previous pagenext page
Lafayette L4243
Neg. Date: 07-03-1908

copyright V&A

Luiz de Soveral, 1st Marquez de Soveral (1850-1922), Portuguese diplomat and Ambassador to the United Kingdom (1897-1910).

A very close friend of King Edward VII and a much favoured companion to Queen Alexandra, Soveral was one of the most colourful figures in British high society and came into contact with Daisy of Pless at balls and lunches held in London during the social season.

The Marquez was considered “agreeable, amusing and gay... with a fund of good stories and an inexhaustible store of gossip” and he appears in many society memoirs of the time, usually as the subject of flattering comments. He also had a reputation as a favourite of the ladies.

However his diplomatic training led him to understand something of female jealousy and Daisy tells in her dairy of his efforts to make sure to cover the traces of time he had spent with any particular lady! “He always pretended to make a great fuss of me. Perhaps being as black as a half-caste negro, he really did admire my blonde appearance,” she wrote in her memoirs, but while disapproving whole-heartedly of his role as a “professional lady-killer”, Daisy admired him for his loyalty to England.

In the years of tension before World War I, Daisy came to believe that the Marquez was “almost a dangerous fanatic in his feelings against Germany,” and advised visiting German statesmen that “the best thing is to pretend to treat Soveral as a friend. He has been in London so long…” She also suspected that he was influencing the British King and that he should “go peacefully – to another world.”

Unfortunately for posterity, after the Portuguese revolution which impoverished him he chose not to enrich himself by writing his memoirs as he felt that “confidences were sacred.”

The Marquez is seen just over a month after the assassination of King Carlos and the Crown Prince of Portugal. Portuguese-British relations had been mainly friendly for many centuries and in 1903 he had arranged a state visit to Portugal which was an uninterrupted ovation for the British king. The British parliament expressed its “indignation and deep concern” at the murders and King Edward VII defied precedent by attending a requiem mass in their honour – the first time since the Reformation in the 16th century that a British sovereign had attended a Catholic service.

Although the Marquez travelled much with King Edward VII, perhaps due to the recent violence in Portugal, he stayed behind in London in March 1908 while the King travelled to Biarritz . Queen Alexandra also appeared to like him, as Daisy pointed out referring to the Queen’s deafness: “he speaks distinctly and she always hears him.”

Lillie Langtry, the famous actress and former mistress of King Edward VII, described Soveral as having “large, dark, expressive eyes, good features, and a mat skin, while his heavy black Mephistophelian eyebrows and Kaiserish moustache gave him a fire-eating appearance, yet there was no one more suave.”

The German Emperor, however, had not much respect for this most popular of courtiers. Making reference to his nickname of “the Blue Monkey”, his closeness to the British crown and his sympathy for the British understanding with France he stated: “it is amazing what heights a mandrill can reach” and was convinced that Soveral was a British agent.