Iris Origo (1902-1988), Marchesa d'Orcia
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She was a well-known biographer. Born in the United States, her mother brought her to live in Italy after her father's death. She married a Marchese & became mistress of an Italian villa, where she helped peasant children during WWII. She is also the author of The Last Attachment, Leopardi: A Study in Solitude & War in Val d'Orcia. (Bowker Author Biography) — biography from The Merchant of Prato… (more)
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Iris Origo, née Cutting, was born in Birdlip, Gloucestershire, England to a wealthy and prominent Anglo-American family. Her parents were William Bayard Cutting, Jr., an American diplomat, and his wife Lady Sybil Cuffe. Her parents loved Italy, and when her father died of tuberculosis in 1910, when Iris was about 8 years old, she and her mother moved there. They settled at the Villa Medici in Fiesole, one of Florence's most spectacular villas. Iris was educated mainly at home by governesses. When she grew up, she traveled to England and the USA to make her debut into society in both countries. In 1924, she married Marchese Antonio Origo -- making her a Marquesa -- with whom she had three children. The couple bought an old estate called La Foce, in the hills overlooking the Val d'Orcia, a beautiful valley in southern Tuscany. It was in an advanced state of disrepair, but they restored it through many years of hard work. After the death of her 7-year-old son from meningitis in 1933, Iris began a writing career, publishing Allegra (1935), a short book on Lord Byron and Claire Clairemont's daughter who died as a child. Also in 1935, she published Leopardi: A Study in Solitude, a biography of Giacomo Leopardi. It was followed in 1938 by Tribune of Rome: A Biography of Cola di Rienzo. Other books included The Last Attachment (1949), based on the love letters between Lord Byron and Countess Teresa Guiccioli. The Origos spent World War II at La Foce caring for refugee children, and after Italy surrendered to the Allies, helping escaped Allied prisoners of war and partisans. After the war, Iris divided her time between La Foce and Rome, where the Origos had an apartment in the Palazzo Orsini. Her diary of the last years of Fascism entitled War in Val d'Orcia: An Italian War Diary (1947) was her first book to be a popular as well as a critical success. The Merchant of Prato (1957), a biography based on extensive research in the archives of the 14th-century Florentine merchant-banker Francesco di Marco Datini, is a valuable source for students of Italian city and mercantile life. She also shed light on a little-known aspect of Italian medieval life in a article called "The Domestic Enemy: the Eastern Slaves in Tuscany in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries" published in 1955 in Speculum, A Journal of Mediaeval Studies. Her own life was the subject of the memoir Images and Shadows: Part of a Life, published in 1970. In 1976, she was named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Another memoir, A Chill in the Air: An Italian War Diary, 1939–1940, was published posthumously in 2017.
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