My History

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0520151218

The early life of historian Lady Antonia Fraser. Her memoir describes growing up in the 1930s and 1940s but its real concern is with her growing love of History. The fascination began as a child - and developed into an enduring passion. She writes, 'for me, the study of History has always been an essential part of the enjoyment of life'.

Born Antonia Pakenham, the eldest of the eight children of the future Lord and Lady Longford, her childhood was spent in Oxford where her father was a don at Christ Church. Evacuation at the beginning of the war to a romantic Elizabethan manor house near Oxford was an inspiration for historical imaginings. There were adventures in Anglo-Ireland at Dunsany Castle and Pakenham Hall, each offering her treasured links to the past, which became private obsessions.

North Oxford wartime life included four years as one of the few girls then admitted to the Dragon School for Boys, followed by time at a convent school after her family's conversion to Catholicism. Antonia's father joined the Labour Government in 1945 as a Minister, which provided an odd background for exploits such as working in a Bond Street hat shop and a season as a self-made debutante. A job in publishing, by a fortunate coincidence, followed Oxford University and then the dramatic leap forward with the publishing of Mary Queen of Scots, which became a worldwide bestseller to general amazement - including that of the author.

In the final episode, Antonia Pakenham - now Fraser after her marriage to MP Hugh Fraser - writes her first serious book, a biography of Mary Queen of Scots, transforming her life.

A Heavy Entertainment production for BBC Radio 4.