The glittering world of parties, concerts and balls that British debutantes enjoyed in pre-World War II Germany
Daily Mail Reporter
13:42 GMT, 1 December 2012
15:32 GMT, 1 December 2012
Glittering parties, concerts and dinners.
This was how many British debutantes spent their time being 'finished' before being presented to English society.
But what might come as a surprise to many is that the cream of the upper class were enjoying themselves in pre-World War II Germany.
Rachel Johnson, former editor The Lady magazine, has investigated how the enticing world of parties, music and culture lured the crop of well-bred girls to Germany in the mid-1930s.
Unity Mitford (left) and her sister Diana Mitford, pictured with members of the Nazi Party, were familiar faces in pre-war Germany
Many of the debutantes were unaware of the realities of the Nazi state that surrounded them
English socialite Unity Mitford was an admirer of Adolf Hitler, but many British aristocratic women were too busy concentrating on parties than Germany's politics
The young aristocratic women normally associated with the 'Downton Abbey' set were whisked away to be 'finished' in Germany, where they mingled with high society – all while Hitler was plotting his moves that would lead to the devastating war.
There the debutantes polished their manners, learned about music, art and a spot of German, and enjoyed a whirlwind of dinners, parties and leisurely activities, Ms Johnson wrote in The Sun.
The writer, the sister of London Mayor Boris, has explored the world of the young women in Nazi Germany for her new book Winter Games.
She writes that the British upper classes were desperate to avoid another war, after World War I destroyed them.
Combined with strong connections between England and Germany's high society through marriage and the Royal family, the desire to maintain peace meant many English debutantes were routinely sent to Germany to acquire new skills so they could return home as refined young women.
The 'Downton Abbey set' were sent to Germany to have their manners and skills polished. Pictured are the actors from the ITV programme
Many young British women were oblivious to the fascism surrounding them, as they enjoyed the art and culture of Germany. Pictured are the Downton Abbey actors
There they were cooed over and spoiled, with the Germans eager to impress upon the young women just how successful the country was and make sure they passed on their praise to British ears, Ms Johnson writes.
Interviewing those who spent seasons 'finishing' in Germany and experts who have studied the history, Ms Johnson discovered that many of the young women who were sent to Munich were oblivious to the realities of Nazi Germany, The Sun reported.
She interviewed Lady Elizabeth Montagu Douglas Scott, the daughter of the Duke of Buccleuch, who later married the Duke of Northumberland, who spent two months before World War II in Munich.
Her time was spent learning German and getting ready to be presented in time for society's shooting season in Scotland and hunt balls at Christmas.
Lady Elizabeth said: 'I'm afraid I didn’t give a thought to what was going on outside.
'I was sleeping, eating, chatting, dining, dancing. That was all.'
Unity Mitford, pictured with with Adolf Hitler, was one of many aristocratic girls who spent a season in Germany and enjoyed the high life there
Many young girls had no idea of the fascist politics dominating the country, as they were too busy refining their manners
Many of the women who attended knew Unity Mitford – famous for becoming a staunch supporter of Nazism and fascism.
From 1936 the aristocratic woman even became a part of Hitler's inner circle of friends and confidants for five years.
most were too busy concentrating on the whirl of social occasions to
become embroiled in the hateful Nazi regime, Ms Johnson writes in Winter
Games – and still have fond memories of their time there.
The famous etiqutte guide Debrett's explained how the debutante season became a key part of high society's calender.
say that the season revolved around the Royal family, who were in
residence in London from April to July and from October until Christmas.
During these months, the aristocracy and members of the ruling classes ensured they stayed in the capital.
In her new book Winter Games, published by Penguin Figtree, Rachel Johnson writes about the lives of the high society who spent time in Germany
But the tradition of a ball, where aristocratic and well-connected girls were introduced to the monarch and 'introduced' to society, began in 1780.
George III held a May ball, intended to raise funds for a new maternity hospital, became the social event of the season, and was an occasion that people attended as part of their habit of returning to London after the hunting season had ended, Debrett's writes.
Various social occasions such as balls and sporting events became firm fixtures in Britain's social calendar, which lasted until the middle of the 20th century.
By the end of World War II, the strict social strata had begun to fade away and by 1957 Queen Elizabeth ended Court presentations entirely.
Winter Games is published by Penguin Figtree.