When he returned to finally settle in England in 1860, he was viewed suspiciously as not quite British. He spoke a few languages and had the sophisticated viewpoint and tastes of a world traveler.
Leighton remained a bachelor for his entire life. There were rumors of a child born out of wedlock with one of his favorite female models, and of several very close male companions. But his family wealth and social status kept him at a distance from any scandal.
He was the most successful of the Victorian painters, having sold one of his early works to Queen Victoria and having been the first artist to receive peerage. Unfortunately his baronetcy was short-lived, as he died the following day of angina pectoris.
He was friends with Ingres, Corot, and Millet. George Bernard Shaw was said to have based the sexually ambiguous Henry Higgins of Pygmalion on him. Although he was considered a classic salon painter, influences from the symbolists, the Pre-Raphaelites, and the aesthetes can be seen in his work.