Royal Reels: Gambling


The postcard has a red 1d ‘Pictorial’ stamp of Tasmania which has a BISHOPSBOURNE/ OC 17/ 05/ TASMANIA postmark. It is addressed to Miss Heyes, “View Bank”,Evandale, Tasmania, and the message is of no special interest (Figure 1).

The reverse shows a picture of Gertie Millar who was regarded as a Queen of the London stage, and she was a ‘Gaiety Girl’(Figure 2).

Gertie Millar was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, in 1878. She grew up to be tall, thin and attractive with dark hair and large limpid eyes. She was also tough, determined and ambitious. Her stage career began as a singer and dancer in the many music halls of Yorkshire. Later, she moved to London where she was soon topping variety bills, earning substantial sums of money and attracting much attention.

In 1901, George Edwardes (the famous theatre manager) recruited Gertie Millar to be the leading lady in his productions at the Gaiety Theatre. Her first starring role was in The Toreador. Her next show was Our Miss Gibbs that opened at the Gaiety on January 23, 1902. It had a strong cast but Gertie Millar was the star, and it made her the best known musical comedy performer in the country. The music was written, in collaboration with Ivan Caryll, by Lionel John Alexander Monckton (1861-1924), who an Oxford University educated lawyer turned composer, and who married Gertie Millar. The hit song of the show was ‘Moonstruck’, a song Monckton had written especially for his wife.

He was to write the music for nearly all her following successes, including her next show – A Country Girl (1902) that ran for an astonishing 729 performances. In July, 1903, the Gaiety closed for a total refurbishment. On October 26, 1903, in the presence of His Majesty King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, the new Gaiety opened with the premiere of the musical comedy The Orchid in which Gertie Millar starred, and the show ran for 559 performances. Success after success followed during the next decade. During the 1905/6 season, it was Spring Chicken with music again written by Monckton in collaboration with Ivan Caryll, plus a song written by Jerome Kern. An autographed picture of Gertie Millar is seen in Fig. 3.

Success followed success for Gertie Millar in The New Aladdin followed by The Girls of Gottenberg, again with Monckton’s music which opened at the Gaiety Theatre on May 15, 1907. This was followed for the 1908/9 season by A Waltz Dream. In 1910, Gertie Millar starred in one of the most best-loved Gaiety musical comedies, The Quaker Girl, which ran for 536 performances. Her next show, in the spring of 1912, was Franz Lehar’s Gipsy Love, and this was followed by The Dancing Mistress. VGertie Millar again was the star and was a great success. There were two more long-running comedies in which Gertie Millar starred – The Marriage Market (1913) and Bric-a-Brac (1915).

By the time the show ended, the world was much changed – war waged, people’s tastes had changed and they were flocking to the new cinema palaces for their escapes. Gertie Millar’s husband was in poor health, he had ceased composing and, in 1915, George Edwardes died. For a while, Gertie Millar performed occasionally in the variety theatres where her career had begun. In 1918, she made her final appearance at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford, the city where she had been born.

In 1924, her husband died, and she married William Humble Ward, whose wife had drowned in a swimming accident at their estate in Ireland in June 1920. Gertie was 44 and William was 57 years as pointed out by The Argus (Melbourne). Gertie Millar, the working-class girl from Yorkshire who grew up to be one of the best loved stars and most photographed women of the Edwardian era, had become Lady Dudley. The wedding was announced in The Sydney Morning Herald on 2 May 1924, as shown in Figure 4.

William Humble Ward, the second Earl Dudley, had been the fourth Governor-General of Australia (September 1908-July 1911) has been entered at this website in the Category: Governors. Only the circumstances of his death as excerpted from The Sydney Morning Herald of 1 July 1932 will be included here: Early of Dudley. Death in London. London, June 29. “The death is announced of the Earl of Dudley, who was Governor-General of Australia from 1908 to 1911. He became seriously ill several days ago, and was brought from Le Tourquet (France) by special aeroplane to London, where he entered a Park Lane nursing home.”

The death notice for Gertie Millar was found in The Canberra Times (A.C.T.) dated 30 July 1952, under the heading: Former Theatre Queen Dead. London, Tuesday, and it is seen in Figure 5.