This magnificent pile was constructed in the mid 18th Century on lands owned by the Curzon family for 500 years. George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, became Viceroy of India in 1899. The Raj Bhavan in Calcutta was inspired by Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire.
Before becoming Governor-General of the British Raj, he described his “mission statement” to pupils at Eton School:
‘The East is a university in which the scholar never takes his degree. It is a temple where the suppliant adores but never catches sight of the object of his devotion… I know that I have everything to learn. I have, perhaps, many things to unlearn.’
He married Mary Leiter (whose father founded the Chicago department store Marshall Field) and took his new wife to India. She found the climate very difficult and her health never really recovered from a febrile illness in 1904. She tragically died at the early age of 36 in 1906. She was famous for her style and dress sense. At the coronation durbar of 1903, she wore a gown designed by the Parisian fashion house, Worth. It looks as though it is made of peacock feathers. With a nod to history, she wore the peacock dress in the Diwan-i-Khas where the Shahjahan’s famous peacock throne was placed. Despite having the precious stones removed, it is absolutely stunning. It is displayed on the ground floor of the hall.
As Viceroy, Curzon was preoccupied with the Great Game to counter Russian influence. He ordered an invasion of Tibet to this end, but no Russians were present to confront in Lhasa.
He is credited with improving the administration of India, its civil service, education and police force. Unfortunately, this did not help to ameliorate the effects of a massive famine which killed more than a million in 1900.
Jawaharlal Nehru praised Curzon’s genuine love of Indian culture, which involved renovating several historic monuments, including the Taj Mahal and the Sidi Syed Mosque in Ahmedabad.
“After every other viceroy has been forgotten, Curzon will be remembered because he restored all that was beautiful in India.”
At the instigation of his wife, Curzon also set aside 57,000 acres of forest and jungle in Kaziranga, home to the one-horned rhinoceros, as a game reserve. He still shot tigers, however. His reforms stalled and he resigned in 1905. Treasures which Curzon brought back from the subcontinent are displayed on the ground floor.
He was less enlightened when it came to the issue of universal suffrage. He bitterly opposed giving the vote to women. Some say that this attitude was formed in childhood. His tyrannical governess beat him regularly and would humiliate him by making him wear a dunce’s cap in the village. He felt that women should remain maternal and not take part in governing the country. However, he also maintained that women were “vital to the betterment and development of society and crucial to maintaining the British Empire.”
The magnificent Curzon residence has many beautiful doors. The workmanship is outstanding, with one mahogany door in the ante-room curved to fit perfectly in the curved wall. Most of the doors have no external hinge; there is a metal rod running the length of the door about which it pivots.
The door knobs are decorated and intricate.
The house so incredibly beautiful and ornate that I have to add a few portal photos to demonstrate this.