Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor – Rosina Harrison

When Rosina Harrison was a girl in North Yorkshire she confided in her mother that she wanted to travel when she grew up.  Taking her wishes seriously, her mother told her that in order to do that she must “smarten herself up and become a lady’s maid.”  So Rose didn’t leave school at fourteen as did most children but stayed on an additional two years, learned French and dressmaking. After serving several years as a Young Lady’s Maid she became maid for Lady Astor’s daughter.  Then in 1928 she began her service as personal maid to the notoriously temperamental Lady Astor. 

This memoir is a fascinating account of all her many responsibilities.  She was on duty 24/7 and charged with caring for all the furs, jewels, hats and clothing, and dressing her lady several times a day.  And did she travel!  She travelled first class on luxury liners to America many times and to most corners of Europe, even to Turkey, visiting palaces and castles and meeting a few kings and queens along the way. 

Rose, always outspoken and strong willed, never let herself be bullied by Lady Astor, and never hesitated to offer her opinion.  In her forward to the book, Rose says “My life with my lady was one of constant conflict and challenge, and despite occasional wounds on both sides, one that we enjoyed hugely.  Although divided by rank and money we had similar natures and I think it is true to say that we always respected each other.” 

The book is well written, charming and candid, and filled with glimpses into the life of the super-rich in the early 20th century.  I thoroughly enjoyed every page.

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