HENRY CYRIL PAGET, 5TH MARQUESS OF ANGLESEY (d: 1905), styled Lord Paget until 1880 and Earl of Uxbridge between 1880 and 1898, was a British Peer who was notable during his short life for squandering his inheritance on a lavish social life and accumulating massive debts. Regarded as the “black sheep” of the family, he was nicknamed “the dancing marquess” for his habit of performing “sinuous, sexy, snake-like dances” for his guests and whoever else might be so lucky as to be in the vicinity.
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 opined, ‘foully miscarry in the advantage of humanity, play away an uniterable life, and have lived in vain.'” Whatever. The drag was nothing short of fabulous!
Paget was the eldest son of the 4th Marquess by his father’s second wife, Blanche Mary Boyd. Rumors persisted, however, that his biological father was the French actor Benoit-Constant Coquelin, a rumor that gained currency when, after the death of his mother in 1877, when he was two years old, Paget was raised by Coquelin’s sister in Paris until he was eight. His stepmother, from 1880, was an American, Mary Livingston King, the widow of Henry Wodehouse.
He attended Eton College, later receiving private tuition, and enlisted as a Lieutenant in the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers; on January 20, 1898 he married his cousin Lilian Florence Maud Chetwynd (1876—1962). Upon the death of his father in 1898, he inherited his title and the family estates with about 30,000 acres in Staffordshire, Dorset, Anglesey and Derbyshire, providing an annual income of £110,000. By 1904, despite his inheritance and income, Paget had accumulated debts of £544,000 and was declared bankrupt.
His lavish wardrobe, particularly his dressing gowns from Charvet and jewels were sold to pay creditors, the jewels alone realizing £80,000.
In 1905, Paget died in Monte Carlo following a long illness, with his ex-wife by his side, and his remains were returned to Llanedwen for burial. The London Times reported that despite all that was known of him, he remained much liked by the people of Bangor who regretted to hear of his death. Lilian, Marchioness of Anglesey, married, in 1909, John Francis Grey Gilliat, a banker, by whom she had three children. The title was passed down to his cousin Charles Henry Alexander Paget; subsequent holders of the title attempted to suppress the story of the “dancing marquess”.