Inside the unusual marriage of Earl of Devon and Baywatch star AJ Langer… who was branded ‘Devon’s Meghan Markle’ | The Sun

IT was a marriage few would have predicted – one a hippy Hollywood star and the other, the heir to a sprawling British residence and historic titles. 

But in 2002, the very different worlds of former Baywatch star AJ Langer and the future Earl of Devon Charles Courtenay collided when they fell for each other in Las Vegas.

At that point, the actress had “no idea about the castles or titles” – nor that she would put her acting career on hold to move 5,300 miles away and live in a 14th-century manor on 3,500 acres after tying the knot.

In 2015, AJ and Charles took over running the estate of his ancestral home, Powderham Castle, as the Lady and Earl of Devon – a decision AJ described as “so overwhelming”.

Now 18 years since their marriage, the couple are getting divorced and insiders tell the Mail that ‘homesickness’ and the stress of maintaining the 600-year-old residence were behind it. 

Here we look back at their relationship timeline – from their unusual meeting to his parents' disapproval and struggles to adapt to their new life before the separation.



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'Ridiculous romantic fling'

The couple were raised in very different surroundings. 

Charles grew up on a sprawling estate and was privately educated at Eton College before going on to study law at St John’s College, Cambridge.

Meanwhile, AJ was born in Ohio, and was raised in San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, where she dreamed of becoming an actress. 

That dream became a reality when she bagged roles in big Nineties TV shows including Beverley Hills, 90210, Baywatch and My So-Called Life, which is arguably her most famous role.

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AJ played Rayanne Graff in My So-Called Life between 1994 and 1995Credit: Getty
AJ appeared in Baywatch three times as three different characters
She even appeared in SeinfeldCredit: Getty

Neither AJ nor Charles claimed to be aware of each other’s respective fame when they met in 2002 at the Hard Rock Circle Bar, in Vegas, while she was on a hen do. 

“He was wearing a kilt – on tour with London Scottish Rugby. We smiled at each other across the crowded room… The smile was all I needed,” she told Breezy Mama in 2009.

Charles said they “instantly got on like a house on fire” and after hewas refused entry to a nightclub “because I was wearing a ‘skirt’” they took time out to go for a walk.

They “got to know each other really, really well” during that stroll – although Charles hadn't told her about his family home or title.

She said: “I had no idea about the castle or titles or anything until he drove me up the driveway months into our relationship – which was good ‘cause I wouldn’t have known what to do with that information anyway.“

AJ predicted it would go no further than being a “ridiculous romantic fling”.

After months of writing letters to each other and a date in New York, one of Charles’ rugby pals invited them both to his wedding in the UK – a trip where she realised who he truly was. 

Charles admitted not telling her about his ancestral home was deliberate in a 2017 interview with People magazine, inspired by his father Hugh who had done the same thing.

He said he wanted “to get to know someone and really like them irrespective of all of this” – referring to Powderham Castle and its picturesque grounds.

AJ described the home as “the most romantic thing I’d ever seen” and compared it to a “historic novel”. It was different to the “very raw and new” surroundings she was used to in California.

She added: “I liked Charlie and so all the other stuff was… well, I’m sure there would be other girls who would be more impressed! But I think that’s why he liked me.”

Family differences

Charles’ parents were not as impressed. He said the match was not “their obvious choice” for him but eventually, they supported the couple years after they tied the knot in 2005. 

In a 2016 Times interview, AJ and Charles revealed her future in-laws were concerned that their family’s lives were worlds apart. 

She cited differences including them living in a “patriarchy”, and she being a “Jewish, feminist” who had loved living in a “hippy community in Topanga”, in California. 

AJ said: “It was that and the fact that we met in a bar in Vegas… I think they would’ve minded less if I’d actually looked like a Baywatch actress. 

“There was a kind of excitement about that. But then I show up and I’m short, flat-chested and a brunette. So it was just awkward all round.”

After getting married AJ and Charles returned to California, where they spent nearly 10 years while she continued to act and he worked at a law firm.

The couple, who have two kids, returned to the UK amid Charles’ father’s worsening health and moved into Powderham Castle. 

'Everything is falling apart'

In 2015, Charles and AJ became the Earl and Lady of Devon when Hugh died at the age of 73.

The move and new responsibilities were difficult for them to adapt to.

In 2020, AJ told the Celebrity Catch Up podcast: “I was a completely independent person from the age of 15. 

“I lived alone for many years and travelled alone a lot and always went to the beat of my own drum. Then here I was in the middle of really intense and very, very deep-rooted patriarchy. It has been really fascinating.”

Initially, AJ said her “focus” was “grounding our family” and she “underestimated the realities” of what it meant for her own life. 

She said: “It was the same for my husband who had been a hippy feminist husband for 10 years and I’m like, ‘Where did he go?’ 

“All of a sudden these patriotic things started coming out of his mouth and I’m like, ‘Who are you?’”

There were also the challenges of maintaining the property – which insiders believed could cost more than £1million a year.

AJ admitted it hadn’t been easy, and compared it to “like having a kid.” She added: “It takes a lifetime to get your head around it.”

Their new life was a world away from Los Angeles and in interviews, didn’t appear to be something AJ had ever dreamed of. 

She said: “I was never anyone that imagined living in a big house with fancy things. I like camping and nature…

“You see this beautiful nature outside, but you're in a fortress. Everything is falling apart. My husband won't let us fix the doors because it has always been broken and he finds it sweet.”

The couple made big changes to the venue including modernising it by allowing same-sex marriages in the venue and publicising details of one of Charles’ gay ancestors. 

In one speech AJ said: “The titles and everything does not make any sense if it is not serving humanity in some way.”

Other changes included allowing the public to visit more sections of the residence along with their dogs and hosting Radio 1’s Big Weekend festival. 

They also put on yoga, tai chi and meditation classes, educational programmes, garden experiences for dementia sufferers and other community events. 

The introduction of what she branded “so-called Californian ideas”, her background as an actress and passion projects, led some to refer to AJ as “Devon’s Meghan Markle”.


In the wake of their divorce being announced this week, sources told the Mail that AJ was “homesick” and suggested that she was underprepared for the stresses of maintaining Charles’ ancestral home.

One local said: “Coming over here must've been a big wrench for her as an American and I'm sure she was affected by homesickness over the years.”

Another, who suggested castle maintenance was behind the split, said: “I remember on one occasion she told us 'I didn't really bargain on having a castle'… 

“I think once you get into the idea of what a castle is about you realise how much work is involved.

“With a castle, you're never done with it, they went round and round with maintenance.”

Another source suggested AJ was unhappy due to “missing America” and Charles having to accept the reality that he needed to remain in the UK.

AJ previously revealed her “plan” was for them to maintain “a home in both places” because the “cultures” were “so different”. She said living on both sides of the pond was “essential to our balance as a family”.

She added: “Inheriting Powderham happened very quickly – we kind of upped and left and it was so overwhelming we haven’t spent much time back in California.”

During the pandemic the family were able to return to California and see old friends, but since returned to their Grade I listed home, in Devon. 

Hinting at her hopes for a possible return to the US before the couple’s split, AJ said: “I’ve never really stopped acting and my agents keep me on their books. 

“I do love it and miss it. My kids are talented performers and we stay open on both sides of the pond to what life brings us.”

The couple are yet to expand on reasons for their split other than citing “irreconcilable differences” but locals claim the “constant stress” of the castle could be a factor. 

One said: “They were never the type to just stay behind their high walls and never speak to anybody, they have always been part of the community and it's a shame they are separating.”

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In a statement issued by Charles, he expressed his “gratitude for his partnership with AJ and all that they have created as parents, friends and partners”. 

The Earl said their focus would be "the wellbeing of their wonderful children", Joscelyn, 16, and Jack, 14, who he said was their "highest priority". 

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