Despite not recieving an invitation to her godfathers coronation, India Hicks remains steadfast in her devotion to the King, and soon to be Queen.
In fact India believes that the pairing of both Charles and Camilla will be “very important”.
At least, that’s what she told Sky News.
“I think the role of Queen Consort is a very important role, and I think we’re going to see a strong team with Charles having Camilla beside him,” she said.
“I think we’ve seen a woman here who has kept her head down, she has devoted herself to duty and I think the Queen recognised that more than anybody by being able to award that title of Queen Consort, that was a very important moment.
“King Charles always calls her his steadfast love, she is there beside him all the way.”
The 55 year old also noted that monarchists can expect Charles to reign, “very different”.
“I think we’re going to see a very different reign to that of his mother and I think with a 74 year apprenticeship, this king certainly knows how he wants to be and how he wants to lead and how he will set the scene for his reign.
“He’s a remarkable, remarkable man and he’s incredibly considerate. He’s really remarkable, both publicly and privately.”
It all looks so perfect. So idyllic. As if Instagram was invented for India Hicks, aristocratic daughter of one of England’s grandest families. Her father, the famed British designer David Hicks, compiled a list of possible husbands for her, all dukes with vast estates. Instead, she had five children out of wedlock, a barefoot runaway to tiny Harbour Island in the Bahamas, a place with no doctor, no dentist, uncertain electricity and a three-month hurricane season.
“So when a kid falls out of a tree and breaks an arm, you’re up shit creek,” she tells The Weekly with a laugh. “Nothing is ever as perfect as it looks. But I’m a big believer in the adventure of life.”
It is here, with her beautiful children, on these pink-sand beaches in her whitewashed plantation house among the palm trees, that India became a style icon, an exemplar of haute bohemian tropical chic. Bringing up her children, chasing snakes up trees – it’s a long way from the strict, starched nannies of her own childhood.
“My children have grown up unbelievably open-minded because we live in a community where we are the minority,” she says. “We are strangers in a strange land. They never forget that.”
She has also built a perfectly symmetrical, white stucco second home in Oxfordshire, which was featured in Architectural Digest.
India loves nothing more “than walking in biblical conditions of rain, sleet and snow,” her husband, David Flint Wood, comments in her book, A Slice of England. They built the house in England to be closer to her mother, Lady Pamela Hicks, “but not too close,” David adds.
We meet first over Zoom, where India retains the crisp, plummy enunciation of her class, and then in person when she sails into a NSW beachside restaurant on a wave of the kind of confidence you can only have when you have grown up in stately homes, are related to most of European royalty and your Mountbatten family are part of the great state occasions and history of modern Britain.
India is in Australia for a couple of talks at Halcyon House in Cabarita Beach plus a Masterclass with acclaimed interior designer Charlotte Coote and landscape architect Paul Bangay in Charlotte’s Mt Macedon home. Over lunch (where people have paid an eye-watering sum to hear her speak), she reveals herself as earthy and amusing – she drops the f-bomb – and retells family anecdotes with disarming candour and lack of pretension.
Asked how she juggles all those children and her many entrepreneurial and business activities, she says, “alcohol”. And then, “Do any of us cope? We don’t. None of it is easy. Somehow we get through it.”
Later, she will admit to being a Virgo, which helps. “I am an organiser, I am energetic, I am a perfectionist.”
India is also tall, toned, tanned and lithe: a former model for Ralph Lauren, a thoroughbred. She is glowing from an hour-long run along the beach, something she does every morning. “I try to make an hour every day to myself doing something where I am active. I do love my exercise, but it’s also an hour of meditation and I think that’s important.”
India Hicks was a brand decades before it became a thing to be a brand. Now a designer, like her father, with her model looks and elegant clothes, she is a natural for social media.
“I love Instagram,” she admits, “but we all look at these amazing pictures of everybody else and we think that everything comes very easily, and it’s all perfect and polished, and it’s not. Of course, I normally share the prettier side of life because you want people to feel uplifted. But we must remember that behind all of that there is a lot of mess and aggro that goes on as well.”
The Mountbatten family has been tied to the royal family back to Queen Victoria. King Charles is India’s godfather. “He is a very good godfather,” India says, “very diligent, very kind, very thoughtful.”
Edwina, India’s grandmother, was a staggeringly wealthy and beautiful heiress who inherited Broadlands, a vast Palladian mansion in Hampshire, now run by India’s cousin, Lord Brabourne. Edwina was 20 when she married Louis Mountbatten – adventurous, frivolous, wealthy.
On one jaunt around Europe, she left her two daughters with their nanny and governess in a hotel in Budapest and then promptly lost the address, forgetting where she’d deposited them. Summer turned to winter and the nanny made clothes out of hotel curtains.
“Many weeks later,” says India, “my grandmother suddenly found the address, retraced her steps, collected the girls and paid the bill. Can you imagine losing your children for several months?”
During World War II, Edwina found her purpose in her life, inspecting filthy air raid shelters, squalid hospitals and camps across the empire, using her influence to improve them. She lived in India during the final months of the British Raj and the first months of the post-partition period when her husband, Louis Mounbatten, was the last Viceroy of India. She was rumoured to have had an affair with India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
“One of my great regrets is that I never met my grandmother,” India says. “She was a very tricky mother, but she rose to the top of all the ranks she possibly could, and she did it with absolute dedication. While the fighting had stopped in Europe, it was still going on in the Far East and she was one of the first women to get into those Japanese prisoner of war camps to spread the word that surrender had taken place. She really died at the age of 58 of hard work out in Borneo on a St John Ambulance trip. She had been told by the doctors, ‘You are going to kill yourself if you work at this rate,’ and she paid no attention.”
Edwina’s daughter, Lady Pamela, was a childhood friend of Queen Elizabeth II, and a bridesmaid when she married Prince Philip in 1947. As a lady-in-waiting, she travelled the world with the Queen, and was with Her Majesty in Kenya when the news came that her father, the king, had died.
They were on safari and staying in a tree house above a watering hole so they could see the animals come to drink. “She climbed up that ladder as a princess,” says Pamela in the documentary My Years With the Queen, “and came down as a queen.” A spontaneous hug for a friend turned into a deep curtsy. The Queen apologised that they were all going to have to go home. “That was one of the last times her natural modesty could be played out. She was never going to be private again,” Pamela recalls.
“Everything about it was just wonderful,” she says. “We got married in the church where my father was buried and I was christened. We had lunch in the pub opposite. It was very unflashy.” Except the images were beamed around the world.
Like her mother, India cannot cook. “I don’t think you’d want me cooking.” Without Claire Williams, her cook for the past 15 years, “we would all be really hungry,” she admits. “But I can lay a pretty table. If you’d like me to nip over, I can do that.” And she can throw a garden party. She loves to entertain and create an atmosphere.
“Intimate, unpolished and slightly haphazard: this is how I entertain,” she writes in her book An Entertaining Story, full of beautiful images of island life and stories of her many famous guests. In England she will stride out and plunder the countryside for foliage and wild flowers – “free is good”.
On the island, tables are decorated with palm fronds, flame tree branches, arrangements of tropical fruit, shells in bowls and frangipani. She will use milk bottles for long-stemmed flowers like agapanthus, tea cups for roses and peonies. And always candles.
Unlike brother Ashley, India “never formally trained as a designer,” she tells The Weekly. “I just sort of wander dizzyingly into the world of design. But I do have an innate sense of it that definitely comes from my father.” To this day she will park a car so that it doesn’t disrupt the view of the house, or not sit on the good sofa for “fear of upsetting the look of the room”.
Like her father, her style mixes old with new, priceless heirlooms alongside op-shop finds. She is a big fan of “repurposing”. India has designed hotel and house interiors, created jewellery, bags and accessories and collaborated with other designers.
She doesn’t have her father’s sense of “shocking in the way he used colours, or drama. I’m much softer and probably much less impressive as a result.”
Not unlike her grandmother, Edwina, it took disastrous circumstances to guide her to a humanitarian path. In 2019, her e-commerce business, India Hicks Style, was shuttered after six exhilarating years.
When it closed, “it did break my heart,” she admits. “It was very humbling for me because I really felt that I had come to Ground Zero.”
Hurricane Dorian then wiped out neighbouring islands Grand Bahama and Abaco. “I began to work with a disaster relief agency called Global Empowerment Mission. I found that actually I had a different skill set that didn’t necessarily derive from the artistic world. I was able to raise awareness and persuade people they should be donating to the causes I was standing behind.”
She now sits on the executive board and has been to Poland and Ukraine. “We went deep into the heart of Kiev and it was very overwhelming.”
At the same time, she was approached to work with King Charles’ The Prince’s Trust, which has helped over a million young people in Britain. “I find that to be very thrilling as well.” The King wrote the forward to her Island Life book on his Clarence House writing paper.
India Hicks, with her tremendous taste and style, has lived a life less ordinary; far, far away from the privilege she was born to, with guts and determination.
All in all, she says, “it has been a very unexpected and unusual life. But I believe that every chapter has led me to where I am now.
“I’ve lived a full life … and I go to bed feeling really happy that I have had such a full day. I wake up feeling excited for another full day.”
India Hicks’ books – An Entertaining Story, A Slice of England and Island Style – are available in Australia from Hardie Grant.