Harold Nicolson Biography
Sir Harold George Nicolson, KCVO, CMG, was a British politician, diplomat, historian, biographer, novelist, lecturer, journalist, broadcaster, and gardener who lived from 21 November 1886 to 1 May 1968. Vita Sackville-West, a writer, was his wife.
Harold Nicolson Early Life
The youngest son of diplomat Arthur Nicolson, 1st Baron Carnock, Nicolson was born in Tehran, Persia. He grew up following his father’s frequent postings throughout Europe and the Near East, notably in St. Petersburg, Constantinople, Madrid, Sofia, and Tangier.
Following his education at Wellington College, he attended The Grange School in Folkestone, Kent. He attended Balliol College in Oxford and earned a third-class diploma there in 1909.
After placing second in the competitive exams for the Diplomatic Service and Civil Service, Nicolson joined the Foreign Office that same year.
Harold Nicolson Diplomatic Issue
Nicolson joined HM Diplomatic Service in 1909. From February to September 1911, he worked as an attaché in Madrid, and from January 1912 to October 1914, he was the Third Secretary in Constantinople.
Nicolson wedded novelist Vita Sackville-West in 1913. With both engaging in relations with people of the same sex, Nicolson and his wife practiced what is now known as an open marriage.
Sackville-parents West’s were aristocrats who wanted their daughter to marry a fellow aristocrat from an old noble family and so reluctantly approved the marriage, despite the fact that a diplomatic career was honorable and prestigious in Edwardian Britain.
He worked at the Foreign Office in London during the First World War, where he was elevated to the position of Second Secretary.
It was his responsibility to present Britain’s revised declaration of war to Prince Max von Lichnowsky, the German ambassador in London, on August 4, 1914, making him the Foreign Office’s lowest-ranking employee at the time.
In December 1917, Nicolson had to inform Sackville-West that he had likely transmitted a venereal disease to her as a result of an unnamed homosexual encounter. It turned out that he had failed it.
He participated in the Paris Peace Conference in a junior capacity in 1919, and as a result, he was named a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG) in the 1920 New Year’s Honours.
After being elevated to First Secretary in 1920, he was chosen to serve as Sir Eric Drummond’s private secretary as the League of Nations’ first Secretary-General.
However, in June 1920, he was called back to the Foreign Office. The same year, Sackville-West had a passionate romance with Violet Trefusis that almost caused her marriage to fail.
Nicolson recorded this in his journal: “Violet, you are so Violet. How I detest her “. One time, in an effort to win Vita back, Nicolson had to pursue Vita to France, where she had “eloped” with Trefusis.
Harold Nicolson Political Career
Nicolson edited the Londoner’s Diary for the Evening Standard from 1930 to 1931, but he left after a year because he didn’t like reporting on high society rumors.
He joined Sir Oswald Mosley’s newly established New Party in 1931. He served as editor of the party journal Action and ran unsuccessfully for Parliament that year on behalf of the Combined English Universities.
The following year, Mosley established the British Union of Fascists, and Nicolson stopped backing him.
In the 1935 election, Nicolson was elected as the Leicester West National Labour Member of Parliament (MP). He was one of the very few MPs who warned the nation about the dangers of fascism in the second half of the 1930s.
Nicolson was a friend of Winston Churchill, though not an intimate one, and was more of a disciple of Anthony Eden than of Churchill in that regard.
In the Commons, Nicolson frequently backed Churchill’s initiatives to fortify the British will and encourage rearmament.
Nicolson, a Francophile, was close with Charles Corbin, the anti-appeasement French ambassador to the court of St. James who was also an Anglophile.
Harold Nicolson Family
He and his wife have two sons: Nigel, a politician and writer, and Benedict, an art historian. Later, writings by and about his parents, such as Portrait of a Marriage, their correspondence, and Nicolson’s diaries, were published by and by Nigel.
Near Cranbrook in Kent, Vita Sackville-West bought Sissinghurst Castle in 1930. The National Trust now oversees the famous gardens that the couple built there.
Harold Nicolson Career as a Writer
In addition, Nicolson is recognized for his 1932 book Public Faces, which predicted the development of the nuclear bomb.
In this fictitious portrayal of British national policy in 1939, the secretary of state for Britain struggles to maintain international harmony in the face of the Royal Air Force’s belligerent brandishing of rocket airplanes and an atomic weapon.
The geography of the Persian Gulf had a significant part in the development of this multi-megaton bomb in today’s terminology, but the likes of Hitler were not anticipated.
Following the failure of his most recent attempt to get elected to office, Nicolson continued his writing program, which included books, book reviews, and a weekly column for The Spectator. He also maintained a busy social schedule.
His journal is among the most renowned 20th-century British diaries and a significant source of information on British political history from 1930 to the 1950s, notably in relation to the years leading up to and during the Second World War.
Nicolson held high-ranking positions that allowed him to write about the inner workings of political circles and the daily progress of important events.
Robert Bernays, a fellow lawmaker, described Nicolson as “a national figure of the second degree.”
A number of political leaders, including Ramsay MacDonald, David Lloyd George, Duff Cooper, Charles de Gaulle, Anthony Eden, and Winston Churchill, as well as a number of literary and artistic figures, including C. E. M.
Joad of the BBC’s The Brains Trust, were acquaintances, associates, friends, or intimates of Nicolson.
Harold Nicolson Honors
Honors In 1953, he received the KCVO designation as a prize for penning the official biography of George V, which had just been released the year before.
On his and his wife’s home in Ebury Street, London SW1, there is a blue plaque.