University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD, Regno Unito
Birr Castle, Townparks, Birr, Co. Offaly, Irlanda
Hon. Desmond Edward Parsons (13 December 1910 – 4 July 1937) was an aristocratic aesthete, regarded as "one of the most magnetic men of his generation." He had a passionate friendship with James Lees-Milne, was the one true love of Harold Acton and the unrequited love of Robert Byron.
Desmond Edward Parsons was born on 13 December 1910, the third child of William Parsons, 5th Earl of Rosse and Frances Lois Lister-Kaye (1882-1984), and the younger brother of Michael Parsons, 6th Earl of Rosse.
He studied at Eton College where he had a passionate friendship with James Lees-Milne. Parsons entered Oxford University and then the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
In 1934, Desmond Parsons, a brilliant linguist, went to China to reach his friend, and possible lover, Harold Acton who was in Beijing lecturing at the Peking National University. According to Acton's friends, Parsons was Acton's "one true love of his life".
In China Parsons visited the caves at Dun Huang and his photographs of the place were later acquired by the Courtauld Institute of Art.
Parsons was also the great, but unreciprocated love of Robert Byron, a travel writer. In 1934 they lived together in Peking, where Parsons developed Hodgkin's Disease. His brother, who was visiting him, managed to bring back Parsons to Europe where he died on 4 July 1937. Byron died in 1941 when the ship he was travelling was attacked during World War II.
At the beginning of the World War II, Acton sent back to Birr Castle Parsons' collection of Chinese Art.