Polydore de Keyser

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"the Lord mayor". Caricature by Spy published in Vanity Fair in 1887.
Portrait by John Caller (Town Hall Dendermonde).

Sir Polydore de Keyser (13 December 1832 - 14 January 1898), was a lawyer and the first Roman Catholic since the Reformation to be elected Lord Mayor of London (October 1887 - November 1888).[1] He was born in the Belgian city of Dendermonde, near Ghent, Belgium.

He came to England sometime before 1849 and became a naturalized English citizen in 1853.[2] He founded the Royal Hotel, later to be called the De Keyser's Royal Hotel, and personally ran the hotel from 1856 to 1887 He belonged to several different City companies (Spectacle Makers, Farriers, Butchers, Innholders, Poulterers, Gold and Silver Wire Drawers) and was a governor of Bridewell, Bethlem and St. Bartholomew's Hospitals. He married the eldest daughter Louise of M.J. Pieron in 1862. De Keyser served as Sheriff of London and Middlesex 1882-83 and was elected alderman to represent Farringdon Without on the Court of Common Council.

He was knighted on 4 December 1888. While visiting Brussels and his home town Dendermonde in 1888 he was honored with the production of two cantatas by the Belgian composer Peter Benoit. (Welkom der Stad Brussel aan den Hoogachtbaren Heer Polydoor De Keyser, Lord-Major van Londen and Heilgroet aan den Hoogachtbaren Heer Polydoor De Keyser, Lord-Major van Londen, in zijn vaderstad Dendermonde).

The De Keyser's Royal Hotel had approximately 400 rooms and was mostly used by foreigners visiting London, including Americans, Dutch, French and Belgians. (De Keyser himself could speak six languages.) It depended almost entirely on this clientele for its success, but were also used for large banquets among City companies. The hotel is known from the case Attorney General v De Keyser's Royal Hotel Ltd.[1]