Henry Cyril Paget, 5th Marquess of Anglesey
He may have only been on this planet for 29 years, but Henry Cyril Paget, the 5th Marquess of Anglesey, lived every one of them to the full. He was the antithesis of an aristocratic gentleman: instead of being reserved and polite he was flamboyant, outgoing and occasionally offensive. And instead of being responsible, he was reckless, especially with his money. Not for nothing have numerous plays and books been written about this ‘black sheep’ of the British nobility.
Born in 1875, Henry was the eldest son of the 4th Marquess of Anglesey, a small island off the coast of Wales. For the first few years, it looked like he was following the script: he went to the prestigious Eton College and, upon graduation, entered the British Army. What’s more, at the age of 23, he married, with the union to his first cousin making excellent social and economic sense. However, within less than a year of getting wed, Henry’s father died, leaving him not just the title but also several family estates. These estates alone gave young Henry an annual income equivalent to around $15 million – and he was determined to enjoy every penny of it.
For starters, Henry lavished huge sums of money on fine clothes and jewelry. He loved to dress in luxurious furs and be decked out in fine necklaces. However, his biggest vice was showing-off. He loved to be the center of attention and for this reason, he even set up his own theatre company. Not content with performing at his own private theatre (built in the family home at huge cost), Henry decided to take the show on the road. The Gaiety Theatre Company toured Britain and Europe, with Henry the star of the show, of course. His sensual dancing and cross-dressing scandalized polite society. Even when his wife divorced him because of his outrageous behaviour, he refused to calm down. In fact, he got even worse, spending huge sums of money on his wardrobe and other eccentricities such as converting his cars so that perfume came out of the exhaust pipes.
By 1904, he was broke. Worse, he was massively in debt. Henry was forced to start selling off his flamboyant collections, but he never was able to get back into the black. At the start of 1905, he fell ill. He died, aged 29, in a Monte Carlo mansion, his ex-wife beside him. He left behind huge debts for his descendants to deal with. But he also left behind a colorful story, and he was greatly mourned by the people of Anglesey who had learned to love his eccentric ways.