Tag Archives: fancy dress

Costume Ball 5: more ladies, more gentlemen

It’s January, so we start the new year by going back to the Duchess of Devonshire’s Jubilee Costume Ball of 1897, for another visit. But don’t think I’m scraping away at the bottom of the barrel. There are still plenty of interesting costumes to see, and no shortage of eminent ladies (and a few gentlemen) who had put some considerable effort into selecting their outfits for the event.

We can start with a couple of Duchesses:

The Duchess of Marlborough as the wife of the French ambasador at the court of Catherine of Russia page 116

This is the Duchess of Marlborough, in the role of “the wife of the French Ambassador at the court of Catherine the Great of Russia”. The Duchess was formerly Consuelo Vanderbilt an eligible American heiress who was apparently forced into her marriage (to the 9th Duke of Marlborough) by her mother. The marriage ended in divorce in 1921. She remained friendly with some members of her husband’s family including Winston Churchill.

Another Russian connection below, the Duchess of Newcastle as Princess Dashkov (or more properly Dashkova)

The Duchess of Newcastle as Princess Dashkofs p254

Princess Ekaterinawas a close friend of the Empress Catherine. She lived in Edinburgh from 1776 to 1782 and on her return to Russia became Director of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, the first woman to hold a hign government post. The Duchess of Newcastle, Kathleen Florence May Pelham-Clinton was a celebrated dog breeeder. Should I risk boring you with a slight coincidence? The Duchess died in the year of my birth and shared two of her Christian names with my mother.

Now a few Countesses:

The Countess of Yarborough as a Lady of the Court of Catherine II of Russia p124

The Countess of Yarborough is another “lady of the Empress Catherine’s court” according to our book of the Ball. (It must have been quite a challenge for the photographer’s assistants to get all this information down, hence the occasional unknown name). Further research tells us that Marcia Amelia Mary Pelham was playing another Countess, Countess Tchoglokov. She was also two Baronesses, Conyers and Fauconberg, if that information takes your fancy.

Coming back to these islands, the Countess of Pembroke, Beatrix Louisa Lambton is another of those guests playing one of their own ancestors.

The Countess of Pembroke as Mary Sydney Countess of Pembroke after the picture by Marcus Gheeraedts p121

She is Mary Sydney, the Countess of Pembroke, sister of the poet Philip Sydney and a poet in her own right. She was a highly educated woman who was a patron of both the arts and sciences. She edited some of her brother’s works after his death including Arcadia and may have known Shakespeare. At one point she lived in Crosby Hall, the building famously transported from the City to Cheyne Walk, in Chelsea in the 1920s.

Here is an Elizabethan duo:

Lady Tweedmouth as Queen Elizabeth, Lord Tweedmouth as the Earl of Leicester p257 (2)

Queen Elizabeth herself, played by Lady Tweedmouth, while her husband Lord Tweedmouth plays  Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, the Queen’s favourite. An intriguing pair of roles for a married couple to play. Lord Tweedmouth was Lord Privy Seal under Gladstone. His wife, Fanny Octavia Louise was another member of the Spencer-Churchill family. She died of cancer in 1904.

Continuing the Elizabethan theme, and coming slightly down the social scale Mrs Arthur James plays Elizabeth Cavendish, the daughter of Bess  Of Hardwicke (Countess of Shrewsbury) who married the 1st Earl of Lennox, Charles Stuart.

Mrs Arthur James as Elizabeth Cavendish daughter of Bess of Hardwicke p256 (2)

I’ve allowed Mrs James to create a discrete gap on the page between Robert Dudley and his wife Amy Robsart:

Mrs C G Hamilton as Amy Robsart p160 (2)

She is played by another lady making use of the feathery fan, Mrs C G Hamilton. Lady Dudley is famous for falling downstairs and dying in suspiscious circumstances, supposedly to clear the way for Queen Elizabeth to marry Sir Robert. This of course never happened. I wonder if Mrs Hamilton stayed away from Lord and Lady Tweedmouth during the Ball, or if they just laughed about the suggestion of murder?

Perhaps we should turn to some guests whose costumes  have a purely aesthetic effect.

Lady Bingham p228

This slightly confused lady is noted down as simply Lady Bingham, with no suggestion as to who she represents.

Other guests chose roles from the world of art.

Lady Beatrice Herbert as Signora Bacelli after Gainsborough p123

This is Lady Beatrice Herbert portraying Gainsborough’s Giovann Baccelli. Compare her with the painting itself:

gainsborough-portrait-of-giovanna-baccelli

A pretty accurate rendition I would say. the orginal painting is in the collection of Tate Britain.

Another artistic lady:

Lady Evelyn Ewart as the Duchess of Ancaster Mistress of the Robes to Queen Charlotte 1757 after a picture by Hudson p178

Lady Evelyn Ewart doesn’t quite replicate the pose but the dress is almost exactly the same

ca-1757-mary-panton-3rd-2

I haven’t been able to find an exact image of the original but this is based on a miniature by Cosway.

Miss Madeleine Stanley as Lady Hopeton after a miniature by Cosway p227

Miss Madeleine Stanley looking languid and pastoral as Lady Hopeton. She may be a relation of this gentleman, the Hon.G Stanley:

the Hon G Stanley as Maro - period of Louis XVI page 104

I’m surprised I haven’t used him before. Possibly because the picture is labelled “period of Louis XVI” which deosn’t quite fit with the Roman style costume. It’s a good picture though.

There are still some pictures left for another post another day but let’s finish on one of the lying down poses.

 

Lady Georgiana Curzon as Maria Leschynska p170 (2)

Maria Leschynska was the daughter of King Stanislaw I of Poland (not a king for very long) who married Louis XV of France.  Sitting for the photographer is Lady Georgiana Curzon, (nee Spencer-Churchill) daughter of the 7th Duke of Marlborough (John Winston Spencer Churchill) and hence younger sister of Lady Tweedmouth and some kind of relation to the Duchess in the first picture. You can work it out. I’m going to follow Lady Georgiana’s example and lie down.

 Postscript

I hope you consider these fancy dress posts suitable for the post-Christmas period of idle entertainment. They’re usually popular anyway. We’ll be back to more local matters next week.The other costume ball posts here.

I’ve just seen the Mayor’s firework display from my kitchen window. Not bad. A happy new year to you all.

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The School Play: Queen’s Gate School 1905-1913

I came across these pictures while looking for  a complete copy of a single school magazine from Catharine Lodge. At the same class number where the magazine should have been was a small collection of school magazines from Queen’s Gate School, South Kensington. There was a run of the Log as it was known from 1904 to 1912, which is just the period when the Whitelands College May Queen Festival was at its height and  around the pivotal moment of the 1908 Chelsea Pageant. I’ve suggested in the past that this period was also the height of a general fascination with amateur dramatics, pageants and ceremonies which involved fancy dress. So I was interested to find a set  of photographs which seemed to fit in with all that.

Of course the school play is a time honoured tradition practised in British schools, public and state, for many years so I can’t claim this particular bunch of images represent anything completely distinct and unusual. But they are good photographs and they do fit with a theme I’ve explored in other posts.

Caught p59

Naturally, Queen’s Gate was a single-sex school at the time. So in this 1905 production of a play called Caught set in 1651 during the English Civil War, all the male roles are played by young women, some of whom manage the gender reversal better than others. It’s asking a lot for the young actors to do a different gender and a different age so the bearded gentleman seated on the left looks a little strained. The other seated gentleman  who I take to be Charles II looks very much like an actual male actor but is it seems Miss Anne Moorhouse.( You can see her again below). The girls seated on the floor performed a “Peasant dance” as part of the play. (The lady seated next to King Charles looks like a teacher, not in costume).

The teachers also took part in these programmes of entertainment which also featured seperate dance performances and sporting demonstrations. ). Pupils who had recently left the school also came back to take part.

On June 21st 1907 the bill opened with “Pierrot qui rit et Pierot qui pleure”:

The Log 1907-1908 p13 Pierrot qui rit et Pierrot qui pleure

The two pierrots were old girls – Hilda Bewicke and Ruth Haslam (who had played a male role in Caught). Miss Halsam also performed a “Spanish Gipsy Dance” later on. The play was “Pity: or Gringoire the Ballad-Monger”, a piece set “about 1470”.

The Log 1907-1908 p16 Gringoire the Ballad-Monger

Anne Moorhouse played the title role – standing to the right of the seated King Louis X I who was played by her sister Mary Moorhouse (listed as “Louise” in the magazine  – a typo, or a change in convention which adds another layer of ambiguity).

A teacher, Miss Stuart played Simon the draper (on the far left I think) and Hilda Bewicke was also in it (on the right – or is she the one in the white hat?).

“Never were they more successful” says Monique de Gasser of the plays.  her article also covers a performance in March 1908 when a duo – Phyllis Heineky (who was one of the peasant dancers in Caught) and Lilian Stewart did a two hander, Love Laughs at the Locksmith. They play a puritan and a royalist in “a turret room at Keystone Farm 1651”.

The Log 1907-1908 p23  Love laughs at the LocksmithThe Log 1907-1908 p22  Love laughs at the Locksmith

I don’t know what it’s about. Maybe two nominal enemies coming to a mutual understanding.They both look quite confident.

That issue of the Log also had poetry, a letter from a former pupil in California, a piece on “Individualism versus impartiality in Literature”, an account of a trip to St Ives and a short ghost story. In other words the editors were trying quite hard to show that the pupils were getting a good education.

The 1908-09 issue was another thick volume. In December 1908 there was a peformance of W S Gilbert’s Pygmalion and Galatea and some Greek dances, but the magazine doesn’t include any pictures. There are a couple of the irrepressible Hlida Bewicke though in dance poses. Here’s one of them:

Dance- tres piquant - Hilda Bewicke p80 - Copy

There was also a fencing demonstration:

Fencing - le Grand Salut p88 - Copy

The short drama in  the Variety Entertainment was a contemporary piece about amateur drama, the Final Rehearsal.

1909-10 The Final Rehearsal p831909-10 The Final Rehearsal p84

The five players including once again Miss Stuart did not have to attempt any male roles (slightly harder in a modern setting I would have thought.). It’s harder to pick out Miss Stuart from the group too. One of the others, Katie Setwart was singled out because she didn’t “lose (any) of her daintiness when impersonating the household drudge.” So there.

The Bazaar of 1912 featured a performance of Moliere’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, a revival for the school.

1912-13 Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme p27

The cast was mostly new, but Phyllis Henekey was back as Dorimene.

1912-13Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme p22

I can’t quite make her out.

1912-13 Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme p21

The costumes of this historical era seem to work best for the young women.

There was also a “Dance of Beauty” featuring some classical costume and urns. (Compare this with a similar set of performers at Whitelands College)

1912-13 Dance of beauty p95

And one simply called Peace.

1912-13 Peace

There had been Dutch, Servian (Serbian), Italian, Turkish and Russian dances that afternoon. The final piece brought warriors and nurses together. “This dance in its refelction of the age struck a sympathetic note in the audience, as was proved by the hearty applause from the over-crowded house.” The dark clouds of the coming war had reached South Kensington which shows the staff and pupils were not living an entirely sheltered existence.

Postscript

I hope I haven’t given the impression that I was mocking any of these performers. It was good clean fun from an age which might not have been more innocent than ours but definitely had a more earnest sensibility. At Queen’s Gate School  the young women could engage in artistic pursuits with no sense of future irony.

With that in mind I urge you to keep an entirely straight face when looking at this final  picture of the physical drill class of 1905 who are also trying to be completely serious.

Physical drill p47 - Copy

My thanks to the now presumably deceased performers. Queen’s Gate School itself is still going strong. Their website: http://www.queensgate.org.uk/

If any of the current students and staff read this post I’d be happy to hear from you, especially if there are more pictures of these fascinating performances.


Costume Ball 4: Ladies only

It’s the time of year for parties so we’re back at that social event of 1897, the Duchess of Devonshire’s Diamond Jubilee Costume Ball which has proved to be one of the most popular subjects on the blog. The Duchess and her party organiser must have been well aware of the interest the Ball would generate. The Lafayette photography company set up their portable studio in a tent in the grounds of Devonshire House, and the photographers must have been working hard to get through nearly 200 subjects in the course of the evening. But it would have been worth it. They would have been able to sell postcards and prints of the guests to a public which was already generating an early version of what we now call celebrity culture. In addition there were expensive souvenirs. The book I’ve scanned these pictures from is a large heavy volume produced in a limited edition.

This selection features only female guests. Their costumes were the main focus of interest for the photographers so I’m following this example as any popular magazine edition would have done. As I’ve noted in previous posts (1st,2nd,3rd) the costumes were mainly historical with the 16th,17th and 18th centuries providing most of the subjects. But there were also literary, mythological and artistic costumes.

Lady Ampthill, as “a lady of King Arthur’s court”.

Lady Ampthill p219 as a lady of King Arthur's court

And here, Queen Guinevere herself:

Lady Rodney as Queen Guinevere p114

Lady Rodney’s costume designer has a slightly different take on fashions at Camelot. A similar free reign could be taken when creating costumes for characters out of antiquity.

Miss Keith Fraser as Delilah p152 (2)

Miss Fraser as Delilah, a Biblical character familiar to most people of the time.

Miss Muriel Wilson as Queen Vashti page 101

Miss Muriel Wilson as Queen Vashti, the first wife of King Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther. Vashti is sometimes called a proto-feminist icon for her refusal to appear before the King’s guests at a banquet.

Some of the costumes were more conceptual:

Lady Herschell as Night p251

Lady Herschell looking slightly unhappy as Night (costumes expressing ideas like night and day were quite common at fancy dress parties).

The Countess of Westmoreland as Hebe page 82

The Countess of Westmoreland as Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth, daughter of Zeus and Hera. Did she bring that bird herself, I wonder or did the photographer have it handy, in his box of props?

Lady Edith Villiers as Lady Melbourne after Cosway page 60

There were some costumes inspired by artworks including this one, Lady Edith Villiers as Lady Melbourne after a portrait by Cosway, and in a similar vein:

The Hon Mrs Reginald Fitzwilliam after a picture by Romney

The Hon Mrs Fitzwilliam after a portrait by Romney.

But as I’ve said, the majority of the guests came as historical figures. In this case the photographers were unable to identify the costume worn by Mrs Leiter:

Mrs Leiter p245

Suggestions welcome. Other ladies were more readily identifiable if sometimes a little obscure:

The Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos as Caterina Cornare Queen of Cypress p144 (2)

The Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos (a fine title) as Caterina Cornare, Queen of Cypress.

Lady Aileen Wyndham Quin as Queen Hortense  p139

Lady Aileen Wyndham Quin as Queen Hortense. I’m assuming that this is Hortense de Beauharnais, stepdaughter of Napoleon and daughter of Josephine. She was Queen of Holland as the wife of Louis Napoleon and the mother of Napoleon III.

The Hon Mrs Lowther as Madame de Tallion - Incroyable p186

The Hon Mrs Lowther as Madame Therese de Tallion an “Incroyable” according to the caption in the book, one of the fashionistas of post Reign of Terror Paris, although my cursory research indicates that the Incroyables were the male ones and that the correct term for the women was Merveilleuses (marvellous women). Hortense de Beauharnis was also a Mervelleuse in her younger days.

Lady Fitzgerald as Marie Josephe Queen of Poland

Lady Fitzgerald as Marie Josephe Queen of Poland.

Lady Moyra Cavendish as Countess Lazan page 62

Lady Moyra Cavendish as Countess Lazan, a person I haven’t been able to find out anything about, but it’s a good costume.

Lady Lister Kaye as Duchesse de Guise, time Henri III p131

Lady Lister Kaye as Antoinette de Bourbon, Duchesse de Guise and maternal grandmother of Mary Queen of Scots.

The Duchess of Hamilton as Mary Hamilton Lady in Waiting to Mary Queen of Scots p207 (2)

The Duchess of Hamilton as Mary Hamilton, a lady in waiting to the same Mary Stuart, and possibly one of her own ancestors.

Lady Alington as Duchesse de Nevers, Dame de la Cour de S.M. Marguerite de Valois p213

Lady Alington as the Duchesse de Nevers, a lady from the court of Marguerite de Valois. She looks to me as if she has been very patient with the photographer but is now ready to go.

The Hon Marie Kay as Mademoiselle Andree de Taverney AD1773  page 240

The Hon Marie Kay as Mademoiselle Andree de Taverney, another 18th century lady who has evaded me today.

And finally, posed as if walking away:

The Hon Maud Winn as Madame la Motte page 59

The Hon Maud Winn as Madame la Motte, possibly the thief and adventuress who was involved in the complicated affair of the Queen’s diamonds in the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. It’s an incongruously disreputable note on which to finish with this grand and respectable event.

Postscript

The Ball took place in July, which must have made some of those heavy costumes uncomfortable. Not really appropriate for this time of year either. One of the other characters who’ve appeared in the blog, Jerry Cornelius held a spectacular party in the Final Programme. So from him I take this message: a happy new fear to all my readers.

Title page - Copy


Rite of spring: Mr Ruskin’s May Queen

Ruskin and Rossetti VAW copy

John Ruskin wouldn’t sit down for this picture. However poor the state of his health he felt it was unthinkable for him to sit in the presence of Rossetti so the great artist held him up. Ruskin was a man of high ideals and aesthetic principles. He had been one of the early supporters of the Pre-Raphaelites so Rossetti’s loose morals and the strange ménage at Tudor House wouldn’t have bothered him. But nevertheless it would have been hard to find two more unlikely companions in the whole of Victorian England. Rossetti represents the sensual side of the Victorian imagination let loose about as much as it could be. Ruskin of course represents the repressed imagination and it was that respectable side of his nature which drew him into collaboration with John Faunthorpe the Principal of the teacher training establishment in the King’s Road, Whitelands College.

Copy of Whitelands College PC109C

1902 John Faunthorpe from 1924 WA

[John Faunthorpe 1902]

Faunthorpe was a fan of Ruskin’s. He admired the great man extravagantly, idolised him even. So in1880 inspired by Ruskin  he floated the idea of starting a May Queen Festival at the College. Ruskin had form in this area, he had tried to start something similar at a school in Cheshire but parents had objected (Ruskin’s divorce / annulment from his marriage with Effie Gray and her subsequent marriage to Millais had been a great scandal). Between them the two men worked something out which combined Ruskin’s love of picturesque old English ritual and Faunthorpe’s desire for high Anglican ceremony. The notion of a may queen may also have appealed to  Ruskin because it involved pretty young women for whom he had a sentimental regard after the failure of his marriage and the derailment of his romance with Rose La Touche. The Victorians in general were given to sentimentalizing youth (perhaps because they frequently saw it snatched away by sudden disease and death, the very fate of Rose la Touche who died at the age of 27).

Ruskin donated a set of his books each year to be handed out by the new Queen, and paid for the design of the first in a series of crosses which were given to each Queen. The May Queen was chosen by the votes of the students (she should be “the lovablest and the likeablest” was Ruskin’s mawkish guidance to the voters). The first was Queen Ellen I.

1881 Queen Ellen I

Unfortunately for the ceremony Ellen was in mourning at the time and wearing black so a white shawl was found for her to wear. Ruskin pestered Faunthorpe for a photograph and then rather ungraciously said the Queen looked like she was 38. (She was 20). Although he did visit the College regularly he never attended the May Day ceremony. Perhaps he preferred the festival as a romantic ideal. After Queen Ellen the Queen and her maidens had dresses made for the occasion.

Ruskin had his protégé Kate Greenaway design a dress for the Queen which was passed on for four years.

1891 Queen Jessie 02

[Queen Jessie 1891]

But as the Festival continued it became customary for former queens to return and take part in the festival so the Queen needed a unique outfit.

1892 Queen Elizabeth II 02

[A small and faded view of Queen Elizabeth II, 1893]

1895 Queen Annie Bawden May 1895 CM259

[Queen Annie II, 1895]

May Day is a festival dating back to pre-Christian times. It’s related to the Celtic festival Beltane and the Germanic Walpurgis Nacht. Faunthorpe wanted to emphasise the Christian elements, and Ruskin had exalted ideas about feminine innocence and purity. But despite that this version of May Day still had its May Pole, and retained the flowers, garlands, branches and wooden staffs which still have their older pagan connotations. Here’s Queen Annie again in her throne room.

Queen Annie II 1895 CM258 Queen enthroned - Copy

They look like they’re starting to get the hang of it. Some former queens are present (see if you can spot Elizabeth II). They’re beginning to look a little like a female Masonic lodge.

Ruskin died in 1900 but the Festival no longer needed his blessing and seemed to grow in importance and complexity. If you remember I first dealt with the May Queen in Games for May. In that post I linked the Festival with the Chelsea Pageant just because I found the pictures together but the more I find out about the two events the more I think they belong together as part of the same current in the first decade of the 20th century. The Edwardians seemed to have a propensity almost amounting to mania for dressing up and engaging in theatrical rituals and performances, especially out of doors. In an age of technological innovation perhaps they were reliving the myths and legends of an older England. An England of their imagination.

Behind the stern walls of the College was a quadrangle with ivy-covered walls where the ceremonies could take place out of sight of the busy streets outside.

1899 Queen Agnes I and bodyguard CM259

[Queen Agnes I 1899]

The May Day festival took a whole day and required much preparation. The entire student body of about 150 got white dresses paid for by the college. There were services in the college chapel, a procession, an abdication ceremony, an election (although it became expedient to have the election before May Day so the new queen could be fitted for her dress) a masque, or some “revels”, and the crowning of the new Queen who would give out gifts of copies of works by Ruskin to selected students.

In 1906 there happened to be three queens in the College at the same time, the new Queen Florence, her predecessor Evelyn and the 1904 Queen Mildred.

1906 Queen Florence with Queen Mildred -left-and Queen Evelyn

Mildred in particular looks like she’s just come off the set of one of those 1970s Hammer films like the Vampire Lovers. Or (as I’ve said before) the cover of an album by a 70s English folk rock group, especially in the masque picture below.

They pulled out the stops on this one. Florence proceeded to her coronation with her maidens in tow.

1906 Queen Florence and maidens

And Mildred took the lead in a masque in which the students played flowers and trees and paid homage to her.

1906 masque featuring Queen Mildred and the cast of flowers and trees

In 1909, the year after the Chelsea Pageant there were more elaborate ceremonies. Here is Agnes II, with her chamberlains.

1909 Queen Agnes II & chamberlains

On the throne with the Dowager Queen Dorothy.

1909 Queen Agnes II & Dowager Queen Dorothy 1902 painting behind

Behind them is a painting of the 1902 ceremony. Check out the leopard skin.

There was even a special appearance by this lot:

1909 nuns

Not real nuns of course, just some of the Pageant performers from 1908 who just couldn’t resist coming back for an encore. It might have been their last chance to join the procession with the women in white.

1908 procession 02

And oddly, it seems to me that at that point they had peaked. The May Queen Festival continued of course, carries on to this day in fact, but in the second decade of the century the ceremonies gradually became less elaborate and the College slowly seemed to stop making quite such a big thing of May Day. Or it could be that young women were getting more serious about their profession and less serious about quixotic ritual. I heard someone on the radio recently saying that the Edwardians had a kind of innocence based on hope, the hope that the new century was going to bring progress and prosperity. By 1910 perhaps the zeitgeist was looking a little less hopeful than before and the revellers decided it was time to put the costumes back into the dressing up box.

Still, there were many more May Queens at Whitelands and when they gathered together for the ceremonies there was quite a bunch of them, now engaged in charitable works as well as Christianised neo-pagan rites. They even had a leader, the Mother Queen who was the oldest of this select group.

1912 Queen Ellen the mother queen

The first May Queen, Ellen I, now out of mourning, in her own robes, leading the procession again in 1912. She died in 1923, mourned by her fellow queens, but never forgotten.

Postscript

That was quite a long post. Just as with the Chelsea Pageant I discovered a lot more material than I had imagined we had. Enough for another post next May Day if you can wait that long. I showed the pictures to a colleague and she said “it looks so pagan” – so it isn’t just me who thinks that.

The picture of Ruskin and Rossetti comes from the book the Victorian art world in photographs by Jeremy Maas. There is supposed to be a copy of it in William Rossetti’s memoirs but our copy had that page missing. There was an interesting picture of Maria Rossetti though which I intend to use in a future post.

Whitelands College moved to Putney in 1930 and has since moved again. It is now part of the University of Roehampton. The May Day Festival continues and they have May Kings now as well as May Queens. This year’s festival is on May 18th.

Postscript to the postscript

See comment below. Queen Thyra (1890) from Malcolm Cole’s book on the May Queen Festival,

1890 Queen Thyra


Party time again: Costume Ball 1897

For those of you who are not especially interested in the Duchess of Devonshire’s Jubilee Costume Ball of 1897 my apologies. But according to my blog statistics there are many of you who can’t get enough of the photographs taken by the Lafayette Company to record the costumes worn by the guests, so I hope the others will forgive us another visit to the party.

I’ve done a small amount of research on Victorian fancy dress. There was an entire book on the subject, Fancy Dress Described by Ardern Holt which ran to six editions of detailed descriptions of costumes for every occasion in alphabetical order. The Duchess’s guests didn’t stop with written descriptions. According to an account in the Times they haunted the art galleries of London making notes and sketches for their dressmakers.

It was often customary to organise the guests into groups of related costumes called quadrilles who could then dance together in a pre-arranged routine. Holt suggests seasons, constellations, Noah’s Ark, packs of cards and shepherds and shepherdesses. But the Duchess had loftier ideas – “allegorical or historical costume dated earlier than 1820” was her brief for the guests. They responded by sorting themselves into four Courts – Elizabethan, Louis XIV/XVI, Maria Theresa of Austria and Catherine II of Russia with other groups of “Italians” (which included characters from history and literature) and “Orientals” (this group headed by the Duchess herself as Queen Zenobia included characters from antiquity and classical literature.)

Some of the guests stuck with the plan:

Mrs William James as the Archduchess Elizabeth of Austra p282 a

Mrs Elizabeth James as the Archduchess Anne of Austria. Or below:

double 01

Two of those Italians – Lady Robert Cecil as Valentine Visconti and Lady St Oswald as the Duchessa di Calaria. From the French court came the Countess of Kilmorey.

The Countess of Kilmorey Ellen Constance nee Baldock as Comtesse du Barri p267

She is playing La Comtesse du Barri, the mistress of Louis XV (and of course a character in Doctor Who). Coincidentally Ellen Constance Needham was herself a royal mistress, the lover of Prince Henry of Teck, brother of the future Queen Mary (wife of George V). There was a minor scandal when Prince Henry who died quite young left some family jewels to the Countess. The will was suppressed and the jewels quietly bought back by the Royal Family. Nellie, as she was known, in her late thirties at the time of the ball, lived on until 1920 just reaching that other decade of conspicuous pleasure.

As we’ve seen before the greatest interest then as now was in the costumes worn by the lady guests. Occasionally the men could play a supporting role.

Sir Charles Hartopp as Napoleon I, Lady Hartopp as the Empress Josephine p270 (2)

The Emperor Napoleon and Josephine as played by Sir Charles and Lady Hartopp. They, or the photographer have caught the ambiguous relationship of the people they are portraying. I wonder if Sir Charles was as short as the original?

These two are not so well known as a couple:

Lord Charles Montagu as Charles I, Lady Chelsea as an Italian Flower girl p221  (2)

Lord Charles Montagu as Charles I, with Lady Chelsea as an Italian flower girl. It could have been just a random combination. Perhaps no-one came as Charles’s wife Henrietta Maria.

Still roughly part of the plan for the ball:

Mrs Von Andre as Desdemona p129

Mrs von Andre as Desdemona. Other guests strayed out of the strict historical plan.

The Hon Mrs Reginald Talbot as a Valkyrie p183

Another Valkyrie (there were several of those knocking about at the ball) played by Mrs Reginald Talbot. The spear and the shield must have been quite a burden to carry around.

In the previous post I showed you a lady dressed as Alecto, one of the Furies and I wondered where the others were. I did find Megaera:

Lady Sophie Scott as Megaera p150a

Lady Sophie Scott. I’ve also managed to find a picture of the two of them together not from the book I’ve been using but from another source .

2 furies

Lady Scott is on the right I think with Lady Lurgan on the left. They look a little alike (apart from the costumes). Were the two of them related? I haven’t been able to find out. I expect the torches were extinguished in the ballroom itself.

There were also more costumes from the realm of art:

The Hon Mrs Baillie as Mrs James Baillie from the family group by Gainsborough

The Hon. Mrs Baillie as Mrs James Baillie from a Gainsborough portrait. She was playing one of her own ancestors. Is that being a bit too clever? This lady did the same thing:

The Countess of Dalkeith as Helen Countess of Dalkeith p236 (2)

The Countess of Dalkeith playing  Helen, a previous Countess of Dalkeith.

Lady Margaret Innes-Ker as Lady Eglinton, Lady Victoria Innes-Ker as Elizabeth Linley after minatures by Cosway p169

Two sisters, the Ladies Margaret and Victoria Innes – Ker as two unrelated ladies out of miniatures by Cosway. Richard Cosway was a celebrated painter of miniatures but so was his wife Maria.

We’ll end this week with some more characters from the ancient world which had just as much of a hold on the Victorian imagination as it does on our own.

The Hon Mrs Maguire as Dido Queen of Carthage (Major Wynne-Finch with her) p239

The Hon. Mrs Maguire as Dido, Queen of Carthage anachronistically accompanied not by a man dressed as Aeneas but by a Major Wynne-Finch, whose role is not recorded as far as I can tell. Actually they don’t look too odd together as her costume is not likely to be particularly accurate.

No more than that of Lady de Trafford:

Lady de Trafford as Semiramis Queen of Assyria p261

She is playing Semiramis Queen of Assyria.

Finally a couple who look like they actually enjoy each other’s company.

Mr and Mrs Hall Walker as Merlin and Vivian p265 (2)

Mr and Mrs Hall Walker as the magician Merlin and Vivian the Lady of the Lake who enchants him in some versions of the story. It’s good to finish on a couple of Walkers.

It was also good to take the time machine back to familiar territory but we’ll be somewhere quite different next week.

Three of the many editions of Fancy Dress Described can be found in the Costume Collection at Chelsea Library and the 6th edition can be downloaded online. The descriptions are nothing if not exhaustive.

More pictures from the costume ball here and here.


Back to the party: the Duchess of Devonshire’s Costume Ball 1897

After nearly a year of blogging I’ve been looking back at the most popular posts of the last twelve months and at number four was the original post about the Duchess of Devonshire’s Diamond Jubilee costume ball in 1897.  The photographers of the Lafayette Company photographed 200 guests that night as souvenirs for guests and to turn into collectible cards. There are still some remarkable pictures left to see.

Lady Alexandra Acheson strikes a pose in a hunting costume of the Louis XV period, when the French aristocracy also enjoyed dressing up.

Count Omar Hadik as his own ancestor Field Marshall Count Hadik, easily the least embarrassing male costume.

The Countess of Gosford as an 18th century version of Minerva, goddess of wisdom. Check out her owl, which later appeared in the original Clash of the Titans film.

Many of the guests leaned towards the 17th and 18th centuries.

Lady Meysey Thompson as Elizabeth Queen of Bohemia the aunt of Charles II and wife of the Elector Frederick V, who has become a significant figure in esoteric history.

Another of her Stuart relatives:

Lady Katharine Scott as Mary Queen of Scots, with the look of a martyred saint in a religious painting.

None of these costumes are entirely accurate although the look of the eighteenth and seventeenth centuries was probably well known to historians and costumiers at the end of the nineteenth but they had to look attractive too, just like costume designs in films and television.

It was probably easier to work with more obscure characters from history, literature and mythology which gave more scope for artistic license as in this costume:

Lady Alice Montagu as Laure de Sade, an ancestor of the Marquis de Sade, and possibly the Laure who inspired the poet Petrarch in the 14th century. We saw a gentleman portraying Petrarch himself in the previous post.

Another poetic muse who was brought to life at the Ball by two different guests:

The Countess of Mar as Beatrice Portinari the woman who inspired Dante, who has I think the edge over Lady Southampton’s more contemporary version:

Instead of playing a muse Viscountess Milton opted for a creator, Marie Antoinette’s court painter Madame Le Brun.

Other guests chose mythological identities, where the costume designers had free reign:

Lady Gerard, describing herself as the Moon Goddess Astarte. Astarte is a goddess who was worshipped over many years in many different countries in the ancient world under several names. She isn’t exactly a moon goddess but we can let that go.

Lady Lurgan, surprisingly nonthreatening as Alecto, one of the Furies (“the implacable or unceasing anger”).  Megaera (Jealousy) and Tisiphone (Vengeance) appear to have had another party to go to that night. Alecto has also made a film appearance, in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.

Mrs Ronalds as Euterpe the Muse of music – her costume has many clues to her identity.

On the musical front Wagner was still very popular in the 1890s so it is not surprising that there was a Brunhilde (Mrs Leslie):

And a couple of narrow waisted Valkyries (Two sisters, the Mademoiselles de Courcel):

Turning from northern European mythology to British legend and literature, here is a King Arthur out of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King played by Lord Rodney:

And finally a royal character out of Shakespeare:

The ethereal beauty of Mrs J Graham Menzies in the role of Titania, Queen of the Fairies who can now get back to the party with the rest of the guests. Shall we leave them to it?

No wait, one more. The patroness of bloggers and other storytellers everywhere played with some conviction by a lady with no title, Miss Goelet.

Scheherazade.

More pictures from the costume ball here and here.


Fancy Dress 1897: the Duchess of Devonshire’s Diamond Jubilee Ball

The Time Machine seems to be a bit sluggish after its month long stay in the 19th century. So it’s hardly surprising that its first jump has only got us as far as 1897. It’s landed us outside the borders of Kensington and Chelsea as well but as this is a Diamond Jubilee year for the Queen we shouldn’t miss this opportunity to hang around at one of the main events of the last Diamond Jubilee. We’re in a tent in the grounds of Devonshire House on July 2nd 1897. The photographer James Lauder of the Lafayette Company and his assistants are going to perform the considerable feat of taking photographs of 200 guests in sumptuous costumes in front of different backdrops over the evening. We’re going to see costumes from history, literature, art and mythology. The occasion is the social event of the year, the Duchess of Devonshire’s Diamond Jubilee Costume Ball.

The Princess of Wales came as Queen Marguerite de Valois. Some guests followed the Royal example and stayed with European history. The Duchess of Portland as the Duchess of Savoy:

Or HRH the Duchess of Connaught as Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV (I looked that up so you don’t have to):

Other guests ventured into art:

Sir Edgar Vincent as a character from a painting by Franz Hals. Like the photographers I am throwing in a few token men but concentrating on the female guests. (The Lafayette Company expected to sell prints of the photographs and the costumes of the ladies which were nearly all very expensive and made to order. Out of 700 guests, 200 or so were photographed, the majority of them women) Lady Vincent also came as a character from a Dutch painting:

Here’s another artistic pair:

The Ladies Churchill as Watteau shepherdesses. Shepherdesses of course have always been a favourite dressing up role for the aristocracy, favoured by Marie Antoinette and even Louis XIV’s brother who was always called Monsieur.

Lady Margaret Villiers, either by coincidence or design is dressed as Monsieur’s wife Madame, Duchess d’Orleans (and sister of Charles II) who had three children by the bisexual royal Duke, took part in the negotiations for the secret Treaty of Dover, and who may have been poisoned, all by the age of 26.

The men at these affairs usually look more uncomfortable if not actually unconvincing:

The Hon Mr Fitzwilliam as Nelson and Lord Staverdale as Petrarch. Mr Henry Holden pulls it off by refusing to take the whole thing too seriously:

He is portraying Will Somers, the first Queen Elizabeth‘s court jester. The costume looks a lot less effort as well.

The hostess the Duchess of Devonshire looked to the classical world for inspiration. She dressed as Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.

Others followed her example and these I think are the most interesting costumes at the ball.

Lady Randolph Churchill (Sir Winston Churchill’s mother) as the Empress Theodora, wife of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian.

Lady Alexandra Colebrooke as Roxana, wife of Alexander the Great. And below the Hon Mrs Algernon Bourke as Salammbo the princess of Carthage in Flaubert’s novel. Although she was fictional she had a definite influence on art and fashion in the late 19th century.

There were even two, possibly three versions of Cleopatra:

I don’t know if Mrs Paget and the Countess de Grey had to be kept apart at the Ball. What’s the etiquette if two rival versions meet? The book I’ve used for these pictures printed just after the Ball also describes the picture below as Cleopatra:

Princess Henry of Pless has the edge I think in terms of the most impressive costume (none of them are likely to be all that accurate) but some authorities say she’s dressed as the Queen of Sheba, which deals with any further clash of characters. The backdrops for these images are influenced by painters such as Moreau and of course our own Lord Leighton and Lawrence Alma-Tadema. The world of ancient Rome and the Middle East was seen as a fantasy land of sensual pleasure in the late Victorian imagination. As we explored in the post about Vickie and Nance’s Egyptian trips, travellers, writers and painters were being drawn into a new imaginative relationship with the countries around the Mediterranean.

Queen Victoria herself, the object of the celebration was not present at the Ball but in the final picture we see Mrs Wolverton as Britannia.

This is a good place to end. Mind you, I haven’t even got to King Arthur, the two Valkyries, Dante’s Beatrice, Titania or Scheherazade. But we have to get back to that time machine and out of the nineteenth century. We may drop in on Mr Linley Sambourne again next week.

More from the costume ball here and here.


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