Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sarah Bernhardt's Two Princes

Sarah Bernhardt wasn't always 'The Divine Sarah'. She despaired at 18 of ever becoming an actress, let alone a great one. Her mother told her that her acting was ridiculous and the distraught girl resigned from The Gymnase. This was a theatre which showed light comedies.

Bernhardt decided to go on a trip. She may have gone to Spain. She fell in love with the Belgian Prince Henri de Lignes, the great love of her life. He wanted to marry her but his family persuaded her that he would lose his inheritance and be looked down upon by society if she accepted. She gave him up.

She did have his son, however. Bernhardt called him Maurice. When Maurice was much older the prince officially recognised him and offered him his name and a large fortune. He decided to remain 'Bernhardt'.

There is a legend that Maurice and his father were catching a train but they'd lost the tickets. The ticket officer told the prince that he'd never heard of him. However, he knew the name 'Bernhardt' so they got on the train!

The Prince of Wales

Did 'the Divine Sarah' and Edward, Prince of Wales have an affair? Her granddaughter said that they were the best of friends. We will probably never know.
However, his first acknowledged mistress, Lily Langtry, certainly got quite jealous of the frizzy-haired, beautiful Frenchwoman.

The prince and the young actress often dined together in Paris. He also showered her with expensive jewellery and loved to go to her performances. When she went to London in 1879 the air was buzzing with gossip about the couple.

Lady Cavendish complained that Bernhardt was 'shameless' yet she was invited everywhere. She probably wasn't very happy about the speculation that Bernhardt and the prince were involved!

The only evidence of an affair seems to be that they spent many hours together and Bernhardt told her theatre manager that she was late because she was with the prince until the early hours of the morning.


Hels said...

A woman with good taste, ambition and energy... you have to admire her!

Many thanks Viola. I have added a link to my own post on Sarah Bernhardt because it fills some of her early years and because I will be coming back to the Divine Sarah in class later this year.

Viola said...

Hi Hels,

Thank you so much. She was certainly a wonderful woman and she was very brave about losing her leg.

I read your excellent post before and I am going to read it again. I highly recommend it. I hope that you will post some of your lecture about Sarah online.

1950red said...

She also detested ‘Bertie’ Edward because “he always smelt so strongly of cigars” she was more interested with her status as a royal favorite. Page 169, the book The Heir Apparent by Jane Ridley

1950red said...

Also Sara had bright red hair and an unfashionably waif like figure. She took London by storm in 1879 with a performance so passionate, she later vomited blood as her doctor pressed ice to her lips.