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Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith

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Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith

by Cyril Flower, 1st Baron Battersea
platinum print, circa 1891-1894
7 7/8 in. x 5 3/4 in. (200 mm x 147 mm)
Purchased, 1982
Photographs Collection
NPG Ax15687

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  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 131 Read entry

    Cyril Flower, later Lord Battersea, Liberal MP, ardent huntsman, eccentric and passionate aesthete, took up photography in the 1880s. His friends were his favourite subject, and this portrait of the future Prime Minister Asquith comes from an album of 124 portrait photographs owned by the Gallery, which were taken at Aston Clinton, the family home of Flower's wife, Constance de Rothschild. They are redolent of the social life of the period. Asquith got to know Cyril Flower in the 1880s, and became something of a protégé. Lady Battersea writes of him in her Reminiscences (1922), in the chapter entitled 'Prime Ministers I have known', as

    a somewhat spare figure, carelessly dressed, a shapely head with smooth light-brown hair, a fine forehead, rather deep-set grey eyes, a pale complexion, such as one would expect in a hard-working student, a firm mouth that could break into a pleasant smile, no special charm of bearing or manner, but a low agreeable voice and a distinctly refined enunciation.

    This photograph was almost certainly taken shortly after the death of Asquith's first wife in 1891, and before his marriage to Margot Tennant in 1894, at about the time he first entered the Cabinet as Home Secretary.

    Lord Battersea died in November 1907, and his obituary in The Times ends with the announcement: 'In consequence of the death of Lord Battersea, Lord Rothschild's staghounds will not hunt today'.

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Current affairs

The Irish Nationalist leader Charles Parnell is forced to resign after being named in the divorce proceedings brought by William O'Shea against his wife Kitty, who had been Parnell's mistress for a decade. The scandal severely damages the campaign for the Home Rule Bill, contributing greatly to its subsequent failure. Parnell's health also suffered; he contracted rheumatic fever and died a few months after resigning.

Art and science

Thomas Hardy's publishes Tess of the D'Urbervilles, a tragedy which explores the consequences of the young Tess's seduction by the wealthy Alec D'Urberville. In the novel, Hardy sets forward his major concerns about the individual's powerlessness before fate, whilst radically critiquing the hypocritical double standards of contemporary morals.


The construction of Trans-Siberian railway, the longest single rail system in Russia, begins in the Urals and at Vladivostock. Running between Moscow and Vladivostock, work was completed in 1917.
The German aviation pioneer Otto Lilenthal takes off in the first glider from a hill near Potsdam, the first of many guided flights and an important step in the development of aerial technology.

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