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May Etheridge about 1912, later Duchess of Leinster

November 2, 2013

May Etheridge (1892-1935), English chorus girl
(photo: unknown, possibly Elwin Neame, London, circa 1912)

May Etheridge (née May Juanita Etheridge) was first seen on the stage in the chorus of The New Aladdin, an extravaganza, at the Gaiety Theatre, London, on 29 September 1906. She then transferred to the Aldwych Theatre under the management of Seymour Hicks before taking the part of Ko-Giku, a geisha, in The Mousmé, a musical play with music by Lionel Monckton and Howard Talbot, which was produced by Robert Courtneidge at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, on 9 September 1911. Her final official part was in the small role of Ursula in Princess Caprice, a comedy with music by Leo Fall, produced at the same theatre on 11 May 1912. It is believed, however, that she appeared in a small uncredited part in the musical comedy, Betty at Daly’s Theatre, London, during 1915.

By then, however, on 12 June 1913 at Wandsworth Registrar’s Office, near London, May Etheridge married Lord Edward FitzGerald (1892-1976), later 7th Duke of Leinster. They separated in 1922 and divorced in 1930. He was subsequently married three more times (including in 1946 to the former actress, Denise Orme) and committed suicide on 8 March 1976.

‘A Duchess Bound Over.
‘LONDON, April 19 [1930]. – Charged with having attempted to commit suicide, the Duchess of Leinster, formerly May Etheridge, a musical comedy star [sic], who was found unconscious on April 1 [1930] in a gas-filled room at a Brixton boarding house, was bound over to-day to be of good behaviour for two years, in her own recognisances of £50 and two sureties for a like amount.’
(The West Australian, Perth, Tuesday, 22 April 1930, p. 15b)

The Duchess, who eventually changed her name to May Murray, died at her home at Saltdean, near Brighton, Sussex on 11 February 1935; the inquest returned a verdict of death by misadventure following an accidental overdose of narcotics taken to induce sleep.

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