Lillian Celia "Lily" van der Woodsen (née Rhodes, previously Mueller, Bass, and Bass Humphrey) is the mother to Serena and Eric van der Woodsen, as well as being the birth mother of Scott Rosson and the adoptive mother to Chuck Bass, the latter of whom is the son to her ex-husband Bart Bass. She is portrayed by Kelly Rutherford.
Lily appeared in 96 episodes.
Lily is the daughter of music executive producer Rick Rhodes and Celia Rhodes and the younger sister of Carol Rhodes. She grew up in Montecito, California and lived on a ranch there before beginning The Thacher School in Santa Barbara as a teenager. She also lived in Manhattan as a child, briefly. After being expelled from school, she moved to Los Angeles to live with Carol.
She later attended Brown University before marrying William van der Woodsen and moving into a penthouse on the Upper East Side. Before her marriage, she dated Rufus Humphrey and gave birth to their love child, whom she gave up for adoption. The majority of Lily's storylines on the show surround her relationship with her children and her husbands, namely Rufus, Bart, and William, as well as her mother and sister.
Not much is revealed about Lily in the novel series, other than she is the mother of Serena and Erik and that she is married to William.
Lily is introduced in Pilot, when Serena returns to New York from boarding school. It's revealed that instead of telling anyone that Eric is in treatment she is saying he's staying with her sister, Carol, in Miami, Florida. She also attempts to keep Eric in rehab for as long as possible, partly due to her wanting to keep the whole thing under wraps and partly due to her being scared of his freedom. She does eventually let him leave (Dare Devil).
She also reconnects with her ex, Rufus Humphrey when she learns Serena is dating his son, Dan. They begin hanging out again and she uses him to make her new lover Bart Bass jealous (The Handmaiden's Tale). However, she soon realizes she still harbors feelings for Rufus and is hurt when he cuts her out of his life when his wife, Alison, returns from Hudson, New York (Blair Waldorf Must Pie). Soon after, Bart proposes to her and after a brief hesitation, she accepts his proposal (Roman Holiday). Around the same time, Rufus and Alison decide to divorce and he and Lily begin speaking again; especially when he needs advice on how to parent his daughter, Jenny. At one point, they decide to try again at a relationship but Lily backs out after Serena asks her to, due to her relationship with Dan (School Lies).
In All About My Brother, Serena's frenemy Georgina Sparks outs Eric as being gay, and Lily's shocked reaction leads Eric to believe she doesn't care. However, she gets over it after talking to Rufus and she tells Eric she will always love and accept him. In Woman on the Verge, Lily receives a call from the Waldorf's maid, Dorota Kishlovsky, and hears that Serena is doing drugs again. While looking through her room for evidence, she finds a tape Georgina made and believes it is a sex tape. Angry, she tells Serena that she is planning to ship her off to reform school. However, she quickly backtracks her decision when she learns the whole story from Blair. Later that night, she ends up attending Rufus' band's concert and they sleep together; despite her wedding to Bart being the next day.
In Much 'I Do' About Nothing, Bart asks her to let Rufus go and she agrees. Before the wedding, Rufus comes to see her and wishes her love and luck. She marries Bart and plans to spend the summer renovating her penthouse.
After returning from several trips with Bart, Lily realizes she misses Rufus. However, Rufus has begun dating again and isn't too welcoming to Lily wanting to be his friend. He tells her that she made her choice to be with Bart and she needs to do that (The Ex-Files). In The Serena Also Rises, Lily is shocked to learn that Bart had her thoroughly investigated by his PI and he has dossiers about her written up. On Thanksgiving, she is even more shocked to learn that he had both Serena and Eric investigated, as well as having files on them. She leaves with them before dinner and ends up spending the holiday with Rufus, Dan, Jenny, and Vanessa Abrams (The Magnificent Archibalds). This begins Lily starting to distance herself from Bart and grow closer to Rufus, despite Bart asking her to give him a chance to change. At the Snowflake Ball, Chuck sees Lily with Rufus and calls Bart, who is on his way back from a trip to Florida. On his way to confront her, he dies in a car accident (It's a Wonderful Lie).
The morning before his funeral, Lily meets with Rufus and vents about her feelings on the whole thing. She also listens to the last message Bart left her: where he reveals he knows the real reason she spent a few months in a hospital in France. At the funeral reception, Lily tries to console Chuck but he rejects her and says he blames her for Bart's death. That same day, CeCe reveals Lily's big secret to Rufus: that twenty years prior she got pregnant with his baby and gave him up for adoption (O Brother, Where Bart Thou?). At the reading of the will, it's revealed that Lily was left 20% of Bass Industries. She also goes with Rufus to Boston to find their son and learn that he was named Andrew, but died in a boating accident. However, it's shown that his adoptive parents lied (Gone with the Will). Meanwhile, Bart's brother Jack Bass has come to town to take over custody of Chuck and take over operations of Bass Industries. After he steals the company from Chuck, he teams up with Lily to take it back. They solve the issue by having Lily legally adopt Chuck and become his guardian as well as head of Bass. Angry at having the company stolen from him, Jack attempts to rape Lily but Chuck stops him in time (You've Got Yale!).
Soon after, Serena begins dating Gabriel Edwards and accidentally involves herself in a ponzi scheme; which leads Lily, Rufus, and many tenants of their apartment building to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. Lily orders Serena to stay out of the situation while she pays everyone back herself, but Serena involves herself anyway and Lily has her arrested. Rufus also finds out Lily was planning to give him money behind his back to help Dan attend Yale, and takes some space (Southern Gentlemen Prefer Blondes).
In Valley Girls, a spinoff based on a younger Lily is proposed. In it, teenage Lily is expelled from her boarding school and moves to LA to live with her estranged sister, Carol. While there, she gets arrested and meets a boy, Keith, whom she falls for. In real time, Lily resolves her problems with CeCe and Serena. In The Goodbye Gossip Girl, Lily and Rufus make up and get engaged.
In Dan de Fleurette, Lily returns from visiting CeCe to find Serena isn't going to college. Angry at how Rufus ran things while she was gone, they take some space from each other. In Rufus Getting Married, they make up and decide to get married the next day. After a lot of hard work, the wedding is pulled together but Lily finds herself struggling to write her vows. Before they wed, she takes Rufus aside and admits she doesn't know if they're doing the right thing. Meanwhile, their real son, Scott Rosson confronts them about not getting married. Georgina reveals who he is, and they abandon their wedding to find him. They do, and the three share a moment before marrying that night at the Humphrey loft.
In The Treasure of Serena Madre, Lily learns that Serena is having an affair with Nate's cousin, Tripp van der Bilt. Upset at her daughter's actions, Lily orders her to end the relationship and if she doesn't, to stay away from her. She chooses to break up with Tripp, but finds a letter from her father, William van der Woodsen, that Lily took and hid. Serena then chooses to leave town with Tripp but ends up in a major car accident. Meanwhile, Rufus grows suspicious of where Lily really spent the summer after her story doesn't match up with CeCe's. He finds out that she spent a night with William after Tripp's wife, Maureen van der Bilt finds the letter from William and gives it to him. As a result, he leaves town to go skiing.
They continue to stay apart until Vanya brings Lily Rufus' scarf that he left in her downstairs neighbor Holland Kemble's apartment (The Lady Vanished). Thinking he cheated, Lily brings him the scarf and they reconcile later that night. However, CeCe calls to tell Lily it's time to see William again for another round of treatment and she agrees to go (The Sixteen Year Old Virgin). In The Unblairable Lightness of Being Serena, who has been searching for her father for almost two years now, learns he's in Palm Beach, Florida, so she flies there to see him and is shocked to find Lily in his room instead of him. Lily returns to New York with Serena, and reveals to Rufus, along with William, that she has been sick with cancer and William has been helping heal her (Dr. Estrangeloved). Rufus is suspicious of this all, and tries to prove that William is interested in Lily romantically and not in a normal doctor-patient way. His suspicions are confirmed when William gives a speech and proclaims his love for Lily, Serena, and Eric. At the same time, Holland tells everyone that Rufus slept with her; and the revelation devastates Lily. However, Dan, Nate, Blair, Chuck, and Jenny don't believe Rufus cheated on Lily and seek to find the truth. They learn that William and Holland teamed up to break the two of them up, and that William had been giving Lily the wrong medicine to keep her seemingly sick. He leaves town and Rufus and Lily stay together (Ex-Husbands and Wives).
In Gaslit, Lily chooses to have Serena sent to rehab under involuntary commitment after she's found having an overdose in a motel. However, Serena is adamant she didn't overdose herself and tries to tell Lily, who doesn't believe her. Dan breaks her out of rehab but Lily and Blair catch them before they leave town. Serena then sees a photo of herself on Gossip Girl doing cocaine, not knowing it was really Juliet Sharp pretending to be her to ruin her reputation. In The Townie, Juliet reveals that she has a vendetta against Serena for having her brother and Serena's former teacher Ben Donovan sent to jail under statutory rape charges. Serena argues that she never talked the police and couldn't have had him arrested; then realizes that Lily was the one who had him sent there. When she confronts her about it, Lily explains that when Serena wanted to come home, no private school would take her so she went to Knightley to talk to the administration. Once she was there, she overheard some girls gossiping about Serena and Ben so Lily told as a way of getting a good reference for Serena. However, she wasn't aware of what she did until the police wanted to conduct an investigation and she was forced to forge Serena's signature on an affidavit confirming the story. At the same time, Rufus tells Chuck that Lily is planning to sell Bass Industries behind his back.
After everyone begins to ice her out, Lily tries to fix things. She tells Chuck that another company has made a very generous offer to buy Bass Industries and he mistakenly assumes she is selling to Thorpe Enterprises, a company ran by Bass enemy Russell Thorpe. When he accidentally reveals that the company is for sale to him, Russell makes a play to buy it and dismantle it for parts. Meanwhile, Eric discovers that Lily put the judge that ruled on the Ben/Serena case up in a hotel when Serena went looking for him. However, it's revealed she did so to have Ben released from jail (The Kids Are Not Alright).
In It-Girl Happened One Night, Chuck tries to prove his worth to Russell by having Lily fired from Bass Industries. When he succeeds, Lily goes to confront him and after arguing with him, causes his new girlfriend, Russell's daughter, Raina Thorpe, to leave him. However, they make up soon after and work together to ruin Russell's deal to sell Bass Ind. They succeed, but things go awry when Damien Dalgaard reveals Lily's perjury to Russell (While You Weren't Sleeping). As a result, Russell blackmails Lily but ultimately fails, as Lily was already planning to turn herself in (Empire of the Son).
After word of her arrest spreads, CeCe, Carol, and William come to town to help. Lily is excited about being in a book of Modern Royalty with her mother, sister, and children, but is depressed after the book cancels their photo due to the scandal. At the same time, Carol's daughter Charlie Rhodes comes to town and meets Serena. However, Lily and Carol resolve their issues and they end up taking a family photo in their apartment. Lily is then sentenced to three months under house arrest (The Kids Stay in the Picture). In Petty in Pink, Serena, Rufus, and Eric try to get the annual Pink Party to be held at their apartment to cheer up a depressed and lonely Lily. She is excited until she sees all her guests gossip about her. After Anne Archibald informs her that everyone there took pleasure in seeing her suffer, she has the police kick everyone out. In The Wrong Goodbye, Lily says she'll be off house arrest in time to send Eric off to college at Sarah Lawrence.
When Serena returns to town with Charlie/Ivy from Los Angeles in The Jewel of Denial, Lily refuses to shelter Charlie from Carol. Later that day, Rufus reveals to Lily that he was able to get the judge to grant her an early release and she decides to let Charlie stay with her and Rufus. In Riding in Town Cars With Boys, Lily throws Charlie her own Debutante party to introduce her to society. However, things go south quickly when paparazzi storm the party looking for Blair, who ends up in a life threatening car crash with Chuck that night.
In Cross Rhodes, Lily and everyone else learn CeCe has been very sick for a long time and is being sent to the hospital. While everyone gathers there, it's revealed that Charlie is really a girl named Ivy that Carol paid to gain access to the real Charlie's trust fund with. At the end of the night, CeCe dies. When CeCe's will is read in The Princess Dowry, it's revealed that she left everything to Ivy; including Lily's apartment that she originally purchased. Angry that Lily and everyone else kicked her to the curb, Ivy orders Lily and Rufus to leave the apartment. They do, and go to stay at the loft. In Con-Heir, Lily works with William to steal her apartment back from Ivy but their plan fails when Serena accidentally ruins it. But with the will under investigation, she is able to keep Ivy from accessing CeCe's money. Soon after, Rufus works out a deal with Ivy for her to leave if Lily unlocks the money. Lily pretends to, but really doesn't and gets Ivy out of the apartment. Mad at what she did, Rufus decides to stay in Brooklyn while Lily returns to the penthouse (Salon of the Dead).
In Despicable B, Serena is shocked to learn that the real Charlie, Lola Rhodes, is really her three-quarter sister (she was fathered by her father, William, when he was having an affair with Lily's sister, Carol, while married to Lily). Meanwhile, the judge invalidated the will, leaving Ivy with nothing. Serena tells Lily about what she learned, and Lily agrees to pay Ivy one million dollars if she told the police about Carol. As a result, Lily is able to have Carol arrested. In The Return of the Ring, Lily learns that Bart is still alive. They talk, and he apologizes for not being a good enough husband to her and expresses interest in salvaging their relationship. Meanwhile, Rufus learns that Lily is still legally married to Bart and can't be married to both of them. He brings Bart divorce papers on behalf of Lily, who is beyond angry when she finds out what Rufus did. She later decides to annul her marriage with Rufus to be with Bart.
After seeing Chuck and Bart battle of Bass Industries, Lily tries to get them to work out their problems. In Portrait of a Lady Alexander, Lily is happy to learn that Chuck is planning to invest in real estate outside Manhattan. She escorts him and Blair to a horse show and unbeknownst to them, is followed by Bart. While at the horse show, she meets Serena's new boyfriend, Steven Spence, and reveals that they slept together a long time ago. In Monstrous Ball, Serena tells Lily that she thinks Steven is going to propose to her. Lily is completely supportive until Blair says that she doesn't think Serena is ready for marriage. Lily begins to think this as well and expresses this to Steven when he asks for permission to propose.
In Where the Vile Things Are, Bart admits to Lily that his big secret is he was involved with illegally trading oil with Sudan before his fake death and he has the records in the apartment behind a painting. Meanwhile, she learns that Rufus and Ivy are planning to open their new art gallery and she decides to throw her own gala the same night to steal their guests. Ivy uses her money to buy out Lily's gala, and to compete, Lily offers to auction off a Richard Phillips' painting in the apartment. Rufus buys it, ruining Lily's revenge. Right after it's sold, Lily learns from Bart that the records for his deal were hidden behind that painting. At the same time, Chuck as also figured out where they are and attempts to get them from Ivy. He fails and she ends up with the evidence. In Save the Last Chance, Rufus discovers Ivy is cheating on him with William. He takes the records from her and gives them to Lily, who burns them in a fire, destroying Chuck's chance at taking down Bart. In It's Really Complicated, Lily and Bart decide at the last minute to stay in New York for Thanksgiving when their flight is delayed due to a tropical storm. They end up at a dinner with Serena, Dan, Chuck, Blair, Nate, Steven, Georgina, and Steven's daughter, Sage. While they eat, Blair reveals to Lily that the Bass business manager, Bruce Caplan, died in a mysterious drowning. Later that night, Lily realizes that Chuck was right in saying Bart is dangerous and leaves town to escape him for awhile. The next day, she tells Chuck that before she burnt Bart's records, she went through them with CeCe's diamond loop and gives him everything she remembered from them.
In New York, I Love You XOXO, Lily learns that Bart died for real after falling from the top of a building. Later that day, she returns from the spa to find William waiting to comfort her. Ivy is also there and she gleefully tells Lily that she and William were working together to ruin her life. William denies everything, and secretly explains to Ivy that he was using her to win Lily back and has no use for her anymore. In the time jump, it's shown that Lily is still friendly with Rufus and has gotten back together with William.
Appearance and Style
Lily is often shown to be very stylish and well put together. Unlike Blair and Serena, Lily's outfits are often tied together with statement jewelry: necklaces or earrings. She's usually seen in dresses or skirts but will sometimes wear nice jeans or pants. During the second season, Kelly Rutherford was pregnant so Lily's style was altered slightly to hide her baby bump.
Lily is a very proud and refined woman. Being an extremely rich New Yorker since birth, she is a socialite and lives off the money from the settlements of her many divorces and her own family inheritance. Lily cares a lot about maintaining her social status and her family image. Several times throughout the series it's mentioned that she wasn't a very good mother, often times abandoning her children in favor of whatever men were in her life. However, Lily sometimes has maternal moments; such as accepting her son, Eric, after he came out, and being proud of Serena when she does the right thing. In key moments, when needed Lily is shown to be protective, especially of her family, namely Serena and Eric.
After a brief rebellious lifestyle in her teen years and subsequent pregnancy of Scott, Lily seemed to have changed her mind about her priorities in life; focusing more on status and money.
- William van der Woodsen (Husband; two children)
- Serena van der Woodsen (Daughter)
- Eric van der Woodsen (Son)
- Chuck Bass (Adoptive son)
- Scott Rosson (Biological son)
- Bart Bass (Husband; deceased)
- Henry Bass (Adoptive grandson)
- Rick Rhodes (Father)
- CeCe Rhodes (Mother)
- Carol Rhodes (Sister)
- Lola Rhodes (Niece; stepdaughter)
- Dan Humphrey (Son-in-law)
- Blair Waldorf (Daughter-in-law)
- William van der Woodsen (husband; two children)
- Rufus Humphrey (Ex-husband one child)
- Bart Bass (Ex-husband, deceased)
- Steven Spence (One night stand)
- Russell Thorpe (Ex-boyfriend)
- Claus Richter (Ex-boyfriend)
- Klaus Mueller (Ex-husband)
"My mother doesn't need forgiveness, she needs electroshock therapy." -Valley Girls (2x24)
"Rufus, I know that our future will be just like us. Flawed and fragmented and full of more love than I ever thought possible. I am so excited for you to be my husband. And for our children, all of them, to be my family." -Rufus Getting Married (3x5)
"You committed her because you don't want to deal with her, you don't even want to talk to her. Why?" -Dan
"Well, maybe I'm afraid of what she might say. Maybe what she did was a cry for help and I'm the only one who didn't hear it." -Gaslit (4x10)
"Everything I ever do or have ever done, has been for my children. And someday they'll realize that." -Damien Darko (4x13)
"Just promise me one thing. Before Thorpe leaves here tonight, tell that son of a bitch where he can stick it." -Empire of the Son (4x17)
"I'm sorry to inform you that my love for you is unconditional." -Lily
"The idea of unconditional love is as quaint as The Tooth Fairy or environmentally friendly dry cleaning." -Chuck
"Not when you're a parent. Look, you might only be my son by marriage, Charles, but I've always loved you as my own. And I hope you get the opportunity to feel that love for someone someday." -Riding in Town Cars With Boys (5x10)
"I'm just not entirely sure I'm ready for the Mayflower Mausoleum in mother's honor that obviously awaits us upstairs."
"At least I didn't embezzle my own daughter's trust fund so I could go shopping at Lulu Lemon." -The Princess Dowry (5x17)
"We do not negotiate with terrorists! Especially ones from Florida!" -It-Girl Interrupted (5x19)
"Okay, fine. I missed you. I said it. Rufus, the Upper East Side holds all the comforts I desire - clean sidewalks, Bergdorf Goodman, and people whose job it is to open doors. But there is no you. And you're the only comfort I really need. The apartment just doesn't seem like a home without you in it." -Salon of the Dead (5x20)
"Us van der Woodsen's share more than you could possibly imagine." -Lily
"Yeah, like when you used to steal my leg warmers when we were teenagers." -Carol
"Yes, just like that. Or when you stole my husband and decided to have a baby with him behind my back." -Despicable B (5x21)
"I can only have one marriage. And this just isn't one anymore." -The Return of the Ring (5x24)
"Serena, let's face it. You don't have boyfriends, you have life rafts." -Monstrous Ball (6x5)
"I'm not going to let you or anyone else threaten our family ever again." -Save the Last Chance (6x7)
- She used to love photography.
- She never cooks.
- When she was a child, she had a horse named Rosewood.
- She did not attend her debutante ball.
- She had Botox.
- She was arrested once.
- One of her favorite meals is Bolognese.