The Mosleys: The family that can never escape its troubled past

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The Independent Online

From their aristocratic forebears to a family history that features Adolf Hitler as a wedding guest, the Mosley family have grown used to living lives defined by privilege and notoriety.

Despite a childhood spent in sheltered bastions of high society such as Westminster School, Alexander Mosley will have been unable to go far without being reminded of the reputation of his grandfather, Sir Oswald Mosley, the man who brought fascism to these shores in the shape of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) and its thuggish blackshirts.

The Conservative and Labour MP founded the BUF in 1932 and later married Diana Guinness, one of the celebrated Mitford sisters, at the Berlin home of the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Among the guests were Adolf Hitler and the couple's intimate association with the Nazis led to them being interned in Britain during the Second World War.

Max Mosley briefly dabbled in politics but rapidly accepted he would be forever tainted by his family's association with extremism. During his breach of privacy action against the News of the World last year, Mr Mosley, 69, said: "All my life, I have had hanging over me my antecedents, my parents."

Tragedy as well as opprobrium arose from the links between the Mosleys and the Nazis. Diana's sister, Unity, a committed anti-Semite, became a member of Hitler's inner circle and attempted suicide by shooting herself in the head when Britain declared war on Germany in 1939.

By the time of the birth of his sons in 1970 and 1972, Max Mosley had thrown himself into his alternative career in motorsport. He rose through the sport's hierarchy and became president of the governing body, the FIA, in 1993, a post he is due to leave in October this year.

Were it not for the global unveiling of his predeliction for S&M sessions with prostitutes, it is likely that Mr Mosley would have been best remembered for turning F1 into a multi-billion pound global industry. A combination of a tabloid sting in a "sex dungeon" and Mr Mosley's dogged pursuit of his accusers at the News of the World through the courts means that the Oxford-educated lawyer will also be defined by the painfully personal nature of the revelations about his sex life.

In such a context, it is perhaps unsurprising that his elder son had chosen to lead a quieter existence. After leaving university, Alexander Mosley began a software company developing products for MP3 players. When the business failed to take off, he entered the restaurant business with a schoolfriend ,Tom Pemberton, formerly the head chef at St John Bread and Wine. A friend of Alexander Mosley said: "He was very clever but never quite knew what he wanted to do. The restaurant was working well but sadly it doesn't seem to have been enough."