THE 40-year love affair between comedienne Beatrice Lillie and her

devoted companion was sealed yesterday when they were buried together at

a churchyard in Oxfordshire.

About 120 friends, relatives and admirers, including actress Amanda

Barrie, filled the small church of St Margaret's in Harpsden, near

Henley-on-Thames, for the double funeral of Miss Lillie and Mr John


Miss Lillie, a notorious prankster who once sent Noel Coward a live

alligator, died 10 days ago, aged 94, holding Mr Huck's hand. The

66-year-old former US marine, who described their years together as the

''perfect love affair'', died the next day of a heart attack.

The Rev. John Pinner, leading the funeral requiem, said: ''John was

devoted to Bea for over 40 years. It was not an easy relationship, but

they were deeply loving and loyal to each other. It was tragic John

should have died so soon after Bea, but it is fitting and right that

they should be interred together.''

Miss Lillie, a comic genius who spent 44 years on the stage appearing

in more than 50 West End and Broadway shows, suffered much tragedy in

her life. She was entitled to call herself Lady Peel -- her husband of

14 years, Sir Robert Peel, died in 1934. Her only son died in 1942.

She met Mr Huck when he was required to lift her during one of her

productions. They became inseparable.

Miss Lillie suffered a stroke in the mid-1970s and spent her last

years paralysed and bedridden. Her last wish with Mr Huck was that her

30-roomed home, Peel Fold in Henley, should be turned into an

international college of comedy and musical theatre.

In a tribute after her death, Sir John Gielgud wrote: ''She was by far

the greatest comic comedienne of her generation, surpassing in

originality even her talented contemporaries Cecily Courtneidge and

Gracie Fields, subtler than any in her timing and more inspired in her

sense of the ridiculous.''