Mrs. Bernard Beere

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Lithograph of Mrs Bernard-Beere in 1885

Fanny Mary Whitehead was an English actress in the mid 19th century. She was also known, after her marriage as Fanny Bernard-Beere, and Mrs. Bernard Beere. Fanny was born October 5, 1851 in King's Lynn, Norfolk, England.[1] She was the daughter of Francis Wilby Whitehead, who was listed on the 1861 England census as an "Artist and Picture Dealer". Her birth was the result of an affair - it is family lore that her mother was a housekeeper who died shortly after her birth, but it is unknown who this woman could be, since Francis Wilby didn't seem to have any servants. Francis Wilby Whitehead's wife, Elizabeth Jane Jarrold, left him in 1855 because of "his drunkenness and other causes" [2] (adultery) and took her children, except for their son, Francis Wilby, Jr., and emigrated to America. In the 1861 England Census, he is shown as living with his common law wife, Mary Elizabeth Linford, her son James, Francis Wilby, Jr., and Fanny Mary. Francis Wilby Whitehead died in 1862, when Fanny was just 11 years old.


Fanny is mentioned in many publications, just a few cited here:

". . .she was trained for the stage by Hermann Vezin, appearing first in London at the Opera Comique in 1877. Later she played Emilia in Othello and various English comedy parts at the St. James's Theatre. She appeared in W. S. Gilbert's play Gretchen in 1897.[3] In 1883 she was engaged by the Bancrofts to play leading parts in Fédora and other dramas at the Haymarket Theatre. In 1891 she played Lady Teazle in Charles Wyndham's production of School for Scandal, and two years later played Mrs. Arbuthnot with Herbert Beerbohm Tree in Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance."

She married three times, but for stage purposes she retained the name of her second husband. In 1900 she married A. C. S. Olivier.[4]

"Beere, be'er, Mrs. Bernard (fanny Mary Whitehead), English actress: b. Norwich, England, 1859. She was the daughter of Wilby Whitehead and began her stage career in 1878 at the London Opera Comique. On her marriage she retired a short time from the stage, presently returning to it as Mrs. Bernard Beere. and her acting in 'Fedora' and 'Diplomacy' attracted much favorable comment. In 1892 she visited the United Stales professionally. In 1900 she married A. C. S. Olivier." [5]

Fanny Mary also appears in "Women of History", but this time is referred to as an operatic soprano: "Beere, Fanny Mary – (1856 – 1915) British operatic soprano Born Frances Whitehead (Oct 5, 1856) in Norwich, Norfolk, she studied under Hermann Vezin. She made her stage debut at the Opera Comique in London (1877), and appeared as Emilia in Shakespeare’s Othello, as well as performing comic roles. She performed at the Haymarket Theatre and appeared in the role of Lady Teazle in the production of School for Scandal (1891) by Charles Wyndham, and appeared in Oscar Wilde’s play A Woman of No Importance in the role of Mrs Arbuthnot. Fanny Beere was married three times and died (March 25, 1915) aged fifty-eight." [6]


  1. ^ FreeBMD, volume 13, page 183
  2. ^ SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF ADOLPHUS RENNIE WHITEHEAD 1842-1895, by his son, George F. Whitehead
  3. ^ "The Olympic Theatre". The Times, 26 March 1879, p. 5, reprinted at The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, accessed 31 July 2011
  4. ^ The 1911 Classic Encyclopedia, pub. 1911
  5. ^ The Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 2, By Frederick Converse Beach, George Edwin Rines
  6. ^ "Women of History"