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Irene (born 1896), Cynthia (born 1898) and Alexandra (born 1904) were the three daughters of Lord Curzon, viceroy of India from 1898 to 1905 and probably the grandest and most self-confident imperial servant Britain ever possessed. After the death of his fabulously rich American wife in 1906, Curzon embarked on a long love affair with the novelist Elinor Glyn, before dropping her to marry his rich and beautiful second wife. It was his fierce determination to control every aspect of his daughters' lives -- including the money that was rightfully theirs -- that led them one by one to revolt against their father.
The three Curzon sisters were at the very heart of the fast and glittering world of the twenties and thirties. Irene, intensely musical and a passionate fox hunter, had love affairs with the glamorous Melton Mowbray hunting set. Cynthia (Cimmie) married Sir Oswald Mosley, joining him first in the Labour Party, where she became a popular and successful Labour MP herself, then following him into fascism. Alexandra (Baba), the youngest and most beautiful, married the Prince of Wales's best friend -- and best man -- 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 Grandi, while simultaneously enjoying the romantic devotion of the foreign secretary, Lord Halifax.
The sisters saw British fascism from behind the scenes and had an equally intimate view of the arrival of Wallis Simpson and the marriage and life of the Windsors. The war found them based at "the Dorch" (the Dorchester Hotel), their days spent nursing wounded soldiers, working in canteens, lecturing and doing other war work. Toward the end of their extraordinary lives, the two surviving sisters became pillars of the establishment, Irene made one of the first four life peers in 1958 for her work with youth clubs, while Baba was recognized for her tireless efforts for the Save the Children Fund with a CBE.
Based on unpublished letters and diaries, The Viceroy's Daughters throws new light on Oswald Mosley, Nancy Astor and the Cliveden set, Lord Halifax, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. It is also a wonderfully revealing portrait of British upper-class life in the first half of the twentieth century.