Mitford Marriages: Pamela Mitford and Derek Jackson

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Mitford Marriages: Pamela Mitford and Derek Jackson.

Pamela Mitford is probably the least known of the six sisters.  She’s often thought of as ‘the quiet one’ and certainly she was less scandalous than most of her sisters but nevertheless  she married a man who was not just a millionaire, he was also a war hero and a brilliant scientist.

Pam had not been without admirers. She had been briefly engaged to Oliver Watney, from the family of brewers, although he must have been a weak character as his mother managed to talk him out of the liaison.

John Betjeman, who was to become poet laureate later in life, was besotted by Pam. They spent quiet and happy times together. Betjeman was too reticent to propose at first and when he finally did, Pam turned him down. Summoning up his courage, he proposed again and this time, he was told by Pamela that she would think it over. Whether or not she was simply being polite may never be known but she never  gave him a reply. He later said that her fondness for an Austrian count, Janos von Allmassy, made him realise that a favourable answer would never arrive.

At last though. Pamela did fall in love. She started to see Derek Jackson who, at the time, was thirty years old and a married man. His wife was Poppet, the daughter of painter Augustus John, but their divorce was leady in progress when he started his relationship with Pamela. Derek had a twin brother, Vivian, and they were heirs to a vast fortune. But both men were also charming, amusing, intelligent and fun to be with.

Derek field of study was science and after attending Oxford, he went on to be considered as a brilliant physicist. He was also a keen horseman and hunted and raced. Pam’s youngest sister Debo, at only sixteen, was delighted when the couple started dating as she herself hero-worshipped Derek. (It’s said that she fainted when she heard of their engagement.)

Pamela and Derek were married on December 29th, 1936. Pam was ‘laden with jewels’ – gifts from her betrothed. It was a small family wedding which took place at the Carlton register office. The couple then left for a honeymoon in Austria. But tragedy was to follow.

When they arrived in their hotel in Vienna, Derek was told that his twin brother had been killed in St. Moritz when a horse drawn sleigh he was driving overturned. Pamela said that Derek was never quite the same after the loss of his brother.

Before the Second World War, Pam’s sister Nancy informed the secret services that the couple were in sympathy with the Nazi regime but despite this, Derek had a commendable career in the Royal Air Force. Two years after the end of WW2, the couple moved from England to Ireland. Many wealthy people were being driven out of England by a 98% super tax. In Ireland, they led an almost perfect country existence but Derek missed his scientific life. He began to spend time in Dublin where he worked in laboratories – and where he also met and fell in love with Janetta Kee.

Pam gave Derek the divorce he wanted and then she moved to Switzerland. Derek and Janetta married but the marriage lasted for just a couple of years. He then went on to marry three more times. Until his death in 1982, he and Pamela remained close friends.



Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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