Header image
Photographic Portraits by Lafayette from the Collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London


Negative No: Laf2805,
Dated 20-03-1903

He was born heir to enormous family wealth and also to the many responsibilities borne by his father as the chairman of the Guinness brewery and a wide-ranging philanthropist.

Apart from helping the poor, supporting hospitals and universities, saving art treasures and donating them to the Irish and English nations, Rupert – endowed with a natural curiosity and a taste for experimentation – was a great patron of medical science.

Out of his strong sense of duty he took on numerous public positions, and for many years was also a member of the House of Commons. In this role he was hugely supported by his wife Gwendolen, a daughter of the 4th Earl of Onslow, who later herself became a successful politician. Through their marriage, which lasted 63 years, she was his constant companion and helpmate, and from 1911 they both set their hearts and minds on revolutionary agricultural projects. One of these aimed to reduce the incidence of bovine tuberculosis in children by producing clean milk.

On the lighter side of Rupert’s achievements lies the founding of the Guinness World Records. First published in 1955, it has developed its annual book into an international phenomenon published in more than 100 countries and 37 languages.

In his 80s Guinness was awarded a Knighthood of the Garter. This order, usually given by the Sovereign in connection with a long period of outstanding service to the country, was bestowed upon him in presence of another new knight, Sir Winston Churchill – a fact that speaks volumes for itself

In this photograph, Guinness is seen in the 16 hp, four-cylinder De Dietrich car, whose chassis was manufactured in France. He most probably ordered it through Charles Jarrott, a famous British racing driver and representative of De Dietrich in England, soon after it was shown at The Crystal Palace Motor Show in London in February 1903. However, he had appointed the local firm to build its body and the Victoria Carriage Works Ltd. presented the finished product at the car exhibition in the Agricultural Hall in Islington, London, in March 1903. The exhibit won the public’s admiration and was hence widely reported in press: “The Hon. Rupert Guinness’s 16 hp De Dietrich car… is one of the finest examples of body building in the show. The finish, which is exquisite, is in emerald green, with bold back mouldings, the frame and wheels being in old coaching yellow lined dark green. The whole combination is both striking and artistic, particularly as the front and tonneau seats are upholstered in green morocco to match the body colour.”

This vehicle was still, in 1989, in a private collection in Southern England.

The photograph was reproduced in The Car Illustrated on 15 April 1903.

All texts copyright Barbara Borkowy and Russell Harris 2007