Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Lillie's Love Nest.

The Jersey Lillie "Lillie Langtry."
A chance mention in a local paper of the Langtry Manor hotel, triggered this week’s blog post. The Langtry Manor resonates with me because my wedding reception was held there and its where I spent the first night of married life. Now I wont bore you with how my wedding was organised at 2 weeks notice and a quirk of fate meant our dream venue was free…because what I wanted to share was the history of this fascinating building and how it was Edward VII’s love nest for his mistress Lillie Langtry.
Pencil sketch of Lillie by Frank Miles.

To understand the Langtry Manor, you need to know about the lady it was bought for. Lillie Langtry was born in Jersey, 1853 as Emilie Charlotte Le Breton. The daughter of a clergyman, with six brothers she grew up a tom boy. Eager to have adventures of her own and surprised by the male interest, she married young Edward Langtry just six weeks after meeting him. It was a rushed ceremony, with the couple dressed in travelling clothes, because Edward wanted to catch the tide for his yacht “Red Gauntlet”
Lillie, as Cleopatra.

But Lillie’s new life bored her and after a bout of illness, she went to London to convalesce. In April 1877 she was walking in Hyde Park when a young artist, Walford Graham Robertson spotted her. He noticed a young woman and approaching and from her plain black bonnet and dress assumed her to be a milliner’s assistant. Robertson goes on to record:

“…the girl looked up and I all but sat flat down in the road. For the first and only time in my life I beheld perfect beauty!”

Her looks and creamy complexion soon earnt her the nickname ‘the Jersey Lillie’. Her beauty made her famous and provided an entrée into society. The Countess of Warwick described her thus:

“She had dewy violet eyes, a complexion like a peach. How can words convey the vitality, the glow, the mazoing charm tha made this fascinating woman the centre of any group she entered?”

Edward VII.

Artists flocked to paint her and a portrait by Sir John Millais came to Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) attention. He had his equirries engineer a discrete meeting with Lillie, which eventually led to her becoming his mistress. The problem then presented itself as to how they could meet privately. The Prince of Wales chose the rising seaside resort of Bournemouth, for their love nest. A building was commissioned and started in 1877 with Lillie’s initials carved into the foundation stone. Made of red brick (in subsequent decades painted a horrid peach colour) she called the building “The Red House” and had a wall plaque mounted saying “Dulce Domum” (Our Sweet House.)
The Red House - or Langtry Manor - as it is today.

The Red House became a refuge for Edward VII from the rigours of court. He had a peep hole built into the dining room wall, so he could check who was present before deciding whether to enter or not. Above this same room is a mintrels gallery, carved with the motto:

“They say? Let them say!”

With the passage of time The Red House was sold and became a hotel 'The Langtry Manor.' There were numerous secret passages and stairways, for him to visit his mistress anonymously. Although Edward took other mistresses, he remained friends with Lillie to the end of his life.
Lillie divorced Edward Langtry in 1887 and went on to enjoy a career on the stage. She died aged 75 in 1929.
Lillie endorsing Pears soap!

All of which means that you can appreciate the significance of the Langtry Manor and what a romantic location it was for my wedding.
How about you - what memories do you have of your wedding venue?
Leave a comment and share it with us.


  1. Hi Grace,

    What a lovely story, both yours and Lily's. We know Bournemouth well and visit often, but I can't remember ever having come across Langtry Manor. I shall Google map it for our next visit and do a drive past, just to see it for myself.

    Our wedding was a little more conventional and subdued (it was nearly 33 years ago, after all).
    We got married in my local parish church of St. Mary's, Rodbourne Cheney, Swindon, Wiltshire.

    Our wedding reception was held at The Blunsdon House Hotel, Blunsdon, Wiltshire. (which was not at all like the present day images below)

    We honeymooned at a guest house in Torquay, Devon, which is no longer there, but in those days was run by an ex-policeman and his wife, who made us feel very welcome, despite the fact that it rained for the entire week!!

    When I compare this to the £20,000 my niece has just spent on her wedding in the Cotswolds, I really do feel old!!


  2. Thank you for sharing that, Yvonne. I too honeymooned in Torquay -well for 3 nights. As mentionned in the post the wedding was arranged in 2 weeks - including the honeymoon (my fiance in the Navy and sent to Gulf War 1 on short notice.)The first night was spent at Langtry Manor, then 3 nights in Oscar's Hotel in Torquay and the last 3 nights at a B & B in Christchurch.
    I was working up until 8pm Friday when I was getting married at 11am Saturday, and went straight back to work after a week's honeymoon.
    I'm secretly jealous of those that take weeks off to prepare and then have a 3 week honeymoon. Still, I wouldnt swap!
    Grace x
    It makes me shake my h

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  4. It looks like a beautiful place! Thanks for taking us back in time, those are some gorgeous period pictures!


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