In the Eye of the Beholder
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In the summer of 2009, I found myself the guest of the 7th Marquis of Anglesey and his wife, Dame Shirley Paget, in their flat in Plas Newydd, the one remaining ancestral home of the Anglesey family now owned by the National Trust.2 They were charming but discreet, helpful and hospitable. I was? — well, ingratiating is probably the best word — and not simply because I needed access to the family papers to further my research into the 5th Marquis of Anglesey. I remember telling Lord Anglesey over lunch one of the entertaining stories about the 5th Marquis I had recently discovered, how the marquis had buried sovereigns and half-sovereigns in the mansion’s soot-pit and invited the young men of the district, stripped to the waist, to dive into the soot to retrieve the coins for the entertainment of his guests (Marion Daily Star, 17 February 1902).3 Lord Anglesey was not entertained; I was embarrassed at my misjudgement. But I am not sure, even now, whom I had betrayed in my eagerness to please: my host and his family in reminding them of something they had collectively sought to repress? My subject, by colluding in the representation of his life as beyond the pale rather than transgressive, even heroic? Or myself, an established academic, serious researcher and seeker after ‘the truth’ — the left-leaning daughter of lifelong Labour Party supporters?
KeywordsPublic Performance Performance History Public History Daily Mail Public Service Broadcaster
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