The Excessiveness and Frivolity of Henry Cyril Paget,

the Fifth Marquis of Anglesey, 1875-1905

Kevin Hughes M.A.

 

The Eton educated Henry Cyril  Paget was a British Peer best known for squandering his vast inheritance and getting into serious debt. He has also been described as the most eccentric aristocrat ever, continuously spending money on jewels, stage costumes, pink ribboned poodles, hair cuts with highlights and apparently a pink exhaust for his car. He had loads of rings and even powdered his face! He acquired the nickname ‘the dancing marquis’ because of his weird sexy snake-like dances his performed at family functions, and friends houses around Europe.

He inherited his father’s title and estates, which came to thirty-thousand acres across several counties and an island; Dorset, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Anglesey.  However, there was some rumour about who Paget’s real father was. Paget threw big parties and put on plays to entertain his family and friends. His wife divorced him in 1900, fed up of his partying life life-style. His marriage was a strange story too. He loved to dress his wife up with jewels (nothing else!) and stare at her naked body. He did nothing more than that; no sex. In fact the marriage was ended on the grounds of non-consummation. It was probably a marriage of convenience, to unlock their inheritance.  He stupidly started to remortgage his estates to raise money to put on his productions. The simple fact of his lavish spending, spiralling into debt and risking his family wealth was scandal enough…but there was more…In 1901, Paget’s valet stole fifty-thousand pounds worth of jewellery. Despite saying he had been instructed by someone else to carry out the crime, he pleaded guilty and got five years behind bars. It was a great scandal of the day. Everybody was talking about it. In a few years Paget had spent his way through the equivalent of half-a-billion pounds, as valued in 2011. It had gone on theatre, jewels, gowns, gloves and many other items.

Paget was a disgrace to the aristocracy and oblivious to the poverty and pauperism in his own country. He was a typically selfish and terribly spoilt man lucky enough to be born into a wealthy, powerful and titled family; one he almost destroyed.

After several years of spend, spend, spend, and despite his vast inheritance and income that went with it, Paget had amassed massive debts and was declared bankrupt. His over-the-top wardrobe and ostentatious collection of dressing gowns and jewels fetched thousands of pounds in a humiliating public sale. Carriages, walking sticks, jewels, yachts, horses and his clothes were publicly paraded at the auction house for all to see. It did help to show what he had blown his money on, or at least some of it.  Paget’s creditors gave him a healthy allowance and he moved to France, claiming his fall from grace was temporary. A few months later he got pneumonia while staying at the Hotel Royal in Monte Carlo, making his comeback plans. Paget died in 1905 aged thirty. He was much loved and missed by the people of North Wales, and his wife later remarried. However, there were scathing stories about him in the press after he passed away, anger at his squandering of such wealth and wasting his time dressing up and touring Europe. Meanwhile, the title passed to Paget’s cousin and descendants of Henry Cyril Paget have often attempted to suppress and under play the story about the ‘dancing marquess’. He had been a dancing aristocrat from a family known for military success. He had squandered millions and left the once healthy family finances in poor shape. An article about him in Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper in modern times, referred to the dancing marquis as ‘the last brightspark of the age of unrestrained privilege among the old landed aristocracy.’