Antonia (Pakenham) Fraser 1932–
English biographer, novelist, scriptwriter, and short story writer.
Born to "the literary Longfords" of England (historian Francis Pakenham, Earl of Longford, and Elizabeth Longford, author of several historical memoirs), Fraser's interest in writing has culminated in several best-selling historical biographies set in the seventeenth century. Critically valued for their depth of research and sympathetic character portraits, Fraser's biographies attempt to free their subjects from the dry factual analyses common to many academic discussions. She also writes mystery novels which center on a liberated heroine, Jemima Shore, as well as short stories, juvenile books, and scripts for radio and television.
Fraser burst upon the literary scene in 1969 with her critically acclaimed Mary Queen of Scots, a thoroughly researched attempt to uncover the woman whose image has become distorted. Some critics contend that her treatment of politics is uncertain in places. Many debate the conclusions regarding Mary herself; Roy Strong states that the biography depicts "a dim and stupid woman," while J. P. Kenyon contends that it shows Mary to be politically and intellectually astute. Fraser's second biography, Cromwell, Our Chief of Men (1973), was also reviewed as unpolished in its treatment of political events but generally successful as an attempt to "humanize" such a historically biased figure. King James VI of Scotland, I of England (1974) is a less extensive work of scholarship which Alden Whitman nevertheless finds to be "thoroughly readable as a character study." Royal Charles: Charles II and the Restoration (1979) attempts to correct the historical portrayal of another prominent royal figure. Some critics believe Fraser's assessment of Charles is overly favorable. Critics praise Fraser's recent history The Weaker Vessel: Woman's Lot in 17th Century England (1984) as a pioneering overview of the repressive state of women's lives during that era. The book is based on memoirs, diaries, and character studies representative of the period.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 85-88 and Something about the Author, Vol. 32.)