The Peacock dress was commissioned and worn by the American-born Vicereine of India, Lady Mary Curzon, the highest ranking foreigner ever to serve the British Empire.
Born in Chicago in 1870, Mary was the daughter of Levi Leiter, partner in the Marshall Field retail empire. As a debutante she was a resounding success, and after relocating to Washington DC, she was introduced to George Curzon in London, and they married in 1895. Curzon’s success as a politician was said by some to have been due more to the winning smiles and irresistible charm of his wife than to his own speeches, but whoever deserved the credit, in 1898 Curzon was elevated to Viceroy of India, and he and Mary were received in Mumbai with great excitement. She instantly made an impression of beauty and respect that soon spread all over India. It was estimated that over one hundred thousand people witnessed the magnificent spectacle of their reception at Government House.
It was in Delhi in 1902 that Curzon arranged the spectacularly theatrical celebration Durbar commemorating the coronation of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. The two week spectacle culminated in a grand Coronation Ball, for which Mary commissioned the extraordinary Peacock Dress.