George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston Biography

George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, was a British Conservative statesman and the Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905. Born into an aristocratic family, he overcame a severe spinal injury from a riding accident during his education at Eton College. His political career began at the age of 26 as an Assistant Private Secretary to Lord Salisbury, eventually leading him to become the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Viceroy of India. After a period of political eclipse, he served on the War Committee during the First World War and later became the Foreign Secretary for five years.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Lord Curzon, George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, Earl Curzon of Kedleston
  • Died At Age: 66
  • Family: Spouse/Ex-: Grace Duggan (m. 1917), Mary Leiter (m. 1895), father: Alfred Nathaniel Holden Curzon, 4th Baron Scarsdale, mother: Blanche Senhouse Curzon, children: Lady Alexandra Curzon, Lady Cynthia Mosley, Mary Curzon – 2nd Baroness Ravensdale
  • Born Country: England
  • Political Leaders
  • British Men
  • Died on: March 20, 1925
  • Place of death: London, England
  • More Facts
  • Education: University of Oxford, Eton College, Balliol College

Childhood & Early Life

George Curzon was born on 11 January 1859, at Kedleston Hall, his family home in Kedleston, Derbyshire. His father, Alfred Nathaniel Curzon, 4th Baron Curzon, was the Rector of Kedleston and a Justice of the Peace while his mother was Blanche nee Senhouse.

Born second of his parents’ eleven children and the eldest son, he had three younger brothers called Colonel Hon. Alfred Nathaniel Curzon; Francis Nathaniel Curzon and Hon Assheton Nathaniel Curzon. He also had seven sisters, one among them being Eveline Mary Miller.

Until 1869, George grew up under the supervision of his governess, Ellen Mary Paraman, having little parental attention. Although a good teacher, she not only beat him regularly, but often shamed him by walking him through the village, wearing a conical hat that bore words like ‘liar’, ‘sneak’, and ‘coward’.

In May 1869, George began his formal education at Wixenford Preparatory School. Subsequently, he moved to Eton College, where he studied until 1878, winning many prizes in subjects like French, Italian, and history.

In 1878, he entered Balliol College, Oxford, where he helped to establish the Oxford Canning Club, becoming the President of the Oxford Union in 1880. Because of his extracurricular activities, he got a second-class degree in Literae humaniores, but received a Prize Fellowship at All Souls College in 1883.

Early Career

In 1885, George Nathaniel Curzon began his career as the Assistant Private Secretary of the newly elected Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury. Same year in autumn, he unsuccessfully stood for his first parliamentary election from South Derbyshire. But in the following year, he won his first parliamentary seat from Southport, Lancashire.

In 1888, with the permission of Prime Minister Lord Salisbury, he set out on a tour of Asia, visiting Russia and Central Asia, thereafter returning home to write ‘Russia in Central Asia’ (1889). Next from September 1889 till January 1890, he visited Persia, writing ‘Persia and the Persian Question’ (1892).

In 1891, he was offered the post of Undersecretary of State for India by then Foreign Secretary, Lord Salisbury. He accepted the offer on 10 November on the condition that he was made a privy councilor.

In 1892, the Tories lost power and with that Curzon resumed his travel, visiting Siam, French Indochina and Korea. Next in 1894, he went to Afghanistan and the Pamirs, publishing his third book, ‘Problems of the Far East’ in the same year.

In 1895, as the Tories returned to power with Lord Salisbury as the Prime Minister, Curzon was appointed Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a position he held till 1898. Meanwhile on June 29, 1895, he was duly sworn in as a member of Privy Council by Queen Victoria.

Viceroy of India

In 1898, it was announced that George Curzon would be appointed the new Viceroy of India. In September, he was created Baron Curzon of Kedleston and on 15 December left for his new post, reaching Calcutta on January 3, 1899.

On assuming his office, he demanded obedience from the Rajas and Maharajas. Concurrently, he took many welfare measures, initiating commissions on education, police and civil service, announcing immediate punishment for the British, who ill-treated the natives, even if they were army personnel.

He initiated measures to shield Indian economy against imports of sugar. But, Curzon has also been criticized for allegedly having done little to fight the famine. He inaugurated a new province called the North West Frontier Province, and pursued a policy of forceful control mingled with conciliation.

To counter Russian threat, he visited Persian Gulf in 1903 and encouraged British trade in Persia. Towards the end of the year, he sent a successful team to Tibet under Francis Younghusband,, who penetrated Lhasa, where a treaty was signed in September 1904.

Lord Curzon also took measure to restore the Taj Mahal and other Indian heritage buildings. However, he lost popular support when he divided the Province of Bengal in 1905 in order to make each unit more manageable.

In 1905, he also came to loggerheads with Lord Kitchener, the Commander Chief of Indian Army. As a result of his differences with Lord Kitchener, Curzon resigned from his office. He returned to England, after his resignation was accepted in August 1905.

Back in England

On returning to England, George Curzon spent one year, tidying up his private matters and in deference to the King’s wishes did not stand for the 1906 election. Eventually in 1907, he was elected as the Chancellor of Oxford University.

In 1908, he was elected a representative peer for Ireland. In 1909, when Liberal government proposed to abolish the legislative veto of the House of Lords, he worked actively for the motion.

In May 1915, he joined H. H. Asquith’s cabinet as Lord Privy Seal. Later from December 1916, he served on Lloyd George’s small War Cabinet as Leader of the House of Lords as well as on the War Policy Committee.

In 1919, he was appointed the Foreign Secretary. Initially, his was not allowed to work freely and his carefully planned policies were all thwarted. However, once Tories took over in 1922, he had full power and served with distinction until he was replaced in 1923.

Awards & Achievements

In 1898, George Curzon was created Baron Curzon of Kedleston, in the County of Derby.

In 1911 he was created Earl Curzon of Kedleston, Viscount Scarsdale, and Baron Ravensdale. .

In 1916, on the death of his father, he became 5th Baron Scarsdale, in the Peerage of Great Britain.

In 1921, he was created Marquess Curzon of Kedleston.

Family & Personal Life

In 1895, George Curzon married Mary Victoria Leiter, the daughter of an American millionaire. The couple had three daughters; Mary Curzon, 2nd Baroness Ravensdale, Lady Cynthia Mosley and Lady Alexandra Curzon. His wife died in July 1906, leaving him in great grief.

In January 1917, he married Grace Elvina Hinds, an Alabama born widow. From this marriage, he had two stepsons named Alfred Duggan and Hubert John Duggan, and a stepdaughter called Grace Lucille.

In March 1925, George Curzon suffered severe hemorrhage of the bladder and died on 20 March 1925, after an unsuccessful surgery. He was interred beside his first wife, Mary, in the family vault at All Saints Church in Kedleston.

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