Cover image for The viceroy's daughters : the lives of the Curzon sisters
The viceroy's daughters : the lives of the Curzon sisters
De Courcy, Anne.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : William Morrow, [2002?]

Physical Description:
viii, 422 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Great Britain : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
CT787.C87 D4 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Popular Materials-Biography
CT787.C87 D4 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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The Viceroy's Daughters is the riveting chronicle of the dazzling lives of three remarkable sisters -- aristocratic, rich, spirited and willful-born when the wealth and privilege of the British upper classes were at their zenith.

Irene (born 1896), Cynthia (born 1898) and Alexandra (born 1904) were the three daughters of Lord Curzon, viceroy of India from 1898 to 1905 and probably the grandest and most self-confident imperial servant Britain ever possessed. After the death of his fabulously rich American wife in 1906, Curzon embarked on a long love affair with the novelist Elinor Glyn, before dropping her to marry his rich and beautiful second wife. It was his fierce determination to control every aspect of his daughters' lives -- including the money that was rightfully theirs -- that led them one by one to revolt against their father.

The three Curzon sisters were at the very heart of the fast and glittering world of the twenties and thirties. Irene, intensely musical and a passionate fox hunter, had love affairs with the glamorous Melton Mowbray hunting set. Cynthia (Cimmie) married Sir Oswald Mosley, joining him first in the Labour Party, where she became a popular and successful Labour MP herself, then following him into fascism. Alexandra (Baba), the youngest and most beautiful, married the Prince of Wales's best friend -- and best man -- Fruity Metcalfe. On Cimmie's early death in 1933, Baba flung herself into a long and passionate affair with Mosley and a liaison with Mussolini's ambassador to London, Count Grandi, while simultaneously enjoying the romantic devotion of the foreign secretary, Lord Halifax.

The sisters saw British fascism from behind the scenes and had an equally intimate view of the arrival of Wallis Simpson and the marriage and life of the Windsors. The war found them based at "the Dorch" (the Dorchester Hotel), their days spent nursing wounded soldiers, working in canteens, lecturing and doing other war work. Toward the end of their extraordinary lives, the two surviving sisters became pillars of the establishment, Irene made one of the first four life peers in 1958 for her work with youth clubs, while Baba was recognized for her tireless efforts for the Save the Children Fund with a CBE.

Based on unpublished letters and diaries, The Viceroy's Daughters throws new light on Oswald Mosley, Nancy Astor and the Cliveden set, Lord Halifax, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. It is also a wonderfully revealing portrait of British upper-class life in the first half of the twentieth century.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

De Courcy has written an irresistible triple biography of three of the most fascinating "bright young things" on the glittering British social scene of the 1920s and 1930s. Irene, Cynthia, and Alexandria Curzon, the daughters of Lord Curzon, the former viceroy of India, lived lives of incredible wealth and privilege. Beautiful, talented, and intelligent, they sought to leave an indelible mark on British society. Through numerous friendships, marriages, and affairs, their lives were intertwined with those of some of the most socially and politically influential members of the British upper crust, including the Astors, the Mosleys, and the Windsors. Utilizing unpublished letters and diaries, the author has managed to trace and to interweave the remarkable stories of three sisters whose lives were, to a great extent, influenced and shaped by their complex relationships with one another. This intimate family portrait is chock-full of tantalizing glamour and gossip. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Don't confuse the Curzon sisters with the Mitfords, whose biography comes out this month (see The Sisters, Forecasts, Nov. 12, 2001), although the fascist Oswald Mosley married one of each. Lord Curzon, viceroy of India, an avowed antifeminist who valued women if they were ornamental, produced three highly decorative daughters: Irene, Cynthia (Cimmie) and Alexandra (Baba). They were to lead largely inconsequential lives, but their wealth and social position put them close to the center of British political power from 1920 until the end of WWII. The eldest, Irene, never married, devoting herself first to the pursuit of foxes and married men, and later to charity work and the bottle. Cimmie had the misfortune to wed Oswald Mosley, a notorious womanizer and founder of the British Union of Fascists. Mosley bedded a string of women, including wife Cimmie's two sisters and her stepmother, until his wartime imprisonment (by then, he'd divorced Cimmie to marry Diana Guinness, ne Mitford). The youngest daughter, Baba, who was married to Fruity Metcalfe, an amiable if rather dim friend of the Duke of Windsor, had a talent for adultery with rich and powerful men that she exercised in the stately homes of England, while her husband occupied himself supporting the duke in his immensely comfortable exile in France. Though this well-researched book teems with political figures (e.g., Chamberlain, Mountbatten, Halifax) during a perilous historical period, we see them not as they decide the fate of nations, but with their trousers down. Their antics make the present crop of royals and members of Parliament look positively staid. 32 pages of b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

British journalist de Courcy has written numerous biographies of the British elite as well as one book on etiquette. This time, she focuses on the daughters of the colorful, controversial viceroy of India, Lord Curzon (whose second daughter married fascist Oswald Mosely). All the Curzon sisters entertained and bedded the A-list of the British elite of the last century, and the author uses the sisters as the fulcrum of a story that includes the Windsors, Mitfords, Guinnesses, Astors, and the Dorchester and Clivedon sets, plus many more of that vanishing upper stratum that ruled Britain and influenced the entire 20th century. De Courcy had access to unpublished diaries and correspondence of these toffs, and her acknowledgments are profuse and star-studded. Celebrity lovers will adore this book, which covers all aspects of the lives of this elite group its wealth, manners (both ill bred and upper crust), lusts, and political intrigues. Sadly, the last chapters disappoint; de Courcy simply condenses too many of the last decades of the Curzon sisters' lives into one lump, leaving readers wanting more. Still, this entertaining romp is recommended for all public and academic libraries. Gail Benjafield, St. Catharine's P.L., Ont. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.