Monthly Meeting – Tuesday 14th June 2016 Talk by Anthony Wood -

"Pamela Digby Socialite or Courtesan"

Antony Wood gave us an amusing and colourful description of the life of Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman. She was an aristocratic English born American linked and married to many important men during her life. (1920-1997) Her great aunt Jane Digby had lived a scandalous life and was called the greatest courtesan in the 20th century, Pamela was to follow in her footsteps.

Pamela was brought up in her ancestral home in Dorset and was educated by her governess and later went to Paris and Munich where she met Adolph Hitler.

In 1939 she married Randolph Churchill a known gambler and womaniser. They had a son Winston who was her only child. The marriage lasted until 1945 when they divorced. It was during this period that she had an affair with Averell Harriman who became her third husband 40 years later. In 1948 she started a 5 year relationship with Gianni Angenelli which she claimed were her happiest years. When in a relationship she looked after her man and pandered to his ego. Other notable consorts were Prince Aly Khan, Alphonso de Portago , Baron Elie de Rothschild (who supported her financially), Maurice Druon the writer and Stavrus Niarchos the ship owner.

In 1960 she married the Broadway producer Leyland Hayward and became his 5th wife. They led a lavish life style mingling with rich and famous. She stayed with him until his death in 1971. Her name was linked to other rich and famous people including Frank Sinatra. She was nicknamed the widow of opportunity.

After this she resumed her relationship with Averell Harriman and they married later in 1971 and she stayed with him until his death in 1986. During this time she became involved with the Democratic Party and became a successful ambassador. In 1993 she was made USA ambassador in France a post she carried out very successfully. She died as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage whilst swimming in a pool at the Paris Ritz. At her funeral the Grand Cross of the Legion d’honneur was placed on her coffin. Her body was returned to USA and buried at Arden the former Harriman estate.

She achieved a lot although she lacked academic achievement. She said that she was British by birth and American by choice.

Trisha Ferris