23rd February 1929
Lillie Langtry is buried in her parents’ tomb
Emilie Charlotte Langtry, better known as Lillie, was born to the dean of Jersey, in his rectory, in 1853. She died in Monte Carlo, aged 75, in February 1929. Between those two dates she became one of the most famous women on the planet, and renowned for her beauty. But it wasn’t only her looks that brought Lillie fame: she was also an accomplished actress, working on both sides of the Atlantic.
She’d been born Le Breton, and earned her Langtry surname when she married, aged 20, an Irish landowner called Edward, who was 10 years her senior. Edward Langtry was rich, and he moved his new wife to one of London’s most expensive neighbourhoods, where she quickly became a member of London’s high society.
In this way, she met Sir John Everett Millais, for whom she sat while he painted her portrait. He titled the work A Jersey Lily. The nickname stuck.
In 1877, Lillie met the Prince of Wales, who would later become King Edward VII. They struck up a relationship and she became his mistress, even being introduced to Queen Victoria, who was reigning monarch at the time. Remarkably, Princess Alexandra, the prince’s wife, knew all about Lillie’s relationship with her husband, and is said even to have acknowledged her.
The relationship drew to a close when Lillie fell pregnant, apparently not with the prince’s baby, and she departed for France to give birth. She later had a second royal affair, with Prince Louis of Battenberg and, over the years, with a number of other nobles.
Star of the theatre
Langtry eventually found her way onto the stage upon the urging of her friend Oscar Wilde, and had a fair degree of success which, over the years, earned her enough to set up her own theatre company and lease a London theatre. Her interests branched out into horse racing, and she owned several horses of her own, one of which won the Ascot Gold Cup.
She bought several American ranches and took American citizenship, later becoming Lady de Bathe when her second husband’s father died and the title passed down the family line. Unfortunately, this second marriage seems not to have been a close relationship, with Lillie moving to Monaco and her husband to Vence, in Provence. She died in Monaco on 12 February 1929.
However, she clearly had not forgotten her Jersey roots. As well as having been married back on the island, she had asked to be buried in her parents’ tomb at St Saviour’s Church. Her wishes were carried out on 23 February.
FREE Jersey history newsletter
Don't miss our weekly update on Jersey's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want.