The Sphinx

The Sphinx


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The Sphinx: The Life of Gladys Deacon - Duchess of Marlborough

By Hugo Vickers

Not far from Burford is Blenheim, the only palace built for a non-royal in Britain. Predictably, it has a remarkable history. This is the story of one of its most compelling chatelaines: Gladys Deacon.

While only there for a tumultuous 20 years in the early 20th century, she left an indelible mark. Sphinxes sculpted from her profile still recline on the Blenheim Palace terrace and images of her remarkable blue eyes stare down from the coffering of the logia.

Hugo Vickers is known for his royal biographies. In the late 1970s he found Gladys Deacon, once Duchess of Marlborough, languishing in a mental hospital, and gradually unravelled the mystery behind her presence. In The Sphinx, he has rewritten the original biography, following the unearthing of new material and the removal by time of diplomatic censors.

Described by Winston Churchill as ‘a strange glittering being’ (she was married to his first cousin, ‘Sunny’ Marlborough), Vickers retells the story of Gladys’s remarkable life. Born in Paris to American parents, she was famed for her beauty, which inspired the devotion of aristocrats and intellectuals alike (Monet, Rodin, Lady Ottoline Morrell, Lytton Strachey and Proust were among her friends). Ambitious, she became the second wife of Sunny Marlborough. The union was blighted; she obsessively bred Blenheim Spaniels and reputedly used a revolver to keep Sunny from her bedroom. In 1933, a year before his death, he expelled her from Blenheim, affecting her already compromised mental acuity. Her journey, however, is unmissable.

Hardback, dust jacket, printed end papers

Extent: 388 pp

Dimensions: H:23.8cm, W:16cm, D:4cm

Illustrations: 8 pages of black and white photographs

ISBN -10: 1529390702, ISBN - 13:  978- 1529390704