Reflected glory : the life of Pamela Churchill Harriman

by Sally Bedell Smith

Hardcover, 1996




New York : Simon & Schuster, c1996.


English debutante Pamela Digby first came into the public eye when she married Churchill's dissolute son Randolph. While he was overseas in World War II, she had an affair with Averell Harriman, the first in a line of wealthy and prominent men - including Jock Whitney, Prince Aly Khan, Gianni Agnelli, Elie de Rothschild, and Stavros Niarchos - who supported her over the next two decades. She found legitimacy as the wife of Broadway producer Leland Hayward and became wealthy when she married Harriman on the eve of his eightieth birthday. At age sixty she reinvented herself as a kingmaker in the Democratic Party, and more than a decade later was rewarded with an appointment as U.S. Ambassador to France. Smith details how Pamela Harriman, even after she had become independent and respectable to a degree that would have been unimaginable in her party-girl years, burned through the Harriman fortune, prompting her late husband's disgruntled heirs to file a series of lawsuits accusing her of being a "faithless fiduciary." Always a brass-knuckle fighter, she made headlines with a barrage of ironic countersuits - against the family whose name elevated her to Democratic doyenne, the Wall Street brokerage that provided her wealth, and the advisers who had guided her every move. At each stage of Pamela's life, newspapers and magazines recounted her public exploits and amplified her legend. The private moments were equally indelible: playing bezique late at night with Winston Churchill, enlisting Dwight Eisenhower to help in the kitchen at her officers' club during World War II, presiding over lavish dinners at the Riviera estate of Gianni Agnelli, fixing chicken hash at midnight for Leland Hayward and his Broadway stars, talking one-on-one with Bill Clinton in the Oval Office.… (more)

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5613. Reflected Glory The Life of Pamela Churchill Harriman, by Sally Bedell Smith (read 17 Feb 2019) This very detailed and well-researched biography of a fascinating woman was published in 1996, the year Pamela died. She was born 20 March 1920 in England, her father shortly after her birth became the 11th Baron Digby. In October of 1939 Pamela married Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill's son and on October 10, 1940 Pamela's only child,named Winston Churchill, was born. In 1942 Pamela and Randolph were divorced and and after various affairs on May 4, 1960, Pamela married Leland Hayward, and after Hayward's prior marriage was annulled Pamela and Hayward were married in a Catholic ceremony. Hayward died March 18, 1971, Pamela had had an affair with Averell Harriman during the war and on Sept 27, 1971, she and Harriman were married in St Thomas More Catholic Church in New York. She was 51 and he was 79. He died in 1986 and in 1993 she became the U.S. Ambassador to France. She died in Paris on Feb 5, 1997. All of her affairs and quarrels and are set out in the book is vivid detail--one is amazed by how much is set out in the book. Some is not too interesting but much is. Amazingly, she worked very hard to be a good Ambassador and did not do too bad, despite her lack of brainpower and training in diplomacy. Harriman was of a wealthy family and was kind of stingy but she got most of his money when he died and spent it as fast as she could--I was unimpressed by her extravagant and wasteful life style. The book has source notes and a good bibliography and an index. It is a well put together book.… (more)



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