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Lafayette L1494
Neg. Date: 03-07-1897

copyright V&A

Prince Francis (Paul Louis Alexander), Duke of Teck (1837-1900), dressed in costume worn at the Devonshire House Ball in July 1897.

Son of the unequal marriage of his father, a royal duke of Württemberg, with the Hungarian Countess Claudine Rhédey de Kis-Rhéde, from whom it was said that the Duke of Teck inherited his dark good looks, the young and impecunious soldier was married in 1866 to Princess Mary Adelaide, granddaughter King George III.

Having had to give up his commission in the Austrian army to come and live in England, he occupied much of his time in redecorating their English residence, White Lodge in Richmond Park, and in helping his wife adorn herself with jewellery.

According to Daisy, who ascribed the anecdote to “gossip”, her own future husband, Hans Heinrich XV, was sent to London to seek out “the fair young English Princess who is now Queen [Mary] of England.” In Daisy’s version of the story, the moment Hans Heinrich clapped eyes upon Daisy, he forgot about the project of wooing the daughter of the Duke of Teck!

Having missed the opportunity of marrying his daughter to one of the richest princes of Germany, the Duke of Teck aimed even higher and Mary became engaged to Prince Albert Victor, the unstable and apathetic eldest son of the Prince of Wales. After Prince Albert Victor’s sudden death, the Duke insisted that his daughter must be passed on to the next brother – as happened within living memory to the fiancée of the Tsarevich Nicholas upon his sudden death in 1865.

In this image the Duke wears a costume, which is an accurate representation of a French high-ranking soldier’s uniform of c. 1730 consisting of a white tunic with revers of blue trimmed with silver and a matching white waistcoat. The costume is completed with cloth breeches, high boots, and a powdered wig.

The Duke was photographed on the night of the Devonshire House Ball inside the tent set up in the garden by James Lafayette, who, in St. James’s Budget, described the ball itself as “such a blaze of colour I have never seen.” He went on to ascribe his success with the rushed portraits to the fact that he took full-length plates of the guests: “showing the whole costume, and through my being there on the spot saved those 200 sitters the trouble of dressing and going to a photographer’s on some subsequent occasion.”