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Lafayette L1535
Neg. Date: 20-08-1897

copyright V&A

Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847-1929)

Owner of enormous amounts of land and two fortunes - one from his father and one from his wife Hannah de Rothschild who had died in 1890 - Rosebery exploited to the full the opportunities afforded him by his class and wealth, becoming Prime Minister in 1894-5.

An eloquent speaker and intellectual politician, he was also a great imperialist who famously stated: “God forbid, there is no need for any nation, however great, leaving the Empire.” However, by 1897, he had bought a villa near Naples and planned to retire from politics – an ambition which was not realised.

Daisy admired Rosebery greatly, for his “silver tongue and magic pen [which] gave him a unique position in European affairs” and for the serious and studied answers he wrote to her letters. British-German affairs had been unusually harmonious during the years of his prime ministership and from time to time Daisy wrote to him to seek out the benefits of his political acumen and to encourage him to help foster better relations between the two countries.

Rosebery’s name had been mentioned in the courts in 1895 during the trial of Oscar Wilde for gross indecency, thereby associating him with Wilde’s world of “blackmailers and male prostitutes, cross-dressers and homosexual brothels.” Newspaper reports of his costume at the Devonshire House Ball in 1897 appalled him: ”I was described greatly to my disgust as that effeminate gossip Horace Walpole [British author (1717–1797)].” If challenged for a name I should have given 'the Duke of Devonshire of that time!' But I had no idea of anybody.”

Rosebery’s costume was made, and most probably also chosen, by Monsieur Alias of Soho Square, London, who had clothed him “with perfect precision” as a courtier of George III’s time (reigned 1760–1820) complete with powdered wig.

The stolid widower must have been even more appalled to read in the press that he wore almost £500 worth of diamond buttons and of the delicate silver embroideries on his dark green velvet coat and his black high-heeled shoes with scarlet heels and silver buckles. A bejewelled Order of the Garter can also be seen on his left knee.