“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."
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.
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.