Monday, November 7, 2011



"Miss Marie Lloyd: Queen Of The Music Hall"

Richard Armitage

From the Hat Trick production company press pack:
Percy Charles Courtenay was born in Greenwich in 1862, son of a master mariner, Edwin, who died when Percy was still a child. There is little recorded information about him.

Percy met Marie when he went back-stage at the theatre where she was performing. "Back then the stage door johnnies were in contact with the doorman and they would frequently pay him money to watch the girls changing backstage. It’s weird to think that Percy, a complete stranger, could just turn up and say: ‘That girl I saw on stage - I’d really like to take her out for a drink’ and then he was given an introduction to her and that’s how their relationship formed.

"Percy’s pretty similar to Marie Lloyd; he’s from the same kind of class and background but when they first meet he’s reinvented himself. In reality he’s an inveterate gambler but he markets himself as someone who invests on the stock market! He’s moving in social circles that he perhaps doesn’t truly belong to, so there’s bit of a fa├žade with him."

A friend of his, George Foster, described him as "a young blood and a racing man with plenty of money and an attractive personality." He was also said to have "the air of a gentleman". He described himself on official documents as a General Dealer or a Commission Agent, but in reality he was a race-course tout.

They married in 1887 when she was only 17 and already pregnant. At first the marriage was a happy one. “It’s actually very good and honest at the start, and once they get together he lets the mask slip a bit and they click and fire off each other. But it starts to go off kilter when she becomes more famous and wealthy and he lives off her success.” (Richard Armitage)

The Courtenays' house was frequently full of her family and friends, and Sundays were open house to her music hall friends. Percy complained that they hardly spent any time alone together. She gave him an allowance of three pounds a week, but he also ran up debts that he expected her to settle.

"For an Edwardian man it was in many ways the ultimate humiliation and as much as he was basking in it and loving it and spending her money, at the same time I think the press ridiculed him as a kept man and his frustration built up and he began to take out his anger on her," said Richard Armitage.

Flo Hastings, a young friend of Marie's who was also in the music halls, remembered Percy Courtenay at this time. He wasn't handsome, she said, but he was smartly dressed. "He was slim, not a big man. He was a racing man, used to hang around the race course - a punter.

"I used to sleep with Marie while he was away in the West End with his racing friends. He was always out with other women. He'd ask her for fifty pounds and swear he'd make it up tomorrow, but she'd never see it again. She hated him. He was a dirty old thing. One night at the Standard [later the Victoria Palace] he came up to me and used filthy language just as I was going on. I flung a drink in his face and the barman nearly killed him - the dirty thing."

As the marriage began to break down, Percy turned violent. In January 1892, Punch reported that she had summonsed her husband for assault:

"MARIE, COME UP!"—When Miss MARIE LLOYD, who, unprofessionally, when at home, is known as Mrs. PERCY COURTENAY, which her Christian name is MATILDA, recently appeared at Bow-Street Police Court, having summoned her husband for an assault, the Magistrate, Mr. LUSHINGTON, ought to have called on the Complainant to sing "Whacky, Whacky, Whack!" which would have come in most appropriately. Let us hope that the pair will make it up, and, as the story-books say, "live happily ever afterwards."

Even more sordid details were given in The Times, which reported that Percy had come to Marie's dressing room, accused her of immorality and threatened to cut her throat with a sword that was hanging on the wall of the room. He then kicked her in the leg and the small of her back. He was bound over to keep the peace for six months.

By 1893, Marie and Percy were living apart. But Percy's violence towards her continued. One night in 1894, he came to the stage door of the Empire, Leicester Square, as Marie was leaving to go to another theatre. He threatened her with a hooked stick: "You are not going into that brougham tonight. I will gouge your eyes out and ruin you," he told her. She managed to get away from him, but later that night, he was waiting for her when she arrived at the pub in Wardour St that she had bought for her parents. "I am going to ----- well murder you tonight. I will shoot you stone dead and you will never go on stage any more." Again he was brought before the magistrates, and again he was bound over to keep the peace. Marie was sacked from the Empire, the manager afraid that Percy would make more trouble.

They were finally divorced in 1905, Percy having petitioned on the grounds of her adultery with Alec Hurley, who became her second husband.

Little is known of Percy Courtenay's life after his time as 'Mr Marie Lloyd'. It seems likely that he died in Hove in 1933, of an accidental drug overdose. He was 70 years old.


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