Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Dancing Marquess

An excerpt from my article in the latest issue of The Chap on Henry Cyril Paget, 5th Marquess of Anglesey:

The Marquess was famously described by Clough Williams-Ellis as “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.” The Omaha Daily Bee described him more bluntly: “He is a thoroughly effeminate looking young fellow and he may be seen when in Paris walking around with a toy terrier under his arm, the pet being heavily scented and bedizened with bangles and bows. The fingers of the marquis fairly blaze with rings. He presents the characteristics of the Gypsy type.” His lifestyle was no less lavish; one newspaper reported that his bedroom was “draped in mauve velvet, with hanging figures of solid silver. Its ornaments were of filigree and gold, and its tables crowded with bottles of the most costly perfumes. His ‘boudoir’ was of green and gold. He had three valets and a ‘coiffer,’ all of whom earned their high salaries, for it was no unusual thing for this modern Beau Brummel to spend a whole morning ‘working out’ some special scheme of color by dint of combining the effects of neckties, trousers, waistcoats and ‘spats,’ discarding, one by one, such as failed to ‘harmonize.’”...
...In 1901 he hired a company of professional actors at an inflated salary to go on a European tour with him. They travelled with their own orchestra and needed five trucks to carry their scenery and equipment....Paget travelled in a custom automobile modeled after a Pullman railcar, complete with leather furniture, wooden fixtures, and a baroque carved ceiling. The exhaust pipe was modified to spray scent: sometimes violet, sometimes patchouli, sometimes l’eau d’Espagne........But Paget’s most famous act was the “Butterfly Dance,” which earned him the nickname “The Dancing Marquess.” He would perform this at the intermission of his productions, after which he would hand out picture postcards of himself to the undoubtedly bewildered audiences.
Lord Berners was in the audience at one of the Marquess’s “performances” in Munich, and he said that it “came between that of a lady with performing pigeons and a company of acrobats. The theatre was darkened. There was a roll on the drums and the curtain went up on Lord Anglesey clad in a white silk tunic, a huge diamond tiara on his head, glittering with necklaces, brooches, bracelets, and rings. He stood there fore a few minutes motionless, without any mannequin gestures of display. Then the curtain went down again period…The German audience seemed a little disconcerted by the manifestation of British eccentricity.”