The Viceroy's daughters : the lives of the Curzon sisters

by Anne De Courcy

Paper Book, 2000




London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000.


Irene (born 1896), Cynthia (b.1898) and Alexandria (b.1904) were the three daughters of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India 1898-1905. The three sisters were at the very heart of the fast and glittering world of the Twenties and Thirties. Irene had love affairs in the glamorous Melton Mowbray hunting set. Cynthia married Oswald Mosley, joining him first in the Labour Party before following him into fascism. Alexandra, the youngest and most beautiful, married the Prince of Wales's best friend Fruity Metcalfe. On Cynthia's early death in 1933 Alexandra flung herself into a long and passionate affair with Mosley and a liaison with Mussolini's ambassador to London, Count Dino Grandi, while enjoying the romantic devotion of the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax. The war finds them based at the Dorchester Hotel doing good works. At the end of their extraordinary lives, Irene and Alexandra have become, rather improbably, pillars of the establishment, Irene being made one of the very first Life Peers in 1958 for her work with youth clubs.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member beadinggem
Well written biography of Lord Curzon, one of the Viceroys of India's daughters who lived lives of utter privilege and low morals. The best parts of the books were about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor during and after the abdication crisis as the book was based on diaries and letters of the subjects.
LibraryThing member janglen
This very entertaining and well written biography of the Curzon sisters gives an insight into the messy lives of the aristocratic English in the 1920s and 1930s. It is particularly interesting for the poltics (one of the sisters married Tom Mosley) and the revelations about Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.
LibraryThing member Africansky1
This is a joint biography of the three daughters of Lord Curson and his wife Mary Leiter. Curzon was the Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century and as their mother was an American heiress the daughters were born into a life of enormous wealth, aristocratic privelege, travel as a way of life and conspicuous consumption. They were the daughters of the British empire at its prime. This biography, based upon personal diaries and family letters gives a good insight into the social and political lives of an aristocractie family in Britain in the interwar period. It's readable at a quick pace as its mainly about what went on in family squabbles, between the sheets with various husbands and lovers and their relationship with Curzon as father. Everyone spent money freely on clothes, houses, furnishings, horses and dogs and the sisters fell out with their father over their right to spend their inheritance as opposed to Curzon spending their family money on his own lifestyle. Collectively they were not very good at choosing suitable men either as husbands or lovers. Life was hectic, energetic, entertaining seemingly often a social mindless whirl of lunches, dinners and travel, but always interesting. One daughter, Cynthia, married Oswald ( Tom) Mosley and was drawn into labour and then very right-wing Blackshirt circles - although she became a mother he was unfaithful too her and the book reveals what a cad he was and what a discrepancy between the high life he lived and the socialist values he professed but did not live. His was a story of a man of enormous talent and charisma but ultimately unfulfilled ambition and effectively treason. The youngest ( and longest lived ) daughter, Baba, married Fruity Metcalfe, the friend in need and best man of the Prince of Wales, Edward VII and was beguiled by the false lifestyles of the Parisian and Riviera life of the Windsor couple who in the end proved to be unsteady friends after all. The eldest Curzon daughter, Irene was a horsewoman of note , fearless in pursuit of the foxes and men but who was ultimately disappointed in love. One wonders if it was all rather a shallow existence but surprisingly the sisters were interested in charity and good works and understood their station as ladies of means and aristocratic status, bestoying largesse on the poor or less fortunate. They were products of their time - they were all women of brains and strong character (their father's daughters) but lacking a rigorous education and their female sex a disadvantage in their world. It is a well written book and well researched but does not get into the political issues of the day in any depth. It is not a very critical study, though clearly imperial Britain at its height offered huge benefits to the priveleged upper classes. There is no family tree to sort out who belonged to who. Biographical notes of the many characters is missing. Its value lies in giving an insight into the personalities , personal and sex lives of leading British social figures of the day. Very few individuals come across as likeable, loyal or trustworthy. That was not their style.… (more)
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