Henry Cyril Paget, 5th Marquess of Anglesey, was nicknamed "Toppy" (a rather unfortunate nickname, given the rumors of his homosexuality) and basically lived up to every negative stereotype of the aristocracy. He was a "sexual deviant". He was flashy and vulgar with his wealth. He blew the family fortune (the equivalent of half-a-billion pounds today) on clothes, jewels and decadent living. He made a spectacle of himself doing "sinuous, sexy, snake-like dances" and became known as "The Dancing Marquess". There were doubts cast about who really sired him. He lived fast and died young without producing an heir.
The middle and lower classes ATE THIS STUFF UP. Much as we do today with celebrities who exhibit outrageous behavior, he seemed to destroy himself for everyone's entertainment, allowing them tut at him and feel morally superior but still giving everyone an escapist view of sheer opulence. People scorned his wasted opportunity but secretly desired to do the exact same thing. Because, when it comes to any sort of elite group, most of us are deeeeeeeply hypocritical in our views.
But I digress. That's my PhD speaking. Let's get back to the fun stuff. LIKE THIS PICTURE.
That is one GQ mofo, GODDAMN. What he's saying right here with that soul-piercing gaze is: "Siegfried and Roy, eat your heart out."
This is him on a day where, as far as I can tell, he is auditioning for a part in The King and I. Not sure if he's going for the part of the King or Tuptim, but whatever. He looks fabulous.
Here is one of him on a casual day.
The Complete Peerage says that he "seems only to have existed for the purpose of giving a melancholy and unneeded illustration of the truth that a man with the finest prospects, may, by the wildest folly and extravagance, as Sir Thomas Browne says, 'foully miscarry in the advantage of humanity, play away an uniterable life, and have lived in vain.'"
His mother died when he was two and his father remarried and shipped him off to Eton a few years later, only to die when Henry was but 23. That's a hell of a young age to have an almost-limitless fortune, especially if you are already a complete rogue. It probably would have been better for the family estate if his father had lived an awful lot longer. I mean, look at this guy:
He's a man's man, by gum! An officer and a gentleman of the first degree, posing by a lovely phallic cannon, with some truly distinguished side-whiskers! Bully for you, sir! What-ho, and all that!
I actually have no idea how conservative Henry's father was, but he certainly looks like it's crumpets and tea at precisely 4 o'clock, do your duty by your country, Rule Britannia, and a smart wallop to anyone who doesn't follow his example.
So with him out of the way, Henry went on a spending spree that makes the makeover montage in Pretty Woman look like a trip to a garage sale. He bought "jewelled costumes, pink poodles and a car with perfumed exhaust". He turned the family chapel in his country seat into a 150-seat theatre where he always took the lead role, and eventually started touring around the country.
There was some sort of complication with family money, because he married his cousin (nooooo, don't your kids will have hooves!), Lilian Florence Maud Chetwynd, seemingly to keep their aggregate fortune in the family. She was absolutely beautiful, from what I understand, but their marriage was never consummated. People were furious at this further waste--the waste of a beautiful young woman in the prime of her life. This reeks of the Marlboroughs, where Sunny married the elegant Consuelo Vanderbilt for her fortune, not appreciating her in any sort of personal way. Although Sunny at least had sex with Consuelo.
To Henry, Lily was a convenience and another glamorous accessory:
"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."
While he was failing in his duty as an aristocrat to provide "an heir and a spare", it was also dangerous for him to be this flamboyant. The Oscar Wilde trial for homosexuality had just happened shortly before, with an unpleasant result and public backlash for Wilde. However, the true nature of Henry's sexuality is unknown and still debated:
"Many contemporaries thought of Henry as homosexual, a dangerous reputation to have at a time when the playwright Oscar Wilde's spirit and health were being broken on the convicts' treadmill in Reading jail. A German sex almanac of Europe listed the Marquess as such, and gay campaigners have since laid claim to him.
"Some see him as a brave man who challenged and subverted Edwardian notions of class, gender and decorum, but his true sexuality is still a mystery.There were no known lovers, and Viv Gardner, professor of theatre studies at Manchester University and a researcher behind the new stage production of his life, sees him as "a classic narcissist: the only person he could love and make love to was himself". She thinks he may well have died a virgin."
Whatever the truth may be, his wife left him only three years after their marriage and had it annulled. His spending spree continued and, only six years after inheriting the estate from his father, he was forced to mortgage the estate and sell his jewels, still falling deep into bankruptcy. The auction he held to raise money lasted 40 days, with over 17,000 lots. That gavel must have been worn down to a nub.
When you look at the list of things he sold, it definitely reeks of some sort of addiction--either a shopping addiction or a hoarding addiction or both (I mean, obviously. You can't go through that much money in only six years if you don't have a problem like that). But, seriously, why does a man need 100 dressing gowns? Why did he need jackets with the family crest for each of his dogs? This goes beyond simple status symbols. Brother needed an intervention, and he needed it yesterday.
He was disgusted with the way the press described him. Such was his divorce from reality that he didn't understand what the problem was. He said, "I may have a hobby for collecting pins and rings, but I never wore more than one of the former and four of the latter at the same time. And if I do use scent, I am not the only living person who does, am I?"
In some miraculous deal with his creditors, he managed to keep £3,000 (today about £150,000) per year to live on for the rest of his life. He moved to France and was trying to figure out a way to regain the family fortune, but only five months later he caught pneumonia and died. he was only 29 years old. His ex-wife Lily was by his side. I like to think his last words were, "I see Jesus coming for me . . . Ughhh, what is he wearing?"
She went on to marry again, and had three children. The title passed to his cousin, who immediately turned the theatre on the estate back into a chapel and burned all of Henry's papers. However, the damage to the estate was so great that it all had to be broken up and sold in the 1930s. The Marquesate is still going, however. The eighth marquess just succeeded the title earlier this year.