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Matilda Alice Victoria Wood (12 February 1870 – 7 October 1922) was an Englishmarker music hall singer, best known as Marie Lloyd. Her ability to add lewdness to the most innocent of lyrics led to frequent clashes with the then guardians of morality. Her performances articulated disappointments of life, especially for working-class women.


Born in Hoxtonmarker, Londonmarker, her early interest in the music hall was fostered by her father John, who worked part-time in the nearby Royal Eagle Tavern. Marie formed her sisters into a singing group called the Fairy Bells Minstrels, singing temperance songs in local missions and church halls, costumed by their mother Matilda Mary Caroline Wood. In her teens, the younger Matilda Wood adopted the name Marie Lloyd, the surname taken from Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, and quickly became one of the most famous of English music hall singers and comediennes. Her first major success was The Boy I Love is up in the Gallery. She was the eldest of nine siblings, seven of whom had theatrical careers, the most successful being Daisy, Rose, Grace and Alice. All but Daisy performed under the name Lloyd in honour of their eldest sister.

Scandalous reputation

Lloyd's songs, although perfectly harmless by modern standards, began to gain a reputation for being "racy" and filled with double entendre, ("She'd never had her ticket punched before" for example) largely thanks to the manner in which she sang them, adding winks and gestures, and creating a conspiratorial relationship with her audience. She became the target of Vigilance or "Watch" committees and others opposing music-hall licenses. She liked to claim that any immorality was in the minds of the complainants, and in front of these groups would sing her songs "straight" to show their supposed innocence. In one famous incident, she was summoned before one of these committees and asked to sing her songs. She sang "Oh! Mr Porter"; and "A Little of What you Fancy" in such a sweet innocent way that the committee had no reason to find anything amiss. She then rendered the drawing-room ballad "Come into the Garden Maud" in such an obscene way that the committee was shocked into silence. She did herself no favours.

On another occasion, as legend has it, when the moralists objected to her song "I sits among the cabbages and peas", with its daring - for the context - reference to urinating, she transformed the lyrics, and sang instead "I sits among the cabbages and leeks" to the roars of laughter of her adoring audience.

The following year she made her first visit to the United Statesmarker. Her "blue" reputation preceded her and she quickly gave an interview to the New York Telegraph newspaper that carried her quote

1907 Music Hall War

1907 poster from the Music Hall War between artists and theatre managers
Although popular enough to command her own fees, Lloyd backed and supported the 1907 strike for better terms by music-hall performers.She commented on her support

Marie performed on picket lines throughout the strike, and in a fund raising performance at the Scala Theatremarker. During one picket she recognised someone trying to enter, Lloyd shouted, "Let her through girls, she'll close the music hall faster than we can." The singer was Belle Elmore, later murdered by her husband, Dr. Crippen.

World War I

During World War I, like most music hall artists, she enthusiastically supported recruitment for the army. The recruitment went on in the music halls themselves, often in the tone "Two shillings for the first man to sign up tonight". In particular she sang the song I didn't like you much before you joined the army, John, but I do like you, cockie, now you've got your khaki on. She also sang in many free concerts for the masses of wounded returning from the trench.

Personal life

Marie Lloyd was married three times. Her spouses were:
  1. Percy Courtenay (12 November 1887–1905) (divorced) 1 child (separated 1895)
  2. Alexander Hurley (1905 – 6 December 1913) (his death) (separated 1910)
  3. Bernard Dillon (21 February 1914 – 7 October 1922) (her death)

Her private life was also controversial. Her first marriage to Percy Courtenay was a stormy one and ended in divorce in 1905. She quickly married Alec Hurley the next year and in 1910 met Irishmarker jockey Bernard Dillon.

She first appeared in the USAmarker in 1897, but she was refused entry in 1913 for "moral turpitude" when "Mr. and Mrs. Dillon" arrived together, but unmarried. After an enquiry, she was allowed to stay. Alec Hurley died two months later, and Marie and Dillon were married at the Britishmarker Consulate in Portland, Oregonmarker, on 21 February 1914.

Grave of Marie Lloyd in Hampstead Cemetery, North London

Decline and death

Dillon began drinking heavily and abusing Marie and she began drinking as her own escape. In 1920, they separated. From then on, Marie Lloyd went downhill and although she still worked, it became more and more difficult to get her on to the stage in time. Her voice became weaker and her act shorter. On 4 October 1922 she was appearing at the Empire Music Hall, Edmonton, Londonmarker. During the last song in her act I'm One of the Ruins That Cromwell Knocked About a Bit, she staggered about on the stage. The audience laughed delightedly when she fell, thinking it was all part of the act. However, she was desperately ill, and died three days later on 7 October.

On 12 October 1922, over one hundred thousand people attended her funeral at Hampsteadmarker. In the funeral procession, there were twelve cars full of flowers and on top of the hearse was the long ebony cane with the sparkling top hat that she had used in her act. The theatrical newspaper, The Era dubbed the cortege a "Royal Progress". Her daughter by Courtenay, Marie (1888-1967) took the stage name Marie Lloyd Jr., appeared in a short musical film in the DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film process made in 1926, and performed in music hall for many years.

Marie Lloyd is buried in Hampstead Cemeterymarker with both her parents and her only daughter Marie Lloyd junior (aka Marie Aylin), who died in 1967.

Selected songs


Her life was adapted into a BBC one-off TV drama, Miss Marie Lloyd - Queen of The Music Hall, in 2007. Lloyd was portrayed by Jessie Wallace and Percy Courtenay was played by Richard Armitage.

She was portrayed in the final series of the sitcom Goodnight, Sweetheart by Emma Amos when time-traveller Gary Sparrow found himself in Whitechapelmarker at the time of Jack the Ripper.

References and notes

External links

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