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Barbara Cartland

Barbara Cartland (1987)
Barbara Cartland (1987)
Born Mary Barbara Hamilton Cartland
(1901-07-09)9 July 1901
Edgbaston, Birmingham, England
Died 21 May 2000(2000-05-21) (aged 98)
Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England
Resting place Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England
Occupation Novelist
Period 1925–2000
Genre Historical Romance, contemporary romance
Alexander McCorquodale
(m. 1927; div. 1933)

Hugh McCorquodale
(m. 1936; d. 1963)
Children Raine Spencer, Countess Spencer
Ian Hamilton McCorquodale
Glen McCorquodale
Relatives Diana, Princess of Wales (step-granddaughter)

Dame Mary Barbara Hamilton Cartland, DBE, DStJ (9 July 1901 – 21 May 2000) was an English writer, known as the Queen of Romance, who published both contemporary and historical romance novels, the latter set primarily during the Victorian or Edwardian period. Cartland is one of the best-selling authors worldwide of the 20th century.

Many of her novels have been adapted to films for television including A Hazard of Hearts, A Ghost in Monte Carlo and Duel of Hearts.

Her novels have been translated from English into numerous languages, making Cartland the fifth most translated author worldwide (note: not including biblical works). Her prolific output totals some 723 novels and she is credited in the Guinness World Records for the most novels published in a single year (1977).

Although best known for her romantic novels, she also wrote non-fiction titles including biographies, plays, music, verse, drama, operettas, and several health and cook books. She also contributed advice to TV audiences and newspaper magazine articles.

She sold more than 750 million copies of her books, though other sources estimate her total sales at more than two billion. The covers of her novels featured portrait-style artwork, usually designed by Francis Marshall (1901–1980).

Cartland was also a businesswoman who was head of Cartland Promotions. She was a London society figure, often dressed in a pink chiffon gown, a plumed hat, blonde wig, and heavy make-up.


Early life and education

Born at 31 Augustus Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, Cartland was the only daughter and eldest child of an Officer of the British Army, Major James Bertram "Bertie" Falkner Cartland (1876–1918), and his wife, Mary Hamilton Scobell, known as "Polly" (1877–1976). Cartland had two brothers: Major Ronald Cartland, a Member of Parliament (MP) who served as a Army Major in World War II (1907–1940), and James Anthony "Tony" Hamilton Cartland (1912–1940). Both were killed in war conflict in Flanders.

Though she was born into upper middle-class comfort, the Cartland family's finances rapidly deteriorated shortly after her birth.

This was followed soon afterwards by her father's death in Berry-au-Bac in World War I. Cartland's mother opened a London dry goods store to make ends meet, and to raise Cartland and her two brothers, both of whom were eventually killed in battle in 1940.

Cartland was educated at private girls' schools: The Alice Ottley School, Malvern Girls' College, and Abbey House, an educational institution in Hampshire. She became successful as a society reporter after 1922, and a writer of romantic fiction; she stated she was inspired in her early work by the novels of the Edwardian author Elinor Glyn, whom she idolised and eventually befriended.

Barbara Cartland in 1925
Barbara Cartland in 1925

Marriage and relationships

Cartland claimed to have declined 49 marriage proposals before marrying Captain Alexander "Sachie" George McCorquodale, on 23 April 1927, a British Army officer from Scotland and heir to a printing fortune. They divorced in 1933.

Their daughter, Raine McCorquodale (9 September 1929 – 21 October 2016), became "Deb of the Year" in 1947. After the McCorquodales' divorce in 1933, Cartland married her former husband's cousin, Hugh McCorquodale, on 28 December 1936. Cartland and her second husband had two sons: Ian McCorquodale (born 11 October 1937), a former Debretts publisher, and Glen McCorquodale (born 1939), a stockbroker.

Cartland maintained a long friendship with Lord Mountbatten of Burma, whose death in 1979 she said was the "greatest sadness of my life". Mountbatten supported Cartland in her various charitable works, particularly for United World Colleges, and even helped her write her book Love at the Helm, providing background naval and historical information. The Mountbatten Memorial Trust, established by Mountbatten's great-nephew Charles, Prince of Wales (later, King Charles III), after Mountbatten was assassinated in Ireland, was the recipient of the proceeds of this book on its release in 1980.

When Cartland learned that young Diana Spencer loved reading her novels, Cartland began to send early copies. However, as an adult, Diana, her step-granddaughter, did not invite Cartland to her wedding to the Prince of Wales. Cartland was later openly critical of Diana's subsequent divorce, though the rift between them was mended shortly before Diana's fatal car crash in Paris, in 1997. According to Tina Brown's book on the Princess, Cartland once remarked, "The only books Diana ever read were mine, and they weren't awfully good for her."


After a year as a gossip columnist for the Daily Express, Cartland published her first novel, Jigsaw (1923), a society thriller that became a bestseller. She also began writing and producing plays. In the 1920s and 1930s, Cartland was a prominent young hostess in London society, noted for her beauty, energetic charm and parties. Her fashion sense also had a part, and she was one of the first clients of designer Norman Hartnell; she remained a client until he died in 1979. He made her presentation and wedding dresses; the latter was made to her own design against Hartnell's wishes, and she admitted it was a failure.

In 1950, Cartland was accused of plagiarism by author Georgette Heyer, after a reader drew attention to the apparent borrowing of Heyer's character names, character traits, dialogue and plot points in Cartland's early historical romances. In particular, A Hazard of Hearts (1949) replicated characters (including names) from Heyer's Friday's Child (1944) and The Knave of Hearts (1950) which, Heyer alleged, "the conception ... , the principal characters, and many of the incidents, derive directly from an early book of my own, entitled These Old Shades, first published in 1926. ... For minor situations and other characters she has drawn upon four of my other novels." Heyer completed a detailed analysis of the alleged plagiarisms for her solicitors, but the case never came to court.

As well as writing novels, Cartland wrote a guide to married life in the 1950s, which was banned in Ireland.

Despite their tame story lines, Cartland's later novels were highly successful. By 1983, she rated the longest entry in Who's Who (though most of that article was a list of her books), and she was named the top-selling author in the world by the Guinness Book of Records. Additionally, in 1976, Cartland wrote 23 novels, earning her the Guinness World Record for the most novels written in a single year. The 1970s and 1980s were her most prolific period; she also regularly appeared on television in that era.

In 2000, her publishers estimated that since her writing career began in 1923, Cartland had produced a total of 723 titles.

In the mid-1990s, by which time she had sold over a billion books, Vogue called Cartland "the true Queen of Romance". She became a mainstay of the popular media in her trademark pink dresses and plumed hats, discoursing on matters of love, marriage, politics, religion, health, and fashion. She was publicly opposed to the removal of prayer from state schools, and spoke against divorce.

Contribution to aviation

Privately, Cartland took an interest in the early gliding movement and in 1931 created and devised a 200-mile (360 km) tow in a glider carrying mail. In 1984, she was awarded the Bishop Wright Air Industry Award for this contribution.

She regularly attended Brooklands aerodrome and motor-racing circuit during the 1920s and 30s, and the Brooklands Museum has preserved a sitting-room from that era and named it after her.

Nonfiction books

Cartland wrote several biographies of major figures, including The Outrageous Queen: A Biography of Christina of Sweden in 1956 and Josephine, Empress of France in 1961.

Political influence

After the death during World War II of her brother Ronald Cartland, a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP), Cartland published a biography of him with a preface by the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

The war marked the beginning of a lifelong interest in civic welfare and politics for Cartland, who served the War Office in various charitable capacities as well as the St John Ambulance Brigade. In 1953, she was invested at Buckingham Palace as a Commander of the Order of St John of Jerusalem for her services.

In 1955, Cartland was elected a councillor on Hertfordshire County Council as a Conservative and served for nine years. During this time she campaigned successfully for nursing home reform, improvement in the salaries of midwives and the legalisation of education for the children of Romani.


A radio operetta, The Rose and the Violet, broadcast by the BBC in 1942, was composed by Mark Lubbock with book and lyrics by Cartland. It was set against the Edwardian background of Rotten Row.

Cartland recorded an EP vinyl in conjunction with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1978, titled An Album of Love Songs released through State Records, and produced by Norman Newell. The album featured Cartland performing covers of a series of popular standards including "I'll Follow My Secret Heart" and "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square".


In January 1988, Cartland received the Médaille de Vermeil de la Ville de Paris, the highest honour of the city of Paris, for publishing 25 million books in France.

In 1991, Cartland was invested by Queen Elizabeth II as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in honour of the author's almost 70 years of literary, political, and social contributions.

A waxwork of Cartland was on display at Madame Tussauds, though according to her son Ian, Cartland was displeased because it was not "pretty enough".

She was the subject of This Is Your Life on two occasions, in March 1958 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre, and in December 1989, when Michael Aspel surprised her at Elstree Studios.

The former residence of Cartland, named River Cottage, and located in Great Barford, Bedfordshire in which she resided between 1941 until 1949, will be honoured with a heritage Blue Plaque which is also a monument honouring her literary career.

Barbara Cartland (cropped)
Barbara Cartland (last picture) taken at age 98

Death and legacy

Cartland died in her sleep on 21 May 2000, at her residence, Camfield Place, near Hatfield, Hertfordshire at the age of 98. Both of her sons, Ian and Glen McCorquodale, were present at her bedside when she died. Shortly afterwards, Cartland's daughter from her first marriage, Raine, travelled to the family home.

She was interred at her private estate in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, under an oak that had been planted by Queen Elizabeth I. Cartland left a gross estate of £1,139,123, but following debts and liabilities, the net sum was nil. She had once admitted: "I have no idea what I make....Occasionally I ask, 'Are we in debt?' We always are."

Posthumous publications

Cartland left behind a series of 160 unpublished novels, known as the Barbara Cartland Pink Collection. These were published in ebook format by her son, Ian McCorquodale; each month, a new novel was published from that collection until, in 2018, all 160 novels had been published.

In 2010, to mark the 10th anniversary of her death, Cartland's first novel, Jig-Saw (first published in 1925), was reprinted.

"As a tribute to Her Majesty the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee and to Barbara's enduring appeal to romantics everywhere, her publishers have re-released her catalogue collection, entitled – "The Eternal Collection". This collection, released beginning in November 2013, includes some novels published at the time Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne in 1952.

In addition, her collections of ebooks are available in Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch.

Feature films

BBC Four aired a biopic drama film, titled In Love with Barbara (26 October 2008), starring Anne Reid as Cartland and David Warner as Lord Mountbatten. The film was written by Jacquetta May.


  • Some papers of Barbara Cartland are held at The Women's Library at the Library of the London School of Economics, ref 7BCA

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Barbara Cartland para niños

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