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Lafayette, an Irishman, born James Lauder (1853-1923), founded his business in Dublin in 1880 and by the 1890s had branches in Glasgow, Manchester, Belfast and London.

Popular success came after he recorded Alexandra, Princess of Wales, in academic dress when she was given an honorary degree in Dublin in 1885. 60,000 copies of the picture were sold. He was later commissioned by the Duchess of Devonshire to photograph the guests at her Diamond Jubilee costume ball and was much in demand by princes and rulers visiting London for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902.