Simona Pakenham was the child of a brief marriage between her mother Phyllis and her father Captain Compton Pakenham, a British army officer who left them when Simona was a baby. She attended boarding school and was raised mainly by her maternal grandparents, first in Edinburgh Scotland, then in Dieppe, France, which had a large British colony. Her experiences there were the inspiration for her book Sixty Miles from England: The English at Dieppe (1967). After leaving school, she became am actress, training at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London and the Old Vic. In 1938, she married theater producer Noel Iliff, with whom she had a son. During World War II, she worked for the BBC as a radio announcer and also adapted plays for broadcast. In the 1950s, she was a lead actress in a theater company established by her husband, with roles that included Shaw’s Saint Joan, and worked as a costume designer. In 1957, she published the acclaimed biography Ralph Vaughan Williams: A Discovery of his Music, launching her career as a writer. Her books included The Absence of the Emperor: London-Paris 1814-15 (1968); the memoir Pigtails and Pernod (1961); and Cheltenham (1971), as well as Sixty Miles from England. After the death of her first husband, she remarried a cousin, Kenneth Middleton, and embarked on a new career as a London-based tour guide. In 2008, she appeared in two documentary films made to mark the 50th anniversary of Vaughan Williams’s death, O Thou Transcendant and The Passions of Vaughan Williams.