Partner Frank Hird, buried together
Eton College, Windsor SL4 6DW, Regno Unito
University Of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2, Regno Unito
Hammerfield Cottage, Penshurst, Tonbridge TN11 8HZ, Regno Unito
Mayo House, 66 Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells TN4 8BG, Regno Unito
St Paul, Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells TN4 8UL, Regno Unito
Lord Ronald Charles Sutherland-Leveson-Gower (2 August 1845 – 9 March 1916), known as Lord Ronald Gower, was a Scottish Liberal politician, sculptor and writer from the Leveson-Gower family.
Lord Gower was born 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. 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, Lord Albert Gower (1843–1874), married Grace Abdy.
His paternal grandparents were George Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland and his wife Elizabeth Gordon, de 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.
From 1867–1874, he was a Liberal Member of Parliament for Sutherland. He made only one speech in the House, even though he held the seat for a many years. Reportedly, "it was with some relief that, with the resignation of Gladstone’s government at the beginning of 1874, he relinquished" his seat. 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).
He was a Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, and of the Birthplace and Shakespeare Memorial Building at Stratford-on-Avon.
In 1889, he traveled to America and donated several of his works to prominent American museums.
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 the John O’Connor, an Irish landscape painter and theatrical designer. In 1875, he traveled 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.
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 also wrote biographies of Marie Antoinette and Joan of Arc and a history of the Tower of London. He furthermore published Reminiscences which was a memoir of his upbringing and life.
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, and Gower is generally identified as the model for Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray. 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.
John Addington Symonds, who stayed with him once, stated that Gower "saturates one's spirit in Urningthum [homosexuality] of the rankest most diabolical kind". His most notable relationship was with the journalist Frank Hird (1873–1937), which lasted to the end of Hird's life. Gower later adopted Hird as his son, leading Wilde to remark on one occasion: "Frank may be seen, but not Hird." They are buried together at St Paul's Parish Church, Rusthall, Kent.
Lord Ronald Gower died on 9 March 1916 at his home in Tunbridge Wells, a town in western Kent, England, about 40 miles (64 km) south-east of central London.
In 1890, Gower was implicated in the Cleveland Street Scandal. 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. In 1890, Lord Ronald as well as Lord Errol were implicated, along with the prominent social figure Alexander Meyrick Broadley, who fled abroad for four years. The Paris Figaro even alleged that Broadley took General Georges Boulanger and Henri Rochefort to the house.
In 1913, Francis R. Shackleton (brother of the famed Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton) was charged with defrauding Gower of his fortune. Reportedly, Lord Gower entrusted Shackleton with $25,000 for him to invest in 1910. Shackleton induced Lord Ronald to purchase 5,000 shares in the City of Montevideo Public Works Corporation, which were essentially worthless shares that only benefited Shackleton. The amount stolen by Shackleton was later claimed to be upwards of $200,000 from Lord Ronald and $30,000 from his "confidential friend"; Frank Hird. 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. Due to the loss, he was forced to sell his country house, Hammerfield at Penshurst in Kent, to Arnold Hills.