Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman was really not that great looking. In later life, she was confident enough to confess to her daughters that she was not even that great as a sexual performer. Certainly not a bedroom gymnast that you might expect the greatest courtesan of the twentieth century to have been. But she had rarer commodities than a magic pussy. She had wit, brains and sensuality. And whatever combination of those she brought to bear on men at any given time was clearly successful. She obviously had some serious appeal to have been the daughter in law of Winston Churchill (he used her to become the lover of powerful Amercians so that he could spy on them. Yes, her father in law pimped her out to aid the war effort.
She was the mistress to – in no particular order, and I I choose not to make the obvious cheap joke here – John Hay Whitney, Aly Aga khan, Gianni Agnelli, William S Paley, Ed Murrow, Alfonso de Portago, and Baron Elie de Rothschild. William Paley said that “She is the greatest consort of the (20th) century.” Whereas Max Hastings the journalist once said somewhat more cynically that “she was …described as having become a world expert on men’s bedroom ceilings”. Which makes her sound rather more like one of the most active escorts Tenerife can provide than the classy, intelligent and dynamic woman that she actually was.
Later in life, with her financial security and social status safely established, she became the grand dame of Washington society and ran a classic salon for the Democratic Party, holding parties and dinners where the great and powerful and the would-be great and powerful could meet and mingle. And she held it all together with her powerful charm, wit and intellect.
In return for her support and patronage, when Bill Clinton became President of the United States Pamela Harriman was made Ambassador to France, which is the role that she had longed for. She left Paris as a social leper because of her many dalliances with the most eligible men in Europe. And she returned as the Ambassador for the most powerful nation on Earth. That is a courtesan!