Victoria’s Costume Ball, 1842

January 22, 2018 at 8:03 pm (entertainment, fashion, people) (, , , )


May 12, 1842 – and we are in the room with Prince Albert and Queen Victoria at the Plantagenet-inspired Bal Costumé:

Victoria_Ball 1842_2

I had spent the weekend working, reading through letters from 1840 through 1843. This was the opportunity to refining the dating of a few letters, as well as fixing some portions of transcriptions.

One hitherto “undated” letter mentioned what I had read in two other letters: the Queen’s Ball. This helped to definitively date the third.

Playing in the background was the ITV (“Masterpiece”) presentation, Victoria – starring Jenna Coleman. When the TV show began to discuss a costume ball, my one thought was: Is that Maria’s “Queen’s Ball”?

I went back to 1842’s group of letters …

Emma Austen’s youngest sister Maria Smith was writing to middle sister Fanny from London:

“on Thursday Ev:g is the Queen’s ball, so we must return to see Eliza dressed in her old fashioned satin brocade dress – a present from Parsloes, & Mrs Leigh Perrot’s hoop … she has been a little perplexed what to wear on her head – weather a little black velvet hat – or what.”

When I first read this, the *thrill* was to think that Mrs. Leigh Perrot’s court “hoop” had long outlived her (James Edward Austen Leigh’s great aunt had died in 1836). And also a query as to WHY Eliza Le Marchant (Emma’s younger sister) had the use of it.

That the Fanshawes were staying with the Le Marchants explains the comment that Eliza’s dress was “a present from Parsloes,” which was the name of the Fanshawe estate in Dagenham. Mrs. Fanshawe had been born Catherine (or Katherine) Le Marchant.

When Maria next wrote to Emma (as far as extant letters go), she gave a description of Lord Alford (who had married Lady Marianne Compton and was therefore a close relation) costumed as “Caesar Borgia – duke of Valentia … from Raphael’s picture, with one striped black & white leg, & one slashed sleeve”.

Eliza wrote a lengthy letter describing the evening – but that letter is still “missing“.

Victoria_Ball 1842

Eliza and Denis Le Marchant planned to bring young Maria to the upcoming Drawing Room. Maria, who had met Queen Victoria before her marriage, wanted to attend a Drawing Room where Prince Albert was at her side. “In all probability this will be the last time in my life that I do anything so gay,” admitted Maria.

In my very first blog post (June 1, 2008) I described Emma and her sister-in-law Mary as “two ordinary girls”. Thank goodness that ordinary lives back in the 19th century included so many diaries and letters. And Fancy-Dress Balls!

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