Curzon, George Nathaniel, Marquess Curzon of Kedleston 1859-1925, statesman, was born at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, 11 January 1859. He was the eldest of the eleven children, four sons and seven daughters, of the Rev. Alfred Nathaniel Holden Curzon, fourth Baron Scarsdale, rector of Kedleston, by his wife, Blanche, daughter of Joseph Pocklington Senhouse, of Netherhall, Maryport, Cumberland. His father was of a reserved disposition, and his mother died when he was sixteen. The formative influences in his early life were those of his governess, Miss Paraman, and a private schoolmaster of the name of Dunbar. The discipline of Miss Paraman, at times ferocious, her exaggerated insistence on precision of detail, her morbid parsimony, her frequent injustice, while strengthening the combative qualities in Curzon, did not encourage the more gentle or elastic elements in his nature. At the age of ten he left the bleak nurseries of Kedleston for the private school of the Rev. Cowley Powles at Wixenford in Hampshire. Here again he was exposed to a strong and violent nature, and the harsh lessons learned from Miss Paraman, which during the holidays that lady would instil anew, were confirmed for him by the cramming of the assistant master, Mr. Dunbar. His capacity for acquiring knowledge was fully displayed during his three years at Wixenford. He became head of the school, and in his last term he carried off five prizes. Already at the age of twelve his letters had a touch of Gibbon.
In 1872 Curzon left Wixenford for Eton, where he remained until 1878. His first tutor was Mr. Wolley Dod; during his later years he was under the charge of Mr. E. D. Stone. His career at Eton was one of almost unbroken success. By 1877 he had risen to the position of captain of the Oppidans, was a member of Pop, had carried off seventeen prizes and been sent up for good twenty-three times, was on the select for the Newcastle scholarship, and was president of the Literary Society.
The precocity of Curzon at Eton had manifested itself in many forms. The influence of Oscar Browning [qv.], who took him in the holidays to France and Italy, developed an early taste for history and for the historical, rather than the aesthetic, aspects of art. Already as an Eton boy he had begun, with that acquisitive instinct which never left him, to collect objects of interest and value. His love of rhetoric, both oral and written, was much encouraged by his proficiency in the Literary Society and at Speeches, and from his Eton days dated his abiding delusion that words, as the vehicle of thought, were more important than the thought itself. The doctrine of precision inculcated by Miss Paraman and Mr. Dunbar thus fused, towards his seventeenth year, with the doctrine of verbal elegance inculcated by Oscar Browning.
While still at Eton Curzon became absorbed, as the result of a chance lecture by Sir James Stephen, with a passion for the magnificent mystery of the East. The cold religion of Kedleston Hall had appealed only to his sense of fear and doom. This was no small constituent in his character, and there was always about him a touch of Calvinism. But the emotional aspects of his religion, which might in other circumstances have driven him towards the Roman Catholic Church, blended with his passion for travel and his almost mystic acceptance of the Oriental. Curzon's enthusiasm for Asia was, in its essence, a reaction against the chill protestantism of Kedleston. In other words it was a religious passion.
In 1878 Curzon was assailed by the first symptoms of that curvature of the spine which was to torment him till the day of his death. His natural tendency to self-pity may at moments have tempted him to exaggerate the grave physical disability under which he suffered. It would be a mistake, however, to underestimate the effect upon his career and character of his spinal weakness. The presence of pain, always imminent and at times acute, was largely responsible for the tenseness of his mental energy, for that lack of elasticity which hampered his splendid activities of mind and soul. The steel corset which encased his frame and gave to his figure an aspect of unbending perpendicular, affected also the motions of his mind: there was no middle path for him between rigidity and collapse. Conversely, his determination not to be classed as a cripple led him to perform prodigies of industry which were often unnecessary and sometimes harmful. Finally, as is often the result of spinal afflictions, his disabilities, while constituting a constant drain upon his nervous system, affected him with abnormal suspicion of his fellow men.
In October 1878 Curzon went up to Balliol College, Oxford. Although he had failed to obtain a scholarship, a reputation for great gifts, fortified by even greater self-assurance, had preceded him. Less than a month after his arrival at Oxford he was declaiming to the Union upon the Afghan question, and within a few weeks he was the leading spirit in the group of young conservatives who formed the Canning Club. His friendships with St. John Brodrick (afterwards Lord Midleton), Lord Wolmer (afterwards Lord Selborne), and Lord Cranborne (afterwards Lord Salisbury) date from this period. His tutors were R. L. Nettleship and the benign and absent-minded Strachan-Davidson. In January 1880 he came of age. In May of that year he was elected president of the Union and gained a first class in honour moderations. On securing the secretaryship of the Canning Club he exercised over the meetings and minutes of that society an autocracy which filled his contemporaries with admiration and alarm. In 1882 he obtained a second class in literae humaniores: his mortification was intense. Now, he exclaimed, I shall devote the rest of my life to showing the examiners that they have made a mistake. At Balliol the unctuous adulation of Oscar Browning had been succeeded by the penetrating criticism of Jowett. The master suggested that Curzon should try to be less precocious, less prolix, less exclusive. His precocity in fact distressed his friends as much as his fluency: they feared that both these qualities might lead him to a superficiality of heart and mind. But Curzon's only remedy for his lack of intellectual profundity was his great capacity for taking trouble. His political convictions during his Oxford period were those of tory democracy seasoned by a strong flavour of imperialism.
On leaving Oxford in 1882 Curzon joined Edward Lyttelton in a journey to Greece. The deference paid to his companion as being the nephew of Mr. Gladstone was somewhat irksome to Curzon, and he always retained a marked distaste for the Greek nation. In January 1883 he was in Egypt, visiting the battle-field of Tel-el-Kebir, genially assisting Lady Dufferin in her charity fêtes, and writing his Lothian prize essay in a dahabeeyah. In April he was in Constantinople, and in May, while stopping at Vienna, he learned that he had won the Lothian prize. He returned in delight to England. Further academic honours were still to come. In October 1883 he was elected a fellow of All Souls College, and in the same autumn he gained the Arnold essay prize. By these successes he felt that he had compensated for the mortification of his second in Greats.
During 1884 Curzon, whose allowance from his father was far too meagre for his needs, endeavoured to increase his income by writing frequent articles for the reviews on current political questions. He had, while in Egypt, acquired some local knowledge of the Egyptian question, and this knowledge was of use to him in his journalistic work. He was at the same time adopted as prospective conservative candidate for South Derbyshire, and his first public speeches were devoted to the Egyptian problem.
The spring of 1885 was marked by a visit to Tunis, and by that strange meeting with General Boulanger which Curzon himself has admirably recorded in his Tales of Travel (1923). On 8 June 1885 Mr. Gladstone's administration was succeeded by that of Lord Salisbury. The new prime minister invited Curzon to become his assistant private secretary; but at the general election of that autumn Curzon was defeated for South Derbyshire by 2,090 votes in a poll of 10,280. On 1 February 1886 Mr. Gladstone returned to power pledged to the Home Rule Bill. Curzon decided to stand for the Southport division of Lancashire, and at the ensuing general election of June 1886 he was elected by a majority of 461 votes.
Curzon, as has been said, was at the outset of his career a believer in tory democracy. At Bradford in 1886 he came out openly as the pupil of Lord Randolph Churchill, whom he proclaimed to be instinct with life and fire; he even clamoured for the reform of the Church and of the House of Lords. He happened, however, to be present at Hatfield on 20 December 1886 when the news was received of Lord Randolph's resignation, and the thanksgivings and hosannas which arose on that occasion convinced him that, if there had been a mutiny, it would be preferable that there should be a solitary mutineer. They also convinced him that, for a public man, it was sometimes a mistake to resign. From that moment tory democracy ceased to have any very potent attraction for Curzon: he spoke and wrote thereafter of respect for such institutions as reconcile a historic grandeur with the ability to meet the requirements of the age; and his activities centred from that moment on obedience to Lord Salisbury, an intense interest in foreign and colonial policy, and the enjoyment of the social amenities of London.
Society, wrote Curzon about this time, is passing through a phase of worshipping intellect. Much has since then been written both about the Crabbet Club and the Souls. The former, under the eccentric aegis of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt [qv.], was a real stimulus. Curzon much enjoyed the annual symposia at Crabbet Park. The identity of the Souls, or the gang, as they called themselves, remains more questionable; their frontiers were fluid and undefined. Curzon was always fond of society and could prove the most genial of hosts: the hauteur of his platform and House of Commons manner, and the subsequent pomposity of his viceregal state, blinded many people to his convivial side, to the fact that, even if he possessed small wit and an uncertain sense of humour, he yet possessed a boundless sense of fun. In some ways Curzon never grew up; in other ways he never was a boy. For even in the early 'eighties he saw himself as the man with a career.
On 31 January 1887 Curzon delivered his maiden speech in the House of Commons. He spoke on the Irish question, and allowed himself to criticize Lord Randolph Churchill. The speech erred on the side of excessive proficiency: it was too polished, too eloquent, and too long. On 25 March his second speech, although a shade too petulant, was better received. During the spring of this year he gained for himself, at Manchester and elsewhere, a reputation as a platform speaker. There were those, indeed, who saw in Curzon the successor of Lord Randolph Churchill, but in actual fact his ambitions were not confined to Westminster
The period of Curzon's great journeyings began in August 1887. It is convenient to anticipate the chronological narrative and to deal with these journeys by themselves. They can be summarized as follows: (1) 1887-1888: Canada ¾ Chicago ¾ Salt Lake City ¾ San Francisco ¾ Japan ¾ Shanghai ¾ Foochow ¾ Hong-Kong ¾ Canton ¾ Singapore ¾ Ceylon ¾ Madras ¾ Calcutta ¾ Darjeeling ¾ Benares ¾ Agra ¾ Delhi ¾ Peshawar ¾ Khyber Pass; (2) 1888-1889: St. Petersburg ¾ Moscow ¾ Tiflis ¾ Baku ¾ Askabad ¾ Merv ¾ Bokhara ¾ Samarkand ¾ Tashkent; (3) 1889-1890: Persia; (4) 1892: United States ¾ Japan ¾ China ¾ Cochin China ¾ Siam; (5) 1894: the Pamirs ¾ Afghanistan ¾ Kabul ¾ the course of the Oxus. Apart from numerous articles in The Times and the reviews, the results of these travels were embodied in three books of importance, Russia in Central Asia (1889), Persia and the Persian Question (1892), and Problems of the Far East (1894). The industry, knowledge, and convictions embodied in these remarkable volumes rapidly earned for Curzon the reputation of being one of the leading authorities on Asiatic affairs. His Persian book, for instance, constitutes even to-day the most comprehensive textbook yet written upon that country. It may be true that much of its practical value and accuracy was due to the collaboration of (Sir) A. Houtum-Schindler, but the fact remains that Curzon's own knowledge was detailed and illuminating, and that it was his own genius for presentation which enabled him to transmute an inchoate mass of information into a form at once lucid, readable, and concise. It will be observed also that each of his journeys had drawn him in the end to the confines of India. By the age of thirty-five he had thus acquired an unequalled personal knowledge of the countries bordering upon British India. He had spoken face to face with Nasr-ed-Din of Persia; he had slept in satin sheets as the guest of Abdur Rahman of Afghanistan; he had seen the weakness of the French administration in Indo-China; he had gauged the inevitability of Russian infiltration on the north. His fervent, almost religious, faith in the imperial destiny of England had been confirmed for him upon the Yangtze and in the defiles of the Khyber Pass. Curzon had never been one of those who believed in the ‘sordid policy of self-effacement’. His five great journeys rendered him at once a xenophobe and a nationalist. The rule of India and the defence of India became for him at once an ambition and a cause. It is not to be wondered at that the House of Commons thereafter appeared to him of minor importance.
The year 1889 and the early part of 1890 were spent in travelling. During the summer season of 1890 Curzon met, in a London ball-room, Mary Victoria Leiter, the daughter of an American millionaire, Levi Zeigler Leiter, of Chicago. She was a woman of outstanding beauty and great sweetness of character. They were not, however, engaged until the spring of 1893, and their engagement was not announced until Curzon's return from his expedition to Afghanistan and the Pamirs in March 1895. The following month they were married in Washington. It is impossible to exaggerate the humanizing effect exercised by this beautiful and unselfish woman upon Curzon's character. She became, indeed, the moral centre of his life.
During the intervals of this romance Curzon's career was centred upon his great voyages and the composition of the books and articles which they entailed. It was while he was intent upon the preparation of his book on Persia that he was offered, in November 1891, the post of under-secretary at the India Office. He had set his hopes on the under-secretaryship for foreign affairs, which had just been offered to and accepted by Mr. J. W. Lowther. The new post was almost as good, and his disappointment was allayed. Curzon entered the India Office with some trepidation. He adopted an attitude of ‘virginal modesty’ towards the permanent officials. But Lord Salisbury insisted, now that Curzon was a member of the administration, on certain modifications being introduced into the manuscript of his work on Persia. The passages regarding Nasr-ed-Din Shah were watered down, and in May 1892 the book was published. It met with an appreciative reception, but its permanent value was not fully realized at the time.
In March 1892 Curzon piloted the India Council Bill through the House of Commons. At the general election of July 1892 he retained his seat for Southport, but in the following August Lord Salisbury's government was defeated, and nine days later Curzon, again a private member, left England for Siam. The years 1893 and 1894 were occupied by his fierce battle with the authorities for permission to visit Afghanistan, and crowned by his final visit to Kabul and his repeated interviews with Abdur Rahman¾‘a great man and almost a friend’.
The year 1895 marked the end of Curzon's deliberate voyages of information: it also marked the beginning of his married life. Profiting by his wife's fortune he ceased to be the restless and often impoverished bachelor, and became the prosperous nobleman, renting castles in Scotland, country houses, and a mansion in Carlton House Terrace, purchasing works of art, and indulging his passion for stateliness. He began also early in 1895 to take his parliamentary career with greater seriousness. On Lord Wolmer's succession to the earldom of Selborne in May 1895 Curzon joined with St. John Brodrick in raising the constitutional issue whether a member of the House of Commons was obliged, on succeeding to a peerage, to take the Chiltern Hundreds. The issue was settled against him by the committee of privileges. On 24 June 1895 Lord Salisbury returned to office. He himself assumed the post of foreign secretary and offered Curzon the post of parliamentary under-secretary for foreign affairs. Curzon thus became charged with the duty of representing the Foreign Office in the House of Commons. The importance of his functions was signalized by his being sworn a member of the Privy Council at the early age of thirty-six.
Curzon's three years' service as under-secretary to Lord Salisbury were not wholly to his liking: by temperament he was ill suited to subordinate positions, and Lord Salisbury was too apt to ignore his under-secretary and to forget that he required information. Curzon, moreover, was a believer in dynamic diplomacy; he regarded the British Empire as ‘a majestic responsibility’ rather than as ‘an irksome burden’; he desired the Empire to be ‘strong in small things as in big’; and he regarded Lord Salisbury's policy of conciliating the concert of Europe as one of ‘throwing bones to keep the various dogs quiet’. He thus saw himself obliged to accept, and even to defend, what he regarded as a policy of undue passivity in such matters as the Armenian atrocities, Venezuela, and the Cretan question. These subjects were, however, outside the Asiatic orbit, and as such possessed for him no intensely personal interest; similarly, his emotions were not stirred by the Jameson Raid or by the Kaiser's telegram to President Kruger. The German menace was for Curzon a purely European matter, and as he was no specialist on Europe it left him unmoved. It was otherwise with the French encroachments in Siam: he had been there; he had even seen the futility of French administration in Cochin China; on the Siamese question he felt very deeply indeed. Even more intense were his feelings on the subject of Kiao-chow. He urged that the occupation of that harbour by Germany in November 1897 would have as its corollary a Russian occupation of Port Arthur and a war in which he felt that Great Britain should take the side of the Japanese. In this, viewed as a matter of immediate expediency, Curzon was right; as also he was right in forcing on the Cabinet the lease of Wei-hai-wei. But a man of wider vision might have foreseen that it was not for a country possessing vast Asiatic responsibilities to desire or to assist the defeat of a Western by an Oriental power.
Confronted as he was by the well-informed criticism of Sir Charles Dilke and Henry Labouchere, Curzon did not find his task of defending Lord Salisbury in the House of Commons by any means a superficial one. The industry and the informative material which he brought to his speeches, while it sometimes irritated, also impressed. Labouchere might complain of his manner of ‘a divinity addressing black-beetles’, but the reputation of the under-secretary during these three years was established not only in the House but with the general public. He became, if not a popular, at least a public, figure: on his return to the House after a severe illness in the spring of 1898 he was greeted with sympathetic applause; his name and his features became familiar in the London press; and it was with no surprise that the public learned, on 10 August 1898, that this young man of thirty-nine had been chosen to succeed Lord Elgin as viceroy of India. On 11 November he was created Baron Curzon of Kedleston in the Irish peerage; he was unwilling to accept an English barony since he desired, so long as his father lived, to keep open the door of re-entry into the House of Commons. On 15 December he left England; on 30 December he landed at Bombay; and on 3 January 1899 he reached Calcutta and formally entered upon his term of office.
The seven years (December 1898 to November 1905) of Lord Curzon's vice-royalty fall into two main periods, divided from each other by the great Durbar of 1903. During the first period, in spite of the ‘mingled bewilderment and pain’ which he caused the local officials, he was admired in India and supported at home. During the second period his popularity in India began to wane, whereas his differences with ‘the officials who rule and over-rule from Whitehall’ became increasingly bitter.
On landing at Bombay Curzon created a good impression by his announcement that he ‘would hold the scales even’ between the manifold nationalities and interests committed to his rule; and that this was no figure of rhetoric was amply demonstrated by his firm attitude in the ‘Rangoon outrage’ of the following September, when he risked the resentment of British military circles by publicly disgracing a regiment in which an assault upon a native woman had occurred. On reaching Calcutta he at once proceeded to cut through the red tape which impeded administration. His constant battle against the departmental file earned him the name of ‘a young man in a hurry’, and within a few weeks of his arrival he had reversed the decision of the permanent officials in two important cases. He refused to sanction the Calcutta Municipal Act, which appeared to him to have been drafted ‘partly in panic and partly in anger’. He further insisted on the imposition of countervailing duties to protect the sugar industry from the competition of bounty-fed sugar from other countries. He then turned his attention to external or frontier affairs. He at once curtailed the expenditure which it was proposed to devote to a policy of adventure upon the North-West Frontier, and decided in favour of retirement to defended positions covered by a screen of tribal levies. The administrative questions arising out of the political control exercised by the Punjab government were deferred for subsequent examination.
In the Persian Gulf Curzon was more adventurous. He concluded with Sheikh Mubarak of Koweit a treaty under which the latter agreed not to surrender his territory to any third power. He also obliged the sultan of Muscat to cancel a lease which he had accorded to the French government for the establishment of a coaling-station. Both these acts were high-handed. Sheikh Mubarak's own title to Koweit was at least questionable; and by the treaty of 1862 France was entitled to equal rights with Great Britain in Muscat. It is possible that in regard to Muscat the political agent went farther than Lord Curzon intended. In any case Lord Salisbury found himself exposed to embarrassing protests from the French ambassador. The government at home was therefore far from enthusiastic on receiving Curzon's famous dispatch of 1899 in which he claimed that the Persian Gulf, even at the risk of war, should be closed to all intruders.
On reaching Simla in the spring of 1899 Curzon, released from the social obligations of Calcutta, entered upon months of intensive labour. He endeavoured in vain to induce the home government to reduce the status of the Madras and Bombay presidencies; he waged renewed war on the departmental machinery; he flung himself with lavish energy into the question of famine relief; he completed the draft of the Calcutta Municipal Bill, although not in a form to satisfy native opinion; and he composed an encyclical on the duties of Indian ruling princes, which, while intended to discourage all ‘absentee interests and amusements’, was drafted in so hectoring a tone as to cause widespread consternation and alarm. It was doubtless in order to soothe the feelings which he had thus unintentionally inflamed, that Curzon set about drafting schemes for an imperial cadet corps in which Indian princes and gentlemen would have the opportunity of holding commissions.
The second year of Curzon's viceroyalty was darkened by the menace of a second famine, but the rains broke at the very moment when he journeyed to Guzerat for the purpose of himself supervising a campaign of relief. His timely arrival was taken by the natives as a sign of his miraculous powers. The second summer at Simla was devoted mainly to a study of the administration of the North-West Frontier, and after a stiff struggle with the local authorities he induced the home government to sanction the creation of a new North-West Frontier province under a chief commissioner responsible only to the government of India. This innovation was bitterly resented by Sir William Mackworth Young [q.v.], the lieutenant-governor of the Punjab, and the altercations which ensued ‘embittered and rendered miserable’ Curzon's life at Simla.
In the autumn of 1900 Curzon visited Bombay and Madras, and at the former place made a speech regarding the need of ‘consulting and conciliating public opinion in India’ which caused great, if transitory, satisfaction in Indian circles. The Simla season of 1901 was one of feverish and excessive activity. Lady Curzon had returned to England on account of her health, and the viceroy endeavoured by vast personal labour to numb his own loneliness. He plunged into an intensive study of the land assessment of India and produced a report thereon which was a model of detailed and lucid exposition; he re-examined every aspect of the educational problem, and himself arranged, and subsequently presided over, a great educational congress held in September. In spite of the enormous energy and vast knowledge which Curzon brought to this task, the educational problem was not, in fact, much advanced during his viceroyalty, although the main issues were formulated and the office of director of education established. After a short holiday in Burma Curzon returned to Calcutta, where he found both the Afghan and the Tibetan questions causing anxiety. In October 1901 the Amir Abdur Rahman had been succeeded by Habibullah, and Curzon endeavoured to induce his old acquaintance to visit him in India. The hesitation displayed by the new amir to accept this pressing invitation caused Curzon a certain amount of uneasiness. In Tibet also the Dalai Lama was proving recalcitrant: Curzon was indignant ‘that a community of unarmed monks should set us perpetually at defiance’, and suggested to the home government that an armed mission should be sent to Lhasa; the government, which had its hands full with the South African War, did not respond to this suggestion. In February 1902 Curzon visited the Khyber Pass, and in March he proceeded to Hyderabad, where he managed to conclude with the Nizam the basis of a settlement of the Berar question. This diplomatic adjustment, which removed a long-standing source of grievance between the Nizam and the government of India, was subsequently embodied in the treaty of 5 November 1902. It was hailed by Curzon as ‘the biggest thing I have yet done in India’.
The spring and summer of 1902 were mainly occupied with the gigantic preparations for the Durbar of 1903. Curzon, who had a passion for organizing all forms of pageantry, took an autocratic interest in the arrangements, and there is evidence of constant friction between him and the home government on the question of expense. A further and even more acrimonious conflict with the India Office arose from Curzon's refusal to defray from Indian revenues the expenses of the Indian mission to King Edward VIIth's coronation. A third dispute arose over his desire to announce as a ‘boon’ at the Delhi Durbar a general remission of taxation. The Cabinet at home considered such a promise would furnish an awkward precedent, but Curzon threatened to resign if his views were not accepted. A private telegram from St. John Brodrick warned him that such a threat might be taken seriously; he therefore, with resentment in his soul, agreed to accept a compromise. The closing months of 1902 were further embittered by what became known as the IXth Lancers incident. Curzon, having reason to suppose that officers of this regiment had endeavoured to hush up the circumstances of an assault by two troopers on a native, ordered an investigation, and as punishment stopped the leave of all officers. This action was much resented in military circles, and a demonstration in favour of the IXth Lancers at the Durbar review in January 1903 was exaggerated in England as evidence of Lord Curzon's growing unpopularity.
The Durbar of January 1903 marked the summit of Lord Curzon's viceregal splendour. From that moment the clouds began to gather. Lord Kitchener [q.v.] had arrived in India as commander-in-chief in November 1902; but before his final conflict with that masterful personality other and less pregnant issues had arisen between Curzon and the government at home. He had urged a forward policy in Afghanistan and Tibet: the home government desired to enter into no further commitments. Curzon also considered that Indian revenues were being unduly drawn upon in order to maintain troops in South Africa, a matter in which India could have only a contingent interest. Lady Curzon urged her husband to resign. ‘Don't’, she wrote to him, ‘let us stay until the joie de vivre has died in us.’ Curzon, unfortunately, did not follow this advice: his term of office was due to expire in January 1904; he hoped for a renewal; and the moment passed when resignation would have been dignified.
At Simla once again in the late spring of 1903 Curzon developed a passion for internal reforms, and commissions were constituted to deal with irrigation, railways, agricultural banks, and police questions. His financial reforms were already bearing fruit, and his currency reforms were widely applauded. His great work for Indian historical monuments, his restorations at Delhi and Agra, were already a source of personal satisfaction. Whatever Curzon may or may not have done in the administrative field, he set his stamp for ever upon the art and archaeology of India. The Victoria Memorial Hall at Calcutta was entirely due to his initiative and energy. Meanwhile the government at home had at last lent ear to his warnings about the Persian Gulf: not only did Lord Lansdowne himself make a public pronouncement that the British government would not tolerate any Russian encroachments in Southern Persia, but the viceroy was authorized to pay a state visit to the Persian Gulf. This visit, accompanied by every evidence of naval supremacy, took place in November 1903. From that moment, until the accession of Reza Khan to the throne of the Kadjars, British predominance in the Gulf remained unquestioned.
In January 1904 Curzon completed the first five years of his term of office. An extension of the period had been announced in the previous August: instead, however, of accompanying Lady Curzon to England on leave of absence, he decided to remain for a few months in India. His main occupation was the study of the partition of the Bengal province. His success in settling the Berar incident had convinced him that greater efficiency of administration could be secured by splitting up the more unwieldy provinces and creating smaller administrative districts from the parts thus detached. The scheme was sanctioned by the secretary of state in June 1905, and the formation of a new province, comprising 106,000 square miles with a population of eighteen million Moslems and twelve million Hindus, was formally inaugurated. This action, which was interpreted by the Bengalis as a revenge on the viceroy's part for the congress movement, cost him his popularity with that ‘Indian opinion’ which he had been the first to recognize and proclaim.
On 30 April 1904 Curzon sailed for England on leave of absence. Lord Ampthill remained in charge as acting governor-general. Curzon was offered and accepted the lord wardenship of the Cinque Ports and entered with enthusiasm on the tenancy of Walmer Castle. This enthusiasm was quickly damped: Lady Curzon fell ill at Walmer, and Curzon himself condemned it as ‘an ancestral dog-hole’. Meanwhile, the India Office had at last sanctioned the mission of Sir Francis Younghusband to Tibet, and in September 1904 a treaty was extracted from the Tibetans. Curzon did not consider the terms of the Lhasa convention an adequate compensation for the effort made. His difference of opinion with St. John Brodrick on these matters did not improve their relations, and he was also angered at discovering that, in his absence, Lord Kitchener had addressed to the Committee of Imperial Defence a long memorandum condemning the system of dual control in force in the Indian army.
The Indian army possessed, in fact, two heads, the commander-in-chief and the military member of the viceroy's council. The latter not only dealt with administrative matters, but was the sole channel through whom the commander-in-chief had access to the viceroy. It often happened, moreover, that the military member, while possessing these supervisory powers over the commander-in-chief, was his military junior. The anomalies of this position had impressed Lord Kitchener soon after his arrival, but Curzon had urged him to wait for a year before formulating his objections. The relations between the two men, during 1903, had been wholly amicable: Kitchener knew that it was Curzon himself who had pressed for his appointment. Curzon welcomed in Kitchener a reforming zeal equalled only by his own. It was thus during the summer of 1904, when Curzon was absent in England, that Kitchener first launched his attack. The government of Lord Ampthill could not support Kitchener's contention that the position of the military member should be rendered subsidiary to that of the commander-in-chief. Kitchener thereupon threatened to resign, and the home government, fearing that so dramatic a resignation would be unpopular in the country, asked Curzon for advice. Imagining that he would be better able to manage Kitchener himself, Curzon advised the home government to call for a report from the government of India and thus to postpone the issue until he himself had returned to Calcutta.
Curzon left for Bombay on 24 November 1904 and reached Calcutta on 13 December. Lady Curzon, who was seriously ill, did not accompany him: it would have been better if he had listened to her premonitions against his return. The dispatch calling for a report left London on 2 December 1904. On its receipt, Curzon asked for the comments both of Lord Kitchener and the military member. The latter defended the existing dual system; the former insisted that both functions should be fused in that of the commander-in-chief. Curzon then drew up his own minute of 6 February 1905, in which he decided in favour of the maintenance of the present dual system, mainly on the ground that the concentration of such powers in the hands of the commander-in-chief would create a military autocracy subversive of the supreme control of the civil government. On 10 March the matter came before the council: Curzon's opinion was endorsed by all the civilian members; Kitchener read a brief statement regretting that he was in a minority of one and refusing to discuss the matter further. The results of this meeting were conveyed to the India Office in a dispatch of 23 March. Kitchener at the same time took steps to see that his own views were placed before the home government and press. St. John Brodrick, faced with this deadlock, appointed a committee. The committee recommended a compromise by which the military member would in future deal only with the quasi-civilian side of army administration and be called the ‘member in charge of the department of military supply’. All purely military matters would be under the commander-in-chief, who would have direct access to the viceroy and government. This compromise, under the style of a ‘decision’, was communicated in the India Office dispatch of 31 May 1905. On 25 June Curzon induced Kitchener to agree to some modifications in the compromise which would give the government of India a ‘secondary military opinion’ or, in other words, would enable the supply member also to be consulted on military matters. The home government was so startled by Kitchener's acquiescence in this modification that it asked for confirmation. This was given, and on 14 July the government telegraphed accepting the agreed modifications and congratulating Curzon on the settlement reached. Two days later Curzon heard that the new supply member had been chosen by the India Office without his being consulted. He had himself wished to propose (Sir) Edmund Barrow, to whom Kitchener had also agreed. Curzon telegraphed urging this appointment: it was refused, and Curzon tendered his resignation. On 22 August 1905 his resignation was accepted; it had, in fact, been published in London the day before, together with the announcement of Lord Minto's appointment as his successor. Curzon remained on in India in order to receive the Prince and Princess of Wales on 9 November. He left India, an angry and embittered man, on 18 November 1905.
It will be seen that Curzon's resignation came about, not as a result of the main conflict between himself and Kitchener, which had in fact been settled by a compromise, but on the subsidiary question whether his own nominee or that of the India Office should be selected as supply member of the viceroy's council. The home government, as is clear from its almost disappointed surprise when Kitchener agreed to Curzon's eleventh-hour modifications, had in fact determined that so turbulent a viceroy should be removed. It is indeed probable that the embittered relations which by then existed between Curzon and Brodrick rendered impossible all hope of smooth co-operation. The manner of his dismissal was, however, unnecessarily discourteous, and there was some foundation for Curzon's subsequent complaint that the Balfour-Brodrick combination had treated him with ‘tortuous malignity’. There is a certain irony in the fact that the day after Curzon's return to London witnessed the fall of the Balfour administration and the return to power of a liberal Cabinet under Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman.
There followed a period of eleven years' political disappointment and domestic sorrow. Curzon received no public recognition for his work in India. He retired in anger and mortification to the South of France. On 18 July 1906 Lady Curzon died. Curzon shut himself up with his three young daughters in Hackwood Park, Basingstoke, a prey to despair. In 1907 he was elected chancellor of Oxford University, and tried to find alleviation for his sorrows in the question of university reform. He visited Oxford in person and resided for some weeks at the Judge's Lodgings in St. Giles. His aim was to avoid a governmental commission into university finance by the passage of reforms from within. He succeeded in staving off a government inquiry for many years. During a visit to South Africa in 1909 he prepared with his own hand a long memorandum on university reform entitled Principles and Methods of University Reform. This was considered by the university authorities in April 1910, and a final report was ready by August of that year. Further reports followed until the outbreak of war put an end to all subsidiary efforts. Curzon's ardour in the cause of Oxford became his greatest solace during those lonely and inactive years.
Curzon refrained, largely in deference to the wishes of King Edward VII, from re-entering party politics, and did not seek re-election to the House of Commons. In January 1908 he entered the House of Lords as an Irish representative peer, and in February of that year he made a spirited and informed attack upon the Anglo-Russian convention of 1907. In the same year he was elected lord rector of Glasgow University. He flung himself with enthusiasm into Lord Roberts's agitation for universal military training, and he opposed Mr. Asquith's threats to the privilege of the House of Lords, urging his fellow members to fight to the last ditch. When he realized, however, that the liberal government was in deadly earnest, he had the wisdom to retreat, and it was Curzon's sensible advice which largely decided the debate of 8-10 August 1911 and secured for the liberal government a bare majority in support of its proposals.
Curzon's main activities during these years were not, however, of a political nature. His election in May 1911 as president of the Royal Geographical Society gave him an occasion for displaying his organizing talent, and within a few years he had collected sufficient money to purchase the fine premises in which the society is now housed. As a trustee of the National Gallery he drafted a report which to this day forms the main charter both of that gallery and of the Tate Gallery. His interest in architecture was also a great resource. He was elected an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and his restoration of Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire and subsequently of Bodiam Castle in Sussex (both of which he bequeathed to the nation) showed that his zeal for the preservation of ancient monuments was not confined to India. In November 1911, as a coronation honour, Curzon was created Earl Curzon of Kedleston, Viscount Scarsdale (with reversion to his father and heirs male), and Baron Ravensdale (with reversion to his daughters and heirs male). It was activities and honours such as these which, after a lapse of shrouded years, again rendered his name familiar to his countrymen. A second period of important public service was about to open before him.
On 27 May 1915, with the formation of the Coalition Cabinet, Lord Curzon was given the office of lord privy seal. He was not, however, accorded any important functions, and was, in fact, excluded from the war committee, established in the autumn of that year, until July 1916. He was bitterly opposed to the evacuation of Gallipoli, and addressed to his colleagues a cogent and vivid note protesting against any policy of retreat. He was strong also in pressing for compulsory service, and it was largely owing to his insistence that the national register was instituted in 1915. So deeply did he feel on this subject that when the Garter was offered him at the end of December 1915 he refused to accept this long-coveted honour until Mr. Asquith had pledged himself to introduce the Compulsory Service Bill into the House of Commons.
Early in 1916 Curzon was placed in charge of the Shipping Control Committee, and quickly realized that a drastic restriction of imports was essential if tonnage supplies were not to be exhausted. Throughout the year he struggled in vain to impose his opinion on the Cabinet, but it was only in March 1917 that his views were adopted and the necessary legislation passed. He also became president of the Air Board (May 1916), an organization established for the purpose of conciliating the conflicting requirements in aviation of the War Office and the Admiralty. He pressed strongly for the creation of an Air ministry, but it was not until January 1918 that his opinion prevailed.
With the fall of Mr. Asquith in December 1916 Curzon became a member of the inner War Cabinet under Mr. Lloyd George. In January 1917 he married, as his second wife, Grace, daughter of Joseph Monroe Hinds, at one time United States minister in Brazil, and widow of Alfred Duggan, of Buenos Aires. Once again 1 Carlton House Terrace became a social centre, and the loneliness of Curzon's middle age was succeeded by a second period of domestic happiness. He was intensely active. As member of the War Cabinet, leader in the House of Lords, and lord president of the Council, he could no longer complain of insufficient employment. Between December 1916 and November 1918 the Cabinet held as many as five hundred meetings, and at each of these Curzon would express his views with his customary trenchancy and conviction. He opposed, although in vain, the policy of Great Britain assuming any commitments towards the Jews in Palestine; he was, on the other hand, a strong supporter of a forward policy in Mesopotamia and of the creation of an Arab state. He was a bitter opponent of the Montagu-Chelmsford report (1918), feeling that it would lead to parliamentary government in the Indian Empire and thus shatter the basis of British rule. In this he showed some inconsistency, since it was he himself who had inserted into the announcement of 20 August 1917 the promise of ‘the progressive realization of responsible government’ in India. Nor was it in regard to India alone that Curzon found difficulty in reconciling his position as one of the leaders of the conservative party with his functions as the spokesman of a government pledged to liberal concessions. The Dublin rising of April 1916 revived the Home Rule controversy which had been shelved in September 1914. Curzon as a professed, although not convinced, unionist considered for a moment whether he should resign: he accepted instead the chairmanship of a Cabinet committee which prepared the draft of a bill for an Irish settlement. Mr. Lloyd George summarily rejected this draft in favour of his own scheme for an Irish Convention, and it fell to Curzon not merely to swallow this affront but to defend the Convention in the Upper House. Neither the Irish Convention nor the subsequent committee established under (Viscount) Long [q.v.] achieved a solution of the Irish problem, and in June 1918 Curzon had the melancholy satisfaction of announcing to the House of Lords that, in view of the spread of rebellion in Ireland, the government had been impelled to suspend all further proposals for Home Rule.
Curzon had never been a protagonist in the Irish question, and his subservience to Mr. Lloyd George in Irish matters, while it distressed his unionist friends, was no betrayal of deep personal conviction. His conduct in regard to the question of women's suffrage did, however, entail grave personal inconsistency, and contributed largely to his loss of prestige with the conservative party. For since February 1912 Curzon had been president of the Anti-Suffrage League, and when, in 1917, the House of Commons conferred the franchise upon women by a majority of 385 to 55 votes, the League looked to its president to oppose the Bill in the House of Lords. Curzon at this juncture did not manifest that firmness of decision which his rigid manner had led his supporters to expect. While leaving the Anti-Suffrage League under the impression that he would speak and vote against the Bill, he deserted it on the second reading and voted against Lord Loreburn's amendment on the ground that it would be imprudent for the Upper House to defy so strong a majority in the House of Commons.
With the conclusion of the Armistice in November 1918 it fell to Curzon to deliver a speech of victory in the House of Lords, and he was also charged with the task of organizing the peace celebrations. Meanwhile, Lord Balfour had accompanied Mr. Lloyd George to the Peace Conference in Paris, and Curzon was invited to take charge of the Foreign Office at home. From January to October 1919 he assumed the invidious role of foreign minister ad interim, and watched with growing dismay and resentful impotence what he felt to be the reckless policy pursued by Mr. Lloyd George in Paris. On 24 October 1919 Lord Balfour resigned the post of foreign secretary and Curzon was appointed in his place. But disillusionment was in store for him. Ever since the days when he had chafed under the dilatory caution of Lord Salisbury, Curzon had dreamed of the time when he himself would control the levers of British foreign policy. That time had now arrived; the levers were there, to all appearances under his hand: but the machine had altered and did not respond. Other hands than his were in control. The irony of it was that this functional change in the machine of imperial policy was brought home to him upon that very stretch of line with which he himself was most familiar. The end of the War saw British troops in occupation of large sections of Persian territory, and the general call for retrenchment and demobilization necessitated their recall. Curzon insisted, however, that the occasion should be seized to place British relations with Persia on a durable basis. After protracted negotiations a treaty was signed in August 1919 which placed Great Britain in control of the Persian army and finances. Curzon failed to realize the artificial nature of this agreement and acclaimed it as an outstanding triumph. The treaty in fact was never put into effect: no sooner had British troops evacuated Persian territory than the nationalists and the Majlis pronounced that the treaty had been secured by force and bribes, and refused to accept it. In February 1921 the nationalist government in Persia concluded with the Russian Soviet government a treaty diametrically opposed to that signed only eighteen months before between Vossuq-ed-Dowleh and Sir Percy Cox. The funeral oration of that instrument was preached by Curzon on 26 July 1921.
The failure of the Persian treaty appears to have shaken Curzon's confidence in the stability of his old Asiatic landmarks. In dealing with the Egyptian question he displayed a greater understanding of the postwar mentality of the East. In November 1919 the Milner commission had been dispatched to Egypt with the task of considering how the protectorate established in 1915 could be reconciled with the movement for self-government headed by Zaghlul Pasha. In the spring of 1920 the Milner report was submitted to Lord Curzon; it avowedly exceeded the terms of reference under which it had been framed. Curzon was quick to recognize the fact that Lord Milner had been wise in exceeding his instructions, and he agreed to receive an Egyptian mission under Adly and Zaghlul Pashas and to negotiate a treaty of alliance to supersede the existing protectorate. The mission arrived in June 1920, and by August of that year the heads of agreement had been initialed. In February 1921 these heads of agreement were approved by parliament, and an invitation was addressed to Egypt to send a mission to London with full powers to conclude a definitive treaty. This mission, under the leadership of Adly Pasha, arrived in July. In the interval, however, an Imperial Conference had been held in London, and great stress had been laid by the dominion delegates upon the importance of maintaining British control over the Suez Canal. The attitude of the Cabinet was thus less conciliatory than it had been at the time of the Zaghlul conversations of the previous year. Curzon was unable to induce his colleagues to consent to any terms which Adly could accept; the latter returned to Egypt without his treaty and immediately resigned. The British authorities at Cairo thereupon imposed martial law and deported Zaghlul. Curzon was able to assure the Cabinet that his own worst prognostications had been fulfilled.
This unsatisfactory situation continued till January 1922. Lord Allenby, the high commissioner, then suggested to Curzon the basis of an arrangement under which Sarwat Pasha would be prepared to form a ministry. The essence of this arrangement was that the protectorate should at once be abolished and Egypt be recognized as an independent kingdom. Curzon was able to induce the Cabinet to agree to this proposal, and a unilateral manifesto was thus published abolishing the protectorate while insisting upon certain reserved points. Under these reservations Great Britain safeguarded her position in regard to the Sudan, the Suez Canal, and the protection of Egypt against external interference. On 14 March 1922 the House of Commons approved this manifesto.
A more intense difference of opinion arose between Curzon (who was created a marquess in June 1921) and Mr. Lloyd George in regard to the Graeco-Turkish question. During the Paris Conference Curzon had repeatedly warned Mr. Lloyd George of the danger of any delay in concluding peace with the Turks, and of the more specific danger of allowing the Greeks to land at Smyrna. His own solution was the simpler one by which the Turks would be turned out of Europe and the Greeks would not be allowed into Asia. It is impossible here to trace the stages which led to the Treaty of Sèvres, the Kemalist movement in Turkey, the defeat of Venizelos in Greece, the return of King Constantine, and the final Greek debacle of August 1922. It may be said in general that Curzon's advice was not followed and that he was frequently not consulted in matters of policy, but that his assistance was evoked in meeting the difficulties to which the policy adopted gave rise. His renewed attempts to come to an agreement with the French in order to secure a basis for joint mediation between Greece and Turkey were constantly negatived by the intervention of Mr. Lloyd George, and thereby the conviction gained ground both in Paris and Athens that the ostensible impartiality of Curzon was but a cloak for the encouragement secretly given by the prime minister to Greece. This duality of purpose and lack of centralized responsibility led even to disorganization within the Cabinet at home. In 1922 Edwin Samuel Montagu [q.v.], secretary of state for India, authorized the viceroy to publish a pro-Turkish manifesto destined to appease the feelings of the Khalifat agitators. He was obliged to resign, but the spectacle of a Cabinet thus disunited and undisciplined in matters of foreign policy left Curzon embarrassed and weakened in face of M. Poincaré who, on assuming office in January 1922, embarked upon a concentrated and deliberate policy of siding with the Turks.
The inevitable crisis arrived in the early autumn of 1922. The Kemalist army, having flung the Greeks into the sea, now faced the Allied forces guarding the neutral zone of the Straits. At a Cabinet meeting of 15 September it was decided that the British forces at least should maintain their positions on the Asiatic side, although it was realized that M. Poincaré might well hold other views. On the following day, after Curzon had left London for Kedleston, certain members of the Cabinet, without his knowledge or consent, issued a communiqué in which the possibility of war with Turkey was foreshadowed. On 18 September Curzon returned to London, pointed out that this communiqué would enrage M. Poincaré, and insisted on proceeding alone to Paris to soothe the feelings of the French. On the following day M. Poincaré as a rejoinder to the communiqué withdrew the French detachment at Chanak on the Asiatic shore of the Dardanelles, leaving the British detachment to face the Kemalists alone. On 20 September Curzon reached Paris and after a series of scenes with M. Poincaré, one of which reduced the British foreign secretary to tears of rage, reached an agreement under which an armistice was to be negotiated with the Kemalists at Mudania.
Public opinion at home had been deeply alarmed by the Chanak crisis, and Mr. Lloyd George's position, in view of the disaster attending his phil-Hellene policy, was seriously shaken. Mr. Winston Churchill invited the leading members of the Coalition Cabinet to dinner at his house, and it was then decided that the Coalition should ask for an immediate dissolution and appeal to the electorate for a new lease of power. Curzon agreed to this procedure. On 15 October, however, Mr. Lloyd George, in spite of Curzon's entreaty, delivered an anti-Turkish speech at Manchester, and at the same time the foreign secretary was apprised of a further flagrant instance of negotiations conducted by the prime minister's secretariate behind his back. This incident convinced him that it would no longer be possible to support Mr. Lloyd George's Coalition: he refused to attend a second dinner party given by Mr. Churchill to the Coalition ministers; and on 19 October a meeting at the Carlton Club led to the fall of the Coalition Cabinet and the formation of a conservative ministry under Mr. Bonar Law. In this ministry, which was confirmed by the general election of 15 November 1922, Curzon retained the post of foreign secretary.
Within a few days Curzon was on his way to the European Conference at Lausanne. His complete domination of that assembly constitutes one of the most remarkable episodes in his career. The French and Italians imagined that British prestige had been so irretrievably shaken by the Greek disaster that it would be safe to leave to Curzon the invidious role of registering the defeat which Europe had suffered at the hands of Turkey. This was a miscalculation on their part. The retention of Chanak by Great Britain, in contrast with Poincaré's policy of retreat, had done much to inspire the Turks with respect for British determination. Curzon's own magnificent equipment of knowledge and rhetoric strengthened this impression. During the eleven weeks of the first Lausanne Conference he succeeded in impressing his personality upon Ismet Pasha and in securing his assent to the political clauses, and above all to the ‘freedom of the Straits’, which constituted the main British desiderata. Upon the question of Mosul the Turkish delegation found Curzon adamant, and his firm attitude on this point, in contrast with the weakness of the Cabinet at home, forced the conference to defer the matter for subsequent consideration. After the conference had been sitting for ten weeks the French realized that, whereas England had obtained as much as she had hoped for, the important financial, economic, and capitulatory chapters of the treaty, in which they themselves were mainly interested, had made no progress at all. On 30 January 1923 they issued through the Havas agency a statement to the effect that they did not consider the treaty as by then drafted to be more than ‘a basis of discussion’. The Turks immediately refused to sign the treaty in the form which it had then reached. On the night of 4 February Curzon made a final appeal to Ismet Pasha to sign the treaty, and, on his refusal, broke off negotiations and left Lausanne on that very evening by the Orient express. It is true that he had not secured a treaty of peace: but he had secured those portions of it which were of chief interest to his own country, and he had broken off negotiations, not on a purely British issue, but on questions which were of equal, or even greater, interest to the Italians and French. Above all, he had restored British prestige in Turkey. The abortive Conference of Lausanne was the most striking of his diplomatic triumphs.
In dealing with Asia, even with the new Asia of post-war nationalism, Curzon had all the confidence of expert knowledge. His handling of European diplomacy was less certain and far less self-assured. For years the British and the French governments had envisaged the problems of security and reparation from a different standpoint. Much bickering had ensued. On 11 January 1923, while Curzon was still at Lausanne, these differences were brought to a head by M. Poincaré's occupation of the Ruhr Valley. During the period of rupture cordiale which then ensued between London and Paris, Curzon showed considerable skill in maintaining the British policy of benevolent neutrality, and it was his speech in April 1923 which formed the germ of what subsequently developed into the schemes of General C. G. Dawes and Mr. O. D. Young for reparation payments. For it was in this speech that the proposal of a jury of impartial experts was first mooted.
On 21 May 1923 Mr. Bonar Law, whose health had long been causing anxiety, resigned. On the following day Curzon, who was spending Whitsuntide at Montacute House, a seat which he had rented in Somerset, received from Lord Stamfordham, the king's private secretary, a letter asking for an immediate interview. He journeyed to London in the triumphant certainty that he had been designated as Bonar Law's successor. Lord Stamfordham informed him on his arrival that the king had decided to send for Mr. Stanley Baldwin. For several hours Curzon remained in a state of collapse under the crushing blow of this bewildering disappointment. He contemplated complete retirement from public life. His abiding sense of public duty asserted itself, however, and on the following day he wrote to Mr. Baldwin promising his support. Few actions in his public life were more magnanimous.
On resuming work at the Foreign Office Curzon embarked upon two acute controversies. He had never approved of Mr. Lloyd George's policy of recognizing the Soviet government in Russia, and by the early summer of 1923 it was clear that the trade agreement of 1921 had failed to work. Curzon prepared a long and detailed indictment of Russian evasions of that agreement and presented his demands in the form of an ultimatum. Somewhat to his own surprise the Soviet government replied giving him satisfaction on most of the points raised. His persistent endeavours to mediate between France and Germany met with less success: while urging the German government to abandon passive resistance, he endeavoured to obtain from the French their consent to an impartial inquiry into Germany's capacity to pay reparations; his failure to move M. Poincaré led to much acrimonious correspondence and to embittered interviews with the French ambassador. Realizing that further progress was impossible, Curzon caused a detailed statement of the British point of view to be prepared in the form of a note to the French and Belgian ambassadors. This note was delivered on 11 August 1923 and was thereafter published. The storm of indignation provoked in Paris by this indictment left Curzon unaffected: he journeyed to Bagnoles to nurse his phlebitis in peace.
In the autumn of 1923 Mr. Baldwin, against Curzon's urgent advice, decided to appeal to the electorate on the issue of protection. The government was placed in a minority and on 23 January 1924 Mr. Baldwin resigned. When the conservatives returned to power in November of the same year, Curzon was not invited to resume the post of foreign secretary. Once again he determined to retire from politics and to devote his closing years to the reconstruction of Kedleston. He was persuaded, however, to afford the government the moral support of his presence, and with great public spirit he again accepted the post of lord president of the Council.
In March 1925, while staying the night at Cambridge, Curzon recognized symptoms of grave internal disorder. He was taken next day to London and on 9 March an operation was performed. On 20 March he died. On 25 March his coffin was taken to Westminster Abbey, and on the following day he was buried by the side of his first wife in the church at Kedleston.
Curzon left three daughters by his first wife. In default of male heirs the marquessate became extinct on his death. He was succeeded in the viscounty of Scarsdale by his nephew, Richard Nathaniel (born 1898), and in the barony of Ravensdale by his eldest daughter, Mary Irene (born 1896).
Few men have experienced such extreme vicissitudes of triumph and defeat. Viceroy at thirty-nine, at forty-six it was his fate to be excluded from politics for eleven years; foreign secretary at a triumphant moment of his country's history, it fell to him not to fortify victory but to protect lassitude; and the supreme prize of his ambition was dashed at the last second from his lips. He acquired great possessions and resounding titles; he left his mark upon the art and literature of his country; and yet he achieved successes rather than success. Had his will been as forceful as his intellect, his determination as constant as his industry, he might have triumphed over his own anachronisms. But the tense self-preoccupation of the chronic invalid robbed him of all elasticity, and he failed to adapt himself to the needs of a transitional age which did not like him and which he did not like. He will live less by his achievements than by his endeavours: he will live as a man of great ambition, and some egoism, who was inspired by a mystic faith in the imperial destiny of his country, and devoted to that faith unexampled industry, great talents, and an abiding energy of soul.
The painted portraits of Lord Curzon are cold and statuesque representations, none of which is really life-like. The best, by J. S. Sargent (1914), is at the offices of the Royal Geographical Society, Kensington Gore. Another portrait, by P. A. de László (1913), is at All Souls College, Oxford, and copies of this are at Eton College and in the Carlton Club. The statues in Carlton Gardens, London, and at Calcutta bear little resemblance to the original. Curzon's personal appearance is better observed in the many photographs reproduced in published works.
The Times, 21 March 1925;
Lord Ronaldshay (now Marquess of Zetland), Life of Lord Curzon, 3 vols., 1928;
H. Caldwell Lipsett, Lord Curzon in India, 1898-1903, 1906;
Lord Curzon, Speeches, 1898-1905, 4 vols., Calcutta, 1900-1906, British Government in India, 2 vols., posthumous, 1925, Bodiam Castle, Sussex, 1926, The Personal History of Walmer Castle and its Lords Warden, 1927, Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire, 1929;
Winston Churchill, The World Crisis, 1911-1914, 1923;
Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, My Diaries, 1919 and 1920;
Lady Oxford, The Autobiography of Margot Asquith, 1922;
Contributor: Harold Nicolson.