Candida was born in Dublin in 1942. She was the daughter of the poet, author and broadcaster John Betjeman and Penelope Chetwode, author and Himalayan traveler/explorer. As a child, Candida and her mother travelled on horses or in a horse-drawn cart along green lanes and tracks and her love of exploring England has never left her.
In 1960 she performed at the Edinburgh fringe festival with her friends, Richard Ingrams, Willie Rushton and Andrew Osmond who were about to start Private Eye. She subsequently worked as a sub editor on Queen and in the evenings helped collate and staple together the first copies of Private Eye and distribute publicity posters for it in the Underground. Queen’s editor Jocelyn Stevens discovered she was moonlighting and sacked her.
In 1962 she married Rupert Lycett Green, described by her as “a romantic maverick”, and had five children. He had recently started a men’s tailoring shop called ‘Blades’ which was to take a seminal place in the history of men’s fashion. Candida wrote two children’s books Hadrian the Hedgehog and Hadrian in the Orient and continued to work as a journalist. In 1970 she covered the World Cup in Mexico for the Evening Standard and took over the column Nooks and Corners in Private Eye which had been created by Richard Ingrams for her father. As a result of this column she and Private Eye colleague Christopher Booker wrote Goodbye London because they were so shocked at what the planners and developers were doing.
During the 1970s she conceived, wrote and presented three acclaimed television documentaries: The Front Garden and The Englishwoman and the Horse for the BBC and English Cottages for Channel Four. She published The Front Garden, English Cottages, (which sold over 100,000 copies), The Perfect English Country House and Brilliant Gardens.
In the 1980s she spent seven years editing and introducing her father’s letters and prose with connecting passages. “I know I have an onerous task,” she wrote, “ but I love my father and want to show the world how great he was; how he was, unlike most of us, interested in things other than himself; how he revealed the divine in the ordinary and enriched so many people’s lives; how he laughed an inordinate amount and when he put his head back and opened his mouth and shook with laughter you couldn’t help laughing too; how he joked about the clergy and obscure denominations and above all how strongly he believed. I want to show how my father is not categorizable; how his architectural tastes were catholic and all-embracing, from the stone dwellings on St Kilda to the wild buildings of Gaudi and the brick galleries of Jim Stirling; how he did not necessarily love all things Victorian as is popularly supposed , but a carefully selected proportion; how he never accepted the mediocre and how he was England’s grand champion not of conservation with all the stuffiness and fossilizing academicism that the word now implies, but of safeguarding what he called ‘indeterminate beauty’ – the last thing on any official list, because of its indefinable quality”.
She later edited Betjeman’s Britain for the Folio Society and wrote 100 English Houses illustrated with pictures from the Country Life Archives.
Candida was a Commissioner for English Heritage between 1992 and 2001 and also served as a member of their Audit Committee as well as their Churches and Cathedrals Committee. Between 1975 and 1990 she and her husband were responsible for the day-to-day running of a thoroughbred stud farm. Together they bred the winners of sixty races.
When Richard Ingrams started The Oldie magazine in 1992 he created a column for Candida called Unwrecked England. Selections of the articles have resulted in two books. In 1999 she travelled north on a horse for 200 miles raising £125,000 for the complementary health centre in Oxford’s Churchill Cancer Hospital and wrote the best-selling Over the Hills and Far Away about the journey. The Dangerous Edge of Things followed – a year in her downland village childhood. Candida won the Countryfile Writer of the Year Award in 2011.
Candida was a contributing editor of Vogue. She was a member of the MCPS through her song writing lyrics, Patron of the Dance Scholarship Trust, a Vice President of the Churches Conservation Trust, on the advisory board of the Railway Heritage Trust, and a member of the Waddesdon Garden Committee. She was also Chair of the Betjeman Poetry Prize.
Candida died in August 2014 from pancreatic cancer. She was a supporter and fundraiser for Pancreatic Cancer Action.