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The Emerald-Encrusted Wiff-Waff Jacket

November 17, 2012

A couple of weeks ago we had writer Annie Middleton in doing some research about the 5th Marquess of Anglesey, Henry Cyril Paget. Henry Cyril was Marquess between 1897-1905 and in that time he managed to pretty much bankrupt the family. He is known as the black sheep of the family and the spendthrift who lost their fortune. Although we can all agree that his financial management certainly was not of the highest quality, he was a rather fantastic character and Annie uncovered some brilliant new details about his extravagant life and love of shopping. My favourite discovery was records detailing his wiff-waff (or ping-pong, for those of us who aren’t Henry Cyril or Boris Johnson) jacket, which he had specially made and encrusted with emeralds. The emeralds would have stylishly matched the ping-pong table, but they would also have dazzled opponents, giving Henry Cyril the edge in games.

We no longer have the wiff-waff jacket, much to my disappointment. We have almost none of Henry Cyril’s wonderful purchases, as most were sold in the 40 days of sales that were held here at Plas Newydd when Henry ran out of money. We do have the books from the sales still here though, and it is by looking through these that we know what we have lost.

The books of sale also detail Henry Cyril’s pets. He had a parrot named Jacko, who could speak English, French and Welsh. 30 dogs are listed in the books of sale, with names like Mora Queenie, Black Valentine and even Marquis. The way the dogs are listed brings a smile to the face, as never before had I heard of a dog with a “lemon marking” or of a dog described as “fine and upstanding”. Also, one dog named Prince, a fox terrier and ratter, is listed as “not entire” as he was missing a leg!

We also looked through some the Marquess’s receipts, which show he was man after my own heart with a love of high quality chocolates, sweets and cakes; he spent £11.60 (which is loads in today’s money) at a London chocolatier, the receipt for which is headed with “By Royal Appointment”: only the best for Henry Cyril. Continuing his taste for the food of royalty, he also purchased sausages from the Sandringham Estate, so he could eat the same sausages as His Majesty the King.

We came across programmes from the Gaiety Theatre, which was the theatre that Henry Cyril set up here at Plas Newydd (or Anglesey Castle as he renamed it). The programmes are beautifully designed in the shapes of characters and fans, and some are made of silk. They contain details of the roles the Marquess played, and of his various dances which range from Snow to Spider. Oh how I would love  to be able to watch one of his performances.

Henry Cyril was generous and very much involved with the community on Anglesey; he liked to spend time with the local people, inviting them to his shows and joining in with local events, such as a charity football match. He is a fantastic part of Plas Newydd’s history and even though his time here was short, he certainly made of the most of it and he will not be forgotten.

Now, if anyone out there fancies getting me an emerald-encrusted wiff-waff jacket for Christmas, it would be much appreciated.

Chloe x

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