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Marie Effie (née Wilton), Lady Bancroft

1 of 254 portraits by Herbert Watkins

Marie Effie (née Wilton), Lady Bancroft, by Herbert Watkins, September 1856 -NPG P301(70) - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Marie Effie (née Wilton), Lady Bancroft

by Herbert Watkins
Albumen print with arched top, September 1856
7 5/8 in. x 6 in. (194 mm x 154 mm)
NPG P301(70)

Inscriptionback to top

Inscr. on mount in pencil lower right: ‘Miss Marie Wilton / as Perdita’.

This portraitback to top

This is one of three images of Marie Wilton before she married Squire Bancroft, in an album compiled by the photographer comprising a series of photographs of famous personalities: see NPG Portrait Set ‘The Watkins album: photographs by Herbert Watkins, late 1850s’. They date from Marie’s debut season at the Lyceum Theatre, London in autumn 1856, aged 17. All three show her in theatrical costume. Here, according to the pencilled inscription, she is costumed as Perdita in the burlesque comedy Perdita or The Royal Milkmaid, by William Brough; based on scenes from A Winter’s Tale, it played in a double-bill with Belphegor the Mountebank (see NPG P301(69)). She later recalled: ‘As Perdita, a faded photo tells me, I looked very nice, with my hair hanging loose over my shoulders, a pretty wreath of blush roses, a charming little dress of white cashmere and a bunch of roses at my waist.’ [1] She had been asked to cover the part at very short notice, and told to provide her own costume, including stage boots made of pink silk to match the stockings. [2] Her performance was a great success: ‘At the end I was again called before the curtain, and had flowers enough thrown to me to fill my little green and silver milkpail.’ [3] According to the Morning Post, following her performance in Belphegor, as Perdita she ‘made still further inroads into the favour of the audience … She is a charming débutante, sings prettily, acts archly, dances gracefully and is withal of a most bewitching presence.’ [4] This commendation was echoed by the Illustrated London News: ‘A prettier representative of the heroine could not be found than Miss Wilton. The scenes between her and Miss Woolgar, who supported Florizel, were charming.’ [5]

Perdita and Belphegor opened on 15 September 1856, and the three photographs were probably taken soon afterwards. Marie was not cast in any other roles at the Lyceum, where the season ran from September to April, in which month she appeared as Cupid at the Haymarket Theatre. The costumes will have been taken to Watkins’s studio for the occasion.

Another print is in the Guy Little Coll., Victoria & Albert Museum, London, S.142:16-2007.

Dr Jan Marsh

Footnotesback to top

1) Bancroft & Bancroft 1909, p.10.
2) See Bancroft & Bancroft 1888, vol.1, pp.39–41 for a full account of obtaining the boots.
3) Bancroft & Bancroft 1888, vol.1, p.45.
4) Undated quotation in Bancroft & Bancroft 1888, vol.1, p.46.
5) ILN, 20 Sept. 1856, p.297.

Physical descriptionback to top

Whole-length to front, wearing theatrical costume and holding decorated milk-pail

Provenanceback to top

Purchased 1985, in album.

Reproductionsback to top

Schoch 2002, pl.23, p.145.

Blomfield 2013, p.34.

View all known portraits for Marie Effie (née Wilton), Lady Bancroft