Hello, and welcome back to the #TheWomanAlchemist monthly feature, Dame Barbara Cartland, one of the most successful and well-known British romance novelists and the author of over 723 books in her lifetime, of which 675 are romantic novels, including 160 brand new titles currently being published as the Barbara Cartland Pink Collection.
BARBARA CARTLAND: IN BRIEF
Barbara Carltand was born on 9 July 1901 near Birmingham, England. After her father’s death in World War I, Cartland moved with her family to London. There she began contributing to the Daily Express newspaper, receiving instruction in writing from its proprietor, Lord Beaverbrook. Cartland’s first novel, Jigsaw (1925), was a popular success. She travelled widely and conducted historical research to write her novels, mostly set in the 19th century.
Her lifelong interest in civic welfare and politics started during the war; she served in the War Office in various charitable capacities and the St John Ambulance Brigade. She was later invested as a Commander of the Order of St John of Jerusalem for her services.
She was elected councillor on Hertfordshire County Council for nine years, during which she campaigned successfully for nursing home reform, advancement in the wages of midwives and the legalisation of schooling for Romani children.
From the mid-19770s, her output of books grew steadily, averaging 23 a year.
Besides being the original Queen of Romance, she wrote nonfiction, including five autobiographies and books of advice on healthy food, vitamins, and beauty. She also wrote film scripts for several of her novels and 30 plays. In 1991 she was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She wrote across different genres but is most associated with romance, virginal heroines, dashing heroes, and happily ever afters.
BARBARA CARTLAND: STYLE
Dame Barbara Cartland was genuinely one-of-a-kind; a fashion icon, a humorist, a record-winningly prolific author and a national treasure.
Since the 1920s, when she arrived in London from the Midlands as a young woman resolved to conquer high society, Barbara had been keenly conscious of the importance of constructing an original and recognisable image. Although bright, she was neither an outstanding beauty nor an aristocrat nor wealthy; thus, she began penetrating the glamorous world she wanted to be a part of by sheer strength of character and a carefully staged wardrobe.
Her style was always individual, inventive, and theatrical. She would even design her costumes for the then-in-vogue fancy-dress balls.
#Barbicore is sweeping through social media, gaining millions of views, followers, and countless celebrities clad head-to-toe in shades of eye-popping fuchsia.
But this is nothing new: Barbara Cartland, however, comprehended the power of pink decades ago but subverted the presumed ultra-femininity of the colour, turning it into an emblem of her strength and making it her signature look. At the peak of her glory, she hardly wore any other colour not to disappoint her legions of fans, who queued for hours to glance their idol at her many public appearances. Eventually, she found the fame she craved and became an international best-selling author, a health-food guru and a political campaigner.
Cartland actively courted the press and was always ready with an entertaining quote for the newspapers. She was as well known for her controversial and witty interviews.
‘It became a virtual rite of passage for young journalists of that era to interview her over tea and rose-coloured cakes at her country home’ – Charlotte di Carcaci (Cartland’s granddaughter).
She was immediately recognisable to the public in her diamonds, pink sparkly frocks, incredible feathered hats, and her white Rolls-Royce.
WHY I CHOSE HER
Barbara Cartland was fascinatingly contradictory; she purported the virtues of traditional relationships between men and women and falling in love, but her own story is of a driven, independent-minded woman who was fearless in turning her hand to anything which interested her and correcting wrongs.
- She was extremely prolific, stemming from a rigorous writing routine: Monday to Friday, every afternoon, she would dedicate time to write/dictate her novels. Cartland wrote an average of 6000/7000 words per afternoon, forty-five thousand words a book. And after seven days, a new book was ready.
- She kept her writing to what she believed rather than writing to market, unwavering in her belief.
- She followed her instinct to fast releasing her books which led to her massive fame in the USA
- She understood the need to have a platform.
As a writer myself, these are very valuable lessons both to what I choose to write and to creating a routine that works for me.
Happy Birthday Dame Barbara Cartland, and thank you x.
A few of the previous #TheWomanAlchemist blogs celebrating women writers:
- Harper Lee
- Virginia Woolf
- Jane Austen
- Agatha Christie
- Daphne Du Maurier
- Mary Wollstonecraft
- Pam Grout
- Simone de Beauvoir