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|The Squire of Stichill and Lillie Langtry||Ancient Bairds of Peebleshire|
Lillie Langtry and George Baird of Stichill
Born, Emilie Charlotte Le Breton, in St Saviour on the island of Jersey on October 13th 1853, her father William Corbet Le Breton was the Dean of Jersey and Rector of St Saviours. Her first marriage in March 1874, was to Edward Langtry, a wealthy Irish landowner. Her father performed the service, and after an informal wedding supper, the couple sailed away in their own liner, 'Red Gauntlet'.
Lillie soon joined the society set and met a large number of the intellectuals of the time, of whom, Oscar Wilde was probably the most famous. Soon, she was asked to sit for a portrait by Everett Millais, the resulting work being nominated 'Picture of the Year' at the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1874. Others were clamouring to paint her, including James Whistler. By 1877, copies of her portrait were on sale all over London. Postcards appeared and she became the first 'pin-up'. She was also among the first to endorse commercial products, her near perfect complexion being ideal for Pears Soap.
Her latest escort was Prince Louis of Battenberg, Bertie's nephew. They carried on a passionate affair for two years, but when she became pregnant, the royals closed ranks and immediately sent Louis back to serve in the navy, Lillie left for France to avoid a scandal. Her daughter Jeanne-Marie was born in 1881.
Back in England in 1890, Lillie began to develop an interest in horse racing. She became friends with Lord Hugh Lonsdale and George Chetwynd, and through them met the Scottish millionaire George Baird who owned a stable of thoroughbreds. He was an obsessively jealous and brutal man, who beat her frequently, but would pay her '£5000 remorse money' afterwards. In this way she came to own a fine chestnut colt named 'Milford', who won his maiden race at Kempton Park. She was able to refuse the offer of £10,000 for him after he won the Royal Two Year Old Plate. Lillie, at this time, was living in Pont Street, London while at the other end of the same street stood St Columba's Church, the Scots Kirk, which had been built with a very generous donation from George's uncle, James Baird.
In the autumn of 1891, George Baird, known as 'The Squire', returned to Scotland, as he usually did at that time of year, for the racing at Ayr, but, on this occasion, he came to follow Lillie on her tour of the north. When Lillie had finished her tour, she went back down to London, while George stayed on for the shooting. No sooner had she returned to London, than she met up with Robert Peel, who had fallen for her in a big way. He persuaded her to go off to Paris with him - she saw the chance to shop in the Paris Fashion Houses at his expense.
When the Squire got back to London, and found she had gone off to Paris, he immediately went in pursuit. He beat Lillie so severely that she ended up, bloody, battered and bruised, in hospital for two weeks, nursing two black eyes, a swollen nose and covered in weals. He also tore all her clothing to shreds and smashed up the hotel room. A warrant for the arrest of the Squire was issued by the gendarmes, but, as it happened, he was already in the cells following another fracas at the brothel to which he had gone after the assault at the hotel.
To the utter amazement of everybody involved, Lillie refused to press charges, and George was released. He made his peace with the hotel by paying for the damage he had caused, and Lillie, he pacified, by paying her £50,000 and a yacht which he had recently bought. Lillie named it 'Whyte Lady', but to everybody else it was known as 'Black Eye'.
In 1897, Lillie met Hugo de Bathe, and despite their age difference, he was 26 and she was 44, they married two years later. She died in 12th February 1929 at the age of 75, in her little villa overlooking the Mediterranean.
For further reading on Baird's of Stichill
With thanks to the Stichill Millennium Project for the text on which this is based.
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