Obituary: Frances Donaldson

WHAT I most liked about Frankie Donaldson was her forthrightness, writes Elisa Segrave (further to the obituary by Elizabeth Longford and Lord Healey, 30 March). 'Jack believes in the after-life; I don't,' she said to me last summer in their bungalow in Sussex.

This matter-of-fact approach coloured every aspect of her life, including her clear, extraordinarily readable, no-nonsense prose. She loved conversation and you had to be on your mettle in her company. She particularly enjoyed mulling over a situation and trying to get to the truth of it. One of her favourite phrases was: 'What I think really happened was this.'

Frankie was direct but never spiteful, kind without making a fuss. Unlike many of her generation she was not nostalgic for the past. In her eighties she learnt to use a word-processor. She loved meeting new people and she liked to hear the latest gossip about London publishing. Last April a copy of the Face magazine was on her sitting-room table.

I particularly enjoyed the affectionate repartee which went on between her and her husband. Once at dinner I heard a guest ask Frankie if she had met the Windsors in the course of writing Edward VIII's biography. She said no, but it would take a long anecdote to explain why. Her husband, obviously realising that she was longing to tell, told her to 'get on with it, then'. The crucial point of the anecdote was that she decided not to meet the Windsors: if she lunched with them, she explained, she would feel obliged to write only nice things and she wanted to write an objective biography.

The last time I saw her, a few weeks ago, she lent me Edith Wharton's unfinished novel The Buccaneers. She then made a comment about Edith Wharton which I didn't understand but, assuming that she might have become vague because of her illness, I pretended to agree. She looked at me directly from where she was sunk into her arm-chair and said sharply: 'No, you don't understand what I mean, do you?'

Although I was 40 years younger than her she treated me as an equal. She was utterly straightforward and unpatronising.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor