Lord Ronald Gower

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Portrait of Lord Ronald Gower by Henry Scott Tuke, 1897

Lord Ronald Charles Sutherland-Leveson-Gower[1]) 1845–1916, known as Lord Ronald Gower, was a Scottish aristocrat, Liberal politician, sculptor and writer.[2]


He was born at the family's London residence Stafford House (now Lancaster House) in St James's, the youngest son of the 2nd Duke of Sutherland and the former Lady Harriet Howard, daughter of the 6th Earl of Carlisle. He was educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge.[3]

He was Liberal MP for Sutherland from 1867 to 1874, and was succeeded as MP by his nephew Cromartie, Marquess of Stafford (the elder surviving son of his eldest brother the 3rd Duke of Sutherland). He was a Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, and of the Birthplace and Shakespeare Memorial Building at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Creative work

Gower's statue of Hamlet in Stratford upon Avon

A sculptor, he also published a number of works on the fine arts. His most important sculpture was the statue of Shakespeare and four of his principal characters, erected in Stratford-upon-Avon. 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.

He wrote biographies of Marie Antoinette and Joan of Arc, and a history of the Tower of London.[4]

Personal life

Gower's lover Frank Hird, by Henry Scott Tuke (1894)
He never married, and was well known among 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, and Gower is generally identified as the model for Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray.[5] 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.[5] John Addington Symonds, who stayed with him once, stated that Gower "saturates ones spirit in Urningthum [homosexuality] of the rankest most diabolical kind".[5]

Gower's most notable lover was the journalist Frank Hird, a relationship that lasted to the end of his life. Gower adopted Hird as his son, leading Wilde to remark on one occasion, "Frank may be seen, but not Hird."[6]

When not travelling, Lord Ronald and Hird resided at Hammerfield, Penshurst, Kent, until 1911. In that year, with his mental powers already impaired by falls suffered during epileptic fits, Lord Ronald was bankrupted after entrusting his financial affairs to a confidence trickster. He was obliged to sell his home and collections, and ended his life in greatly reduced, though still comfortable, circumstances at 66 Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells. In his later years he had been a crusader for cremation, and after his death on 9 March 1916 his body was cremated at Golders Green, and his ashes were interred at Rusthall, Kent, on 14 March 1916.[7]


Partly based on a Wikipedia article.

  1. pronounced loóssŏn gór, IPA ['lusən 'gɔr] – BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names, Oxford University Press, 1971
  2. http://books.google.com/books?id=yEcuAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA711 "GOWER, Rt. Hon. Lord Ronald Sutherland- Who's Who, 1907 59 page 711
  3. http://venn.lib.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/search.pl?sur=&suro=c&fir=&firo=c&cit=&cito=c&c=all&tex=%22LV865LR%22&sye=&eye=&col=all&maxcount=50 "Leveson-Gower, Lord Ronald Charles Sutherland (LV865LR)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9906E0D91F38E633A25753C1A9659C946796D6CF&oref=slogin New York Times Obituary, 1916
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 David Getsy, Sculpture and the Pursuit of a Modern Ideal in Britain, C. 1880-1930, Asgate, London, 2004, p.64.
  6. H Montgomery Hyde The Love That Dared not Speak its Name Little, Brown, 1970 page 156
  7. http://www.oxforddnb.com/templates/article.jsp?articleid=38863&back=,4500,16544