The Beauty’s Story – Lillie Langtry

Jersey: The Hidden Histories is an ideal Christmas present for anyone who loves the history of this beautiful Island. I was delighted that the story of Lillie Langtry was reprinted in this month’s Our Island magazine, which reaches nearly 16,000 homes in Jersey across several parishes. The drama and energy of the Victorian age has passed into deep history, but the legend of its greatest beauty will not fade.

Lillie Langtry by Millais (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Lillie Langtry by Millais (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

“She rose like Venus from the foam, a rare jewel of grace chipped from the rough granite of her homeland. She was born Emilie le Breton, they say, a Dean’s daughter from the Channel Island of Jersey, best known for its lowing cows and sturdy potatoes. From this unpromising turf, and after a marriage into minor money, she burst like a hurricane upon the London season.

Her alabaster shoulders; her divine chin, her strikingly short hair; she was an angle clad in a simple black dress. Men were stupefied and their wives could merely seethe and cringe. Before long great artists were scrambling to idolise her, her photographs were hawked on every street corner; men would scramble onto chairs or queue for hours merely to catch a passing glimpse of perfection”.

From Jersey: The Hidden Histories by Paul Darroch (c) 2015

 

 

 

A Royal Day Out – Queen Victoria in Gorey

September 2, 1846

Queen Victoria is coming and the Island is on fire. It is a hot night for fireworks, and some fool at Noirmont has set the entire hillside ablaze. The flames rage uncontrolled for hours, burning bright like a wild beacon from Norman days. The sleek Royal Yacht, the Victoria and Albert, is safely anchored far below in the darkness, nestled deep in the black embracing reach of St Aubin’s Bay. The immaculately liveried crew note the fire raging onshore and silently resume their duties. Suddenly the sky above is drenched in light again, as welcoming rockets explode like meteors over the bay. It is eleven o’clock and the royal couple stay out on deck, feasting their eyes on the extravaganza.

Philip John Ouless (1817-1885) artwork. Image source: (c) That Was Jersey, courtesy of Jersey Library and Jersey Archive at www.jeron.je

The hot September morning finally breaks. Twenty-seven year old Victoria awakes to sunlight sparkling over the deep ultramarine waters of St. Aubin’s Bay. The young Queen is astounded by the view; it is as beautiful as the Bay of Naples, she remarks to her husband. Albert, no stranger to the charms of the Neapolitan Riviera, dutifully agrees.

The energy and feverish optimism in the Island is contagious. Delirious crowds surge forward at the harbour, ready to throw flowers before their Sovereign. Parish Constables are fervently adding the finishing touches to magnificent floral arches. Destiny is calling little Jersey, if only for a day. The British Empire is ascending to greatness and the Queen commands the Workshop of the World, where a new era of Progress and Peace is self-evidently dawning. She is Defender of the Faith and Mother of the Nation. And best of all, she is our beloved Duc de Normandie, coming home to her oldest realm and surely its most beautiful Parish.

The Royal carriage is on its way to St Martin now, charging at a gallop through Five Oaks and making good time on the country roads. “It is extremely pretty and very green – orchards without end”, the Sovereign will note in her private diary later that evening.

Queen Victoria at last crosses into our tiny, loyal parish of St Martin-le-Vieux. The Royal carriage speeds downhill through Faldouet, shielded from the hot sun by the natural arch of trees over the road. And as the carriage clatters to a halt in front of Mont Orgueil, cheers erupt like fireworks. The parishioners of St Martin erupt in loud and loyal acclamation: “God Save Victoria!”

The arrival of Her Majesty at Mont Orguiel

Philip John Ouless (1817-1885) artwork. Image source: (c) That Was Jersey, courtesy of Jersey Library and Jersey Archive at www.jeron.je

Text from A Royal Day Out: Young Victoria in Gorey (published in Les Nouvelles de St Martin, May 2014)