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Lafayette L2827h
Neg. Date: 11-10-1901

copyright V&A

Daisy, Princess of Pless (1873-1943)

1901, the year of this portrait, was the tenth year of Daisy’s marriage to Hans Heinrich, Prince of Pless — which had now been fulfilled with the birth of a son and heir. It was a year of immense change in the world at large, with the death of Queen Victoria, the German Emperor’s grandmother, and the succession of his uncle King Edward VII to the British throne.

Emperor William II had a difficult relationship with his English uncle, and his own widowed mother, the Empress Frederick, has just died, leaving him with no one from the immediate family to turn to. He had already committed the mammoth blunders of dismissing Bismarck and sending the notorious Kruger telegram in support of the Boer cause.

Reflecting upon the first years of the new century, Daisy later wrote that it was the “start on the downward slope leading eventually to his (the German Emperor’s) downfall.”

1901 was a typical year in the life of Daisy and Hans, who socialised and travelled extensively. It started with the February wedding of her sister Shelagh to the Duke of Westminster in London. And then in July, after cruising in Scandinavian and Baltic waters, they went to Russia. In August Daisy stayed in Scotland, while Hans went yachting in Cowes. Daisy’s holiday, however, was disturbed by the news of the Empress Frederick’s death. It was, as Daisy recalled, “as if I had lost a second mother, and it made me feel very lonely and defenceless in Germany.

” Early in October they went to Darmstadt to stay with the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Hesse, who was the younger sister of Crown Princess Marie of Romania — herself a close friend of Daisy.

They then travelled to stay with Shelagh in England for the horse races. It was most probably during this visit that Daisy dropped in to the Lafayette Studio to have a series of portraits taken.

The end of month found them guests of Grand Duke Michael and his wife, the Countess de Torby, after which they moved on to spend some time with Daisy’s parents. This was followed by another journey for Lord Savile’s house-party. They then rushed home to Fürstenstein to hold a party for Prince Albert of Schleswig-Holstein. After a shooting party at Pless, with the German Emperor as chief guest, they set out again to take up an invitation from Prince and Princess Hatzfeldt at Trachenberg (Zmigród) in Silesia.

Earlier in the year, Daisy and her friend Crown Princess Marie of Romania had commissioned a series of similar portraits by another London society photographer. Perhaps mimicking one of Princess Marie’s successful poses, Daisy hints at “the dark hair hooded in white” of the famous Romney painting of Lady Hamilton as “The Spinster.” She also conveys a glamorous idea of travel by the use of chiffon wrapped over her coiffure in the style of a cache-poussière.

The image was reproduced as the front cover of The Lady magazine on 2 July 1903.