The love lives of theatrical celebrities were very much a focus of attention for press and public during the Edwardian era. Four of the most beautiful actresses of that era were Misses May Etheridge, Gabrielle Ray, Lily Elsie and Gertie Millar. When these four ladies all appeared to have lost in love at around the same time it prompted the article in the press reproduced below. Following the article is an update on their subsequent lives.
The San Antonio Light, 22nd June, 1913
LONDON'S FOUR GREATEST BEAUTIES BROKEN HEARTED
Crushing Successive Blows of Cruel Fate Tear from Them Dukedoms, Titles and Milions and Shatter Love's Young Dream
There, little girl don't cry, don't cry,
They have broken your heart, I know,
And the rainbow gleams of your youthful dreams
Are things of the long-ago.
Strange to say, the four most admired and popular beauties in London are all very much in the same predicament as the little girl in James Whitcomb Riley's charming old song. Every one of these beauties has had a very romantic love affair shattered. That means to them just what having her doll broken meant to the little in the song.
The case of pretty little May Etheridge is a sad one, but hopes of her recovery are entertained. May is very young, and quite recently she won a brilliant success on the stage by her appearance in pajamas. It was not exactly a novel form of art, but the way she wore them quite won the hearts of her audience.
As a sequel to that delightful exhibition the noble Lord Edward Fitzgerald, brother of the Duke of Leinster, courted her ardently, and secured her promise to be his. His Lordship is just twenty-one years old. The Fitzgerald family is the greatest in the irish nobility, and his brother is the premier duke and earl of Ireland.
When all the noble Fitzgeralds heard of the engagement they were very indignant, and threatened Lord Edward with all sorts of terrible things, possibly with having to work, if he persisted in his plan. Finally they worried him into jilting the pretty little actress. She is looking very tragic, now, and her friends say that she feels the defection of her lover more than the loss of his title. Whether she will bring a breach of promise suit remains to be seen.
Perhaps the most astonishing affair is that of Gabrielle Ray and Eric Loder. These young people were only married on February 29, 1912. Gabrielle Ray is considered by excellent authorities to be the most statuesque beauty that ever appeared on the English stage. Every Johnny of international fame, from Alfred Vanderbilt to King Manuel of Portugal, worshipped at this beauty's feet. It was whispered that dukes and earls wanted to marry her. Out of the whole crowd she picked young Eric Loder, who had a fortune of $10,000.000. Although his family made their money in tallow, they have a fine social position, and one of them is a baronet.
The wedding day arrived, and every ornament of stage and peerage was waiting at the church. There, too, was the bridegroom. But the fair bride did not come, and the ceremony was deferred. People thought it was an exhibition of the beauty's capricious ways. Closer investigation showed it was rather an exhibition of business sense. Loder had failed to sign the stipulated marriage settlement, securing her the income she needed. He pleaded that excessive prenuptial hospitality had caused him to overlook the formality. He signed up and the wedding took place three days later.
Now, after barely a year of married life, they, have quarrelled, and Gabrielle is seeking a divorce. Her stage friends say that the inconstant millionaire found perfect beauty a perfect bore, and sought consolation with one who was less beautiful but more amusing.
The greatest tragedy is that of Lily Elsie. She has a very soulful type of beauty. She achieved the record of being thr most photographed woman in England. Countless youths enshrined her picture on their dressing tables. After declining many brilliant offers she accepted Ian Bullough, a young Scotchman, with an income of $400,000 a year, and brother of Sir George Bullough, who owns the Isle of Rhum.
Within three months of the wedding society heard that there was trouble in the youthful household. At first it was stated that Lily Elsie would return to the stage. Then it was learned that she was desperately ill and was hiding herself from nearly everybody who had known her. Those who have seen her say that she is a physical wreck, and doubt whether she will recover.
Her sufferings were really increased by the hostility shown toward her by her husband's aristocratic family. Strange to say, Ian Bullough's first wife was also a great stage beauty, and died within a year of their marriage. She was the famous Maudi Darrell, and a few years ago enjoyed almost as widespread an admiration as Lily Elsie.
Then there is Gertie Millar. Weep for her, tender hearted people, for she appears to have lost the chance of becoming Duchess of Westminster and wife of the richest peer in England. Gertie once made a great hit in "The Spring Chicken." That was some years ago, and she had won other triumphs before that.
She is clever as well as attractive, and the bohemian Duke of Westminster considered her the best company he had ever met in a wide experience. True, she has a husband, a popular composer, but it is understood that he would be quite willing to part with her. Then the Duke of Westminster said that he would get divorced in one way or another from his Duchess, the former Miss Cornwallis West.
The prospect of a duke and duchess in the divorce court filled the society gossips with delight. Advanced politicians made it a text for attacks on the aristocracy.
Then the King and Queen of England stepped in. They told the Duke that he was a disgrace to society, that he was paving the way for the downfall of the House of Lords, and a few things like that. He was told that a divorce court official called "the King's Proctor" would interfere if he tried any wife swapping schemes. In short, he was frightened out of any idea of getting divorced. So poor Gertie Millar cannot be a duchess.
Ten days before the publication of this article, in London on 12th June 1913, Lord Edward Fitzgerald had in fact married May Etheridge in defiance of his family. The couple had one son, Gerald, born in 1914, but the union was not a happy one and the couple separated in 1922, the year Edward succeeded to the dukedom of Leinster. From then on May was not allowed even to see her son, who was raised in Ireland by an aunt. She could write to him only through a firm of solicitors, which elicited only the perfunctory reply "The Marquess of Kildare is in good health". The couple divorced in 1930 and May died five years later, aged only 43.
Gabrielle Ray and Eric Loder did indeed part company two years later whereupon Gabrielle returned to the stage but never regained her former stardom. Depression and alchoholism saw her health deteriorate until in 1936 she suffered a total nervous breakdown, resulting in her being institutionalized in a mental hospital for nearly forty years.
Lily Elsie remained married to Ian Bullough for almost twenty years despite allegations of problems resulting from her husband's alcoholism. Periods of seperation and reconcilation eventually led to a permanent split and divorce in 1930.
Gertie Millar had been estranged from her husband, Lionel Monckton, almost eight years when this article was published, but contrary to the suggestion made in this article he persistently refused to grant her a divorce. Only after Monckton's death in 1924 was she free to marry again, finally becoming a titled lady when she married William Humble Ward, the second Earl of Dudley.