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04 March 2017

Camille Bertin (18?? – 1937) of independent means

In 1897, Camille Bertin, “of independent means” arrived in Juan-les-Pins, on the Côte d'Azur between Nice and Cannes. He was accompanied by Hilda Scott, his fiancée, whom he had met in London. Hilda came from Cambuslang, a suburb of Glasgow.

In due course they married, and within six years of marriage they had three daughters. They were noted for their entertaining, although it was noted that they only ever invited women.

They had almost 40 years of conjugal bliss, until Madame Bertin died in 1936. Her husband died 11 months later. The suddenness of his death resulted in a judicial enquiry, during which documents lodged with the family lawyer revealed that Camille was female-born – which was a surprise to the three daughters. The estate was left to the daughters, on the condition that they did not marry.
  • “’Darby and Joan’ Who Were Not: Two Women ‘Wedded’ for Foty Years: Death Reveals Their Secret”. News of the World, 25 March 1937. Reprinted in George Ives (ed Paul Sieveking). Man Bites Man: The Scrapbook of an Edwardian Eccentric. Penguin Books, 1981: 126.
  • The Sunday People, 28 March 1937:9.
  • Rose Collis. Colonel Barker's monstrous regiment: a tale of female husbandry. Virago, 2001: 204-5. 
  • Alison Oram. Her Husband was a Woman!: Women's gender-crossing in modern British popular culture. Routledge, 2007: 92-3.
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‘Camille’ is, of course, a unisex name in France.

Apparently, in French law, restrictions on marriage and procreation are regarded as against public policy, and therefor the three daughters were not so bound.

It is in Juan-les-Pins, a mere 20 years later, that a second Le Carrousel was opened, and Toni April (April Ashley) and Bambi were seen in all the best places.

It is not unusual that at the end of a long and loving marriage, that the second partner passes on only a few months after the first.

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