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The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 2, 2002

3.9 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Library Journal

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 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st U.S. ed edition (April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066210615
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066210612
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters" takes you into the homes-and the bedrooms-of some of Britain's most powerful figures in the period between the two World Wars.
The Viceroy was Lord Curzon, a smart and ambitious aristocrat who married a beautiful American heiress. When she died, at the turn of the last century, she left him with a lot of money and three attractive, willful daughters.
These three daughters-Irene, Cimmie and Baba-never did that much in their own rights (they were no Mitford sisters) but they did circulate in very interesting crowds. IN addition, their wealth gave them a tremendous sense of independence and ability to pursue their interests.
Irene, the eldest, never married. Her life was filled with men, foxes, and drink (not necessarily in that order). Cimmie, the middle, married the British fascist Oswald Mosley. She was deeply devoted to him and his causes-campaigning in her furs for fascism, for socialism, for whatever cause captured him-despite his many infidelities. She, like her mother, died young while her husband was embroiled in an affair with the beautiful Diana Mitford Guinness. Her two surviving sisters took her death as an excuse to wage out all war against Diana Mitford and her family. (Mitford did eventually marry Mosley.)
Irene basically raised Cimmie's children. And Baba, the youngest, well she took her place in Cimmie's bed with Mosley despite her own marriage to the Duke of Windsor's best friend.
Much of the charm of the book lies in seeing certain historical figues-the Duke of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, Mosley-through the eyes of these sisters. These women certainly had interesting if not overly consequential lives.
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Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating book for anyone interested in the history of interwar Britain. The three Curzon sisters, via their marriages, love affairs, and circle of friends managed to touch on just about every wild, scandalous, or history-making personage of the time, including the abdicating Prince of Wales and his wife, Churchill, and Hitler. The book is engrossing, but by the end of it, you're almost exhausted from the wild emotional swings, bed-hopping, and just outright meanness that the sisters and their circle exhibit. I closed the book feeling rather sorry for Irene, and feeling angry at Baba - who in the traditional manner of the gleefully wicked, outlived just about everybody. Reccomended.
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By Tess on June 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. It makes no pretenses toward being other than what it is: a biography of several shallow aristocrats who played constant games of "musical beds," left the rearing of their children to nannies, fought with one another constantly, and didn't understand why they were so miserable. Rather than wasting our time with political machinations (God knows the Curzon sisters didn't; they supported various parties based on who the menfolk supported, even when the menfolk were Oswald Mosely, and then didn't understand why their Jewish friends stopped talking to them), the author describes their clothes and the tangled personal relationships and bizarre dependencies that made up their lives. Seriously, it's fantastic.
This is the sort of book that you have to read in the right sort of company so that you can shout out updates: "Okay, now she's sleeping with her brother-in-law! Wait... now it's the other one! Oooh, now the family's telling her to do it!... Okay, now her husband's following the prince of Wales around like a puppy! Now the other one's sleeping with that pianist guy!... My God, he slept with her stepmother? What is up with these people?"
A lot of sex, a lot of scandal... Basically, it's like a really long Vogue article. If that's your cup of tea, you'll love this.
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Format: Paperback
Unlike the Mitford girls, the Curzon sisters were essentially useless creatures, though one could base a really good revolution on their cosseted existence and horrid antics. Upper classes in every land produce people like them, but the English do it particularly well. I remember at lunch one day hearing a well-known older titled lady, refer to a deceased -and very grand- noblewoman, saying, "Yes, and _________ made the Curzon sisters look like nuns!" After reading "The Viceroy's Daughters" I now know that the 1920s and '30s were much more wild than I ever imagined... and I was a teenager in the 1960's!
If you enjoy the perfectly dreadful, really meaningless, but drama-filled lives of some of society's sacred monsters, Anne de Courcy's superbly written and meticulously researched book is just the thing.
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Format: Paperback
The Curzon sisters, daughters of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of india, were famous society beauties in the 20's and 30's, swanning their ways along gilded paths of privilege, as was common among the daughters of the aristocracy, especially during this particular era which was known as "the Long Weekend"...the era between WW1 and WW2. Lord Curzon had married an American heiress who died young, leaving him with the care of their three daughters and access to their huge fortunes. The eldest Irene, never married and in her earlier years, devoted her time to fox hunting and charity works. After the death of her sister Cimmie, she took on the responsibility of raising her children. Cimmie married Tom Mosley, an ardent Fascist leader who was a fervent follower of Hitler, and shared her husbands passion for Fascism. The youngest, Baba, was a typical spoilt and supremely selfish heiress, with all the morals of a female dog on heat, even to the extent of sleeping with (among others)her brother in law. Baba was an intimate of the new King Edward 8th and Mrs. Simpson and was present at their wedding and at most of the goings on of the Cliveden set who represented the "in" crowd in London society at that time. It's a fascinating look at the social history of the 20's and 30's, warts and all, and a thoroughly enjoyable gossipy read.
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