Lord Ronald Gower

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Lord Ronald Gower
Portrait of Lord Ronald Gower by Henry Scott Tuke, 1897
Member of Parliament
for Sutherland
In office
Preceded byDavid Dundas
Succeeded byMarquess of Stafford
Personal details
Ronald Charles Sutherland-Leveson-Gower

(1845-08-02)2 August 1845
Died9 March 1916(1916-03-09) (aged 70)
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK
Political partyLiberal
RelationsSee Leveson-Gower family
Parent(s)George, 2nd Duke of Sutherland
Lady Harriet Howard
EducationEton College
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge

Lord Ronald Charles Sutherland-Leveson-Gower (2 August 1845 – 9 March 1916), was a British sculptor, best known for his statue of Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. He also wrote biographies of Marie Antoinette and Joan of Arc, as well as serving as Liberal Member of Parliament for Sutherland. He was accused by the Prince of Wales of “unnatural practices” and was one of several society figures implicated in the Cleveland Street Scandal, where a male brothel was raided by police.

Early life[edit]

Born on 2 August 1845, he was the youngest son of eleven children, seven daughters and four sons, born to George, 2nd Duke of Sutherland (and 20th Earl) by his wife Lady Harriet Howard.[1] His surviving siblings included Lady Elizabeth Georgiana (1824–1878), who married the 8th Duke of Argyll; Lady Evelyn Gower (1825–1869), who married the 12th Lord Blantyre; Lady Caroline Gower (1827–1887), who married the 4th Duke of Leinster; George Gower (1828–1892), who became the 3rd Duke of Sutherland; Lady Constance Gower (1834–1880), who married the 1st Duke of Westminster; and Lord Albert Gower (1843–1874), who married Grace Abdy.

His paternal grandparents were George Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland and his wife Elizabeth Gordon, suo jure Countess of Sutherland. His maternal grandparents were George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle and Lady Georgiana Cavendish (1783–1858), herself the daughter of William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, and Lady Georgiana Spencer.

He was educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge.[2]


From 1867 to 1874, Gower served as a Liberal Member of Parliament for Sutherland. He made only one speech in the House during those seven years. Reportedly, "it was with some relief that, with the resignation of Gladstone's government at the beginning of 1874, he relinquished" his seat.[3] He was succeeded as MP by his nephew Cromartie, Marquess of Stafford (the elder surviving son of his eldest brother the 3rd Duke of Sutherland).[4]

He was a Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery and of the Birthplace and Shakespeare Memorial Building at Stratford-on-Avon.[5]

In 1889, he travelled to America and donated several of his works to prominent American museums.[6]

Creative work[edit]

Gower's statue of Hamlet in Stratford-upon-Avon

A sculptor, he also published a number of works on the fine arts. Lord Ronald shared a studio in Sir Joshua Reynolds's old home in Leicester Square with John O'Connor, an Irish landscape painter and theatrical designer.[3] In 1875, he travelled to Paris to begin sculpting in the studio of Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, one of the founding members of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.[3]

Gower's most important sculpture was the statue of Shakespeare and four of his principal characters, erected in Stratford-upon-Avon.[3] He also created a sculpture depicting Marie Antoinette on her way to the scaffold and another of a member of the Old Guard at Waterloo.[5]

He also wrote biographies of Marie Antoinette and Joan of Arc[7] and a history of the Tower of London.[5] He furthermore published My Reminiscences (pub. 1883), which was a memoir of his upbringing and life,[8] as well as Old Diaries 1881–1901 (pub. 1902).

Personal life[edit]

Gower's lover Frank Hird in 1894, chalk drawing by Henry Scott Tuke.

Gower, who never married, was well known in the homosexual community of the time. Oscar Wilde's story The Portrait of Mr. W. H. has been interpreted as a comment on Gower's social circle; Gower is generally identified as the model for Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray.[9] In 1879, hints of his homosexual liaisons published in the journal Man of the World led Gower to sue the paper, but later in the year the Prince of Wales sent him a letter accusing him of being "a member of an association for unnatural practices", to which Gower wrote an angry reply.[9]

John Addington Symonds, who stayed with him once, stated that Gower "saturates one's spirit in Urningthum [homosexuality] of the rankest most diabolical kind".[9] His most notable relationship was with the journalist Frank Hird (1873–1937), which lasted to the end of Gower's life. Gower later adopted Hird as his son,[dubious ] leading Wilde to remark on one occasion: "Frank may be seen, but not Hird." Gower died on 9 March 1916 at his home in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. He is buried, together with Hird, at St Paul's Church, Rusthall, Kent.[10]

1890 scandal[edit]

In 1890, Gower was implicated in the Cleveland Street Scandal.[11] The Cleveland Street Scandal itself took place in 1889 when a homosexual male brothel in Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia, London was discovered by police. Among others, it was rumoured that Prince Albert Victor, the eldest son of the Prince of Wales and 2nd in line to the British throne, had visited the brothel.[12] In 1890, Lord Ronald as well as Lord Errol were implicated,[13] along with prominent social figure Alexander Meyrick Broadley,[14][15] who fled abroad for four years.[16][17] The Paris Figaro even alleged that Broadley took General Georges Boulanger and Henri Rochefort to the house.[18]

1913 scandal[edit]

In 1913, Francis R. Shackleton (brother of the famed Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton) was charged with defrauding Gower of his fortune.[19] Reportedly, Gower entrusted Shackleton with $25,000 for him to invest in 1910. Shackleton induced Gower to purchase 5,000 shares in the City of Montevideo Public Works Corporation, which were essentially worthless shares that only benefited Shackleton.[20] The amount stolen by Shackleton was later claimed to be upwards of $200,000 from Gower and $30,000 from his "confidential friend", Frank Hird.[21] It was alleged that Shackleton initially met Ronald in 1905 and Hird in 1907, whom The New York Times referred to as Lord Ronald's adopted son.[21] Due to the loss, he was forced to sell his country house, Hammerfield at Penshurst in Kent, to Arnold Hills.[3]


  1. ^ "GOWER, Rt. Hon. Lord Ronald Sutherland-". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 711.
  2. ^ "Leveson-Gower, Lord Ronald Charles Sutherland (LV865LR)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ a b c d e Ward-Jackson, Dr. Philip (22 April 2017). "Lord Ronald Gower". 3rd Dimension – The PMSA Magazine & Newsletter. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  4. ^ "Pleasant Impressions.; a Titled Englishman Who Found Americans Intelligent and Well-Bred". The New York Times. 2 February 1879. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  5. ^ a b c "LORD RONALD S. GOWER DIES; Sculptor of the Statue of Shakespeare at Stratford Was 81" (PDF). The New York Times. 10 March 1916. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  6. ^ "Lord Gower's Gift.; Works of Art to Testify His Appreciation of New-York". The New York Times. 3 May 1889. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  7. ^ "A NEW LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC.; JOAN OF ARC. By Lord Ronald Gower, F.S. A New-York: Imported by Charles Scribner's Sons". The New York Times. 28 May 1893. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  8. ^ "AGREEABLE CHATTER.; Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower's Reminiscences of People and Things.*". The New York Times. 2 January 1904. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  9. ^ a b c David Getsy, Sculpture and the Pursuit of a Modern Ideal in Britain, C. 1880–1930, Asgate, London, 2004, p.64.
  10. ^ Hyde, H. Montgomery (1970), The Love That Dared not Speak its Name, Little, Brown, p. 156
  11. ^ "The London Scandals". The Press. Vol. XLVI, no. 7418. 9 December 1889. p. 6.
  12. ^ Aronson, p. 177
  13. ^ "The London Scandals", The Press (New Zealand), Volume XLVI, Issue 7418, 9 December 1889, p. 6
  14. ^ "The West End Scandal: Another Flight", Evening News (Sydney, Australia), Tuesday 14 January 1890
  15. ^ "Another London Society Leader Gone", The Salt Lake Herald, Wednesday 1 January 1890
  16. ^ "La Marquise de Fontenoy" (pseudonym of Marguerite Cunliffe-Owen), Chicago Tribune, 8 May 1916.
  17. ^ "Vanity Fair" by J.M.D., The Australasian (Melbourne), 22 September 1894.
  18. ^ "Boulanger Mixed Up in a Scandal", Chicago Tribune, 2 February 1890, p. 4
  19. ^ "COLOSSAL FRAUD. LORD RONALD GOWER RUINED. SIR E. SHACKLETON'S BROTHER CHARGED". The West Australian. 15 February 1913. p. 11.
  20. ^ "NEW SHACKLETON CHARGE.; Lord Ronald Gower Said to Have Been Swindled Out of $25,000". The New York Times. 22 January 1913. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  21. ^ a b "SAY F.R. SHACKLETON ROBBED SON OF DUKE; Former Dublin Herald Accused of Misappropriating $200,000 Fortune of Lord Ronald Gower". The New York Times. 14 February 1913. Retrieved 1 February 2018.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Sutherland
Succeeded by