which had been triggered to go off at 9 am when he left the house; the bomb exploded, killing the cancer researcher, Gordon Hamilton Fairley. Fairley, a neighbour of the Frasers, had been walking his dog, when he noticed something amiss and stopped to examine the bomb.
In 1975, she began an affair with playwright Harold Pinter, who was then married to the actress Vivien Merchant. In 1977, after she had been living with Pinter for two years, the Frasers' union was legally dissolved. Merchant spoke about her distress publicly to the press, which quoted her cutting remarks about her rival, but she resisted divorcing Pinter. In 1980, after Merchant signed divorce papers, Fraser and Pinter married. After the deaths of both their spouses, Fraser and Pinter were married by a Jesuit priest, Fr. Michael Campbell-Johnson, in the Roman Catholic Church. Harold Pinter died from cancer on 24 December 2008, aged 78.
Lady Antonia Fraser lives in the London district of Holland Park, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, south of Notting Hill Gate, in the Fraser family home, where she still writes in her fourth-floor study.
Fraser was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1999 Birthday Honours and promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to literature. She was appointed a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 2018 New Year Honours for services to literature.
The Lady Antonia Fraser Archive in the British Library
Lady Antonia Fraser's uncatalogued papers (relating to her "Early Writing", "Fiction", and "Non-Fiction") are on loan at the British Library. Papers by and relating to Lady Antonia Fraser are also catalogued as part of the Harold Pinter Archive, which is part of its permanent collection of Additional Manuscripts.
- James Tait Black Memorial Prize (1969), for her book Mary, Queen of Scots.
- Wolfson History Prize (1984), for her book The Weaker Vessel.
- Crime Writers' Association Macallan Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction (1996), for her book The Gunpowder Plot.
- St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates.
- Historical Association Norton Medlicott Medal (2000).
- Enid McLeod Literary Prize (2001), from the Franco-British Society, for Marie Antoinette.
- King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (1954, 1970)
- Robin Hood (1955), The Heirloom Library
- Mary Queen of Scots (1969). ISBN 0-385-31129-X.
- Dolls (1963)
- A History of Toys (1966)
- Cromwell, Our Chief of Men (1973);
- King James VI and I (1974)
- The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England (1975) [editor]
- King Charles II (1979).
- The Weaker Vessel: Woman's Lot in Seventeenth-century England (1984)
- The Warrior Queens: Boadicea's Chariot (1988), Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London.
- Also published as Warrior Queens: The Legends and Lives of Women Who have led Their Nations in War.
- The Six Wives of Henry VIII (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1996); Orion, 1999, ISBN 978-0-297-64355-5.
- Rpt. & updated edition, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007.
- Also published as the Orion audio-book The Six Wives of Henry VIII (November 2006); ISBN 0-7528-8913-3.
- The first paperback edition is The Six Wives of Henry VIII (London: Mandarin, 1993); ISBN 978-0-7493-1409-5.
- The 1st American edition is entitled The Wives of Henry VIII. New York: Knopf, 1992; ISBN 978-0-394-58538-3.
- The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605 (1996)
- Marie Antoinette (2001); ISBN 0-385-48949-8
- Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King (2006); ISBN 0-297-82997-1.
- Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter (2010), London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (Orion Books); ISBN 978-0-297-85971-0.
- Perilous Question: The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832 (2013)
- My History. A Memoir of Growing Up (2015), New York: Doubleday.
- The King and the Catholics: The Fight for Rights, 1829 (2018)
- Cromwell, the Lord Protector (1973)
- Heroes and Heroines (1980)
- Cromwell, Our Chief of Men (1988)
- The Battle of the Boyne (2005)
- The Antonia Fraser Collection (2013)
- Our Israeli Diary (2016)
Jemima Shore novels
- Quiet as a Nun (1977)
- The Wild Island (1978). Also published as Tartan Tragedy.
- A Splash of Red (1981)
- Cool Repentance (1982)
- Oxford Blood (1985)
- Jemima Shore's First Case (1986)
- Your Royal Hostage (1987)
- The Cavalier Case (1990)
- Jemima Shore at the Sunny Grave (1991)
- Political Death (1995)
- Quiet as a Nun / Tartan Tragedy / Splash of Red (omnibus) (2005)
- Jemima Shore on the Case (omnibus) (2006)
- Scottish Love Poems (1975)
- Love Letters (1976)
- The Pleasure of Reading (1992)
- A Red Rose or A Satin Heart (2010)
- "Antonia Fraser". Desert Island Discs. 27 July 2008. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
- Mel Gussow, "The Lady Is a Writer", The New York Times Magazine, 9 September 1984, Sec. 6, Health: 60, col. 2. Print. The New York Times Company, 9 September 1984; retrieved 8 April 2009.
- Antonia Fraser, "Writer's Rooms: Antonia Fraser", Guardian, Culture: Books, Guardian Media Group, 13 June 2008; retrieved 8 April 2009. (Includes photograph of Antonia Fraser's study.)
- "Non-Fiction: Author: Antonia Fraser" Archived 20 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Orion Books, 2004–2007 [updated 2009]; retrieved 9 April 2009.
- Ginny Dougary, "Lady Antonia Fraser's Life Less Ordinary"
"In a Frank Interview, the Famed Writer Talks about Motherhood, Catholicism, Her Parents and Soulmate Harold Pinter", The Times, News Corporation, 5 July 2008, 9 April 2009.
- Daniel Snowman, "Lady Antonia Fraser", History Today 50.10 (October 2000): pp. 26–28, History Today, n.d., 8 April 2009 (excerpt; full article available to subscribers or pay-per-view customers).
- "Non-Fiction: Antonia Fraser: Author Q&A" Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Orion Books, 2004–2007 [updated 2009]; retrieved 9 April 2009.
- Nicholas Wroe, "Profile: The History Woman", The Guardian, Arts & Humanities, 24 August 2002; retrieved 8 April 2009.
- "Featured Alumni: Antonia Fraser: Author, Lady Margaret Hall" Archived 9 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine, University of Oxford Alumni, University of Oxford, 29 October 2007. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
- Karmali, Sarah. "Strictly Ballgown: Antonia Fraser remembers her debutante days". Harpers Bazaar. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
- Antonia Fraser, "Antonia Fraser: Author Q&A" Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Orion Books, 2004–2007 [updated 2009]. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
- "History Books by Antonia Fraser" Archived 8 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine and "Other Books by Antonia Fraser" Archived 7 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine at AntoniaFraser.com, Antonia Fraser, 2007; retrieved 9 April 2009; "Author: Antonia Fraser: Non-Fiction" Archived 20 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Orion Books, 2004–2007 [updated 2009], 9 April 2009.
- "Board of Trustees". English PEN. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
- "Our President in 1983/84 was: Lady Antonia Fraser", biography, Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club, n.d. Retrieved 8 April 2009.
- "Charles II: The Power and the Passion", BBC, 16 February 2004, retrieved 2 April 2019
- Antonia Fraser, The Gunpowder Plot Archived 7 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine, 2007, Antonia Fraser website; retrieved 13 June 2008.
- Antonia Fraser, "Sofia's Choice", Vanity Fair, November 2006, Condé Nast Publications; retrieved 9 April 2009.
- Cf. My Word!, BBC Radio 4, BBC, 9 April 2009.
- "Benefits", Franco-British Society, 2008; retrieved 9 April 2009.
- Alex Danchev, "They Remember, But Others Forget", Times Higher Education Supplement, News Corporation, 2 March 2007. Retrieved 13 June 2008.
- "Patrons, Presidents and Trustees". londonlibrary.co.uk. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
- "Antonia Fraser to tell Harold Pinter 'love story'. Historical biographer will publish her 'portrait of a marriage' to the Nobel laureate in January 2010", The Guardian, 9 June 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2009. [There is a factual error in this account; the Pinter-Merchant marriage was not dissolved in 1977, as stated, but in 1980, shortly before Pinter and Fraser married; Merchant's delay in signing the divorce papers resulted in the reception (scheduled for Pinter's 50th birthday on 10 October 1980) being held before the wedding, which occurred two weeks later, according to Michael Billington's authorised biography of Pinter (Harold Pinter, pp. 271–72). It was the Frasers' marital union that was dissolved in 1977.]
- Wroe, Nicholas (23 August 2002). "The History Woman". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
- "Sir Hugh Fraser Dead; Long a Tory Legislator", Obituaries, The New York Times, 7 March 1984, 13 June 2008.
- Moysey, Steven (2008). The Road to Balcombe Street: The IRA Reign of Terror in London. Haworth Press. pp. 109–110. ISBN 978-0-7890-2913-3.
- "Timeline: 1974–75: The Year London Blew Up", History, Channel 4, 27 August 2007; retrieved 8 April 2009.
- Melanie McDonagh, "Mr. and Mrs. Pinter, At Home", The Tablet, 30 January 2010, p. 21.
- "No. 59647". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2010. p. 6.
- Loan No. 110B/1–19: Lady Antonia Fraser Archive Archived 23 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine, British Library Manuscripts Catalogue, British Library, 1993– , 8 April 2009.
- "Gold Daggers" Archived 23 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Crime Writers' Association, n.d., 13 June 2008.
- "Website of St. Louis Literary Award". Archived from the original on 23 August 2016. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
- Saint Louis University Library Associates. "Recipients of the Saint Louis Literary Award". Archived from the original on 31 July 2016. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
- "Enid McLeod Literary Prize"[permanent dead link], Book Trust, 2007. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
- Must You Go? Archived 21 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Shortlist for Non-Fiction Book of The Year award category (Book 5), Galaxy National Book Awards, 2010. Retrieved 6 December 2010.
Biographies and profiles
- Gussow Mel. "The Lady Is a Writer". The New York Times Magazine, 9 September 1984.
- "Our President in 1983/84 was: Lady Antonia Fraser" bio at Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club.
- Snowman, Daniel. "Lady Antonia Fraser". History Today 50.10 (October 2000): 26–28.
- Wroe, Nicholas. "Profile: The History Woman." Guardian, 24 August 2002.
Interviews and articles
- Dougary, Ginny. "Lady Antonia Fraser's Life Less Ordinary: In a Frank Interview, the Famed Writer Talks about Motherhood, Catholicism, Her Parents and Soulmate Harold Pinter". Times, 5 July 2008.
- "Interviews: Antonia Fraser Peers into the Heart of Louis XIV". National Public Radio, Weekend Edition Saturday, 11 November 2006.
- Leith, Sam. "Literary Lazing". The Daily Telegraph, 10 July 2007.
- Talese, Nan A. Interview with Antonia Fraser. Random House Books, 2001.
- Weinberg, Kate. "Culture Clinic: Lady Antonia Fraser". The Daily Telegraph. 15 Mar. 2008.
- AntoniaFraser.com – Official website of Antonia Fraser.
- "Antonia Fraser" – Author webpage at Orion Publishing Group (UK publisher)
- "Antonia Fraser" – Author webpage at Random House (US publisher)
- Antonia Fraser – Client page at Curtis Brown Literary and Talent Agency
- "Antonia's Choice" – In Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 (first broadcast 27 July 2008)
- Must You Go? extract – "First Night" (Chapter One), Galaxy National Book Awards (Phoenix edn)
- Translated Penguin Book - at Penguin First Editions reference site of early first edition Penguin Books.