Curzon, Mary Leiter (1870–1906)

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Curzon, Mary Leiter (1870–1906)

Vicereine of India. Name variations: Baroness Curzon of Kedleston. Born Mary Victoria Leiter in Chicago,

Illinois, on May 27, 1870; died in London, England, on July 18, 1906; daughter of Levi Z. Leiter (a merchant and partner with Marshall Field) and Mary Theresa (Carver) Leiter (granddaughter of Judge Samuel Fish); educated by governesses, tutors, and attended the school of Madame Cléophile Burr in Washington, D.C.; married diplomat George Nathaniel Curzon (1859–1925), later marquess Curzon of Kedleston, viceroy of India, in 1895; children: Irene Curzon , Baroness Ravensdale (1896–1966); Cynthia Curzon Mosley (1898–1933); and Alexandra Curzon Metcalfe (b. 1903).

Mary Leiter Curzon was one of the most famous women of her time. The daughter of Levi Leiter, an early partner of Marshall Field, she was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1870. Mary had one brother Joseph and two sisters, Nancy Leiter , who married Colin Campbell, and Marguerite Leiter , known as Daisy, who married the earl of Suffolk. One year after Mary's birth, the Great Fire of Chicago destroyed the emporium of Field and Leiter; the store was rebuilt only to burn to the ground once more in 1877. Even so, Mary grew up in luxury, for the family was exceedingly rich. They lived in a Chicago townhouse, as well as a $500,000 mansion, Linden Lodge, on Wisconsin's Lake Geneva, where they moored their steam-yacht Daisy. They socialized with the Fields and Mr. and Mrs. Potter Palmer (Bertha Honoré Palmer ).

In 1881, Levi Leiter split with Marshall Field. That same year, the Leiters moved to Washington D.C. and settled into the majestic Blaine house on Dupont Circle. Mary grew up to be a slender, 5′8″, appealing debutante. She could boast a friendship with many of the city's elite, including Henry and Clover Adams . The 18-year-old Mary was also a firm friend of first lady Frances Folsom Cleveland , then only 23.

In 1890, Mary met George Curzon, then a Member of Parliament, at a ball in London; they were married in 1895. That same year, Lord Curzon was made undersecretary of state for Foreign Affairs. Three years later, he was named viceroy of India. The Curzons were in India for six years. Though Mary appeared fully up to the task of vicereine of India, fulfilling the role with grace and distinction, the years, three pregnancies, the stress, and the climate took a toll. By the time the couple returned to England, her health was failing; Mary Curzon died in July 1906, age 36. The Chicago Tribune reported in her obituary: "It was remarked that she had none of the aggressive self-confidence which, rightly or wrongly, is usually attributed to ambitious American girls, but she attracted by reserve and a thoughtful, studious manner and an engaging sympathy."

suggested reading:

Nicolson, Nigel. Mary Curzon. NY: Harper and Row, 1977.