Sophie Hollender, student, made me jealous last night, taking the Mitford Sisters as her specialist subject on Mastermind. I tried to play along, but because she answered faster than me, it’s difficult to know what my score would have been in the same circumstances. I’ll provide the answers at the bottom, in small print, for the large majority of you who will want to join in the fun. There were 19 questions; the formidable Sophie got 16 correct answers, two passes, and one wrong – which, coincidentally, I got right. I think, if I’m brutal with myself, I got 11 correct answers, but two further are debatable [see: answers]. I might normally use the excuse, well, if you were going on Mastermind, you’d cram beforehand, but since I am reading three books about the Mitfords concurrently, that doesn’t hold much water for me. I should have done better. In the final analysis, Sophie Hollender is better than me, but I did OK. She was joint first after the specialist subject round with the man who knew all about Ty Cobb, but was beaten into third place in the general knowledge. The man who knew about Ty Cobb won. He was very good.
1. What was the name of family house built by Lord Redesdale in 1926?
2. In whose Berlin apartment were Diana and Oswald Mosley secretly married in October 1936?
3. What is the title of the second of Nancy’s Radlett novels, published in 1949?
4. When Oliver Watney proposed to Pamela, he gave her a ring that was a replica of which jewel found in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford?
5. In which city did Jessica and her husband Esmond open a cocktail bar as part of an Italian restaurant called the Roma, during the period of the Phoney War?
6. What word, meaning pig, that he’d picked up in Ceylon, did Lord Redesdale use for the young men who paid attention to his daughters but a ventured an opinion with which he disagreed?
7. According to the family, Deborah had received an invite to join the British junior team for which winter sport at which she excelled?
8. In 1979, Diana was approached by Lord Longford to write a biography of whom?
9. Which establishment, essentially a finishing school, did Nancy attend as a boarder from the age of 16?
10. Jessica tried unsuccessfully to donate her share of which Hebridean island, owned jointly by the sisters, to the Communist party?
11. What was the title of Deborah’s first book, part autobiography, part history, published in 1982?
12. Pamela, whom John Betjeman described as the most rural Mitford, was an acknowledged expert in what subject?
13. According to the biography by Mary Lovell, which hymn was sung at all the Mitford funerals?
14. Diana and Mosley were interned in 1940 on suspicion of being Nazi sympathisers – they were held separately at first, but in 1941 given joint quarters at which prison?
15. According to a revised preface, what was Jessica’s original preferred title for Hons & Rebels?
16. What nickname did Deborah give to the Queen Mother, after having observed her enthusiasm for this item at a wedding?
17. Who was Nancy’s long term lover and de Gaulle’s right-hand man in exile in London?
18. What middle name was given to Unity at the suggestion of her grandfather Redesdale?
19. Which newspaper did Deborah successfully sue after it wrongly alleged that she had eloped rather than Jessica?
1. Swinbrook (I foolishly said Asthall Manor, which was the house they lived in while Lord Redesdale was building Swinbrook – bad start!)
2. The Goebbels’ (correct)
3. Love In A Cold Climate (correct)
4. King Alfred’s Jewel (didn’t know this)
5. Miami (Sophie said San Francisco – this is the only one she got wrong and I got right)
6. Sewer (too slow to get this – I knew it but couldn’t call it up)
7. Ice skating (correct)
8. The Duchess of Windsor (didn’t know this)
9. Hatherop Castle (Sophie’s first pass – I passed too)
10. Inch Kenneth (correct)
11. The House (couldn’t remember the title quick enough)
12. Poultry (I said animal husbandry – I wonder if I would have been given the point?)
13. Holy, Holy, Holy (didn’t know this)
14. Holloway (correct)
15. Red Sheep (Sophie’s second pass – me too)
16. Cake (correct)
17. Gaston Palewski (I said “The Colonel”, which was his nickname – again, debatable whether Humphrys would have given me the point – if I’d had time, I would have got his actual name, but Sophie beat me to it)
18. Valkyrie (correct)
19. Daily Express (correct)