Interior designer and author
B orn India Amanda Caroline Hicks, September 5, 1967, in London, England; daughter of David Hicks (an interior designer) and Pamela Mountbat-ten; children: Felix, Amory, Conrad (with boyfriend, David Flint Wood [an artist and writer]). Education: Earned photography degree in Boston, MA.
Addresses: Home—Harbour Island, Bahamas. Office—c/o Crabtree & Evelyn, 102 Peake Brook Rd., P.O. Box 167, Woodstock, CT 06281-0167.
W orked as a photographer’s agent in Paris, and as a model in New York City, 1980s and ’90s; co-owner of a boutique hotel in the Bahamas, and operator of two guest cottages on Harbour Island, Bahamas; also owns boutique, Sugar Mill; first book, Island Life: Inspirational Interiors, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2003; Crabtree & Evelyn, spokesperson, 2006—, and creator of exclusive fragrance line, India Hicks Island Living, 2007.
I conic British stylesetter India Hicks is known as one of the rebel daughters of the English aristocracy. The onetime model and well-heeled itin-erant finally settled down in the Bahamas in the mid1990s and began a family as well as several business ventures there. The daughter of a celebrated English interior designer, Hicks avoids the title herself, partly because she is not formally trained, but her keen eye and aesthetic sensibility are on display in a pair of coffee-table books, Island Life and Island Beauty. In 2007, she launched her own fragrance line, India Hicks Island Living, in partnership with Crabtree & Evelyn. Though she is not technically a royal, Hicks is 475th in line to the throne of England—actually one place ahead of Prince Philip, husband of the reigning monarch Elizabeth II.
Born in 1967, Hicks was the third child and second daughter born to Lady Pamela Hicks and David Hicks, a successful interior designer whose ground-breaking use of color and pattern helped advance British home decor into the modern era. Hicks’ father avoided chintz and other fussy relics of the Victorian age, instead using bold colors to play off natural light. During the 1960s and ’70s, he was known as the England’s top society interior designer, with commissions that included rooms in Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. On her mother’s side, Hicks was a Mountbatten, once known as Battenberg. This was a long line of German princes, one of whom married a daughter of Queen Victoria back in the nineteenth century. Hicks’ grandfather was the famous Louis, Lord Mountbatten, who served as the Viceroy of India and supervised the transition of that country from British colonial possession to independence. Hicks, who followed sister Edwina and brother Ashley, was named in honor of India, the country.
Hicks’ young life was blighted by the tragic death of Lord Mountbatten, to whom she was quite close, in August of 1979. She and other family members were visiting him at the Mountbatten property, Classiebawn Castle, in Northern Ireland, when a bomb exploded on his fishing boat as he was heading into Donegal Bay. He died, as did Hicks’s 14year-old cousin, Nicholas Knatchbull, along with a local youth serving as a crew member. An 83year-old baroness, related by marriage to the Mountbat-tens, died the following day. The bomb had been planted by members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and the event was a turning point in its struggle to achieve independence. Mountbatten was a decorated war hero and beloved figure in contemporary Britain. Hicks actually heard the explosion and recalled years later that just before her grandfather had sailed away, he had told her, “Look after my dog,” she said in a Daily Mail interview with Alice Fowler. She brought the black labrador retriever, Juno, aboard with her on the RoyalAir Force helicopter that came to bring her and other family members back to London. “We were given head-phones to protect our ears, and I was asking for a pair for Juno,” she recalled. “I kept saying: ‘He told me to look after his dog.’”
Two years later, a more celebratory event rocked the British monarch with the July 29 wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Because Hicks was the goddaughter of Prince Charles, she was chosen as one of Diana’s five bridesmaids, and footage of her attending the bride was seen by an estimated one billion viewers around the world that day. “We helped her get dressed,” Hicks recalled when asked about the momentous occasion by Evening Standard journalist Marianne MacDonald. “She was in jeans and tiara, the TV next to her, and she kept shooing everyone away so she could watch it.” Hicks also noted that Diana, who was just a few years older than she at the time, “got to the bottom of the staircase at Clarence House in her wedding dress, and everything was on such a tight schedule, and said, ‘I need a glass of water.’ Twenty-three footmen ran to get her a glass of water.” Years later, however, Hicks confessed to CNN’s Larry King that she was “a tom-boy” and that she “hated the whole thing.” Her own bridesmaid’s dress, she continued was “awful,” but she conceded, “now, as an adult, I appreciate enormously that I was part of a bit of history like that.”
Hicks and Princess Diana came from similar backgrounds, though the Spencer clan had roots far older in the English land-owning aristocracy than the Mountbattens. Young women from such backgrounds were typically raised by nannies and sent to boarding school at a young age. “I saw a lot of my mother on her own and not a great deal of my parents together,” she told Fowler in the Daily Mail article. Hicks attended the all-girl North Foreland Lodge, now the Sherfield School, in Hampshire, where she did well in her studies. She went on to the co-educational Gordonstoun School in Scotland but ran into trouble and was briefly suspended when she was caught entertaining two boys in her room. While there, she began dating Aris Comni-nos, who was part-Greek and would later become a professional stuntperson for the Bond 007 film franchise. Their relationship would last nearly a decade.
After leaving Gordonstoun, Hicks traveled through India in 1983 and lived a nomadic life for the next decade. She earned a degree in photography in Boston, moved to Paris to work as a photographic agent, and wound up becoming a model herself. She was a favorite of American designer Ralph Lauren in the early 1990s but began to feel disenchanted with the beauty industry. She still spurned, however, the traditional path expected of her, which was to settle down in England by marrying a man off a list of eligible titled men her father had been compiling since she was a child.
In the mid1990s, Hicks met a former London advertising executive, David Flint Wood, while on vacation in the Bahamas. Flint Wood had been a long-time friend of her sister Edwina’s and had abandoned his high-profile lifestyle in London for a quieter one running the only hotel on Harbour Island, located off Eleuthera Island. Hicks’ family had property on Windermere Island, which was adjacent to Eleuthera, and since her childhood she had loved visiting the tropical paradise. Once they met again, she and Flint Wood became romantically involved, and the announcement of her unexpected pregnancy set off shock waves in the British media, especially when she flippantly characterized herself as “just some girl up the duff,” a British slang expression for being pregnant.
Whereas a woman near 30 who chose not to marry the father of her child was not unusual in the West, it was for someone so closely connected to the royal family and British establishment. Hicks granted several interview requests and explained her position on the matter. “Having a child with someone is the biggest commitment you can make,” she told Daily Mail journalist Anne De Courcy. “It’s hard to explain without sounding critical of what has worked so well for so many people I know. Nor would I like anyone to think I’m not marrying as a sort of rebel thing, or because I’m not fully committed to David. I think it’s just a very personal gut feeling that I’m probably better off without going through the marriage thing.” She also added that “I find the idea of a big white wedding in England highly claustrophobic. It’s wonderful for some people but just not something I’m suited to. Maybe if I was 22 I’d be thinking differently, but now I’m 30 I don’t want it.” Nearly all journalists asked her to divulge the reaction of her godfather, Prince Charles, and she characterized him to De Courcy as “very pleased and supportive and glad for me,” though she added “my father did have difficulty in accepting it to begin with. Dad was quite an old-fashioned person and was worried by me not being married. But, much to his credit, he overcame that.”
Hicks’s father died in 1998, several months after the car crash that tragically killed the Princess of Wales. When CNN’s King interviewed Hicks some years later and asked her where she was when learned of Diana’s death, she replied that she and Flint Wood were in England, having traveled there for the church christening ceremony of their first son, and, she said, “we heard it on the radio. We were in the middle of the English countryside, on a very quiet morning,” she recalled, noting that Flint Wood “said he thought he’d heard this, but he must have misunderstood what he’d heard. And then later, we realized that it was actually something that had happened.”
Hicks and Flint Wood have three sons—Felix, Amory, and Conrad—and on the eve of her fortieth birthday in September of 2007 she announced they were expecting a fourth child. By then she had turned her free-spirited Bahamian lifestyle into a branded venture: She and Flint Wood renovated their Caribbean plantation-style house, called Hibis-cus Hill, and it was regularly featured in U.S. and U.K. design magazines, and then they built two rental cottages on the property, which features Har-bour Island’s famous pink sand beaches. They are co-owners of a small boutique hotel called The Landing but are not involved in its day-today operations, and they have a boutique on the island, Sugar Mill. In 2003, Stewart, Tabori & Chang published her first book, Island Life: Inspirational Interiors, which was written with Flint Wood. Island Beauty, with photographs by David Loftus, was published in 2006 and features Hicks’ prescriptions for a natural and healthier lifestyle, including traditional Bahamian folk remedies and her own recipes for all-natural cleansers and shampoos.
That same year, Hicks signed with retailer Crabtree & Evelyn, which makes personal-care products and scents from a range of botanical-based ingredients. She became its spokesperson, and in 2007 she launched her own fragrance line with the company called India Hicks Island Living. The products, for both home and body, retail for $18 to $80 and are divided into two scent families: Spider Lily and Ca-suarina, named after two fragrant plants that are typical of the Bahamian landscape. “From the beginning, I wanted to capture the unique smells of living here,” she told Catherine Piercy in Vogue. “And that has got everything to do with the freshness of the ocean air, the scent of the palm fronds, the lush tropical flowers.”
Hicks maintains that ten years on, she still has no plans to marry Flint Wood or return to England permanently—especially now that her sons are so acclimatized to island life. “From the boys’ point of view, it’s paradise—they’re very free and rather savage as a result,” she said in an interview with London Sunday Times writer Amanda Craig. “There’s no smog, no car seats. I come back to England and it’s so pressurised about what schools your children go to and there’s an enormous pressure on kids to perform.”
(With David Flint Wood) Island Life: Inspirational Interiors, Stewart, Tabori & Chang (New York City), 2003.
Island Beauty, with photographs by David Loftus, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2006.
Daily Mail (London, England), June 27, 1998, p. 6; October 13, 2003, p. 11.
Evening Standard (London, England), March 26, 2004, p. 44.
Sunday Times (London, England), July 1, 2001, p. 8.
Vogue, February 2007, p. 175.
WWD, January 5, 2007, p. 8.
“Interview with India Hicks, Prince Charles’s God-daughter,” Larry King Live, CNN.com (transcript of March 25, 2004, broadcast), http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0403/25/lkl.00.html (September 20, 2007).