Those Magnificent Ladies


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Oh yes - and Sybil, Countess of Westmorland, who Vita Sackville-West modelled the character of Lady Roehampton on in 'The Edwardians'. She was the woman who went to the Devonshire House Ball as Hebe, Goddess of Youth, with a whole stuffed eagle perched on her shoulder. But then, she came from a genetically blessed family - Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland and the Countess of Warwick were her sisters or half-sisters, I seem to recall.
 
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sashka pozzetti

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I think Dolores was one of Luciles famous beauties, that modelled her sensational creations. There was another called Dinazarde She was even more successful after Lucile went bust and worked in Paris for one of the biggest 1920's designers Jean Patou. He more or less invented sports clothes like the tennis dress, and wanted stunning sporty American beauties to wear them. Dolores used to dress as a peacock for the Ziegfeld Follies, and then married a millionaire and never worked again. What a lifestyle for a gal!!!
 
Lily Elsie is my favorite too- that gorgeous huge hat with all the ostrich plumes! I actually think she is far more beautiful than Lily Langtry, whose great charm seems to have been that she could keep her mouth shut! I often wonder how she got a whole town named for her in Texas- maybe they all washed with Pears soap and admired her photograph on the advertising. I am wondering if Lily may have been the first mass-market commercial product pitchwoman? Anyone know?
 
>>I often wonder how she got a whole town named for her in Texas<<

Probably due in no small part to an admirer who had the juice to make it happen. "Judge" Roy Bean was supposed to be one such. He was also a whackjob who's idea of "Justice West Of The Pecos" was to hang just about anyone from a lamppost, rafter, or gnarley old oak tree but he was supposedly quite the admirer of Miss Lily. I doubt he was the only one.
 
How some of those women acquired their status as such legendary beauties baffles me too. Lillie was striking, certainly, but rather 'heavy' in appearance and her looks don't really impress us today. Having said that, of course, so much of beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so maybe we are right to rely on the testimony of those who actually saw her in the flesh and in her prime. I always remember that wonderful description of her offered by one man-about-town, just before Lillie was catapulted to fame (and notoriety) in the mid-1870s. He glimpsed her at Hyde Park Corner, in a plain black dress, and he later recalled that she was then so dazzling that he almost sat down in the middle of the street. But in old age she became positively mannish.

Then again...all we have to go by are grainy black and white photographs. Maybe her secret lay in her colouring, her eyes, her hair, her complexion and so forth. 'Respectable' ladies used little or no make-up so their natural, god-given charms really counted for something. And what about her walk, her smile, her voice and mannerisms - all things that are now lost to us but which can do so much to captivate and seduce...
 
The settlement of Langtry, Texas, grew from a railroad camp which was named after the engineer and gang foreman George Langtry. Roy Bean came later, and might have been attracted by the name. But there's no doubt who was the inspiration for the name (if not the spelling) of his saloon, The Jersey Lilly.
 
Ah, where else can one get instant answers to these pressing questions! Thanks one and all. Yes, I recall Francesca Annis ( my favorite Brit right after Diana Rigg) did a superb job of portraying Lily in a BBC production which aired in the early 80's I think. Yes, mannish is my impression too in later years, and a heavy jaw. The little black dress, I have read was a result of both initially, mourning and poverty, which she parlayed into her sympathetic signature.

Well, maybe photos do not do her justice- I think she had something which probably transcended mere beauty-the gift of conversation, a zest for life, and great loyalty to her friends. Worth more than good looks any day. Looks don't last.
 
...And then somebody - I suspect Patsy Cornwallis-West - 'borrowed' that little black dress (although it probably wasn't so little, what with bustle and bodice and all) to see if some of the allure would rub off on her. It didn't and the dress itself had been danced into rags by the time it was returned to its owner. So Lillie then decided to go a-shopping and soon acquired a ruinous taste for Worth and seed-pearl embroidery...
 
Does anyone recall that famous quote Old King Bertie had written on the walls of their famous Love Nest? It may have been in one of his hunting lodges or something- it starts something like "Let them say ..."- have been looking for this quote for ages. Nowadays Lily would have sold her juicy story to the National Inquirer for top dollar- the Edwardian's age of discretion is a thing of the past apparently.
 
"They say what say they? Let them say". Hardly worth looking for, was it? :) Judge Roy Bean could have done better. It's in what is now the Langtry Manor Hotel, Bournemouth.
 
Am just picturing the paternity suit in the manner of today with Prince Louis instead of Zsa-Zsa's "prince"- a la Anna Nicole. Nothing new under the sun. The Edwardians did things with more mystery and style though! Or had the grace to say nothing at all, and slip quietly away with some royal jewels and a charming mansion in the country.
 
As you probably know, it was that old mischief-maker, Margot Asquith, who let the cat out of the bag re. Prince Louis. When Lillie's daughter, Jeanne, was showing off her wedding presents, Margot asked (no doubt with a wicked gleam in her eye) 'and what did you get from your father?' The girl gestured towards something, I don't know what, and Margot replied 'no, no, I meant your REAL father' - and proceeded to enlighten her. The rift that ensued between mother and daughter was never healed, a cause of great sadness to Lillie in later life. You've got to hand it to these Edwardian grande dames for malice! Think of Gladys de Grey and Teresa Londonderry...
 
>>Am just picturing the paternity suit in the manner of today with Prince Louis instead of Zsa-Zsa's "prince"- a la Anna Nicole.<<

I think back then, the idea was to deny everything, not advertise it for all to see. Interesting how things change and why. Not that there's anything noble about any of these guys squabbling over the daughter of a second rate actress. If Anna Nicole had gone to her "reward" penniless...she didn't and her infant stands to inherit quite a pile of moolah by default...I doubt any of this would be happening now.

It's all about the money, but that never really changes at all, does it?

>>Think of Gladys de Grey and Teresa Londonderry...<<

Ehhhh...who are they?
 
They feature in what has to be my very favourite story of the era. Countess de Grey - tall, artistic and dazzlingly beautiful - was conducting a passionate affair with handsome man-about-town, Harry Cust (who himself had just concluded an affair with Violet Rutland, the product of which was Lady Diana Cooper). Anyway, Gladys's arch-rival in London Society was the coldly aloof and formidable Marchioness of Londonderry. When Gladys discovered that SHE was also enjoying Harry's favours, she decided to exact a terrible revenge. She bribed one of the servants at her unsuspecting lover's house and arranged to have the keys to his desk copied. Then, when he was out cavorting with Lady Londonderry, she went round and rifled through his papers, finally stumbling across some explicit love-letters between the two. These she took away with her and proceeded to read them aloud to her visitors over afternoon tea. When this got boring, she put them in a parcel and had it delivered to Lord Londonderry who was, by all accounts, a very proud and unbending man. He opened it whilst seated at dinner, alone with his wife. Once glance told him all he needed to know. Looking up, he fixed her with an icy glare and said: 'From henceforth, we do not speak'. And they never did - not for twenty or more years. They appeared at parties together, in their opera box, out driving in their carriage in Hyde Park, maintaining the facade of happily married life. But not a single word was ever again exchanged in private. When Lord Londonderry lay dying, his wife sent a message, requesting to see him. The answer came back, 'no'. And then he died.

It's a very famous tale - Vita Sackville-West makes use of it in 'The Edwardians'.
 
So that was that the Londonderrys! I remember reading about that in 'The It Girls', which I read years ago and so didn't remember the names involved.

The Countess of Fingall wrote extensively about her friendship with Lady Londonderry in her memoir, but didn't mention her friend's marital indiscretions.
 
Delicious wickedness! Puts me in mind of the recent film, The Ideal Husband with Rupert Everett and Minnie Driver, and my favorite swoon, Jeremy Northrup. Rent it for the costumes and sets alone!
 
Indeed it was the Londonderrys! Sackville-West used elements of the same story as the inspiration behind both the Templecombes and the Roehamptons in 'The Edwardians'. But I'd be interested to know how TRUE it all is. Gladys de Grey and Teresa Londonderry were both real enough but, to look at their photographs, you'd find it hard to believe they ever got up to such antics. Then again, Chips Channon found it worth-while relating the same tale in his diaries for the '30s or '40s so obviously it was still doing the rounds in the drawing rooms of smart London, even then.

Anita Leslie goes into much more detail in her very chatty 'Edwardians in Love'. Her grandmother knew the protagonists which might give it a bit more credibility. And this, incidentally, is the same book that contains that wonderful piece of advice imparted by one aristocratic mother to her debutante daughter: 'NEVER comment on a likeness'.
 
Is this the same Chips Channon who was such a bosom buddy of the Windsors? His diaries must be an eyeful! I must confess to being a huge fan of the late old duchess. Both the Windsors were such darlings of the transatlantic liners due to Wallis' fear of flying. She's lovable for that reason alone to me!
 
You mean you haven't read them? Then make haste to your nearest bookshop or log on to Amazon and buy a copy today! If you are a fan of the Windsors, you will LOVE them. Chips was very close to Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson and had a ring-side seat throughout the Abdication Crisis. His diaries give virtually hour-by-hour updates and are considered an invaluable primary resource for any student of the era.

What I like so much about Chips is that he is never blase or cynical about the ultra-glamorous circles in which he moves (although American by birth, he married a Guinness, the daughter of Lord Iveagh, so his wealth and social position were assured). He knew absolutely everybody - and I really do mean EVERYBODY - in London Society. One of his first diary entries, for example, describes a party he hosts, at which Douglas Fairbanks Jr is wheeled in at the last moment as 'the spare man', his guests dine off Napoleonic silver and where Cole Porter provides the after-dinner entertainment. But, unlike his friend and contemporary Cecil Beaton, Chips seems to have thoroughly and genuinely revelled in his life and his privileges. A sense of joie de vivre pours from every page, even in the darkest days of the Blitz, when bombs are falling all around. He was in Berlin for the '36 Olympics and was entertained by Ribbentrop, Goebbels AND Goering at progressively grander fetes. Back in England, his time was spent in constant motion between this stately home and that. Queen Mary popped round to chat about antique snuff-boxes and stayed for tea afterward. When Chips wasn't gossiping with duchesses or dining with Rothschilds, he was busy decorating his house in Belgrave Square - his 'Amalienberg' dining room ('cascades of turquoise and silver') by Boudin had to be seen to be believed. And his eye-witness accounts of the Coronations of both 1937 and 1953 make for wonderful reading too.

As far as 'Titanic' connections go...well, he never mentions the disaster out-right. But he was great pals with Elinor Glyn and is very distressed to hear of her death in the middle of the War. And many other Edwardian relics - Margot Asquith, Violet Rutland, Emerald Cunard - have walk-on roles.

I really can't recommend these diaries highly enough! You must read them yourself and then let me know what you think...
 
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