Kedleston, George Nathaniel Curzon of

SKU: AUT1561


George Nathaniel Curzon, Marquess Curzon, also called (1898–1911) Baron Curzon of Kedleston, or (1911–21) Earl Curzon of Kedleston (born Jan. 11, 1859, Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, Eng.—died March 20, 1925, London), British statesman, viceroy of India (1898–1905), and foreign secretary (1919–24), who during his terms in office played a major role in British policy-making.  Autograph Card Signed, n.d. 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 written in blk ink on ratro Post Card from England overall, fine condition.

Curzon was the eldest son of the 4th Baron Scarsdale, rector of Kedleston, Derbyshire. His early development was strongly influenced by the benign neglect of his parents and the dominating character of his governess (whom he termed “a brutal and vindictive tyrant”) and of his first preparatory schoolmaster (a firm believer in corporal punishment). At Eton, where he proved a wayward and emotional pupil, he clashed with his tutors but developed an extraordinary gift for assimilating the contents of books; by studying hard in private, he surprised everyone by winning more prizes (for French, Italian, and history, among other subjects) than had ever been carried off before.

Just before entering Oxford in 1878, he was struck down by a devastating pain in his back, the aftermath of a riding accident of four years previous. He refused to accept medical advice to rest and instead donned a leather harness, which he wore for the rest of his life. The back pain was to plague him from that time on, robbing him of sleep, forcing him to take drugs, and often making him querulous and unbalanced at some of the most vital moments in his career and in the affairs of the British Empire. It should be added that the pain sharpened his mind and never kept him from achieving remarkable feats of physical and mental endurance.

On Nov. 10, 1891, Curzon took his first step up the political ladder by accepting Salisbury’s invitation to become under secretary of state for India in the Tory government. The financial worries that beset him at the time (for he had developed extravagant tastes) were solved when he married Mary Victoria Leiter, daughter of Adolphus (Levi) Leiter, a Chicago millionaire. The marriage took place in Washington, D.C., on April 22, 1895, and the union involved marriage settlements of several millions of dollars. There was also a present from Lord Salisbury: the newly married couple returned from their honeymoon to find him waiting with an offer to Curzon of the job of under secretary of state, Salisbury having just been appointed foreign secretary. Curzon accepted on the condition that he was also to be made a privy councillor, and on June 29, 1895, he was duly sworn in by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle.

From this moment his rise to political eminence was swift. In the period of political eclipse that followed, he became an excellent and enlightened chancellor of the University of Oxford and filled many other important offices. But his temporary retirement from politics was marred by the death of his beloved wife, Mary. Her death affected him deeply, but the money that now came to him enabled him to indulge in his passion for the collection of art treasures and old buildings.

In 1911 he bought his first castle, Tattershall, in Lincolnshire, which he restored; and later he did the same to Bodiam Castle, Sussex, eventually presenting both of them to the nation. His political ambitions had been damped down but never extinguished, and his hopes were stirred anew in 1911. In that year, after the coronation of King George V, Curzon received an earldom, along with the viscountcy of Scarsdale and the barony of Ravensdale. He showed his gratitude to the Tories who had elevated him by persuading his fellow peers (against his own and their feelings) to abstain from voting against the Parliament Bill, which curtailed their powers, thus avoiding a constitutional crisis the government had feared.

He joined the coalition Cabinet of H.H. Asquith in the summer of 1915, and, when Lloyd George took over that December, he became leader of the House of Lords with the office of lord president. From then on Curzon was one of the members of the inner Cabinet concerned with the policies and pursuits of World War I. There had been a time when all fashionable London imagined that Curzon would marry the flamboyant redheaded novelist Elinor Glyn, but to everyone’s surprise—not least that of Glyn—he announced his engagement in December 1916 to Mrs. Alfred (Grace) Duggan, widow of a rich Argentinian rancher and daughter of J. Monroe Hinds, an American diplomat. They were married on Jan. 2, 1917.

His first wife had given Curzon three daughters. He hoped that his second would produce the son to inherit his title, and for both of them the years ahead were filled with hopes and disappointments.