PROMINENT EARLY CAT FANCIERS - LADY MARCUS BERESFORD
Lady Marcus Beresford has a rather lively history. She was born Louisa Catherine Ridley in 1846. Louisa first married Henry Bloomfield Kingscote in March 1870, but the couple divorced in 1871 when Louisa eloped with Charles Francis Buller whom she married in 1873. She married Marcus Beresford, with whom she had been having a long-term affair, in 1895 after Buller died of alcoholism. Her only recorded child with Sir Marcus Beresford did not survive.
Lord Marcus Talbot de la Poer Beresford (1848 –1922) was the son of the 4th Marquess of Waterford. He ran the stables of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales from 1890. In 1895, he married Louisa Catherine Ridley (1846-1920), daughter of Major-General Charles William Ridley and his wife Henrietta. On the Prince´s accession as King Edward VII in 1901, Beresford was appointed an Extra Equerry and Manager of His Majesty´s Thoroughbred Stud. After King Edward VII died in 1910, King George V appointed Beresford in charge of his stables, a position Beresford kept until his own death in 1922.
Something that confuses many is the dates clash in the register of The National Cat Club. Although did not marry Lord Marcus until August, 1895, a cat she bred by her and which born in July, 1894 was recorded in the register having been bred by Lady Marcus Beresford. She received a gift of Siamese cats from Lord Marcus in or before 1894, and the 1894 Cruft Cat Show, held on the 7th and 8th of March, 1894 had Lord Marcus Beresford as its President, which shows that he began sponsoring cat fancy activities well ahead of his marriage to Louisa . . . and thereby hangs a tale of scandal!
From The Chicago Tribune June 7, 1891: “Of the other prominent turfmen whose ventures those of the Prince [of Wales] always suggest, it may be said, the affairs of Baron Hirsch do not prosper. He employs as the trainer of his horses Lord Marcus Beresford, a protege of the Prince of Wales and the second brother of the Marquis of Waterford, [. . .] Lord Marcus lives with Mrs. Charlie Buller, a beautiful woman, who was the daughter of a General in the English army, and who was known in Dublin years ago as “Unlimited Loo.” She married Capt. Kingscote, an officer of artillery and a brother of Col Nigel Kingsote, who is one of the equerries to the Prince of Wales. She ran away, however, from him with a handsome man about town, and the famous cricketer, Charlie Buller, whom she married after her husband had obtained a divorce from her. Buller took to drink and low company. Upon this she bolted once more, this time with Lord Marcus, by whom she had one child, which died. Buller tried to obtain a divorce from her while this liaison was going on, but failed. Mrs. Buller is an engaging companion and a devoted adherent of that doctrine [agnosticism] which finds one of its most eloquent disciples in Col Bob lngersoll. Lord Marcus has rather a domineering disposition and therefore fails to conciliate the right people.”
From The Chicago Tribune June 24, 1891: “Like Napoleon III, [The Prince of Wales] is far too careless of the character and tone of his entourage [. . . ] Thus he is a constant visitor to the house of Lord Marcus Beresford, whose establishment is presided over by the lovely but exceedingly notorious Mrs. Charlie Buller. The latter is the daughter of the late Gen. Ridley, and eloped from her first husband, Col. Kingscote, of the Artillery, with Capt. Charles Buller of the Horse Guards, an officer whose claims to fame are based upon his record as a cricketer and as the first discoverer of Mabel Gray, the London counterpart of the Parisian Corn Pearl. Subsequently the divorce court permitted Mrs. Kingscote to contract a marriage with Capt. Buller. Matrimony, however, in its legal form proved far too commonplace to suit her, and she in course of time abandoned Buller for Lord Marcus Beresford. Once more she figured as the heroine of a divorce case, Lord Marcus being the co-respondent. But although the charges [adultery] against her were proved, yet the character of Buller was such that he was held to have been a cognizant and consenting party to her infidelity. The result was that the Queen’s Proctor intervened and the divorce was refused. Since then she has lived openly with Lord Marcus as his wife. Although the number of her liaisons has been such that she is popularly known by the name of “Unlimited Loo,” and that at the time of her last appearance in the divorce court it was suggested that the entire Carlton Club should be included among the list of co-respondents, yet her boudoir and drawing rooms are crowded with portraits of the Prince of Wales bearing his royal autograph, and in many cases a few words of affections for his ‘dear Loo.’”
That last comment suggests that the Prince of Wales, well known for his sexual appetite, had likely sampled the delights of Unlimited Loo. Unlimited Loo was the name of a very high stakes “winner takes all” card game. The indiscreet Louisa was evidently not a fan of marital fidelity. Did the 49 year old Louisa tire of scandal and settle down, or did Lord Beresford allow her to have lovers? Perhaps the once wild Loo simply found new outlets – such as the cat fancy - for her energies.
The Times Picayune of July 10, 1899, explains all, in an article on divorce among the aristocracy: “In fact, nowadays divorce can no longer be regarded as a bar to admission to court, and to such an extent has Lady Marcus Beresford resumed her position in society that no one need despair of seeing her ultimately appearing at Buckingham palace, although her last divorce case, in which her present husband figured as co-respondent, was one of the most disgraceful and disreputable of any that have come up for hearing in recent years. It was but the other day that at the close of the Ascot races the prince of Wales attended a dinner at her home, a large party of great ladies, and of the most dignified and ultra-respectable noblemen being invited to meet him. Yet she used to go in London by the name of '‘Unlimited Loo,” was in the act of being divorced by her first husband, from whom she bad eloped, when he suddenly died. She thereupon married the man with whom she had eloped, namely Charlie Buller, of the Horse Guards, whom she deserted for the sake of Lord Marcus Beresford. Buller’s attempt to secure a divorce from her was frustrated by testimony to the effect that he was in the habit of dining as a guest at the establishment kept up by Lord Marcus Beresford and by his wife, who passed at the time under the name of Lady Marcus. Buller eventually drank himself to death, and thereupon his widow legalised her relations with Lord Marcus.”
Helen Winslow, in her 1900 book “Concerning Cats” wrote that “Lady Marcus Beresford had been in the business of breeding and rearing cats “for the last fifteen years,” but a quote for Lady Marcus Beresford on the same page says that her catteries were established in 1890, and once comprised around 150 cats and kittens. According to W.M. Elkington in “'The Lady's Realm” (also 1900), "Lady Marcus Beresford has long kept cats as pets, but it is only six or seven years since she went in largely for breeding show specimens. She was the prime mover in Cruft's great cat show in 1894."
According to The Roanoke Times, 4th January, 1898 (“Cat Crazy”), “Lady Marcus Beresford keeps 200 cats at her country place near Windsor. They are from all parts of the world, and of all colors, from terra cotta to Russian blue. Every afternoon three footmen bring trays of saucers and lay them out on the lawn in front of the house in rows, and every cat feeds in its own special place, without encroaching on its neighbors. Lady Marcus is said to be the heroine of two elopements and of three divorce cases. She is the inseparable companion of the young Countess of Dudley and the Duchesses of St. Albans and Bedford, who are as cat crazy as herself.”
The Northern Whig (3rd February 1899), ran an article on Lady Marcus Beresford: “Dozens of ladies nowadays are engaged in the breeding of cats on scientific lines (says a writer in “M.A.P.”), and most of them, according to their own statements have contrived to make their hobby a financial success. It is no uncommon thing to see daintily marked specimens, for which £50 is asked. In the Cat Club Show last week there were several animals priced at £100, and one was marked at no less than £300! Lady Marcus Beresford has for the last fifteen years made quite a business of the breeding and rearing of cats. At Bishopsgate, near Egham, she has what is without doubt the finest cattery – as such establishments are called in the cat world.
“I have applications from all parts of the world for my cats and kittens,” said Lady Marcus, in a chat about her hobby, “and I may tell you that it is largely because of this that I founded the Cat Club, which has for its object the general welfare of the cat and the improvement of the breed. My catteries were established in 1890, and at one time I had as many as 130 cats and kittens. They were a source of great amusement to both my guests and myself, especially if tea was served on the lawn, for the lawn was made their playground. Apart from the pleasure and amusement of keeping cats, you know, the pussies can be made a good source of income. I know of one instance where a friend of mine cleared about seventy pounds annually by means of a pair of blue Persians – Beauty Boy and Bluette. I have started many of my poorer friends in cat breeding, and they have proved conclusively how easily an addition to their income can be made, not only by breeding good Persian kittens and selling them, but by exhibiting them at various shows and taking prizes. But of course there is a fashion in cats as in everything else. When I started breeding blue Persians about fifteen years ago they were very scarce, and I could easily get £5 apiece for my kittens. Now this variety is less sought after, and self-silvers, commonly called chinchillas, are in demand.”
Monmouthshire Beacon (3rd March 1899) had this article entitled “Lady Marcus Beresford’s Cattery”: “At the recent Cat Club Show, Lady Marcus Beresford exhibited no fewer than twenty-five specimens. At Bishopgate, near Egham, she has a regular “cattery,” where many as 150 cats and kittens have sometimes been housed. There is a separate little cottage for them and their attendants, one maid and a boy, and another dwelling called “The Garden Cattery.” Rows of bowls and platters are ranged in orderly fashion on the kitchen walls. Rice, fish, minced meat, with occasionally admixture of vegetables, provide variety for pussy’s diet, and Swiss milk is preferred to fresh as being less wasteful; it does not go sour. The kittens, however, get goats’ milk. Some of the cats are very valuable. Among them is one which Lord William Beresford brought with him from Cashmere. Lady Beresford’s blue Persian kittens have been usually valued at five pounds apiece”.
The Tatler (25th September 1901), the celeb magazine of its time, writes “Lady Marcus Beresford’s championship cat show at the Leopold Institute, Slough, on the 27th inst. will attract society votaries of the now widely-spread cat cult. Lady Marcus and her friends and various cat clubs are offering cups and valuable prizes for competition. Lily Duchess of Marlborough, Edith Duchess of Wellington, and Lord Marcus Beresford are to act as presidents. Several London professionals are going to help in the entertainment to be given on the day of the show, and Princess Christian, to whose nursing home at Windsor the funds of the show are to be devoted, has promised her patronage. Lady Marcus is an enthusiastic lover of cats, and has met with great success in breeding pets of high degree. The habitations of these cat aristocrats form quite a colony in the grounds of Lord and Lady Marcus Beresford’s house at Englefield Green.”
According to The Allentown Leader (Oct 22, 1904), "Lady Marcus Beresford, who founded England’s Cat Club, is said to have the best cattery known. She has, of course, the choicest breeds, rare Persians, Chinchillas with their bushy tails and Manx cats without any tail whatever. She has a cat cottage where every provision has been made for comfort and cleanliness." However, via The New York Times of Sunday, January 24, 1904 we learn “Lady Marcus Beresford liquidates her cattery. For some reason or other Lady Marcus Beresford has given up her various cat clubs, has resigned the Presidency of the largest and most notable of these organizations in London, and is to dispose of her many pets and charges by selling them to fanciers or to private parties. Lady Marcus Beresford has for some years made this cat culture a special fad. It is said that the Cat Club in London will now go into dissolution. The recent exhibition in New York showed several cat clubs in a most flourishing condition here, and some of the catteries here intend to purchase a few of the Beresford animals. They have been pictured for years in the various English magazines and are considered to be quite wonderful of their kind. Lady Marcus Beresford was originally Miss Louisa Katherine Ridley, the daughter of an army officer.”
"The cat fancy has much for which to thank Lady Marcus Beresford, and if the rumour of her secession from its ranks is true, it is an evil day for exhibiting catdom. A more unselfish supporter of shows is not possible, and her efforts to stop sickness and fraud at shows are well known. The cat world would never have had such prominence given to their hobby had this remarkable cat lover neglected to finance the excellent and charitable shows she organised twice a year. I have also known her on occasion to enter twelve cats in one class in order that the class should pay the promoters, and so the cat herself be properly represented. Some¬times she has entered her cats thus liberally, knowing that she could not get even a third prize of five shillings — either they were out of coat or too young but Lady Marcus heeded not. Were not the cats making new friends ? Lady Marcus will, of course, keep two of her favourite Siamese, which are of the best in England, the one named “It” being especially good ; she will also keep some silvers." – Boudoir Magazine, 1904
“Lady Marcus has been a celebrated beauty and is very clever. For despite two sensational divorces and antecedents sufficient to ruin forever the position of any woman, she has managed since her marriage to Lord Marcus to recover a very remarkable foothold in society, mainly through her organization of the National Cat club, with herself as secretary and manager, and with all sorts of leaders of the great world as officers and Directors. If to-day cats have their ‘peerage,’ like dogdom, in the Kennel Book and horses in the Stud Book, it is entirely due to her initiative; and her altogether unique understanding of Angoras, Persians, Maltese, and other patrician pets of the feline race has had the effect of causing people interested in cats to pass a sponge over her former in-discretions.” Published in the New York Times article “Women Began Feud that Agitates the British Navy: To a Social Feud Between the Wives of Two Admirals Is Attributed the Present Demoralization Existing in English Naval Circles.” written by “a Veteran Diplomat” and published on July 26, 1908.
Lady Marcus Beresford died in 1920 and Lord Marcus Beresford died 2 years later.