The very intelligent and stunningly beautiful Lillie Langtry (1853-1929). Model, actress, entrepreneur, and royal mistress.
”Discovered” at a London dinner party while dressed in mourning, many prominent painters (including Frank Miles and John Everett Millais) clamored to have her sit for them.
She was considered the most beautiful woman of the time, and was mistress to Prince Bertie, the future King Edward VII. She had the grace and charm to become good friends with the Prince’s wife, and was even introduced to Queen Victoria. She was later mistress to at least two other members of European royalty. (Did I mention she was married through all of this?)
With her fame and connections (friends with Sarah Bernhardt, muse to Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw) she became a very popular actress.
She divorced her husband in 1897, and then two years later, at the age of 46, she married Hugo de Bathe, who was twenty seven years old.
She made advertising (and celebrity endorsement) socially acceptable, toured America with her own acting company, started a winery in California (which still exists), and was a successful owner of race horses. She amassed millions and spent with equal extravagance, the center of attention wherever she went.
She performed on the stage well into her seventies, and when she died in Monaco in 1929, the newspapers called it “the end of an era.”
Scholars suggest that the character of Irene Adler in the Sherlock Holmes story “A Scandal in Bohemia” was based off of her. A sexy, witty woman who could outwit Sherlock Holmes when it came to a compromising photo of her with a member of the royal family? Sounds about right.
Damn, what a bad ass.