A sort of apparition – a tall, elegant and bejeweled creature, with wavering elegant gestures, reminding one rather of an Aubrey Beardsley illustration come to life – Clough Williams-Ellis about Henry Cyril Paget, 5th Marquis of Anglesey
The subject of the “Coilhouse patron saints” comes up in conversation quite often, and Henry Paget deserves a high rank on that list, perhaps between Genesis P-Orridge and Marchesa Luisa Casati. He was the most outrageous of the English aristocrats, often seen gallivanting around London bedecked in jewels and silk, with a poodle under his arm or driving a custom car spraying perfume from the exhaust pipes.
This was a boy raised entirely by women, first in a theater environment in Paris and later in the seclusion of a Gothic mansion in north Wales with little peer contact and sudden access to a seemingly endless supply of money. To call the grown up Henry Paget an eccentric would be a grave understatement, and his upbringing was blamed for his behavior and suspected homosexuality. The charismatic young man transformed himself into a work of art with each waking breath. Obsessed with being photographed, he spared no expense for his costumes, meticulously preparing his poses and taking on new personas for each shot. He even employed a team of dressers to help with frequent costume changes.
Briefly married to his cousin, he showered her with jewels, as well. He “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… The marriage was annulled on the grounds of non-consummation.” says the Daily Mail. The Marquess may have shunned romantic involvement entirely, but surrounded himself with other beauty despite the raised eyebrow of aristocracy. His expenses included a number of modified cars, canes, “jewels, furs, boats, perfumes and potions, toys, medicines, dogs, horses and theatricals on a scale unimagined”.
This extravagance knew no limits and extended beyond an all-consuming lust for clothes and gadgets. The Marquess had a passion for the theater and converted his family chapel into a performance space where he orchestrated shows for servants, neighbors and visitors, sometimes performing himself. This is where he earned his title of the Dancing Marquess, by performing the Butterfly Dance of Loie Fuller between acts. Of note is that he stole the best actors away from an existing troupe, luring them in with exorbitant pay. Paget even toured with his theater company, numerous hand-painted sets and £100,000 costumes in tow.
It couldn’t last. The inheritance was squandered within a few years and Paget was left bankrupt and forced to sell everything. Without toys and riches life held little appeal and he died 1 year later, at just 30 years of age. Sensing in The Dancing Marquess a kindred spirit I’ve been searching for some sort of photo vault but the image above is the only one I’ve found. Surely there must be more! Having his picture taken was a favorite pastime for Henry and I will keep looking. Should your own googlemancery lead you to such an archive, please send it our way. Thanks to D. Shown for his recommendation.