Who was Barbara Cartland?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Barbara Mary Hamilton Cartland was born in 1901 and died in 2000. She was an English writer known for her historical romance novels, but she began her career as a society column reporter--also known as a gossip columnist.

Over the course of her career, 

Barbara Cartland wrote an incredible 723 books, which were translated into 38 languages, making her the most prolific author of the 20th Century.

She still holds the record in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most novels published in a year--in 1983 she published 23 novels.

Cartland's primary goal in writing was to bring joy to her readers, who were primarily women. She wrote 19th-century romances and she was quite good at it. Her loyal readership eagerly bought everything she ever published, and they number in the billions. At the beginning of her career, her stories were rather salacious and her characters were rather racy. As she matured and grew more conservative in her own life, however, her novels reflected that change. That did not seem to have an impact on her success; in fact, her later novels were even more popular than her earlier works.

Vogue magazine has called Cartland the "true Queen of Romance." Cartland was a bit of a fashionista, and her signature look included pink dresses, plumed hats, and platinum blond (and perfectly coiffed) hair. She was a very public and outspoken self-proclaimed love and relationship expert, though her own relationships were often complicated, confusing, and unconventional.

Cartland was also connected to British royalty. She was given the title "Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire" in 1991 for her social, political and of course writing contributions to her country. She had a long-term relationship with Prince Charles's great-uncle, and she was Princess Diana's step-grandmother. She spent nine years as an elected official and championed for such causes as increased wages for midwives and government-sanctioned education for the children of gypsies.

Cartland was intrigued by aviation and her interest prompted several developments in the field. She divorced her first husband and then married his first cousin who bore the same last name; her daughter from her first marriage and her two sons from the second marriage all have the same last name. Cartland was quite a character in the social and literary world, and she had a significant impact in both of those spheres of influence.

At the time of her death, Cartland left behind 160 unpublished manuscripts which are now being published by her family, one book per month.

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