Lady Antonia Fraser

Daniel Snowman meets the biographer of Tudors and Stuarts, and the author of The Weaker Vessel and The Gunpowder Plot.

When Antonia Pakenham was a girl living in wartime Oxford, where her father was a politics don, she would terrorise the dragon at the public library by actually borrowing lots of books. Worse, she’d often consume a volume of popular history in a single day and return that evening for another. She still remembers giving a Mary Stuart biography the one-day treatment.

This pattern of enthusiastic industriousness has lasted a lifetime and seen Lady Antonia Fraser, now in her sixty-ninth year, through the production of seven or eight works of serious historical scholarship, a similar number of mystery novels, a fistful of anthologies, half-a-dozen children and a high-profile public life. ‘Passionate zest for life combined with rigid self-discipline’ was how George Weidenfeld characterised her.

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