Vivien Leigh
School years

Vivien Leigh in a big green dress.

School 1 - Roehampton: arrival

After spending early years surrounded by luxuries in sunny India, Great Britain looked like a cruel joke to young Viv when she first saw it, which was when she was six and her parents brought her there. Even more cruel was the fact that it was to be her new home. Parents Ernest and Gertrude had decided that the girl needs proper traditional education and will to be sent to a convent.

They wanted it so much that Vivien's young age didn't stop them. Normally, girls under 7 are not allowed, but because the couple was very determined, Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton made an exception. This made her the youngest included child in its history.

Vivien cried hard and begged her parents not to leave her at this alien and scary place, but it made no difference. Soon, they left and she was not to see them again for a long time.

Roehampton: Special treatment

At the beginning, Vivien felt very lonely and struggled with the new parentless reality, but luck was on her side. Her young age made other girls sorry for her and they became determined to make her feel better. Since she was a charming little girl, nuns were not indifferent as well.

Soon, Viv became a convent mascot, receiving all kinds of special treatment. She befriended few girls, but her closest new ally was future actress Maureen O’Sullivan.

Roehampton: Cultural activities

Being drawn to all kinds of cultural activities since early childhood, Vivien took ballet, piano, cello and violin lessons at the convent and participated in the school orchestra. Her three known roles in plays at the time were: The Tempest (she played Miranda), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Mustardseed) and Ask Beccles (the Golfing Girl).

Back then, Vivien looked like any other girl in the play. While watching these performances, nobody had a chance to notice that she will soon become a great actress.

Roehampton: Homesickness

Coupled with her age, Vivien's eloquence, good manners and overall charisma quickly made her the most popular girl in the convent. She was very resourceful and adjusted to the life in Britain well.

That didn't change the fact that she was missing her parents and India, and would rather be there again, about which she often wrote to Ernest and Gertrude.

Roehampton: Mom comes to visit

Young Viv at Roehampton

When Gertrude came to England to check out on her daughter, she was very surprised. The girl she had left was still an attention-seeking baby, but now she was disciplined, well-mannered, even sophisticated, emanating with grace far beyond of what one could expect from a child her age.

Gertrude was extremely happy because she sent Viv to the convent so she can develop these qualities.

Travel across Europe

The life of young Vivien got into a sudden U-turn after her father decided that he had worked hard enough for so long, accumulated plenty of money and should get more out of life. As a result, he hatched a plan of extended vacations across Europe.

Both Gertrude and Vivien were included in that plan too - as a happy family, together they shall stop by all interesting places that the Old Continent has to offer. In each destination, they planned on staying from just few weeks up to a year. Longer stays naturally came from necessity - Vivien needed schooling, so during the semester she was grounded, and they were grounded with her.

Even though the next few schools she went to were still convents, it's no stretch to say that her life changed drastically. After being taken away from her parents into a gloomy and depressing environment, she was now again freed from it to enjoy an adventure that an average child can only dream of.

School 2: Dinard

Vivien's first school after leaving the convent was in Dinard, northwestern France. Her parents rented a house with beautiful view on the water and a private beach, where the girl was soon spending a lot of time.

Ironically, during this period she again felt lonely. Earlier, she was surrounded by dozens of girls, and she was on positive terms with all of them. Now, after school hours there was only her mother and her father. In her head, she imagined that they will spend happy quality time together, but reality turned out to be more bitter.

What Viv couldn't notice while she was away from them was that the relationship between Gertrude and Ernest has grown cold and they abandoned most communication with each other, except for the everyday banalities. They were also showing much less interest in her than she thought they will.

That's nothing surprising for a pair that sends a six year old girl to a different continent, but at her young age it wasn't necessarily an obvious conclusion.

As a result, each one of the three was largely on his or her own.

School 3: San Remo

After good experience with the Sacred Heart convent, Vivien's parents decided to choose another one in San Remo for Vivian to continue education in. Her experience with the school was drastically different than in Roehampton. She quickly became a rebellious kid that did not integrate well, produced all kinds of antics that made her teachers angry and for the first time her grades were poor.

Seeing it all made her parents very upset, but since this was just another on the long line of schools, it didn't last long.

School 4: Paris

For the next destination Vivien was extremely excited about, as it was Paris, the capital city of culture and fashion. She rented a house in the Auteuil district. Because parents lived elsewhere and she was completely unattended and free to do whatever she pleases, her rioting came to an abrupt end and her mood improved greatly.

However, bad luck ended this joyful adventure when one of the friends of her parents saw her in a dress he knew Gertrude would not approve of and wearing full makeup. He quickly informed them about the state of their daughter (which by today's standards would probably still qualify her more for convent than for a brothel).

Gertrude acted fast. Under a pretext of an innocent visit, she came uninvited, and when friend's adventure turned out to be true, she decided to instantly take her away. Bye bye, Paris!

School 5: Germany

Next school was located near a beautiful spa town of Bad Reichenhall, Germany. It was another pleasant experience. There, she fell in love with skiing, which she could do during winter season because mountains were nearby. Bad Reichenhall is very close to the German-Austrian border, so Vivien used the opportunity to travel to Austria from time to time.

Despite the fact that the distance between Bad Reichenhall and Vienna is more than 300km, it's Vienna that became her favorite destination in Austria, particularly for its wonderful operas.

This school Viv enjoyed so much that when the semester was coming to an end and soon she was to be taken away to another destination, the teenager begged her parents to extend the stay for another six months. This time, the begging worked.

School 6: London

After thinking hard about her future, Viv decided that she wants to become a professional actress and thus will need an education to ready her for the task. For the first time in her life, it was she that chose where to go next.

Just like with early plays as a child, here she still wasn't particularly convincing as an actress, and opinions among the teachers as to how skilled she really is varied a lot.

After marrying Herbert Leigh Holman, she dropped school and replaced it with a life of an ordinary housewife, but found it so boring that she decided to come back to the academy for extra lessons.

When she got pregnant, she had to give it up completely.