Vivien Leigh
Childhood years

Vivien Leigh in a big green dress.


Vivien Leigh was born in a beautiful Indian city of Darjeeling on November 5, 1913. Her mother Gertrude arrived there to rest in a house with a picturesque view and prepare for the coming of her baby girl.

Just before birth, child's father Ernest Hartley arrived to Darjeeling after taking some time from work.

Living conditions

View from Darjeerling

Just like many members of the British colony in India, Viv's family was rich and could afford many comforts and pleasures about which ordinary people could only dream of.

Leaving in a large home with staff that cooked, cleaned up and took care of the baby when parents were not home, the family was able to afford buying expensive items and enjoying an occasional quality vacation.

This transferred to young Viv, who could have whatever toys she wished for and was well cared for. However, this came at a price: her father was always working and mother had other things she took care of outside catering for her. She felt slightly lonely.

Moving out

The future actress had to learn how to adjust from one place to another pretty early. When the World War I broke, Ernest joined the military and this forced Gertrude to take their daughter and move to near where he was to be stationed, which at the time was Mussoorie.

This was close to where Viv was born, but after two years it had to be substituted with Ootacamund (also known as Ooty).

On one hand, Vivien was thus able to see different places and come in contact with many kinds of people, but whenever she befriended someone, soon she had to say goodbye.

Favorite childhood literature

Gertrude's love for literature passed on to her daughter, especially that she made sure Vivien gets to read some quality books from her very early years. Then, her favorite story was Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.

Other artists that she enjoyed were: Charles Kingsley, Hans Christian Andersen, Lewis Carroll. Greek mythology was another fascination.

Love for theatre

On the other hand, the love for the theater she got from her dad. It was a peculiar interest for Ernest Hartley, a man whose career was in financial sector, but he loved it and shortly after first arriving in India, he was a member of an amateur theatre group and became quite a local attraction.

Debut theatre performance

During the family stay in Ooty, Gertrude volunteered Vivian to take part in children's plays organized by the wives of British soldiers serving in India. The girl's debut performance was reciting Little Bo Peep, done while dressed as a shepherdess.

Role of religion

Young Vivien didn't have a particularly strong religious education. This sat well with her father, but Gertrude didn't like that she was raised surrounded by Islam. She wasn't particularly against it, but strongly wanted her child to have a Catholic education.

This pushed her to try to convince Ernest to move to England. The decision was made when he soon got promoted. Instead of England, they came back to Alipore, where they had been living before the war.

Start of the convent life

Gertrude's wish of Vivien's religious education came to reality when the girl was seven. Then, the whole family went to England on vacation, where they left Vivian in an exclusive Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton.

Gertrude herself had been sent to convent when young, but to Viv, given India's beautiful weather, few restrictions in behavior and high status the Hartleys enjoyed, replacing it all with depressing British weather, convent walls and strict discipline enforced by the nuns was particularly hard to get used to.