Lady Antonia Fraser
(born 27 August 1932), née Pakenham
, is an English
author of history and novels, best known as Antonia Fraser
for writing biographies
and detective fiction
. She is the second wife of Harold Pinter
, the 2005 Nobel Laureate in Literature
, and is also known as Antonia Pinter
Family background and education
Born on 27 August 1932, and named Antonia Margaret Caroline Pakenham, Antonia Fraser is the daughter of Frank Pakenham, 7th Earl of Longford
(1905–2001), and his wife, Elizabeth Pakenham, Countess of Longford
, née Elizabeth Harman (1906–2002); thus, her formal title (form of address) is "Lady Antonia". When she was a teenager, like all her siblings, she became a convert to the Catholic Church
, after the conversion of her 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, she has explained, "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 St Mary's School Ascot
and Dragon School, Oxford
, and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford
, also her mother's alma mater
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 15 years her senior and a Conservative
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, Flora
, and Natasha (Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni), who are all also writers and biographers. Benjamin works for JPMorgan
, Damian is the managing director of the investment banking firm UBS AG (formerly S. G. Warburg)
, and Orlando is a barrister
specializing in commercial law
(Wroe). Lady Antonia has 17 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 9am when he left the house; the bomb exploded prematurely when it was examined and inadvertently set off by the eminent cancer researcher Gordon Hamilton-Fairley (1930–1975), a neighbor of the Frasers, who had been walking his dog, noticed and inspected the device under the car, and died as a result of the blast.
In 1975, Antonia Fraser met and began an affair with playwright Harold Pinter, who was then married to the actress Vivien Merchant, resulting in fodder for the British tabloid newspapers. 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.
They live in Holland Park, near Notting Hill Gate, in the Fraser family home, where she still writes in her fourth-floor study.
She 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), along with a short biography, is listed in her Orion author's webpage, 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.
She also has written detective novels; the most popular involved a character named Jemima Shore were adapted into a television series which aired in the UK in 1983.
In 1983 to 1984, she was president of the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club.
More recently, Fraser published The Warrior Queens, the story of various 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, which British historian Eric Ives cites in his study of Ann Boleyn.
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 has also served as the 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.
Two of the most recent of her thirteen non-fiction books are Marie Antoinette: The Journey (2001, 2002), which has been made into 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).
From 1979 to 1990, she was a panelist on the BBC Radio 4 panel game My Word!, taking the chair for one season in 1983.
She serves as a judge for the Enid McLeod Literary Prize, awarded by the Franco-British Society, having won that prize herself for her biography Marie Antoinette (2001).
Correcting those who notice only her physical beauty – remarked upon both in her youth and well into her seventh decade – some readers and audience members of her talks have stressed that she is "more than just a pretty face" but actually an accomplished historian and "an intellectual".
- (Sources: )
- Mary, Queen of Scots (1969). ISBN 0-385-31129-X.
- King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (1970)
- Dolls (1973).
- Cromwell, Our Chief of Men (1973); also published as Cromwell: The Lord Protector. ISBN 0-8021-3766-0.
- King James VI and I (1974).
- The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England [Editor] (1975).
- King Charles II (1979); also published as Royal Charles: Charles II and the Restoration and Charles II. ISBN 0-7538-1403-X.
- The Weaker Vessel: Woman's Lot in Seventeenth-century England (1984).
- The Warrior Queens: Boadicea's Chariot (1988); also published as Warrior Queens: The Legends and Lives of Women Who Have Lead Their Nations in War.
- The Six Wives of Henry VIII. (1999; rpt. & updated ed. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007). ISBN 029764355X (10). ISBN 9780297643555 (13). Also published as the Orion audio-book The Six Wives of Henry VIII (Nov. 2006). ISBN 0752889133. The first paperback ed. is The Six Wives of Henry VIII (London: Mandarin, 1993). ISBN 0749314095 (10); ISBN 978-0749314095 (13). The 1st American ed. is entitled The Wives of Henry VIII. New York: Knopf, 1992. ISBN 0394585380 (10); ISBN 978-0394585383 (13).
- The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605 (1996); also published as Faith and Treason: The Gunpowder Plot. ISBN 0-385-47189-0.
- Marie Antoinette (2001). ISBN 0-385-48949-8. Published with subtitle as Marie Antoinette: The Journey (2002). ISBN 0-753-82140-0 (10). ISBN 978-075-382140-4 (13).
- Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King (2006). ISBN 0-297-82997-1.
Jemima Shore novels
- Scottish Love Poems (1975).
- Love Letters (1976).
Biographies and profiles
- Gussow Mel. "The Lady Is a Writer" The New York Times Magazine, September 9, 1984, Health sec. Accessed June 13, 2008. (8 pages.)
- O'Donnell, Eleanor. "Author Profiles: Introducing Lady Antonia Fraser" helium.com. Accessed June 13, 2008.
- "Our President in 1983/84 was: Lady Antonia Fraser" Biography in "Past Presidents" section. Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club (Club official website). Accessed January 5, 2008. (Hosts short audio clip of "Toast to Sir Walter; full text available in 1984 Club Bulletin; full speech available on CD from Club site.)
- Snowman, Daniel. "Lady Antonia Fraser" History Today 50.10 (October 2000): 26-28. (Excerpt; full article available to subscribers or pay-per-view customers.) Accessed June 13, 2008.
- Wroe, Nicholas. "Profile: The History Woman." The Guardian 24 August 2002, Arts & Humanities. Accessed June 13, 2008.Interviews and interview-based 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". The Times, timesonline.co.uk, July 5, 2008. Accessed July 5, 2008.
- Leith, Sam. "Literary Lazing" Daily Telegraph, Arts blogs, July 10, 2007. Accessed June 13, 2008.
- Talese, Nan A. Interview with Antonia Fraser Random House Books. 2001. Accessed January 8, 2008. (Transcript; "This interview appears in an abridged form in the Nan A. Talese Fall 2001 Catalog of Authors.")Timelines
- "Timeline: 1974–75: The Year London Blew Up: August–November 1975" 22 October 1975. Channel 4. channel4.com. N.d. Accessed July 6, 2008.
- "Antonia Fraser" – "Author Spotlight". Random House (US publisher). Accessed October 25, 2007.
- "Antonia Fraser" – Author webpage. Orion Publishing Group (UK publisher). Accessed October 25, 2007.
- "Antonia Fraser" – Biography featured in "Participating Authors", conference on "Real Lives: Exploring Memoir and Biography", The Shakespeare & Company Literary Festival: festivalandco.com, 13 – 15 June 2008, Paris, France. Accessed June 13, 2008.
- AntoniaFraser.com – Antonia Fraser's official website. © 2007 Antonia Fraser. All rights reserved. Accessed October 25, 2007.
- "Antonia Fraser" – Biography in conjunction with lecture presented to Seattle Arts and Lectures, Seattle, Washington, October 28, 2006. Accessed January 5, 2008.
- "An Audience with Antonia Fraser" – Biography featured by Clive Conway Celebrity Productions. Accessed June 13, 2008.
- Accessed October 26, 2007.
- "Culture Clinic: Lady Antonia Fraser" The Telegraph, March 15, 2008. Accessed March 16, 2008.
- "Interviews: Antonia Fraser Peers into the Heart of Louis XIV" Broadcast on Weekend Edition Saturday, National Public Radio, November 11, 2006. Accessed January 11, 2007. (NPR audio accessible for both RealPlayer and Windows Media Player.)
- "Lady Antonia Margaret Caroline Pakenham" – Biography posted in thePeerage.com: "A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain as well as the royal families of Europe: Person Page - 7094 [#70938]". Accessed June 16, 2008.
- "Toast to Sir Walter", presented to the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club by Antonia Fraser, its president for 1983–1984. Accessed January 5, 2007. (Short MP3 audio clip from the speech hosted on Club's official website; full text published in the Club's 1984 Bulletin.)