Lily Langtry became Lady de Bathe in 1907 after her husband succeeded to the title. They inherited various properties including a 17 bedroom home in Sussex called Woodend.
Langtry, born Emilie Charlotte Le Breton in 1853, married widower Edward Langtry in 1874 and moved to London from her home in Jersey. Her beauty and charm attracted attention in society and she was introduced to Edward, Prince of Wales, who became her lover. Their affair lasted until 1880, by which time she had achieved celebrity status – but not financial security. Her name was linked with other men at this time including the Earl of Shrewsbury and Prince Louis of Battenberg. She also had a child born in 1881 – a daughter she named Jeanne Marie.
Her friend, Oscar Wilde, suggested she try acting as a way of making money. Langtry was coached by actress Henrietta Labouchere (wife of Liberal MP Henry Labouchere) before appearing in an amateur production in 1881. Success in the professional theatre followed and she was invited to tour in the USA. In New York she met a young wealthy American called Frederick Gebhard with whom she had an affair that lasted for about 9 years – despite her still being married to Edward Langtry.
The relationship with Gebhard cooled and in 1891 Langtry met a young wealthy Scotsman called George Alexander Baird. His passions were horse racing and boxing and he gave Langtry a horse called Milford that won several races for her. She had to register it under the colours of “Mr Jersey”, because this was still a male preserve.
Whilst in this relationship with Baird she travelled to Paris with another lover. Baird found out and flew into a violent rage. They eventually returned to some kind of normality after Baird gave her gifts of jewellery and a 200ft luxury yacht. Baird died in 1893 aged just thirty-three.
Langtry’s relationships with Gebhard and Baird fostered her interest in horse racing. After Baird’s death she acquired several horses and had them trained at Newmarket. Many wealthy owners also had horses in training there including the Prince of Wales, whose residence at Sandringham was about 45 miles to the north of Newmarket. In 1895 Langtry purchased a house in the area called Regal Lodge in the village of Kentford where she trained and kept her horses.
Hugo Gerald de Bathe
In 1897 Langtry at last secured a divorce from her husband Edward. Almost immediately the popular press spread rumours of her impending marriage to Prince Esterhazy. This was not to be, but in 1899 she did remarry, and her new husband was 28 year old Hugo Gerald de Bathe. His father, Sir Henry de Bathe, 4th Baronet – who was himself a competent amateur actor – did not approve of the marriage.
When Sir Henry died in 1907 the title passed to Hugo by succession, at which time Langtry became Lady de Bathe. Hugo inherited properties in Sussex, Devon and Ireland; those in Sussex were in the hamlet of West Stoke near Chichester. These were:
- Woodend, 17 bedrooms set in 71 acres;
- Hollandsfield, 10 bedrooms set in 52 acres;
- Balsom’s Farm of 206 acres.
Woodend was retained as their residence whilst the smaller Hollandsfield was let. Lady Helen Percy, daughter of the 7th Duke of Richmond and the future Duchess of Northumberland, became one of their tenants.
During the early years of the 19th century Woodend had been owned by Sir George Cranfield Berkeley (1753-1818) . He married Emilia Charlotte Lennox, a grand-daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond. Their daughter, Louisa Emily Anne, married Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy, who commanded HMS Victory at Trafalgar. After Hardy’s death in 1839 Louisa remarried to Lord Charles Rose Ellis, 1st Baron Seaford, and they lived at Woodend until his death in 1845. Today the buildings retain their period appearance, but modifications and additions have been made and the complex is now multi-occupancy. One of the houses on the site is named Langtry and another Hardy.
The Duke of Richmond’s Goodwood estate bordered the de Bathe’s Sussex properties. Langtry attended social events there and her horses ran at the Goodwood race track; these included Merman, who won the prestigious Goodwood Cup in 1899 on the day of her wedding to Hugo.
Sale of their properties
She remained on friendly terms with the Prince of Wales, meeting him on social occasions, at race meetings and he visited her at her home in Kenford. Langtry retained Regal Lodge until it was sold in 1919; Hugo sold his properties at the same time and the couple moved to the South of France – but lived separately.
Langtry died in Monaco on 12 February 1929. Hugo remarried after her death and he died in 1940. His nephew, Christopher Albert de Bathe, became the 6th Baronet but in 1941 was killed in an aircraft crash, and with no male successor the baronetcy became extinct.
Footnote: In 1922, London County Council alderman, Louis Courtauld, and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, were living in the de Bathe’s old Hollandsfield house in West Stoke. A shocking discovery was made by a servant in their bedroom on February 6. Mr Courtauld, whilst deranged, had shot his wife and cut his own throat. Louis Courtauld was the nephew of George Courtauld, textile manufacturer.