Magazine article The Spectator

For Richer, for Richer

Magazine article The Spectator

For Richer, for Richer

Article excerpt

HORSES & HUSBANDS: THE MEMOIRS OF ETTI PLIESC H edited by Hugo Vickers Dovecote Press, £17.95, pp. 205, ISBN 9781904349549

In her introduction to this extraordinary memoir, Etti Plesch warns the reader that the life she is about to describe will seem unfashionable as it contains no 'stories of great suffering'. True enough.

As recounted in Horses & Husbands, Etti's 99 years seemed to have been passed at a level of luxury and self-indulgence almost impossible now to imagine. Knowledgeably edited by Hugo Vickers, this is the story of a woman who, uniquely, was the owner of not one, but two Derby winners, and who married wealthily six times.

Born to aristocratic parents in Vienna in 1903, Etti was brought up in a romantic castle in Czechoslovakia belonging to her grandmother, her parents having divorced when she was four. At 20 she broke off an engagement to an impecunious young man, apparently the love of her life, to marry an American millionaire in order to save her feckless mother from bankruptcy. In New York Clen Ryan, dull, rich and alcoholic, turns out to be no fun at all, and soon after 'a kissless' wedding at St Patrick's Cathedral and an 'ice-box honeymoon', Etti decamps, setting sail for Europe dressed 'in a pretty shell-pink chiffon cocktail dress with pink roses encircling my neck, the kind of outfit traditionally worn on board in those days'.

Husband number two was handsome, dashing Pali Palffy, a Hungarian count with a big estate and a passion for blood sports, the two of them enjoying some jolly times with Goring and Goebbels at the International Game Exhibition in Berlin. This marriage ended when Pali fell for that notorious femme fatale, Louise de Vilmorin, about whom Etti does her best to be fair, her good intentions strained to the limit when Louise appears again, this time to seduce Etti's third husband, Tommy Esterhazy. …

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