Real-life Tragedy for Theatrical Family

by Ray Setterfield

Event Date: December 8, 1926
Location: London, England, United Kingdom

On this day a tragedy engulfed one of Britain’s noted theatrical families of the early 20th century.

The Strand is a busy, famous road leading from Trafalgar Square to the "Square Mile", formally known as the City of London. It houses such institutions as the Savoy Hotel, the Royal Courts of Justice and King’s College London. It is also one of the busiest streets in the capital and certainly not one where shepherds would be allowed to herd a flock of sheep.

But that was not always the case, as this picture taken by an unknown photographer shows. Amusing as the image may seem to today’s Londoners, it carries a marker for a very sad tale.

Robert Courtneidge (1859 – 1939) was a theatrical manager-producer and playwright. His daughter Cicely played in many of his early productions and became a well known actress. Courtneidge also regularly featured his younger daughter Rosaline in his casts, in such plays as "The Unfair Sex", which played in London in 1925. It is advertised on the side of the Number 77 bus in the sheep picture.

Rosaline, who was married to an actor called Peter Haddon, was said to have a promising future, but it was not to be. The following year, on December 8 1926, she died from complications giving birth to her daughter. She was just 23 years old. Peter Haddon, distraught and inconsolable, named the baby girl Rosaline, after her mother.

The image of tragic Rosaline can be found in London’s National Portrait Gallery.

Published: April 25, 2016

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