GEORGE NATHANIEL CURZON, 1ST MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON KG , GCSI , GCIE , PC (11 January 1859 – 20 March 1925), known as THE LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON between 1898 and 1911 and as THE EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON between 1911 and 1921, was a British Conservative statesman.
Viceroy of India , he is noted for the creation of Eastern Bengal
and Assam . As
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs , he drew the
* 1 Early life * 2 Early political career * 3 Asian travels and writings * 4 First marriage (1895–1906)
* 5 Viceroy of India (1899–1905)
* 5.1 Indian Army * 5.2 Indian famine
* 6 Return to Britain
House of Lords
* 10 Foreign Secretary (1919–24)
* 10.1 Relations with Lloyd George
* 10.2 Policy under Lloyd George
* 10.3 Under
* 11 Passed over for Prime Minister, 1923 * 12 Death * 13 Titles * 14 Styles of address * 15 Assessment * 16 Legacy * 17 Notes
* 18 Bibliography
* 18.1 George Nathaniel Curzon\'s writings * 18.2 Secondary sources
* 19 External links
Curzon was the eldest son and second of eleven children of Alfred Curzon, the 4th Baron Scarsdale (1831–1916), Rector of Kedleston in Derbyshire, and his wife Blanche (1837–1875), daughter of Joseph Pocklington Senhouse of Netherhall in Cumberland. He was born at Kedleston Hall , built on the site where his family, who were of Norman ancestry, had lived since the 12th century. His mother, worn out by childbirth, died when George was 16; her husband survived her by 41 years. Neither parent exerted a major influence on Curzon's life. Scarsdale was an austere and unindulgent father who believed in the short-held family tradition that landowners should stay on their land and not go "roaming about all over the world". He thus had little sympathy for those journeys across Asia between 1887 and 1895 which made his son one of the most travelled men who ever sat in a British cabinet. A more decisive presence in Curzon's childhood was that of his brutal governess, Ellen Mary Paraman, whose tyranny in the nursery stimulated his combative qualities and encouraged the obsessional side of his nature. Paraman periodically forced him to parade through the village wearing a conical hat bearing the words liar, sneak, and coward. Curzon later noted, "No children well born and well-placed ever cried so much and so justly." Curzon at Eton, 1870s.
He was educated at
Wixenford School ,
Eton College and Balliol
College, Oxford . At Eton he was a favourite of
Oscar Browning , an
over-intimate relationship that led to his tutor's dismissal. While
at Eton, he was a controversial figure who was liked and disliked with
equal intensity by large numbers of masters and other boys. This
strange talent for both attraction and repulsion stayed with him all
his life: few people ever felt neutral about him. At Oxford he was
President of the Union and Secretary of the Oxford Canning Club (a
Tory political club named for
A teenage spinal injury , incurred while riding, left Curzon in lifelong pain, often resulting in insomnia, and required him to wear a metal corset, contributing to an unfortunate impression of stiffness and arrogance. While at Oxford, Curzon was the inspiration for the following Balliol rhyme , a piece of doggerel which stuck with him in later life: My name is George Nathaniel Curzon, I am a most superior person. My cheeks are pink, my hair is sleek, I dine at Blenheim once a week.
EARLY POLITICAL CAREER
Curzon became Assistant Private Secretary to Salisbury in 1885, and in 1886 entered Parliament as Member for Southport in south-west Lancashire . His maiden speech , which was chiefly an attack on home rule and Irish nationalism , was regarded in much the same way as his oratory at the Oxford Union : brilliant and eloquent but also presumptuous and rather too self-assured. Subsequent performances in the Commons, often dealing with Ireland or reform of the House of Lords (which he supported), received similar verdicts. He was Under-Secretary of State for India in 1891–92 and Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in 1895–98.
ASIAN TRAVELS AND WRITINGS
In the meantime he had travelled around the world: Russia and Central
Asia (1888–89), a long tour of
Curzon believed Russia to be the most likely threat to
Curzon was appalled by his government's apathy towards
FIRST MARRIAGE (1895–1906)
Mary Victoria Leiter by
In 1895 he married Mary Victoria Leiter , the daughter of Levi Ziegler Leiter , an American millionaire of German Mennonite origin and co-founder of the Chicago department store Field in later years he sometimes said that he was not afraid of death because it would enable him to join Mary in heaven.
They had three daughters during a firm and happy marriage: Mary Irene , who inherited her father's Barony of Ravensdale and was created a life peer in her own right; Cynthia , who became the first wife of politician Sir Oswald Mosley ; and Alexandra Naldera ("Baba"), who married Edward "Fruity" Metcalfe , the best friend, best man and equerry of Edward VIII . Mosley exercised a strange fascination for the Curzon women: Irene had a brief romance with him before either were married; Baba became his mistress; and Curzon's second wife, Grace , had a long affair with him.
VICEROY OF INDIA (1899–1905)
In January 1899 he was appointed Viceroy of India . He was created a Peer of Ireland as BARON CURZON OF KEDLESTON, in the County of Derby, on his appointment. This peerage was created in the Peerage of Ireland (the last so created) so that he would be free, until his father's death, to re-enter the House of Commons on his return to Britain.
In the context of the
At the end of 1903, Curzon sent a
British expedition to Tibet under
During his tenure, Curzon undertook the restoration of the Taj Mahal , and expressed satisfaction that he had done so.
Within India, Curzon appointed a number of commissions to inquire into education, irrigation, police and other branches of administration, on whose reports legislation was based during his second term of office as viceroy. Reappointed Governor-General in August 1904, he presided over the 1905 partition of Bengal , which roused such bitter opposition among the people of the province that it was later revoked (1911).
Curzon also took an active interest in military matters. In 1901, he founded the Imperial Cadet Corps, or ICC. The ICC was a corps d'elite, designed to give Indian princes and aristocrats military training, after which a few would be given officer commissions in the Indian Army. But these commissions were "special commissions" which did not empower their holders to command any troops. Predictably, this was a major stumbling block to the ICC's success, as it caused much resentment among former cadets. Though the ICC closed in 1914, it was a crucial stage in the drive to Indianise the Indian Army's officer Corps, which was haltingly begun in 1917.
Military organisation proved to be the final issue faced by Curzon in
India. This was in part a clash of personalities : Curzon once wrote
on a document “I rise from the perusal of these papers filled with
the sense of the ineptitude of my military advisers”, and once wrote
to the Commander-in-Chief in India, Kitchener , advising him that
signing himself "Kitchener of Khartoum" took up too much time and
space, which Kitchener thought petty (Curzon simply signed himself
"Curzon" as if he were an hereditary peer, although he later took to
signing himself "Curzon of Kedleston"). A difference of opinion with
Kitchener, regarding the status of the military member of the council
Main article: Indian famine of 1899–1900
A major famine coincided with Curzon's time as viceroy in which 1 to
4.5 million people died. Large parts of
RETURN TO BRITAIN
Arthur Balfour 's refusal to recommend an earldom for Curzon in 1905 was repeated by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman , the Liberal Prime Minister, who formed his government the day after Curzon returned to England. In deference to the wishes of the king and the advice of his doctors, Curzon did not stand in the general election of 1906 and thus found himself excluded from public life for the first time in twenty years. It was at this time, the nadir of his career, that he suffered the greatest personal loss of his life. Mary died in 1906 and Curzon devoted himself to private matters, including establishing a new home. After the death of Lord Goschen in 1907, the post of Chancellor of the Oxford University fell vacant. Curzon successfully became elected as Chancellor of Oxford after he won by 1001 votes to 440 against Lord Rosebery. He proved to be quite an active Chancellor – " threw himself so energetically into the cause of university reform that critics complained he was ruling Oxford like an Indian province."
HOUSE OF LORDS
In 1908, Curzon was elected a representative peer for Ireland, and thus relinquished any idea of returning to the House of Commons. In 1909–10 he took an active part in opposing the Liberal government's proposal to abolish the legislative veto of the House of Lords, and in 1911 was created BARON RAVENSDALE, of Ravensdale in the County of Derby, with remainder (in default of heirs male) to his daughters, VISCOUNT SCARSDALE, of Scarsdale in the County of Derby, with remainder (in default of heirs male) to the heirs male of his father, and EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON, in the County of Derby, with the normal remainder, all in the Peerage of the United Kingdom .
He became involved with saving Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire , from destruction. This experience strengthened his resolve for heritage protection. He was one of the sponsors of the Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act 1913 .
On 5 May 1914, he spoke out against a bill in the
House of Lords
FIRST WORLD WAR
Curzon joined the Cabinet, as
Lord Privy Seal
Like other politicians (e.g. Chamberlain , Arthur Balfour ) Curzon favoured British Empire efforts in Mesopotamia , believing that the increase in British prestige would discourage a German-inspired Muslim revolt in India.
Curzon was a member of the Dardanelles Committee and told that body (October 1915) that the recent Salonika expedition was "quixotic chivalry".
Early in 1916 Curzon visited Douglas Haig (newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of British forces in France) at his headquarters in France. Haig was impressed by Curzon's brains and decisiveness, considering that he had mellowed since his days as Viceroy (the then Major-General Haig had been Inspector-General of Cavalry, India, at the time) and had lost "his old pompous ways".
Curzon served in Lloyd George 's small War Cabinet as Leader of the
House of Lords
During the crisis of February 1918 Curzon was one of the few members of the government to support Robertson, threatening in vain to resign if he were removed.
SECOND MARRIAGE (1917)
Grace Elvina, second wife
After a long affair with the romantic novelist
Elinor Glyn , Curzon
married the former Grace Elvina Hinds in January 1917. She was the
Grace had three children from her first marriage, two sons, Alfred and Hubert , and a daughter, Grace Lucille. Alfred and Hubert, as Curzon's step-sons, grew up within his influential circle. Curzon had three daughters from his first marriage, but he and Grace (despite fertility-related operations and several miscarriages) did not have any children together, which put a strain on their marriage. Letters written between them in the early 1920s imply that they still lived together, and remained devoted to each other. In 1923, Curzon was passed over for the office of Prime Minister partly on the advice of Arthur Balfour , who joked that Curzon "has lost the hope of glory but he still possesses the means of Grace".
FOREIGN SECRETARY (1919–24)
Statue of Curzon in front of the Kolkata Victoria Memorial
RELATIONS WITH LLOYD GEORGE
Curzon did not have
David Lloyd George
Other cabinet ministers also respected his vast knowledge of Central Asia but disliked his arrogance and often blunt criticism. Believing that the Foreign Secretary should be non-partisan, he would objectively present all the information on a subject to the Cabinet, as if placing faith in his colleagues to reach the appropriate decision. Conversely, Curzon would take personally and respond aggressively to any criticism.
It has been suggested that Curzon's defensiveness reflected institutional insecurity by the Foreign Office as a whole. During the 1920s the Foreign Office was often a passive participant in decisions which were mainly reactive and dominated by the Prime Minister. The creation of the job of Colonial Secretary, the Cabinet Secretariat and the League of Nations added to the Foreign Office's insecurity.
POLICY UNDER LLOYD GEORGE
The territorial changes of Poland. Light blue line: Curzon Line
"B" as proposed by Lord Curzon in 1919. Dark blue line: "Curzon" Line
"A" as proposed by the Soviet Union in 1940. Pink: Formerly German
provinces annexed by Poland after
World War II
Territorial evolution of Poland in the 20th century
Greater Poland Uprising (1918–19)
Treaty of Versailles (1919)
Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919)
Potsdam Conference (1945)
Polish–Soviet border agreement of August 1945
Treaty of Zgorzelec
* v * t * e
After nine months as acting Secretary while Balfour was at the Paris
Peace Conference , Curzon was appointed Foreign Secretary in October
1919. He gave his name to the British government's proposed
Soviet-Polish boundary, the
Curzon was largely responsible for the Peace Day ceremonies on 19
July 1919. These included the plaster Cenotaph , designed by the noted
British architect Sir
In 1918, during World War I, as Britain occupied Mesopotamia (modern
Iraq) , Curzon tried to convince the Indian government to reconsider
his scheme for
Small British forces had twice occupied
In January 1920 Curzon insisted that British troops remain in Batum,
against the wishes of Wilson and the Prime Minister. In February,
while Curzon was on holiday, Wilson persuaded the Cabinet to allow
withdrawal, but Curzon had the decision reversed on his return,
although to Curzon's fury (he thought it "abuse of authority") Wilson
gave Milne permission to withdraw if he deemed it necessary. At
Cabinet on 5 May 1920 Curzon "by a long-winded jaw" (in Wilson's
description) argued for a stay in Batum. After a British garrison at
Enzeli (on the Persian Caspian coast) was taken prisoner by Bolshevik
forces on 19 May 1920, Lloyd George finally insisted on a withdrawal
from Batum early in June 1920. For the rest of 1920 Curzon, supported
by Milner (Colonial Secretary), argued that Britain should retain
control of Persia. When Wilson asked (15 July 1920) to pull troops out
Curzon helped in several Middle Eastern problems: he helped to negotiate Egyptian independence (granted in 1922 ) and the division of the British Mandate of Palestine , despite the strong disagreement he held with the policy of his predecessor Lord Balfour, and helped create the Emirate of Transjordan for Faisal's brother, which may also have delayed the problems there. According to Sir David Gilmour , Curzon "was the only senior figure in the British government at the time who foresaw that its policy would lead to decades of Arab–Jewish hostility".
During the Irish War of Independence , but before the introduction of martial law in December 1920, Curzon suggested the "Indian" solution of blockading villages and imposing collective fines for attacks on the police and army.
In 1921 Curzon was created EARL OF KEDLESTON, in the County of Derby, and MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON.
In 1922, he was the chief negotiator for the Allies of the Treaty of Lausanne .
UNDER BONAR LAW
Unlike many leading Conservative members of Lloyd George's Coalition
Cabinet, Curzon ceased to support Lloyd George over the Chanak Crisis
and had just resigned when Conservative backbenchers voted at the
In 1922–23 Curzon had to negotiate with France after French troops occupied the Ruhr to enforce the payment of German reparations; he described the French Prime Minister (and former President) Raymond Poincaré as a "horrid little man". Curzon had expansive ambitions and was not much happier with Bonar Law, whose foreign policy was based on "retrenchment and withdrawal", than he had been with Lloyd George. However he provided invaluable insight on the Middle East and was instrumental in shaping British foreign policy in that region.
PASSED OVER FOR PRIME MINISTER, 1923
This decision was taken on the private advice of leading members of
the party including former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour. Balfour
advised the monarch that in a democratic age it was inappropriate for
the Prime Minister to be a member of the
House of Lords
Curzon, summoned by Stamfordham, travelled to London by train assuming he was to be appointed Prime Minister, and is said to have burst into tears when told the truth. He later described Baldwin as "a man of the utmost insignificance", although he served under Baldwin and proposed him for leadership of the Conservative Party.
Curzon remained Foreign Secretary under Baldwin until the government fell in January 1924. When Baldwin formed a new government in November 1924 he appointed Curzon Lord President of the Council .
The last photograph taken of Curzon on his way to attend a cabinet meeting (1925)
In March 1925 Curzon suffered a severe haemorrhage of the bladder.
Surgery was unsuccessful and he died in London on 20 March 1925 at the
age of 66. His coffin, made from the same tree at
Kedleston that had
encased his first wife, Mary, was taken to
Upon his death the Barony, Earldom and Marquessate of Curzon of Kedleston and the Earldom of Kedleston became extinct, whilst the Viscountcy and Barony of Scarsdale were inherited by a nephew. The Barony of Ravensdale was inherited by his eldest daughter Mary and is today held by his second daughter Cynthia\'s grandson, Daniel Nicholas Mosley, 4th Baron Ravensdale.
There is now a blue plaque on the house in London where Curzon lived and died, No. 1 Carlton House Terrace, Westminster .
On his appointment as
Viceroy of India in 1898 he was created Baron
Kedleston , in the County of Derby. This title was created
Peerage of Ireland to enable him to potentially return to the
House of Commons , as Irish peers did not have an automatic right to
sit in the
House of Lords
In 1911 he was created Earl Curzon of Kedleston , Viscount Scarsdale , and Baron Ravensdale . All of these titles were in the Peerage of the United Kingdom and thus precluded Curzon's return to the House of Commons, but conferred upon him the right to sit in the House of Lords.
STYLES OF ADDRESS
The Honourable George Nathaniel Curzon
The Honourable George Nathaniel Curzon MP
The Right Honourable The Lord Curzon of
* 1899–1901: His
Excellency The Rt Hon The Lord Curzon of
Kedleston, Viceroy and Governor-General of
Few statesmen have experienced such changes in fortune in both their public and their personal lives. Gilmour concludes:
Curzon's career was an almost unparalleled blend of triumph and disappointment. Although he was the last and in many ways the greatest of Victorian viceroys, his term of office ended in resignation, empty of recognition and devoid of reward.... he was unable to assert himself fully as foreign secretary until the last weeks of Lloyd George's premiership. Finally, after he had restored his reputation at Lausanne, his ultimate ambition was thwarted by George V.
Critics generally agreed that Curzon never reached the heights that his youthful talents had seemed destined to reach. This sense of opportunities missed was summed up by Winston Churchill in his book Great Contemporaries (1937):
The morning had been golden; the noontide was bronze; and the evening lead. But all were polished till it shone after its fashion.
Churchill also wrote there was certain something lacking in Curzon:
it was certainly not information nor application, nor power of speech nor attractiveness of manner and appearance. Everything was in his equipment. You could unpack his knapsack and take an inventory item by item. Nothing on the list was missing, yet somehow or other the total was incomplete.
His Cabinet colleague The Earl of Crawford provided a withering personal judgement in his diary; "I never knew a man less loved by his colleagues and more hated by his subordinates, never a man so bereft of conscience, of charity or of gratitude. On the other hand the combination of power, of industry, and of ambition with a mean personality is almost without parallel. I never attended a funeral ceremony at which the congregation was so dry-eyed!"
The first leader of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru , paid Curzon a surprising tribute, presumably referring to the fact that Curzon as Viceroy exhibited real love and knowledge of Indian culture:
After every other Viceroy has been forgotten, Curzon will be remembered because he restored all that was beautiful in India.
Curzon Gate , a ceremonial gate, was erected by
Curzon Road , the road connecting
* ^ Great Contemporaries, Winston S. Churchill
* ^ Empire, Niall Ferguson
* ^ Philip Holden, Autobiography and Decolonization: Modernity,
Masculinity, and the Nation-state (2008), p. 46
* ^ Eton, the Raj and modern India; By Alastair Lawson; 9 March
2005; BBC News.
* ^ "...
Oscar Browning (1837–1923), who had been sacked from
Eton in September 1875 under suspicion of paederasty, partly because
of his involvement with young George Nathaniel Curzon" in Michael
Kaylor, Secreted Desires 2006 p.98
* ^ "His intimate, indiscreet friendship with a boy in another
boarding-house, G. N. Curzon provoked a crisis with Hornby Amid
national controversy he was dismissed in 1875 on the pretext of
administrative inefficiency but actually because his influence was
thought to be sexually contagious" in Richard Davenport-Hines, Oscar
* ^ Burton, David Henry (1990). Cecil Spring Rice: A Diplomat\'s
Life. Page 22: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. ISBN 978-0-8386-3395-3
* ^ Curzon, Russia in
* ^ Oxford DNB * ^ "No. 28547". The London Gazette . 3 November 1911. p. 7951. * ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21587468 * ^ Woodward, 1998, pp113, 118–9 * ^ Woodward, 1998, p.16 * ^ Groot 1988, p.226–7 * ^ Woodward, 1998, pp.155–7 * ^ Woodward, 1998, pp134, 159–61, * ^ Woodward, 1998, p.200 * ^ Channel 4 history microsites: Bodiam Castle * ^ Michael Foot: Aneurin Bevan * ^ Johnson, Gaynor "Preparing for Office: Lord Curzon as Acting Foreign Secretary, January- October 1919." Contemporary British History 18.3 (2004): 56. * ^ G.H. Bennett, "Lloyd George, Curzon and the Control of British Foreign Policy 1919–22," Australian Journal of Politics & History 45#4 (1999): 479. * ^ Bennett, G.H. (1999). "Lloyd George, Curzon and the Control of British Foreign Policy 1919–22". Australian Journal of Politics & History. 45 (4): 472. * ^ Sharp, Alan "Adapting to a New World? British Foreign Policy in the 1920s." Contemporary British History 18.3 (2004): 76. * ^ Bennett, G.H. (1999). "Lloyd George, Curzon and the Control of British Foreign Policy 1919–22". Australian Journal of Politics & History. 45 (4): 473. * ^ Gaynor Johnson, "Preparing for Office: Lord Curzon as Acting Foreign Secretary, January–October 1919", Contemporary British History, vol. 18, n°3, 2004, pp. 53–73. * ^ Sarah Meiklejohn Terry (1983). Poland\'s Place in Europe: General Sikorski and the Origin of the Oder-Neisse Line, 1939–1943. Princeton University Press. p. 121. * ^ Yapp, p. 654. * ^ Yapp, p. 653. * ^ Jeffery 2006, pp. 251–252. * ^ Jeffery 2006, pp. 233–234, 247–251. * ^ A B Gilmour, David (1996). "The Unregarded Prophet: Lord Curzon and the Palestine Question". Journal of Palestine Studies. 25 (3): 64. JSTOR 2538259 . * ^ Jeffery 2006, pp. 266–267. * ^ "No. 32376". The London Gazette . 1 July 1921. p. 5243. * ^ Bennett, "Lloyd George, Curzon and the Control of British Foreign Policy 1919–22," p. 477. * ^ "George Nathaniel Curzon blue plaque". openplaques.org. Retrieved 13 May 2013. * ^ "No. 32346". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 June 1921. p. 4529. * ^ "Lord Curzon: A Great Career". The Times . The Times Digital Archive. 21 March 1925. p. 7. * ^ David Gilmour, "Curzon, George Nathaniel, Marquess Curzon of Kedleston (1859–1925)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011 accessed 30 Sept 2014 doi :10.1093/ref:odnb/32680 * ^ Churchill, Great Contemporaries, Chapter on Curzon * ^ Lindsay , p. 507. * ^ "When Curzon rescued Ahmedabad\'s icon". timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
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