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The Viceroy's Daughters

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 (?Cimmie?) married Oswald Mosley, joining him first in the Labour Party before following him into fascism. Alexandra (?Baba?), the youngest and most beautiful, married the Prince of Wales?s best friend 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 Dino Grandi, while enjoying the romantic devotion of the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax. The war finds them based at ?the Dorch? (the Dorchester Hotel) doing good works. At the end of their extraordinary lives, Irene and Baba 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.
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This is Stella Tillyard's Aristocrats, transferred from the 18th century to the England of the 1920s and '30s Based on unpublished letters and diaries, this is a portrait of British upper-class life in the first half of the 20th century Paperback edition has already been reprinted eight times Contains new revelations about Oswald Mosley, Nancy Astor and the Cliveden Set, Lord Halifax, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor 'Compulsively readable and immaculately researched, The Viceroy's Daughters is popular social history at its very best' Mail on Sunday

About the Author

Anne de Courcy is an acclaimed journalist and biographer


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.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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