100 Heroes: Harold Nicolson

The gay man who became an important political figure.

100 Heroes: Harold Nicolson

Harold Nicolson was a British politician, historian, biographer, diarist, novelist, lecturer, journalist, broadcaster and gardener.

He was the husband of writer Vita Sackville-West.

Early life

Nicolson was born in 1886 in Tehran, Persia.

His father was an influential diplomat, and the family lived in various parts of the world depending on where his father was posted.

Nicolson was educated in England, and went on to attend Balliol College, Oxford.

Completing university in 1909, Nicolson joined the Foreign Office of the UK government.

Political career

Nicolson entered the House of Commons as National Labour Member of Parliament for Leicester West in the 1935 election.

In the latter half of the 1930s he was among a relatively small number of MPs who alerted the country to the threat of fascism.

Nicolson’s diaries from this period are particularly well-regarded as giving insights into the political machinations surrounding World War II.

He lost his seat in parliament in the 1945 election.

Personal life

In 1913, Nicolson married the novelist Vita Sackville-West.

Although married, both Nicolson and Sackville-West were known to have numerous affairs with other people.

One of Nicolson’s most significant relationships was with Raymond Mortimer.

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