George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, KG, GCSI, GCIE, PC (January 11, 1859 – March 20, 1925) was a British Conservative statesman, and hereditary peer seven times over, who served as Viceroy of India and Foreign Secretary. As Viceroy, he governed India at the zenith of imperial power. His main concern was to thwart any possibility of Russian expansion into the region. Famously, he sent Sir Francis Younghusband to Tibet to establish relations with the Tibetan government to forestall Russian involvement. This marked the start of contact between the Western world, and Tibet. As Foreign Secretary, he negotiated the Treaty of Lausanne which confirmed Turkey's post World War I status as a nation-state and ratified her borders. He also gave his name to his line which became the British government's proposed Soviet-Polish boundary, the Curzon Line of December 1919. He was widely tipped to become Prime Minister, but was passed over in favor of Stanley Baldwin. It was deemed inappropriate for a peer to be head of state in the developing democracy of early twentieth-century Britain. It is generally considered that Curzon was unable to fulfill his full potential because of his failure to become Prime Minister. Wealthy by birth, Curzon still chose to serve his nation, despite an early injury that caused him constant pain throughout his life. Curzon believed that "the hand of Divine Providence" lay "behind the creation and expansion of an empire which was a supreme force for good in the world” and in India, if paternalistically, introduced some significant reforms in agriculture, education, policing and also greatly improved communications.
Curzon's tenure in India was characterized by pomp and splendor. He required obedience from the Indian but he also had a sense of obligation towards the people of India. His handling of the famine of 1905-1906, which later spurred Indian nationalism, has been criticized. Curzon himself, however, involved the Indian princes "in the administration of India"  and was sympathetic towards "self-government" although he did not think India was as yet ready for this responsibility.
Curzon was the eldest son and second of eleven children of the 4th Baron Scarsdale (1831–1916), rector of Kedleston in Derbyshire, and his wife Blanche (1837–1875), daughter of Joseph Pocklington Senhouse of Netherhall in Cumberland. His family was of Norman ancestry and had lived on the same site since the twelfth century. His mother, worn out by childbirth, died when George was 16; her husband survived her for 41 years. Neither parent, however, exerted a major influence on Curzon's life. The Baron was an austere and unindulgent father who believed in the long-held family tradition that landowners should stay on their land and not go "roaming about all over the world." He thus had little sympathy for those travels across Asia between 1887 and 1895 which made his son the most traveled man who ever sat in a British cabinet. A more decisive presence in Curzon's childhood was that of his brutal governess, Ellen Mary Paraman, whose tyranny in the nursery stimulated his combative qualities and encouraged the obsessional side of his nature.
He was educated at Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford. At Eton (1872-1878) he was a favorite of Oscar Browning, leading to his tutor's eventual dismissal. While at Eton, he was a controversial figure who was liked and disliked with equal intensity by large numbers of masters and other boys. This strange talent for both attraction and repulsion stayed with him all his life: few people ever felt neutral about him. At Oxford he was President of the Canning Club, the Union and the Presidents' Council, and after a brilliant university career - although he failed to achieve a first class degree in Greats, he won the Lothian and Arnold Prizes, the latter for an essay on Sir Thomas More, about whom he confessed to having known almost nothing before commencing study, literally delivered as the clocks were chiming midnight on the day of the deadline - was elected a fellow of All Souls College in 1883.
A teenage spinal injury, incurred while horseback riding, left Curzon in lifelong pain, often resulting in insomnia, and required him to wear a metal corset under his clothes, contributing to an unfortunate impression of stiffness and arrogance. While at Oxford, Curzon was the inspiration for a piece of doggerel which stuck with him in later life:
My name is George Nathaniel Curzon,
I am a most superior person.
My cheeks are pink, my hair is sleek,
I dine at Blenheim twice a week.
He became Assistant Private Secretary to Lord Salisbury in 1885, and in 1886 entered Parliament as Member for the Southport division of south-west Lancashire. His maiden speech, which was chiefly an attack on home rule and Irish nationalism, was regarded in much the same way as his oratory at the Oxford Union: brilliant and eloquent but also presumptuous and rather too self-assured. Subsequent performances in the Commons, often dealing with Ireland or reform of the House of Lords (which he supported), received similar verdicts. He served as Under-Secretary of State for India in 1891-1892 and Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in 1895–1898.
In the meantime he had travelled around the world: Russia and Central Asia (1888-1889), a long tour of Persia (1889-1890), Siam, French Indochina and Korea (1892), and a daring foray into Afghanistan and the Pamirs (1894), and published several books describing central and eastern Asia and related policy issues. A bold and compulsive traveller, fascinated by oriental life and geography, he was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society for his exploration of the source of the Oxus. Yet the main purpose of his journeys was political: they formed part of a vast and comprehensive project to study the problems of Asia and their implications for British India. At the same time they reinforced his pride in his nation and her imperial mission. From these travels, and his later interest in political issues related to frontiers, he produced a considerable literary legacy.
In 1895 he married Mary Victoria Leiter, the beautiful daughter of Levi Ziegler Leiter, a Chicago millionaire of German Lutheran origin and a cofounder of the department store Field & Leiter (now known as Marshall Field). She had a long and nearly fatal illness near the end of summer 1904, from which she never really recovered. Falling ill again in July 1906, she died on the 18th of that month in her husband's arms, 36 years old. It was the greatest personal loss of his life. She was buried in the church at Kedleston, where Curzon designed his memorial for her, a lovely Gothic chapel added to the north side of the nave. Although he was neither a devout nor a conventional churchman, Curzon retained a simple religious faith; in later years he sometimes said that he was not afraid of death because it would enable him to join Mary in heaven.
They had three daughters during a firm and happy marriage: Mary Irene (who inherited her father's Barony of Ravensdale and was created a life peer in her own right), Cynthia (first wife of Sir Oswald Mosley), and Alexandra Naldera (wife of Edward "Fruity" Metcalfe, the best friend, best man and equerry of Edward VIII); best known as Baba Metcalfe, she later became a mistress of her brother-in-law Oswald Mosley, as did her stepmother, Grace Curzon. Mary Irene had a short affair with Mosley before either were married.
In January 1899 he was appointed Viceroy of India. He was created a Peer of Ireland as Baron Curzon of Kedleston, in the County of Derby, on his appointment. This was the last peerage to be created in the Peerage of Ireland, the appointment taking this form, it was understood, in order that he might remain free during his father's lifetime to re-enter the House of Commons.
Reaching India shortly after the suppression of the frontier risings of 1897–1898, he paid special attention to the independent tribes of the north-west frontier, inaugurated a new province called the North West Frontier Province, and pursued a policy of forceful control mingled with conciliation. The only major armed outbreak on this frontier during the period of his administration was the Mahsud Waziri campaign of 1901.
His deep mistrust of Russian intentions led him to encourage British trade in Persia, paying a visit to the Persian Gulf in 1903. At the end of that year, he sent a military expedition into Tibet led by Francis Edward Younghusband, ostensibly to forestall a Russian advance. After bloody conflicts with Tibet's poorly-armed defenders, the mission penetrated to Lhasa, where a treaty was signed in September 1904. No Russian presence was found in Lhasa. Curzon considered India to be not only the jewel in the crown of the British Empire, but essential to the Empire's commercial viability, thus:
India is the pivot of Empire, by which I mean that outside the British Isles we could, I believe, lose any portion of the dominions of the Queen and yet survive as an Empire; while if we lost India, I maintain that our sun would sink to its setting" 
Within India, Lord Curzon of Kedleston appointed a number of commissions to inquire into Indian education, irrigation, police and other branches of administration, on whose reports legislation was based during his second term of office as viceroy. Reappointed Governor-General in August 1904, he presided over the partition of Bengal (July 1905), which roused such bitter opposition among the people of the province that it was later revoked (1912).
Also, a major famine coincided with Curzon's time as viceroy. Large parts of India were affected and millions died, but Curzon is nowadays criticized for having done little to fight the famine.. Curzon did, however, implement a variety of measures to fight the famine, including opening up famine reliefs works that fed between three million and five million, reducing taxes and spending vast amounts of money on irrigation works..
A difference of opinion with the British military Commander-in-Chief in India, Lord Kitchener, regarding the position of the military member of council in India, led to a controversy in which Lord Curzon of Kedleston failed to obtain support from the home government. He resigned in August 1905 and returned to England.
Curzon was a busy and efficient administrator. He valued order above all and saw efficiency as essential to running the Empire. He revived the Durbar, or 'audience' to impress Indian princes and the rising mercantile class with the sheer spectacle and pomp and British power. However, he also oversaw the construction of 6000 miles of rail track, reduced the controversial tax on salt by 50 percent, established new military and police academies as well as expanding Provincial Police and re-arming Indian regiments. He introduced educational reforms that emphasized the teaching of science and medicine and signed the Conservation and Heritage including the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act of 1904 into law.He also undertook the restoration of the Taj Mahal, and expressed satisfaction that he had done so. Despite criticism of his handling of the famine, Curzon also promoted agricultural research and reforms and founded an Agricultural Research Institute.
Curzon was a scholar and an intellectual as well as an imperial administrator and politician. His claim to possess 'knowledge' of the places and peoples over which he governed typified an understanding of the European's role in the world as the bringer of reason, order and a superior way of life. In this respect, he resembles his contemporary Lord Cromer. Like Cromer, he made his career in, described and governed the East which, in authoritative writings, he depicted in ways that bore little resemblance to any actual reality. A vocal critic of all aspects of colonialism and imperialism, Palestinian refugee turned scholar Edward Said, in his book Orientalism, comments that Curzon saw the East 'in terms of possession." It was "a large geographical space wholly owned by an efficient colonial master" a 'great historical and political and socilogical fact". Said cites Curzon's mental image of the British Empire:
I sometimes like to picture to myself this great Imperial fabric as a huge structure like some Tennysonian 'Palce of Art', of which the foundations are in this country [the United Kingdom], where they have been laid and must be maintained by British hands, but of which the Colonies are the points and high above all floats the vastness of an Asian dome. 
With Cromer, Curzon was an enthusiastic advovate of what became the London School of Oriental and African Studies, which he saw as a training school for colonial service. Speaking at the Imperial Press Conference at Oxford in 1908, he told the delegates that 'we train here and we send out to you your governors and admimistrators and judges, your teachers and preachers and lawyers'. In 1912, addressing the Royal Geographical Society as its President he extolled geography as the "handmaid of history" and the "sister science to economics and politics" because it provides knowledge of the context in which "all the latent and unchanging characteristics of the Orient stood upon.". For Curzon, said Said, East was East and West was West and the East essentially existed as an object for the West's "covetousness."
Curzon subscribed to the "White man's burden" view of Empire. The colonial power might well gain economically from its imperial endevours but he believed that the British were in India to 'to good', telling students in Bombay:
Almighty has placed your hand on the greatest of His ploughs, in whose furrow the nations of the future are germinating and taking shape, to drive the blade a little forward in your time, and to feel that somewhere among these millions you have left a little justice or happiness or prosperity. .
Said cites Curzon's comment that "The East is a University in which the scholar never takes his degree," which was another way of saying that the East "requires one's presence more or less forever". Curzon was not opposed to self-governance but "in the choice between good government (as he saw it) and self-government, he believed that his duty was emphatically to the former when it came to India. This was best provided by a paternalist state, staffed by disinterested professional public servants, intervening to guarantee the common decencies of life—uncontaminated water, for example, whether in Birmingham or Bombay. Democratic self-determination was certainly worthwhile in the fullness of time, but it was not going to put rice on the table."
In 1908, Curzon was elected a representative peer for Ireland, and thus relinquished any idea of returning to the House of Commons. In 1909-1910 he took an active part in opposing the Liberal government's proposal to abolish the legislative veto of the House of Lords, and in 1911 was created Baron Ravensdale, of Ravensdale in the County of Derby, with remainder (in default of heirs male) to his daughters, Viscount Scarsdale, of Scarsdale in the County of Derby, with remainder (in default of heirs male) to the heirs male of his father, and Earl Curzon of Kedleston, in the County of Derby, with the normal remainder, all in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. He served in Lloyd George's War Cabinet as Leader of the House of Lords from December 1916. Despite his continued opposition to votes for women (he had earlier headed the Anti-Suffrage League), the House of Lords voted conclusively in its favor.
After a long affair with the romance novelist Elinor Glyn, Curzon married, in 1917, the former Grace Elvina Hinds, the wealthy Alabama-born widow of Alfred Hubert Duggan; in later years wags joked that despite his political disappointments Curzon still enjoyed "the means of Grace." Elinor Glyn, who was staying with Curzon at the time, read of his engagement in the morning newspapers.
His wife had three children from her first marriage. Despite fertility-related operations and several miscarriages, she was never able to give Curzon the son and heir he desperately desired, a fact that eroded their marriage, which ended in separation, though not divorce.
In 1917, Curzon bought Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, a 14th century building which had been gutted during the English Civil War. He restored it extensively, then bequeathed it to the National Trust. 
Appointed Foreign Secretary from January 1919, Curzon gave his name to his line which became the British government's proposed Soviet-Polish boundary, the Curzon Line of December 1919. Although during the subsequent Russo-Polish War, Poland conquered ground in the east, Poland was shifted westwards after the Second World War, leaving the Curzon Line approximately the border between Poland and its eastern neighbors today.
Curzon did not have Lloyd George's support. The Prime Minister thought him overly pompous and self-important, and it was said that he used him as if he were using a Rolls-Royce to deliver a parcel to the station; Lloyd George said much later that Winston Churchill treated his Ministers in a way that Lloyd George would never have treated his; "They were all men of substance — well, except Curzon." Curzon nevertheless helped in several Middle Eastern problems:
Curzon was largely responsible for the first Armistice Day ceremonies on November 11, 1919, to celebrate the end of World War I. These included the plaster Cenotaph, designed by the noted British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, for the Allied Victory parade in London, and it was so successful that it was reproduced in stone, and still stands in Central London, for annual Armistice Day memorial celebrations. In 1921 he was created Earl of Kedleston, in the County of Derby, and Marquess Curzon of Kedleston.
Unlike many leading Conservative members of Lloyd George's Coalition Cabinet, Curzon ceased to support Lloyd George over the Chanak Crisis and had just resigned when the Conservative backbenchers voted at the Carlton Club Meeting to end the Coalition in October 1922. Curzon thus able to remain Foreign Secretary when Andrew Bonar Law formed a purely Conservative ministry. In 1922-1923 Curzon had to negotiate with France after French troops occupied the Ruhr to enforce the payment of German war reparations; he described the French Prime Minister (and former President) Raymond Poincaré as a "horrid little man."
The Conference of Lausanne was Curzon's finest moment as foreign secretary. Through diplomatic skill and force of personality, he dominated the eleven weeks of the proceedings, dealing with his Allies, France and Italy, as shrewdly as he managed the Turks. His achievements were embodied in the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 which secured the freedom of the straits at the Dardanelles giving them international status, achieved a relatively high level of regional stability. By restoring Turkish sovereignty to the Turkish heartland, enabled the new country to make the transition from enfeebled empire to nation-state. No limits were placed on the Turkish military (outside the Straits). It was the most successful and the most lasting of the post-war treaties, but Mustafa Kemal Pasha personally refused to recognize the treaty.
On Andrew Bonar Law's retirement as British Prime Minister in May 1923, Curzon was passed over for the job in favor of Stanley Baldwin, despite having written Bonar Law a lengthy letter earlier in the year complaining of rumors that he was to retire in Baldwin's favor, and listing the reasons why he should have the top job. Many reasons are often cited for this decision - taken on the private advice of leading members of the party including former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour - but among the most prominent are that Curzon's character was objectionable, that it was felt to be inappropriate for the Prime Minister to be a member of the House of Lords when Labour, who had few peers, had by then become the main opposition party in the Commons (though this did not prevent Lord Halifax being considered for the premiership in 1940, possibly with a special Act to allow him to sit in the House of Commons; in 1963 Lords Home and Hailsham were only able to be candidates owing to recent legislation permitting them to disclaim their peerages) and that in a democratic age it would be dangerous for a party to be led by a rich aristocrat. A letter purporting to detail the opinions of Bonar Law (but in actuality written by Baldwin sympathizers) was delivered to the King's Private Secretary Lord Stamfordham, though it is unclear how much impact this had in the final outcome. Balfour advised the monarch that it was essential for the prime minister to be in the House of Commons, but in private admitted that he was prejudiced against Curzon. George V, who shared this prejudice, was grateful for the advice and authorized Stamfordham to summon the foreign secretary to London and inform him that Baldwin would be chosen. Curzon travelled by train assuming he was to be appointed Prime Minister, and is said to have burst into tears when told the truth. He later described Baldwin as "a man of the utmost insignificance," although he served under Baldwin and proposed him for leadership of the Conservative Party.
Curzon remained Foreign Secretary under Baldwin until the government fell in January 1924. When Baldwin formed a new government in November 1924, he did not reappoint Curzon as Foreign Secretary, but instead as Lord President of the Council. Curzon held this post until the following March. That month, while staying the night at Cambridge, he suffered a severe hemorrhage of the bladder. He was taken to London the next day, and on March 9 an operation was performed. But he knew it was the end, that the suffering and overburdened body, which he had pushed so hard for so long, was giving up. He died in London on March 20, 1925 at the age of 66. His coffin, made from the same tree at Kedleston that had encased Mary, was taken to Westminster Abbey and from there to his ancestral home, where he was interred beside Mary in the family vault on March 26. Upon his death the Barony, Earldom and Marquessate of Curzon of Kedleston and the Earldom of Kedleston became extinct, whilst the Viscountcy and Barony of Scarsdale were inherited by a nephew. The Barony of Ravensdale was inherited by his eldest daughter and is today held by her son Nicholas Mosley.
Upon his father's death in 1916, he became 5th Baron Scarsdale, in the Peerage of Great Britain. The title had been created in 1761.
In 1898 he became Baron Curzon of Kedleston, in the Peerage of Ireland, as this enabled him to return to the House of Commons.
In 1911 he was created Earl Curzon of Kedleston, Viscount Scarsdale, and Baron Ravensdale, all in the Peerage of the United Kingdom.
In 1921 he was created Marquess Curzon of Kedleston and Earl of Curzon
Few statesmen have experienced such changes in fortune in both their public and their personal lives. Curzon's career was an almost unparalleled blend of triumph and disappointment. Although he was the last and in many ways the greatest of Victorian viceroys, his term of office ended in resignation, empty of recognition and devoid of reward. After ten years in the political wilderness, he returned to government yet, in spite of his knowledge and experience of the world, he was unable to assert himself fully as foreign secretary until the last weeks of Lloyd George's premiership. And finally, after he had restored his reputation at Lausanne, his ultimate ambition was thwarted by George V.
There was a feeling after his death that Curzon had failed to reach the heights that his youthful talents had seemed destined to reach.
He was an efficient administrator whose reforms and achievements left a permanent mark on India. On the one hand, his belief in the rightness of Empire because it represented order makes his legacy almost synonymous with imperialism. On the other, "it would be a mistake to see Curzon purely as a paternalist and capitalist. He was also a champion of Indian self-government, reminding his colleagues of the crucial role of the princes in the administration of India, and of Indian soldiers, engineers and artisans in a number of conflicts and in the development of British Africa and Asia".. His writings, which are still in print, provide insight into the life and thought of a senior British administrator at the zenith of Britain's imperial power.
This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
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