Beatrice Gladys "Bea" Lillie - Lady Peel
May 29, 1894 – January 20, 1989

Beatrice Lillie - Lady Peel was a Canadian born British actress, singer and comedic performer. Lillie was born in Toronto to John Lillie and wife Lucie-Ann Shaw. Her father an Irishman who had immigrated to Canada after retiring from being a British soldier in India and later was a Canadian government official. Her mother was a concert singer. Lillie performed in Ontario towns as part of a family trio with her mother and older sister, Frances 'Muriel'. Eventually, her mother took the girls to London, England, where she made her West End début in the 1914 in the show 'Not Likely!' and soon gained notice in revues and light comedies, becoming known for her parodies of old-fashioned, flowery performing styles and absurd songs and sketches. 

Beatrice's sister Frances 'Muriel' composed a number of songs for her sister, including in 1925 'Susannah's Squeaking Shoes' and 'Mouse, Mouse'. Beatrice debuted in New York in 1924 and two years later starred in her first film, continuing to perform in both the US and UK. She was associated with revues staged by André Charlot and works of Noël Coward and Cole Porter, and frequently was paired with Gertrude Lawrence, Bert Lahr and Jack Haley. She won a Tony Award in 1953 for her revue "An Evening with Beatrice Lillie".

She was married, on January 20, 1920, at the church of St. Paul, Fazeley, Staffordshire, to Sir Robert Peel, 5th Baronet. Following the death of her father-in-law in 1925, she was known in her private life as Lady Peel. She eventually separated from her husband, but the couple never divorced, he died in 1934, one day before his 35th birthday. Their only child, Sir Robert Peel, 6th Baronet, was killed in action in 1942. 


<< Tom Powers (as George Budd) with 
Beatrice Lillie (
as Jackie Sampson) 
'Oh, Joy!' opened in
January 1919 at the Kingsway Theatre, where it ran for 167 performances.



Beatrice Lillie - Lady Peel with her son, Robert >>

During World War II, Lillie was an inveterate entertainer of the troops. Before she went on stage one day, she learned that her son was killed in action. She refused to postpone the performance, saying "I'll cry tomorrow". In 1948, while touring in the show 'Inside USA', she met singer/actor John Philip Huck. He was a former US Marine, almost three decades younger, who became her friend and companion for the rest of their lives, and she boosted his career. As Lillie's mental abilities declined at the end of her career, she relied more and more on Huck, whom her friends viewed with suspicion. 

She retired from the stage due to Alzheimer's disease in 1967. Julie Andrews remembered that Beatrice, as Mrs Meers in 'Thoroughly Modern Millie' (1966) had to be prompted through her lines and was often confused on set. 'Thoroughly Modern Millie' was Beatrice's final film. She suffered a stroke in the mid-1970s, and in 1977, she retired to England and a trustee was appointed over her property.

Beatrice Lillie died on January 20, 1989, aged 94, at Henley-on-Thames, which was also her 69th wedding anniversary. Huck died of a heart attack the next day, and the two were buried, together in the churchyard of St Margaret's in Harpsden, Oxfordshire, near Henley-on-Thames.

Beatrice Lillie >>

<< Beatrice Lillie, as photographed by Yousuf Karsh, 1948


Frances 'Muriel' (22 Aug 1892 - .Sep 1973) is remembered as the older sister of comedienne Beatrice Lillie and for her musical compositions in the early part of the Twentieth Century was also buried at St Margaret's, Harpsden in 1973 (aged 81).