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This image is from an original postcard in my possession of the great English Music Hall performer Vesta Tilley (1864-1952), who was especially renowned as a male impersonator and beloved by fans in America as well as Britain.

Born in Worcester as Matilda Alice Powles, she first appeared on stage at the age of three and did not retire until 1920 when she was 56.  In 1890 she married the theatre owner Walter de Frece. De Frece, who was later the Conservative MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, was knighted in 1919 for his services to the war effort, turning Tilley the performer into Lady de Frece.  Some of Tilley’s most famous numbers include ‘Burlington Bertie‘ in 1900 and the wartime song, ‘I’ve Got a Bit of a Blighty One’.

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Sarah

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