Lord Curzon - flamboyant and efficient Viceroy of India

Statue of Curzon in front of  Victoria Memorial, Calcutta en wikipedia. org

Lord Curzon of Kedlestonen.wikipedia.org

  Among the Viceroys of colonial India, Lord Curzon of Kedleston (1898 and 1911 and also known as Earl Curzon of Kedleston between 1911 and 1921)  was the most charismatic and flamboyant British Conservative statesman. Commonly referred to as Lord Curzon, he  served as Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905, during which time he introduced many commissions, reforms and departments for smooth and efficient administration.  However, toward the  end of his services in India he became   one of the most controversial and consequential holders of that post. The partition of the undivided Bengal Presidency in 1905 was one of Curzon’s most criticized moves over which he got a bad rap.

Eldest son and second of eleven children of Alfred Curzon, the 4th Baron Scarsdale (1831–1916), Rector of Kedleston in Derbyshire, and his wife Blanche (1837–1875), Curzon was  born at Kedleston Hall, where his  family of Norman ancestry had lived since the 12th century. George lost his mother when he was barely 16 and was taken care by a brutal, sadistic governess. As his father paid least attention to him, his governess'  tyranny and intimidation  in the nursery helped him develop his combative qualities and encouraged the obsessional side of his nature which stood in good stead in the later years. Educated at Wixenford School,  Eton College, and Balliol College, Oxford, a spinal injury  incurred, during his adolescence, while  riding, left Curzon in lifelong pain. This made him quite uncomfortable  as it caused  insomnia, and required him to wear a metal corset for the rest of his life. In 1895 he married Mary Victoria Leiter, the daughter of Levi Ziegler Leiter, an American millionaire of German Mennonite origin and co-founder of the Chicago department store Field & Leiter (later Marshall Field) in July 1906. Unfortunately,  she died pretty soon and it was a great personal loss in his early life.

en eikipedia. orgl

Above image: Curzon and Madho Rao Scindia, Maharaja of Gwalior, pose with hunted tigers, 1901........................

 In 1898 it was announced that George  would succeed Lord Elgin as viceroy of India, and, in September of that year, he was created a peer - Baron Curzon of Kedleston. In January 1899 he was appointed Viceroy of India and  was the youngest Viceroy in history,  The peerage would help him re-enter the House of Commons on his return to Britain. Curzon was quite happy about his highest appointment in India as it  was an office filled with the pomp and ceremony  which he  loved very much. He  remarked soon after the pageantry of his arrival in Calcutta on January 3, 1899 that India is  the most-treasured jewel in Queen Victoria’s crown. 
Lord Curzon served India successfully  as Governor General and Viceroy of India from 6 January 1899 to 18 November 1905. During his tenure in the subcontinent  he tackled with remarkable aplomb countless problems relating to governance, natural calamity, etc with skill and tactics. A  strong believer in Britain's supremacy bordering on racism  he said  in 1901, “As long as we rule India we are the greatest power in the world. If we lose it, we shall drop straightaway to a third-rate power.” This was the reason why he was against the Indian aspiration of freedom.  In a letter to the British Secretary of State in 1900, Curzon wrote, “(The Indian National) Congress is tottering to its fall, and one of my greatest ambitions while in India is to assist it to a peaceful demise''.

The following are some of his great achievements during his tenure in India, then a vast populous land with many languages and cultures

01. After the suppression of the frontier (now in Pakistan)  risings of 1897–98,  Curzon gave due importance to  the independent tribes of the north-west frontier. He formed  a new province called the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), and pursued a policy of forceful control mixed  with conciliation. 

 02. Curzon  diligently argued for an exclusive British presence in the Gulf, a policy originally proposed by John Malcolm, but ignored by many. Further, he had convinced his government to establish Britain as the unofficial protector of Kuwait with the Anglo-Kuwaiti Agreement of 1899.

 03. The Famine of 1899-1900 in Bengal and other places  caused the death of more than  four million people. Undaunted Curzon immediatly took action and his appointment of Famine Commission under Sir Anthony McDonnell  to alleviate the sufferings of the people  was praise-worthy. He introduced a variety of measures, including opening up famine relief works that fed between 3 and 5 million people, reducing taxes and spending vast amounts of money on irrigation works. Indeed a remarkable achievement on the part of Curzon who had a pathetic childhood.

04. To improve the administration in India and  to serve the people well he appointed many commissions: Commission on  Police Commission under Andrew Frazer to take care of civil security etc., Irrigation under Colin Scott Moncrieff for agriculture, Education Commission (Raleigh Commission), enactment of Indian Universities Act, 1904, Land Resolution of 1902, Punjab Land Alienation Act 1900, Establishment of Imperial Departments of Agriculture and Commerce, Industry. The other commissions include Indian Coinage and Paper Currency Act, 1899; establishment of a training college for army officers at Quetta; Calcutta Corporation Act, 1899, etc.  

Viceroy Curzon's bronze lamp in the Taj. taj-mahal.net

05. Being a great lover of ancient arts and monuments of India, Lord Curzon  very particular about their protection for the progeny. He introduced Ancient Monuments Protection Act, 1904. But for his sincere and dedicated care, we would have lost countless ancient monuments spread across India. A remarkable marble edifice, Victoria Memorial at Kolkata was the brain child of Lord Curzon.  The foundation was laid by the Prince of Wales (later King George V) in 1921. Curzon proposed the building in 1901 soon after the death of Queen Victoria.  Thanks to Lord Curzon, many of India’s monuments received a new lease of life. Once Nehru said, ''Curzon will be remembered because he restored all that was beautiful in India'.

Lord Curzon's brass lamp, The taj Mahal. imgpic.org 

05. During his tenure he restored the Taj back to old glory; earlier, it was in bad shape.  During the 1857 rebellion by the Indian soldiers against the East India company's atrocities, the British soldiers not only damaged the Taj but also removed countless gemstones impregnated on the outer wall of this great monument at Delhi. Curzon also donated a fine bronze lamp hanging  in the original tomb of the Taj. The inscription on the lamp says “Presented to the Tomb of Mumtaz Mahal by Lord Curzon, Viceroy 1906

06. To avoid Russian invasion of Tibet, he sent a Military expedition to Tibet in 1903 to control the region - occupation of Chumby Valley. A treaty was signed at Lhasa in September 1904. This frustrated Russian ambition. Here, his amazing  knowledge of strategic military operation in a vulnerable, rugged terrain  was in full play. 

07. Reappointed Governor-General in August 1904, he presided over the 1905 partition of Bengal  on the basis of religion; later,  he faced a barrage of criticisms from various quarters. Though his explanation that he did it for better administrative efficiency, partition of Bengal was a  blot on his political career. As his policy  caused  deep discontent  among Indians and the upsurge of a revolutionary movement in the country  from 1919 to 1924. 

1905 Partition of India. Divide and rule. indiatoday.in

08. Partition of Bengal, a wrong administrative policy   overshadowed all the good deeds he had done in India  and he was tagged as the most unpopular Viceroy of India. After bitter opposition among the people of the province it was later revoked (1911). He created the territory of Eastern Bengal and Assam, when he was  Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.  The partition of Bengal and the irresponsible attitude of  Curzon accelerated  the growth of INC - Indian National Congress  and  demand for freedom from Britain.

09. Curzon also took a keen interest in military matters. In 1901, he founded the Imperial Cadet Corps, or ICC. It was a corps d'elite, designed to give Indian princes and aristocrats military training, after which a few would be given officer commissions in the Indian Army. But these commissions were "special commissions" which did not empower their holders to command any troops. Later it was withdrawn. 

10. The Delhi Durbar (meaning "Court of Delhi) of 1903 was tagged as the greatest show on earth. Also called Imperial Durbar,  it was held three times, in 1877, 1903, and 1911; the venue was Coronation park, Delhi. The durbar in Imperial-Indian style was held to celebrate the succession of Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark as Emperor and Empress of India. What is so special about it?  Lord Curzon, with meticulous care, arranged for the success of the Durbar, which was a a dazzling display of pomp, power and pageantry that lasted two full weeks. The other Durbars were no match for this one well organized by Curzon. He created a vast tented town complete with temporary light railway to bring crowds of spectators out from Delhi, a post office with its own stamp, telephone and telegraphic facilities, a variety of stores, a Police force with specially designed uniform. The royal couple were showered with valuable gifts, jewelry, etc. Of course, a large section of India's freedom fighters hated this pomp and show which was meant to further promote British interest in India.
Lord and Lady Curzon at the Delhi Durbar, 1903.en.wikipedia org

 In 1905 Curzon returned to England where he suffered the greatest personal loss of his life. Mary died in 1906. In 1908, Curzon was elected a representative peer for Ireland, and thus relinquished any idea of returning to the House of Commons. He played an active role in British politics. After a long courtship with a rich American lady and novelist Elinor Glyn ( Grace Elvina Hinds), Curzon married her in January 1917. 

In March 1925 Curzon suffered a severe hemorrhage of the bladder and after an  unsuccessful Surgery, he died in London on 20 March 1925 at the age of 66.


Highest and oldest Golf Course,Naldehra,HM, India.topyaps.com

Naldehra. Holiday cottages. www.swantour.com

01. An interesting fact about Curzon is he was fond of Shimla, then the summer capital of the Raj and used to frequent the place and the surrounding areas. Being an avid Golfer, he was instrumental in establishing a golf course at Naldehra in the foot hills of the Himalayas. It was the one of a few highest golf courses in the world (2044 meter above msl) . He was so mesmerized by the beauty of this place, he named his third daughter Alexandra Naldehra  after Naldehra. It is 23 Km from the capital city of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. It used to be a  9 - hole  challenging course.

 02.Yet another interesting fact about Curzon is though he had differences with the then Dewan of Mysore Sir Seshadri Aiyar regarding administrative matters, he had deep respect for him. He was the one who recommended  the establishment of a memorial  in honor of Aiyar when some controversy came up about a memorial for him. 

03. Likewise Lord Curzon, who had a good rapport with Sir C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar, a legal luminary recognized the legal heir to the throne of the Travancore Royal family upon Sir C. P's intervention  and requested  him to act as Dewan of Travancore Princely state.
So Lord Curzon was good at recognizing Indian talents and encouraged them to hold positions of eminence without any bias.