27 Feb 2022

Who was Peaky Blinders villain Sir Oswald Mosley?

Peaky Blinders returns to our screens tonight, and fans of the show will be eager to find out what happened after Tommy Shelby's assassination attempt on arch-villain Oswald Mosley.

But who was the real life person behind Sam Claflin's character? As the 6th baronet Mosley, a baronetage created in 1781, the former MP and founder of the British Union of Fascists appears in Debrett's Peerage & Baronetage. Here's a brief overview of his life:

Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 5th Baronet (1896-1980)

Perhaps one of the most infamous figures in British history, Oswald Mosley was born into relative wealth and comfort as the son of Sir Oswald Mosley, 5th Baronet, and Katharine Edwards-Heathcote. Educated at Winchester and Sandhurst, he turned to politics and was elected MP for Harrow between 1918 and 1924, the youngest elected Conservative MP at that time.

In 1922 he ‘crossed the floor’ to join Labour, and in 1926 he was elected as a Labour MP for Smethwick. In 1930, however, he formed the New Party of which he was leader from February 1931. The New Party was dissolved in 1932 and became part of the British Union of Fascists, which was disbanded in 1940.

Mosley married twice, firstly in 1920 to Lady Cynthia Curzon and secondly to the Hon Diana Freeman-Mitford, daughter of the 2nd Baron Redesdale and one of the famous Mitford Sisters. Before their marriage, Diana was one of Mosley's many mistresses, who included his wife’s sister, Lady Alexandra, and her stepmother, Grace, Marchioness of Curzon. Oswald and Diana were married in Germany, in the home of Joseph Goebbels, in 1936; Adolf Hitler, close friend of Diana’s sister Unity, was the guest of honour.

In 1940 Mosley's activities led to his interment by Winston Churchill's government. His wife, Diana, was also interned, shortly after the birth of their son Max. They lived together in a house in the grounds of Holloway prison.

Mosley made several abortive attempts to return to politics after the war, to strident opposition. He lived in Ireland for a time and later developed Parkinson's disease. He died in 1980.

Mosley's first wife, Lady Cynthia, was the 2nd daughter of the 1st Marquess Curzon, who was also created Baron Curzon of Kedletson in 1891, Earl Curzon of Kedleston, Viscount Scarsdale and Baron Ravensdale in 1911; finally, he was created Marquess Curzon of Kedleston and Earl of Kedleston in 1921; Lord Curzon had already inherited the Barony of Scarsdale from his father. The Barony of Ravensdale came with a special remainder which, in default of male issue, could be inherited by his eldest daughter. In 1925, Lady Mary Curzon duly became Baroness Ravensdale; she was later created Baroness Ravensdale of Kedleston (Life Peer) in 1958.

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