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Colonel William Cornwallis West, MP 'Denbighshire'

Spy (Sir Leslie Ward) (1851-1922)



Watercolour with bodycolour

15 ½ x 7 ½ inches

Vanity Fair, 16 July 1892, Statesmen no 595, 'Denbighshire'

Chris Beetles & Alexander Beetles (eds.) Portraits of Vanity Fair: The Charles Sigety Collection, London: Chris Beetles Ltd, 2023, page 101

'The Long Nineteenth Century: Treasures and Pleasures', Chris Beetles Gallery, London, March-April 2014, no 140;
'The Illustrators. The British Art of Illustration 1871-2022', Chris Beetles Gallery, London, November-December 2022, no 36;
'Portraits of Vanity Fair: The Charles Sigety Collection', Chris Beetles Gallery, London, October-November 2023, no 49

William Cornwallis-West (1835-1917) was born in Florence, the youngest child of Frederick West of Ruthin Castle, Denbighshire. Following his education – at Eton and Lincoln’s Inn – he returned to Florence and developed his talent as a painter, gaining a reputation as a copyist, and also collecting. On the early death of his elder brother, Frederick, in 1868, he succeeded to the estate of Ruthin, and four years later married 17-year-old Mary Fitzpatrick, who would become a leading socialite (and have an affair with the Prince of Wales). they shared their time between Ruthin and 49 Eaton Place.

West became High Sheriff of Denbighshire (1872), Lord-Lieutenant of Denbighshire (1872-1917), a Justice of the Peace and Honorary Colonel in the 4th battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, and was awarded the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Officers’ decoration. In 1885 he was returned to parliament for Denbighshire West, a seat he held until 1892, first as a Liberal and then as a Liberal Unionist.

On the death of his mother in 1886, West came into possession of Newlands Manor, Lymington, Hampshire, and attempted to develop the resort of Milford on Sea in emulation of the Duke of Devonshire’s project at Eastbourne.

His children included George, who was the second husband of Jennie Jerome, mother of Winston Churchill, and then the second husband of the actress, Mrs Patrick Campbell; Daisy, Princess of Pless; and Constance Edwina, Duchess of Westminster.

“His father and his grandfather are Members of the Lower House; his great grand-father was a member of the Upper House; and his grandmother by judicious attention to business improved Newlands Manor (where he now lives when he is not at Ruthin Castle) into the estate which it now is. He thus began life seven-and-fifty years ago under promising conditions; which he nursed at Eton and at Lincoln's Inn until he burst upon the world of fashion as the husband of a beautiful lady. He has since been made Mayor of Ruthin, High Sheriff and Lord-Lieutenant of Denbighshire, and Honorary Colonel of the 1st Volunteer Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers; and having failed to enter Parliament as the chosen of Lymington or of West Cheshire, he began to represent the electors of West Denbighshire in 1885; and is like to be asked to-day to go on representing them so long as the new Parliament or himself shall last.

He has done something for the farmer and a good deal for the labourer by developing Milford-on-Sea, near Lymington, until it is able to support quite a big hotelful of visitors besides a number of residents. He takes an active interest in education; he is a County Councillor of rural Lymington, and, although he is a Liberal, he is a sturdy supporter of the Union. He also, as a man of taste who knows something of Art, promoted a successful Art Treasure Exhibition at Wrexham, which was presided over by the Duke of Westminster.

He is a discreet, generous, and hospitable gentleman, and he is the father-in-law of a Prince.”

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