CULTURE

Remembering Lucy Birley, British Socialite and Rock Star Ex-Wife, Who Died At 58

The fashion muse was married to Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry.


Lucy Birley, the former model, socialite, doyenne of the British fashion scene, and ex-wife of Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry, has died unexpectedly at the age of 58 while vacationing in Ireland.

“On Monday Lucy Birley (nee Helmore) passed away whilst on holiday in Ireland, surrounded by her beloved dogs, Daisy, Peg, and Daphne,” read a statement released by the family. “Her husband Robin, and her sons—Otis, Isaac, Tara, and Merlin—are understandably devastated and request that their privacy be respected during this difficult time.”

Birley was born Lucy Helmore, a girl of aristocratic stock who shocked her family when, at the age of 22, she married Ferry, by then an established rock star who was 14 years her senior. (When they met, Ferry had just been dumped by the model Jerry Hall in favor of Mick Jagger.) Birley was pregnant with their first son Otis at the time, and just a month before had appeared on the cover of the classic Roxy Music album Avalon (though her face is not seen). At first she was hesitant about embracing the role of rock star wife.

“I didn’t want to be put in the spotlight,” she once told The Guardian. “My family’s attitude to the press and publicity was very much that it was frowned upon. You only appeared in papers if you were born, married, or had died.”

Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

Even as she took on most of the responsibility for raising a family that would grow to include four sons, Birley quickly established herself in the British social and fashion scenes despite her initial hesitation. She posed for Robert Mapplethorpe in 1986, and served as a muse for designers like Christian Lacroix, Manolo Blahnik, and Philip Treacy.

She told The Guardian that marriage to Ferry was “very exciting and exhilarating. I learned a lot from Bryan and met a lot of other artists I probably never would have met otherwise. I was very young and I was bowled over by the whole idea of touring and recording, and the world being open to you.”

The pair’s four sons, Otis, Isaac, Tara and Merlin, are now all grown, and British It boys in their own right. Isaac once appeared in a Burberry ad with Kate Moss, while Tara has also appeared in ads for Burberry, Lanvin, and H&M.

Birley never quite gave up her occasional job as a model either. In 2013, she appeared alongside Cara Delevingne in a couture fashion spread for this magazine.

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Cara Delevingne—model, muse, society darling, and bearer of the most epic eyebrows since Brooke Shields—wears Dior Haute Couture dress and gloves; Meadham Kirchhoff & Lilien Czech tiara.

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Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

A former model—and former wife of Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry—Lucy Birley is now a photographer and married to society club entrepreneur Robin Birley. She wears Valentino Haute Couture cape and gown; (from top) Heather Huey headpiece, New York Vintage hat; Cornelia James gloves.

Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

Sylvester Ulv Henriksen, model, wears Dior Haute Couture dress.

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Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

Birley wears Armani Privé waistcoat and skirt; Meadham Kirchhoff & Lilien Czech earrings; Cornelia James gloves; her own shirt and hat.

Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

Charlie Casely-Hayford, who founded the British sartorial line Casely-Hayford with his famed designer father, Joe, wears Casely-Hayford suit, shirt, and scarf; Kitty Joseph glasses. Adwoah Aboah, actress and model, wears Gaultier Paris dress, earrings, and rings; (from top) Shaun Leane gold necklace, all other necklaces, her own; (right wrist, from top) Gillian Horsup at Grays Antiques vintage bracelet, her own bracelet, Gaultier Paris cuff; (left wrist, from left) Gaultier Paris cuff, Dior Fine Jewelry gold cuff.

Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

Jermaine Gallacher, model, wears Giambattista Valli Haute Couture coat; Alan Taylor shirt; American Apparel bow tie; his own trousers and belt. Izzy Good, daughter of Jigsaw co-owner Belle Robinson, wears Bora Aksu crown. Suren Seneviratne, artist and frontman of My Panda Shall Fly, wears Gaultier Paris trenchcoat. Claudia Sinclair, stylist and cofounder of Girls and Boys magazine, wears Valentino Haute Couture dress; Piers Atkinson headpiece.

Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

Birley wears Chanel Haute Couture dress; Sorcha O’Raghallaigh headpiece; Cornelia James gloves; her own stole.

Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

Delevingne wears Chanel Haute Couture dress.

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Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

Birley wears Valentino Haute Couture dress; Philip Treacy hat.

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Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

From left: Cosmo Macdonald, model and painter, wears Beyond Retro jacket; J.W. Anderson shirt; Patricia Underwood hat. Ashley Williams, designer, wears Giles dress; Falconiere gloves.

Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

Birley wears Gaultier Paris blouse and skirt; Sorcha O’Raghallaigh headpiece; (from top) David Yurman pearl necklaces, Cartier gold, diamond, and pearl necklace, David Yurman pearl necklaces; Cornelia James gloves; Meadham Kirchhoff & Lilien Czech bracelets.

Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

From left: Gallacher wears Atsuko Kudo coat, shirt, and trousers; J.W. Anderson boots. Sinclair wears Ulyana Sergeenko Couture dress. Otis Azagury-Partridge, model and son of the jewelry designer Solange Azagury-Partridge, wears Ichiro Suzuki suit; his own shoes.

Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

From left: Jessie Good, model and sister of Izzy Good, wears Atelier Versace gilet and belt; Stephen Jones Millinery for Ulyana Sergeenko Couture hat; Cornelia James gloves; Fogal tights. Macdonald wears Beyond Retro jacket; J.W. Anderson shirt; his own trousers and bracelet.

Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

Birley wears Chanel Haute Couture dress; (from top) Heather Huey headpiece, New York Vintage hat; her own gloves.

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Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful

From left: Birley wears Giambattista Valli Haute Couture coat and shoes; Ashley Lloyd headpiece. Delevingne wears Giambattista Valli Haute Couture dress and shoes; Luigi Scialanga for Giambattista Valli Haute Couture necklace.

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Hair by Malcolm Edwards at Streeters London; makeup by Val Garland at Streeters London; manicures by Trish Lomax at Premier Hair and Make-up. Produced by And Productions. Casting by Adwoah Aboah and Madeleine Ostile at AAMO. Photography assistants: James Stopforth, Catherine O’Gorman. Fashion assistants: Felicia Garcia-Rivera, Jack Borkett, Lucy Kebbell. Printed by Graeme Bulcraig at Touch.

Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: Edward Enninful
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Birley divorced Ferry in 2003, and in 2006 married she married Robin Birley, a British entrepreneur also of aristocratic stock.

No longer the spouse of an artist, later in life Birley began to finely concentrate on her own creative endeavors and started to take her lifelong hobby of photography more seriously. She began exhibiting her photos publicly in 2011.

No cause of death has been given, but remembrances are pouring in.

“I’m much saddened and shocked by this tragic news of Lucy’s death,” Ferry said in a statement.

Daphne Guinness paid her respects on Twitter.

Milliner Stephen Jones also paid his respects.

Birley was also reportedly friends with Annabelle Neilson, another British socialite and fashion fixture who died unexpectedly last week.

Related: Annabelle Neilson, British Socialite and Muse of Alexander McQueen, Has Died