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On this day in history in 1853, was born Lillie Langtry.
Langtry was a vicarís daughter who became an actress and a courtesan with connections to royalty.
Emilie Charlotte Le Breton, known as Jersey Lily, was born in 1853 on the Island of Jersey. She was the only daughter of the Rev William Le Breton, dean of Jersey, who had her tutored by a French governess, in the hope that she would make a good marriage. In 1874, aged twenty-one, she was married to Edward Langtry, a landowner and racehorse mogul. The couple took up residence in London, but the marriage was not successful, as neither party took the marriage vows to be crucial to the wedded state. There was one child, Jeanne Marie Langtry, the putative daughter of Prince Louis of Battenberg, an ancestor of HRH Prince Charles on his fatherís side.
In 1881, Langtryís husband was adjudicated bankrupt, obliging her to take up employment. Langtry was noted for her great beauty and, on that account, it was suggested that she could take up a career on the stage. Langtry opened at the Haymarket Theatre as Kate Hardcastle in She Stoops To Conquer. The idea of a society lady appearing on stage was original, sensational and scandalous. The critics reported on all her appearances but did not take her performances seriously. However, in the course of time, it became clear that Langtry was a capable actress who endeared herself to the public.
One of her great admirers was Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. The two became lovers, although Edward never officially recognised the relationship. The couple set up house together at Langtry Manor, Bournemouth, now a five star hotel, with an outstanding cuisine. [Langtry Manor Hotel, 26 Derby Road, Bournemouth, BH1 3QB]
Although Langtry maintained her relationship with Edward until he succeeded to the throne in 1901, she reserved the privilege of having many other lovers. She toured the United States where she attracted an enormous following. One of her admirers was Judge Roy Bean who founded the town of Langtry in Texas. Bean named the town saloon the Jersey Lily and held court there, with a portrait of Langtry in place of national and state flags. Bean built an opera house in the hope that Langtry would come to his town, which she did in due course but only after he was dead.
In 1899, Langtry became an American citizen and took up residence in California, where she divorced her husband and married the much younger Hugo de Bathe. In 1917, Langtry moved to Monte Carlo where she lived until her death in 1929. She is buried in the churchyard of St Saviourís Church, Jersey where her father had been rector. [St Saviourís Church, St Saviour, Channel Isles] There is pub in Norwich, named the Lillie Langtry, containing memorabilia of the late Nineteenth Century theatre. [Lillie Langtry, 79 Unthank Road, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 2PE]
Lillie Langtry with a Jersey Lilly (Amaryllis Belladonna) in her hair.
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