Lily was often described in the press as the most beautiful woman in the world. This, in itself, was enough to make audiences flock to the theatre to see her—men and women both—though not necessarily for the same reasons. In addition to her reputation for physical beauty, Lily had obtained a legendary notoriety as the mistress of the Prince of Wales, later to be King Edward VII.
Growing up in Jersey with several older brothers, Lily Langtry acquired a toughness and practicality that stood her in good stead all her adult life. Interestingly, her own father, Rev. William Corbet Le Breton, himself engaged in several extra-marital affairs which may have contributed to how easily Lily later followed in her father’s footsteps.
At the age of twenty, Lily married a wealthy landowner, Edward Langtry, whom she correctly calculated as her ticket out of the backwater of the Channel Islands. They moved to a fashionable district of London and, almost instantly, Lily made a great splash in society. Portrait painters jostled for the opportunity to paint her. She was invited to all the most important functions, including those of royalty.
More about Lily on the next post.