She was born at Knole House, Sevenoaks, the vast ancestral home of the Sackville-Wests, which she has written about in her book Knole and the Sackvilles. Despite being the only child of the 3rd Lord Sackville, she did not inherit the house on his death in 1930, as according to the family custom that it should go with the title in the male line he bequeathed it to his nephew. It is now a National Trust property.
In 1913 she married the writer and politician Harold Nicholson. They had a open marriage, and remained devoted to each other, despite each having a number of same-sex relationships. In 1930 they bought Sissinghurst Castle, near Cranbrook, and created a famous garden there, now owned by the National Trust.
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