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23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024

Unfortunately, I've absolutely no inkling of where I came across this very helpful biographical summary.

Ravensdale, Irene Curzon, Lady

(1896 – 1966)

British civic activist and philanthropist.

Lady Mary Irene Curzon was born (Jan 20, 1896) the eldest daughter of George, Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, Viceroy of India, and his first wife, the American heiress Mary Victoria Leiter, the daughter of Levi Zeigler Leiter of Washington, D.C., USA. With her father's death (1925) the marquessate of Curzon became extinct, but Lady Irene succeeded as second holder of the barony of Ravensdale, which she held till her death.

Having spent some years of her youth in India, Lady Ravensdale became vice-chairman of the Royal India, Pakistan and Ceylon Society. In England she championed the cause of clubs for girls, becoming vice-president of the National Association of Girls Clubs, and as chairman of the Highways Clubs of East London. Irene was also treasurer of the Musicians Benevolent Fund.

She remained unmarried.

In recognition of her life-long service she was created a life peer (1958) as Baroness Ravensdale of Kedleston, Derby. She was the author of the autobiographical work In Many Rhythms (1953). Lady Ravensdale died (Feb 9, 1966) aged seventy, and the barony of Ravensdale devolved upon her nephew Sir Nicholas Mosley, seventh baronet.

I have a copy of the autobiography mentioned above,

  • In Many Rhythms: An Autobiography, M I Curzon, 2nd Baroness Ravensdale; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 1953,

and for a true historian of the era and milieu it would be invaluable. She had been everywhere, home and abroad, She knew almost everyone of consequence in Britain, the Empire, Middle East, Europe, America and even the Soviet Union (whose crude political philosophy she found disgusting). She was a deeply religious Anglican, and an ardent supporter of the World Congress of Faiths, tolerant and respectful of all the varieties of Judaism, Mohammedanism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc etc – if only those faiths could be so mutually tolerant and respectful today.

But like a figgy pudding, her narrative is so richly stuffed, not only with dates, but names, places, events, organisations and so on, that it's all slightly indigestible to the ordinary reader such as myself. She is also supremely reticent about her rather scandalously libidinous private life – maybe a slight indiscretion now and again would have lightened her earnest recollections. But a lovely person through and through. She was a wonderful godmother to my wife Sonia.

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Before I forget, I also have a copy of ("shurely shome relation", Bill Deedes) Leonard Mosley's immensely readable biography of her father, Lord Curzon,

  • Curzon: The End of an Epoch, Leonard Mosley; Readers Union, Longmans Green & Co, 1961

This is the Real Deal, taut, witty, and sympathetic to the zeitgeist in which Curzon operated. It's the habit now to disparage the ideals and paradigms of that far-off age of imperialism, but let us not forget that it was an island now relegated to second-class status even in the Eurovision Song Contest, that shaped the modern world: its technology, representative democratic ideals and (above all, perhaps) its incomparable lingua anglica.

Though it's quite irrelevant to the excellence of his book, I'm puzzled by the identity of the author – his middle name is (or was) Oswald, and so it's more likely than not that he should have been quite closely related to Curzon's notorious son-in-law.

His account of Curzon's early upbringing would be incredible were it not corroborated from other sources. It's a tribute to the powers of human psychological resilience that Curzon grew up to be only moderately disturbed a personality. His tendency to burst into tears at critical junctures in his career is irresistibly reminiscent, though, of Hilaire Belloc's Lord Lundy, who from his earliest years was so easily moved to tears. Curzon's notorious arrogance also reminds us of the insufferable Godolphin Horne, who suffered a similar downturn in his fortunes.

If I could convert just a single person to reading these and all the other Cautionary Verses of Hilaire Belloc (and the Ruthless Rhymes of Harry Graham), I would not have passed this way in vain. Such superb antidotes to the pusillanimously invertebrate PC culture of today.

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It was interesting to read a first-hand account of Irene Ravensdale's charitable activities on the following webpage (third item in the thread):


While rearranging books this evening I happened on my copy of Little Innocents, a collection of childhood reminiscences by a number of pre-WWII luminaries – Lord Berners, Evelyn Waugh, Sonia Keppel (quite [a] childhood, that one), Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas, and others. The book was published by Cobden-Sanderson in 1932.

One of the contributors – who also inscribed this copy, in 1932 – was Baroness Irene Ravensdale, daughter of Lord Curzon. She was born in 1895. Anyone have any idea of her later life? My copy was inscribed to the American stage (later screen) comedienne, Charlotte Greenwood, so I take it Irene had a colorful cross-section of friends. (Charlotte liked her, as she says in her unpublished memoirs, because she bore her height with a "stately beauty". Being tall herself, CG couldn't bear to see a towering woman slouch.) Would be interesting to know more about Irene – any details welcome.

Grant Menzies, 30 Jan 2000.

Irene, Baroness Ravensdale was created a Life Peeress as Baroness Ravensdale of Kedleston in the brief period when hereditary peeresses were still not allowed to sit in the Lords but life peeresses were.

She died in 1966 and was succeeded in her hereditary peerage by her nephew Nicholas Mosley, son of Sir Oswald Mosley and her sister Cynthia (before Sir Oswald married Diana Mitford).

Louis Epstein, 28 Feb 2000

I have just come across your post-some 15 years later!! I lived in one of Lady Irene's charity houses – Ravensdale Lodge in Stepney when I was first married in 1966. Shortly after her death her charity had run out of funds. Thus the remaining board members approached another charitable organisation which already employed my husband as a community worker – and they took it over. One of the directors was Joyce Grenfells' sister.

We lived in a house attached to the premises – a Victorian school building – in Dellow Street, Stepney from 1966 – 1968.

There were a lot of papers in the house relating to Lady Irene's good works – plus various bits of publicity .The charity had run a series of education courses for the local people in Stepney for about 20 years It had a sewing workshop, a boxing gym, a coffee bar and a youth club. There had been lectures too on topics such as 'The role of the aristocracy in society', and there were letters from various supporters withdrawing their subscriptions to the charity after Oswald Mosley became notorious – especially after the outbreak of war in 1939 and the earlier infamous Fascist march along Cable Street. Sadly I suppose I did not keep any of this material.

We left the property in 1968 when my husband John Newing, was appointed as a youth leader in Sparkbrook, Birmingham.

Simon Gray, 4 Feb 2015