Mysterious princess’s story to be told

Lydia Yavorska, the Russian princess
Lydia Yavorska, the Russian princess

THE story of a mysterious Russian princess and her days in Shoreham will be told at a Heritage Talk on Monday.

Lydia Yavorska, Princess Bariatinsky, was a Russian actress who took the English stage by storm, became a fashion icon and a suffragette, defied the Bolsheviks, and now rests in the quiet churchyard of St Nicolas in Shoreham.

The unusual tombstone had long been the subject of curiosity but the mystery of Shoreham’s Russian princess was unravelled by John and Jeanette Simpson.

They will tell the fascinating story in an audio visual presentation, ‘A princess in Shoreham – the actress who brought us Anna Karenina’, at Southwick Community Centre at 7.30pm, as part of the Southwick Society’s series of Heritage Talks.

Nigel Divers, society secretary, said: “This really is a true story more dramatic than the plot of Dr Zhivago, and John and Jeanette’s telling of it is superb.”

Lydia died in Hove 94 years ago after a life of drama and intrigue. She married a Russian prince whose family disapproved of the union. They set up a theatre in Russia in the 1900s and performed avant garde plays which did not go down well, so they moved to the UK.

Here, she played Anna Karenina in one of the first stage versions of the book and made it famous.

Her life was a patchwork of divorce, marriage, glamorous theatre performances and sudden death-defying escapes. It was her second husband, John Pollock, who buried her at St Nicolas’ Church.

Mr Simmons said: “We think he chose this church to bury her in because, post World War One, Shoreham Beach was the Hollywood of its time and a popular place for theatricals to visit.

“Lydia was fond of the south coast and I imagine he believed the church to be a beautiful place for her to rest.”

Admission is £4, £2 for Southwick Society members. The Heritage Talks programme is part of the outreach of the Manor Cottage Heritage Centre, operated by the Southwick Society.

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