The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters

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9780066210612: The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters

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Based on unpublished letters and diaries, The Viceroy's Daughters throws new light on Oswald Mosley, Nancy Astor and the Cliveden set, Lord Halifax, and the Duke and Duchess of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.

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About the Author:

Anne de Courcy has written eleven books, including Diana Mosley: Mitford Beauty, British Fascist, Hitler's Angel; Debs at War; and The Viceroy's Daughters. She lives in London and Gloucestershire.

From Publishers Weekly:

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, n‚e 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.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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