The 5th Marquess as never seen before

Previously unseen photographs feature in a new exhibition celebrating the life of the enigmatic 5th Marquess, Cyril Henry Paget.

The photographs were unearthed while searching though the archives as part of a project to create a room dedicated to the flamboyant life of the man known as ‘The Dancing Marquess’

They are thought to be the only known images of the Marquess and his theatrical troupe enjoying the gardens at Plas Newydd and are now on display in a dedicated exhibition room.

The exhibition also includes theatre programmes, a reproduction of one of the Marquess’ costumes and a mock-up of the Gaiety Theatre - a 150 seater converted chapel that was built for the Marquess to perform plays at Plas Newydd and removed by the family following his death.

" These images give a real insight into his life behind the glamour"
- Karen Allen

Karen Allen, Conservation Assistant at Plas Newydd, who is part of the team who found the images said:

“We couldn’t believe it when we found these images. None of the team had ever seen them before so it caused quite a stir”

“This new discovery is significant, as it has always been understood that all other photographs, collection pieces and references to the Marquess were either sold in the infamous “Great Anglesey Sale” in 1905 or subsequently lost or destroyed.”

Troupe member Frank with comedian Edmond Low in the gardens at Plas Newydd
Troupe member Frank with comedian Edmond Low in the gardens at Plas Newydd
Troupe member Frank with comedian Edmond Low in the gardens at Plas Newydd

“To see these more candid images of the Marquess and his acting company enjoying the Plas Newydd gardens really give his history a sense of place. The only images we had of them previously were of them on stage in full costume and look more like a photoshoot, so these images give a real insight into his life behind the glamour.”

A flamboyant life

Henry Cyril Paget inherited the title of Marquess of Anglesey in 1898 and was noted for squandering his inheritance on a lavish social life, buying jewellery and furs, and to throw extravagant parties and flamboyant theatrical performances.

By 1904, despite his inheritance and income, Paget had accumulated debts of £544,000 (£50 million in 2014) and was declared bankrupt. After his death the ‘Great Anglesey Sale’ or the 40-day sale took place, where some 17,000 lots were sold which included everything from his jewellery collection right down to ping pong balls and hockey shin pads.

The 5th Marquess’ story has seen resurgence in recent years, appearing on the National Trust’s magazine front cover in 2017.

Programmes from the 5th Marquess' 1902 production of Red Riding Hood
Theatre programmes from the 5th Marquess' 1902 production of Red Riding Hood
Programmes from the 5th Marquess' 1902 production of Red Riding Hood

His history, or lack of it, inspired Anglesey born writer and performer Seiriol Davies to create the highly acclaimed costume drama musical “How to Win Against History”. The play has been performed to audiences throughout the UK and a video from one of the performances will also be shown as part of the exhibition room in the near future.

On hearing the news of this latest discovery Seiriol said:

"This is such a fun discovery, and amazing to see Marquis V in a bit more of a relaxed state than we're used to. It’s a heck of a lot more tangible than the spectral staged shots that form the bulk of what is at Plas Newydd of him, and it's perfect timing to find them as he's is welcomed back into the bosom of the house. Can a house have a bosom?

“I'm also thrilled to bits that our show, ‘How to Win Against History’, forms a small part of that return. It's a treat and an honour."

The exhibition is open daily between 11am and 5pm (last entry 4.30pm)