A STUNNING diamond tiara owned by one of the British aristocracy’s most flamboyant and controversial characters will be unveiled at TEFAF Maastricht, one of the world’s richest art fairs in the next few week1.
Known as the black sheep of his family, the 5th Marquess of Anglesey, Henry Cyril Paget, died aged 29 in March 1905 having run up debts equivalent to £60 million.
The flamboyant aristocrat spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on lavish clothes, jewels and his own travelling theatre productions – including the magnificent Victorian tiara with detachable necklace.
The headdress, which has remained in the family for generations, is being exhibited by Hancocks London, the award-winning jewellers which was recently recognised as the best independent jewellers in Mayfair.
The tiara, circa 1890, is formed of a graduated row of over 100 carats of old European and old mine-cut diamonds, which can detach to form a stunning rivière necklace. It is surmounted by scroll and cluster motifs
and interspersed with curved tines topped with graduated pear-shaped diamond-set motifs, to a velvet covered band.
In the late 19th century it was owned by Paget, who had a passion for fine jewellery and who wore much of it himself – bankrupting himself in the process.
A lover of the arts, he turned the chapel at the family’s seat in Anglesey into the 150-Gaiety Theatre and was known as the ‘Dancing Marquess’ due to his habit of starring in the extravagant shows he produced for friends and family.
Henry Cyril Paget, the 5th Marquess of Anglesey pictured in 1899
Guy Burton of Hancocks London said: “This is a unique piece in every way. The 5th Marquess was a fabulously extravagant character even by the standards of his day. He really was the black sheep of his very distinguished family. “If jewels could talk, this tiara would have a fascinating story to tell. It was undoubtedly worn by the Marquess in his productions and, later, the 6th Marchioness of Anglesey, Lady Marjorie, was photographed wearing it by Cecil Beaton at King George VI’s coronation in 1937. “It’s a truly magnificent piece and, needless to say, jewellery of this provenance and story rarely appears on the open market so we are particularly excited to unveil it at one of the world’s most prestigious art fairs this year.”
Famous for his lavish spending and colourful social life, within six years he had largely spent the vast sums he inherited along with his title in 1898.The cash went on clothes, jewels and his theatre productions – especially the costumes for his pantomimes in which he always played the lead.
His jewel-bedecked outfit for Henry V was said to have cost £40,000 (equivalent £4.8 million today) and his costume for Aladdin may have cost as much as £100,000 (equivalent to £12 million in today’s money).
By 1904, he had accumulated massive debts and was forced to declare himself bankrupt. Much of his lavish wardrobe and jewels were sold to pay off creditors. The tiara was retained by the family.
Henry Cyril Paget passed away the following year after a long illness aged just 29 in Monte Carlo. His remains were returned for burial to the parish church of St Edwen’s in Llanedwen near the family seat on Anglesey. The Timesreported that, despite his colourful reputation, he was much liked by locals. The title and family estate passed to his cousin, Charles Henry Alexander Paget, who became 6th Marquess of Anglesey.
Being of a more conservative disposition than his cousin, Charles left the wearing of jewellery to his wife Marjorie who now took ownership of the jewels that had not been sold off to repay Paget’s creditors. He destroyed his cousin’s paper and converted the Gaiety Theatre back into the family chapel. After a distinguished military career, Charles served as Lord Chamberlain to Queen Mary and the Pagets maintained close ties to the Royal family over the coming decades.
Lady Marjorie the 6th Marchioness of Anglesey photographed by Cecil Beaton at the coronation of King George VI in
1937 wearing the tiara. Her daughter was one of the six maids of honour to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
Lady Marjorie posed for renowned society photographer Cecil Beaton at the Coronation wearing the tiara and all her finery. Beaton had been commissioned by Vogue to take a series of pictures of peeresses to appear in a special Coronation edition of the magazine.
Their daughter, Lady Elizabeth, was one of six maids of honour to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen consort, on the day her husband became King George VI in 1936.
The tiara has remained in the family until recently and is now being offered for sale by Hancocks London. It presents a wonderful opportunity to acquire a piece of jewelled history.