No one does eccentricity as well as the British aristocracy. Henry Cyril Paget, 5th Marquis of Anglesey did it better than most.
With his flowing peacock robes and jewelled highlights in his long, silky hair, Henry Cyril Paget, the 5th Marquess of Anglesey, adored attention.
Dressed in outlandish clothes, his willowy figure could be spotted walking along fashionable Piccadilly in central London with a snow white, pink-ribboned poodle under his arm.
NOT this ‘poodle’
He was so rich and self-indulgent that he had his motor cars modified to spout exhaust gases perfumed with patchouli and ‘l’eau d’Espagne.
In just a few years, the Dancing Marquess blew the equivalent of almost half a billion pounds on his eccentric lifestyle, acquiring gems by the fistful and a wardrobe of such opulence that it included 260 pairs of kidskin gloves, 200 gold scarf pins and 100 tailored dressing gowns.
NOT this dressing gown
He married his cousin Lilian Chetwynd in 1898, though the marriage was annulled two years later
image found here
Lily was beautiful with pale green eyes and red-gold Titian hair, as if she had just stepped out of a pre-Raphaelite painting. As a wedding present, he bought his new wife a galaxy of gems.
Then, on their honeymoon, when she stopped and gazed at a jeweller’s window display in Paris, he went inside and bought the whole lot for her.
He then made her wear them to the races, which embarrassed her. She did not like such public shows of opulence. In private, too, she was embarrassed. Her husband liked to view his emeralds, his rubies, his diamonds displayed on her naked body. But he didn’t lay a finger on her. There was no sex. He just stared.
Mata Hari NOT Lily
The moment he had come into his inheritance he had raised ready cash by mortgaging his estates. That gave him £250,000 (£125million in today’s terms). It was soon gone, but instead of stopping, he went on spending, piling up debts before, in 1904, tipping over into bankruptcy.
At the castle, trustees appointed by his creditors found treasure chests of pearls, gold cigarette cases studded with rubies and the world’s biggest collection of walking sticks.
walking stick handle found here
Among the more remarkable items that appeared in the sale were his walking sticks. Many of them had round handles so thickly encrusted with diamonds, rubies, amethysts and emeralds that the setting was almost invisible. when the auctioneer set in motion a beautifully modelled cockatoo’s head, which adorned the head of a stick, it lifted its crest of hackles, opened its mouth and blinked its eyes. By the same mechanical aid the yellow ivory head of a Chinaman leered and grinned most realistically, a donkey flapped its ears, and a duck opened and shut its bill.
The Marquess’s boots were laid out – leather ones, crocodile-skin, skating boots, suede shoes and silk tapestry slippers – “a complete collection of everything that could be strapped, buckled or laced upon the foot of man”, as a local newspaper put it.
Though most of the photographs of him that still exist show the Marquis in one of his fabulous costumes, he did have a slightly more sober side….
“I must apologise for not appearing before you in peacock-blue plush wearing a diamond and sapphire tiara, a turquoise dog-collar, ropes of pearls and slippers studded with Burma rubies; but I prefer, and always have preferred, Scotch tweed.”