Monday, September 01, 2014

Journal Journey into the Year 1811: La Belle Assemblée, June

This month's June La Belle Assemblée issue reports, as usual, a month ahead. Let's see what the month brings! Yes, I am very late in publishing. We've been on vacation twice and to family reunion and all sorts of summer events, and with the boys out of school for summer, when I am not at work, both hands are full with all kinds of summertime activities, like learning to ride bicycles, making pie, collecting "gems"...

Please don't forget to read the London report from Ackerman's, and those from Weimar and Paris.

  • Sabine in Weimar: Journal des Luxus und der Moden
  • Alessandra in Paris: Journal des Dames et des Modes
  • Maggie, in London: Ackermann's

The June issue contains (p. 321-324), besides the usual fashion plate descriptions and the general observations section, a special article about a formal party, a Fete hosted by the Prince of Wales, complete with descriptions of the event, Carlton House where it was hosted, and the dress of prominent ladies attending.

The overwhelmingly grand party for 2,000, supposedly held to celebrate King George III's birthday, lasted from nine in the evening until after sunup the next day, and advertised the new Regent's power and, as you'll read, revealed his taste for grandeur, show, and novelty. The Belle Assemblee article conveniently neglects to mention the politics behind the celebration. While exiled Bourbon royalty were welcomed and feted, Queen Charlotte flatly refused to attend, King George was far too sick to go, and none of the Princesses were allowed to go. The Prince Regent didn't invite his estranged wife, and favored his new paramour Lady Hertford over his old one, Mrs. Fitzherbert, who also didn't attend. The party was well-known in its day and didn't do much for the popularity of the Regent.

It's interesting reading and makes most of today's parties look bland by comparison, but when you know of the emotional currents underlying the occasion, you would mostly likely have preferred to be one of the guests who supped in the gardens, had you been invited, and sniffed the fresher night air, compared to the probably over-scented and certainly overheated atmosphere within.

Please pay attention to the fact that all the ladies were wearing ostrich feathers. At times the Court was requested to wear a specific type of dress, and this may have been one of those occasions: white and silver were the primary dress colors of the evening, and clear-colored in jewelry and studding the dresses. Embroidery was almost universal, spangles, and especially concave ones, too. Concave spangles were called out in the text. Visual themes? If they lady was Irish, her dress might include shamrock designs. Leaves, chains, tassels, and the Prince's three ostrich feathers, a reference to the traditional heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales.

Heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales. Wikipedia.

If what you read intrigues you, learn a lot more about fete -- including the marble-banked river and why the party was delayed several times in "A Regency Bicentennial: The Grand Carlton House Banquet", on The Regency Redingote blog, and "The Prince Regent's Fete", by Rachel Knowles, published in the Regency History blog. Also, The Lothians blog has a multiple-post tour of the house.

Here are the articles, transcribed below, with a few comments and thoughts in a Notes section beneath the transcription.

FASHIONS FOR July, 1811.

No. 1. -- OPERA DRESS.

A blue satin robe, worn over a slip of white satin, let in at the bosom and sleeves (which are short) with silver Moravian net work. A tunic of Egyptian brown sarsnet or crape, confined on the shoulders with diamond studs, and trimmed round the bottom with silver net, separated in small divisions by spangled open work balls. A chaplet wreath of green foil, placed twice round the hair, which is disposed in long irregular ringlets. Earrings of silver open work, studded with brilliants, resembling in form the bell of a child's coral. Shoes of brown satin, bound and sandalled with silver braiding. Long gloves of kid.


A round robe of white jacconot muslin, with a boddice of violet sarsnet, trimmed with rich silk Brandenburgs of Austrian green, a half pelissed of fine transparent muslin, with Bishop's sleeves, fancifully tied with green ribband. A Hymen hat of purple brocaded ribband and lace, ornamented with a green military plume; a Chinese parasol of purple sarsnet, shot with green; gloves and shoes of York tan.


Our observations for the present month will be necessarily much curtailed to leave room for the insertion of the splendid and elegant dresses worn at the Fete given by the Prince Regent, at Carlton-House, to which every thing else must appear very subordinate.

Muslin pelisses, lined with pink, blue, or yellow sarsnet, are still very prevailing, as are spensers of like colours; lace scarfs alone seem to have the preference, either in black or white lace: mantlets are by no means considered as inelegant. Satin tippets, trimmed with lace, are very becoming to a light figure. White satin spensers, mantles, and pelisses are in a high degree of estimation Small caps fromed of brocaded ribband, finished with a long rosette in front, edged with lace pearl, or in the long Mango shape, intersected with white gymp, with a cord and tassels suspended from one side; and caps in every fanciful intermixture of satin or ribband, ornamented with ostrich feathers; they are made flat on the head, raised from the forehead, and in the long Grecian shape.

Flowers were not at all worn at the Prince's Fete, cords and tassels terminated the draperis, and gave an air of graceful negligence to the figure: feathers were universal, much of the Spanish costume prevalined; the sleeves were worn very short, the bosoms very low, the backs rather high, trains of a moderate length. The tunic in crape or lace, embroidered in silver was displayed upon almost every female of rank and taste; this form of dress will of course descend to the morning habit, and will doubtless relieve the stomacher of much of that formal appearance which at present distinguishes it, and the effect will be extremely graceful. All lace worn on this magnficent occasion was of the manufacture of this country, a noble example, which we hope will be universally followed in all ranks of life, Honiton lace, as most resembling Brussel's point, held the preference. 

The ornaments in jewellery were either of diamonfs, pearls, rubies, sapphires, or emeralds.
The prevailing colors, pink, blue, yellow and buff.


Carlton House from Pall Mall. What you mainly see here is a sort of columned screen in the front of the house.

This Palace of Enchantment was opened on Wednesday night, June 19, to the numerous personages of distinction who had been honoured with cards of invitation. Soon after nine o'clock the company began to arrive, and although the utmost order and regularity were observed, with was between twelve and one o'clock before the whole assemblage was formed, 

George IV as Prince Regent. A print after an original work of Hoppner.
From the National Portrait Gallery.

The illustrious Family of the House of Bourbon entered through the gardens about ten, when they were ushered into the Council Chamber, where the Prince Regent was, sitting under a crimson canopy of state, surrounded by the Officers of his Household, who, on their approach, immediately rose to receive them. The French Sovereign was introduced by the Earl of Moira as Comte de Lille, and her Royal Highness the Duchess d'Angouleme by the Duchess of York, and the French Princes by Lord Dundas. They were received not only with the utmost respect, but with every mark of affectionate regard. The amiable daughter of Louis the XVIth naturally attracted his chief attention, the exhilarating effect of which was clearly discernable on her woe-worn, but interesting countenance. From this grand ceremonial the illustrious strangers retired into the sky-blue satin room that adjoined; the expensive suite of curtains of which were the same colour, lined with white silk, massily embroidered with gold fringe, leaves, and tassels, and beautifully decorate with fleur-de-lis -- a marked and delicate compliment to the illustrious visitors. 

The Prince Regent now passed through into the Grand Saloon, which was most brilliantly illuminated, and is confessedly, in every respect, the finest room in Europe. Here his Royal Highness now paid his respects to the Noblesse, &c. crowded and assembled in the most graceful and truly fascinating manner. -- The company were for some time naturally lost in amazement at the coup d'oeil, which the views through two distinct suits of apartments so magically presented. It would be a difficult task to describe, in terms adequate, the effect produced by the profusion of magnificent objects, which, at every glance, conveyed an exalted idea of princely state, national grandeur, and the fine arts, cherished in a state of perfection. The partments were decorated with splendour perfectly new. The Palace was a scene of enchantment, and every elegant female, clad in the attire of her native country, appeared the Armida. 

Conservatory exterior: it's attached to the left side of Carlton House.
Interior of the Conservatory. Imagine it all illuminated and the sides banked with citrus trees and banks of flowers.

The Conservatory was one of the most distinguished objects in the splendid arrangement. The building, of Gothic order, appeared to be the most perfect and beautiful specimen of that style, executed in modern time. It presented, at one glance, the fine effect of a lofty aisle in an ancient cathedral. Between the pillars, candelabras were suspended twelve feet above the ground, each presented four brilliant patent burners, which spread a breadth of light not easy to describe. The interior struck the beholder with astonishment. The grand table extended the whole length of the Conservatory, and across Carlton House, to the length of two hundred feet-- Two feet of space was allotted for each guest in the original calculation. 

Gillray's take on the Prince Regent's fete decor: admiring the table-top canal. The public were invited to view the party decorations after it all was over.

Along the centre of the table, about six inches above the surface, a canal of pure water continued flowing from a silver fountain, beautifully constructed at the head of the table. Its faintly waving, artificial banks, were covered with a green moss and aquatic flowers; gold and silver-coloured fish, were, by a mechanical invention, made to swim and sport through the bubbling current, which produced a pleasing murmur, where it fell, and forming a cascade at the outlet. 

At the head of the table, above the fountain, sat his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, on a throne of crimson velvet, trimmed with gold. The throne commanded a view of the company. The most particular friends of the Prince were arranged on each side. They were atended by sixty serviteurs; seven waited on the Prince, besides six of the King's, and six of the Queen's footmen, in their state liveries, with one man in a complete suit of ancient armour. At the back of the throne appear Aureola tables, covered with crimson drapery, constructed to exhibit, with the greatest effect, a profusion of the most exquisitely wrought silver gilt plate, consisting of fountains, tripods, epergnes, dishes, and other ornaments. Above the whole of this superb display appeared a royal crown and his Majesty's cypher, G.R. splendidly illumined. 

It is almost unnecessary to add, that his Royal HIghness gave all the grandeur and honour of this brilliant Fete to his Royal Parent. The lesser wax lights in silver, placed on the table, were corespondent with the whole mass of elegance. The sides of the COnservatory were hung with vareigated lamps, The arches were also splendidly illuminated with lamps springing from the pillars. Down the centre from the roof were suspended several beautiful chandeliers and lustres, and the whole raised in the minds of the spectators the most exalted ideas of the Prince's taste and liberality.

At three o'clock supper was announced by the striking up of three bands of grand martial music stationed in the gardens. The supper was the most superb in spectacle arrangement that perhaps ever was exhibited in this country. The state table of the Prince Regent was ranged along the Conservatory, the west end of which (being the head) was hung semi-circularly with a crimson silk ground, covered with transparent muslin, drawn into a variety of apertures, for the splendid display of numerous gold vases, urns, massy salvers, &c. embossed by admirable workmanship, and the whole surmounted by the most superb ancient urn, captured in the reign of Elizabeth from the Spanish Admiral, who commanded what was so presumptuously styled with "Invincable Armada"; the service of this table was in gold. 

Adjjoining to this were tables running through the Library and whole lower suite of rooms, the candelabras in which were so arranged, that the Regent could distinctly see, and be seen, from one end to the other. Along those tables the Royal Family of England, and that of the Bourbons, and the Noblesse were seated comfortable to their respective ranks. On the right hand of the Prince Regent was placed the Duchess of York. A limpid stream of water ran through the centre of the Regent's table during supper. From the Library, and room beyond, branched out two great lines of tables under canvas far into the gardens, each in the shape of a cross, all richly served with silver plate, and covered with every delicacy which the season could possibly afford. 

The Library and Council-room displayed the greatest state. The latter was appropriated to dancing, and the floors chalked in a beautiful style. In the centre appeared G. R. III. with the crown, supporters, and blazonry. The external decorations were equally grand and pleasing. The aisle opposite the grand Conservatory was furnished with large mirrors, girandoles, and candelabras. It formed a superb promenade, rendered delightful by garlands and festoons of roses, pinks carnations, and the finest flowers of every species. Orange-trees, fruits, and flowers bloomed along the banks, growing in a state of nature. 

Four handsome marquees were pitched on the lawn of Carlton-House, with a chevaux de frize to guide the company in their promenades. Bands were stationed in the tents. In the course of the night, a brilliant discharge of fire-works took place, which gratified an immense body of spectators. 

-- Dancing commenced about twelve o'clock, in the Grand Council Chamber, in two sets, which were divided by a crimson cordon. The first couple were Earl Percy and Lady Jane Montague, daughter of the Duchess of Manchester; they led off with the dance called "Miss Johnstone,: next followed:--
Lord Maitland.........Duchess of Bedford
Earl of Tryconel.......Lady Catherine Herries
Earl of Digby..........Countess of Jersey
Marq. of Worcester..Lady Charles Somerset
Lord Palmerston......Lady Frances Pratt
Lord E. Somerset.....Lady Charles Fitroy
Lord C. Somerset.....Miss Metcalfe
Earl of Kinnoul........Hon. Miss Onslow
Lord Mark Kerr.......Lady ELizabeth Clive
Earl Gower............Miss Glynne
Lord Milsington.......Miss Fawkener
Earl of Rother........Miss Thomson
Mr. Lloyd.............Lady C. Cholmondeley

The Prince Regent, and the Royal Dukes of York, Clarence, Kent, Cumberland, Cambridge, and Sussex, were present at this period and appeared highly gratified to see so enlivening a scene. "Strike, up, musicians, my old and favourite Scottish tune," exclaimed the Prince. Mr. Gow took the hint, and "A'll gang nae mair to yon Town," was admirably played, and equally well danced by the above. --The Prince Regent and his illustriuous guests rose from table at half pst four, and returned to the gold saloon in the same order that they descended. All the rooms were soon refilled: when dancing was renewed,and th sun being well up, the blended lights of day and night gave the whole scene new features. 

The Royal Dukes assisted the Prince Regent in doing the honours of the table. It was really the most interesting sight imaginable, to see at least 500 persons, the greater proportion ladies, in one continued line, the latter dressed in white satin, silks, or muslin, embroidered or spangled with silver, having each a plume of ostrich feathers, waving on their heads, and reflected in the serpentine brook before them; it was really a silver flood, and these were its tributary streams. 

The alle-vert was rendered particularly grateful by the freshness of the air, and the odour of the grund; it was a happy retreat to all who in the course of the night could gain access thereto: here were many supper tables, and the chairs appeared from one view to be arched over with a garland of roses; and indeed the whole area appeared in profile, like an avenue of rose-trees. The Ball-room, after supper, was surrounded by a gradation of conversation stools, for the accommodation of those who chose to be calm spectators of the scene. His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, during the night, passed from one room to the other without any attendants or ceremony, conversing in the most affable manner with his numerous guests. Upon no previous occasion, and at no court in Europe, was ever the experiment made to set down 2000 of the principal Nobility and Gentry of a kingdom to a regular supper, as was the case at this Fete.


All that art, taste and expense could command, for personal decoration, had been in requisition for this night. The Prince Regent wore a Field Marshal's uniform, (as did the Duke of York), with his hair in a queue, the cordon blue, and a superb brilliant star, a diamond loop and button in his hat and feather. The Duke of Clarence wore his professional uniform; the Dukes of Cumberland, Sussex, Kent, Cambridge, and Gloucester, that of their respective regiments. All wore the several insignia of the Order of the Garter. The Comte de Lille wore a plain carmelite brown coat, with white buttons without any order; the Duke d'Angouleme a pearl oloured; and the Duke de Berry a chocolate, with the ribbon of the order of St. Esprit. 

The dresses of the Ladies were of the most superb description, as will be seen by the following specimen:--
DUCHESS OF YORK. -- A patent net dress richly embroidered in silver, highly covered with a shower of spangles; the body, sleeves, and belt, covered with diamonds; head-dress diamonds and a plume of ostrich feathers; a beautiful necklace.

Frederica, Duchess of York and Albany (1767–1820), by Hutchinson. 1802.
DUCHESS OF ANGOULEME. -- A patent net dress richly embroidered in silver lama, over a white satin train; body and sleeves trimmed with real pearl, the largest we ever noticed in this country; head-dress a plume of ostrich feathers, and bandeau of large pearls; bracelet and necklace of pearl.

Marie Thérèse Charlotte of France while Duchess of Angoulême

DOWAGER DUCHESS OF RUTLAND. -- A white satin dress, with superb Roman scroll border, formed with concave and Algerine spangles; body richly embroidered in waves of real silver spangles; Spanish sleeves, with diamond armlets, fastened with silver tags, studded with diamonds; a most beautiful and splendid drapery of crape, embroidered in waves of silver spangles, with a border of singular beauty, composed of foil stones and silver bullion, forming vine leaves, grapes, and silver shells, each corner ornamented with the Prince's featers, beautifully embroidered. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.

MARCHIONESS OF SLIGO. -- A dress of white satin, with a superb border of brilliant embroidery round the train; a robe richly embroidered in silver shamrock, round which was an elegant and brilliant border to correspond with the dress; biamond stomacher, bracelets, necklace, and brooches. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.

Louisa Catherine, Marchioness of Sligo, British Museum

COUNTESS OF CAVAN. -- A dress of white silver tissue, with superb border of prominent silver jonquil, body and sleeves splendidly ornamented with diamonds. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.

VISCOUNTESS DUDLEY AND WARD. -- A dress of emerald green, with a superb border richly embroidered in silver, a tunic of lace, with the ground-work of silver spangles, and an elegant and brilliant border, with raised roses of floss silk, foil stones, and concave spangles, with had a most beautiful effect; body and sleeves trimmed with Honiton point, continued with silver tags, and ornamented with diamonds. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.

COUNTESS OF FAUCONBERG. -- A dress of white satin, with an elegant border of embroidered silver; a tunic of white crape, with a superb Roman scroll border, entwined with silver plumes, the ground-work waves of silver spangles, body and sleeves profusely ornamented with diamonds. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.

COUNTESS OF CLARE. -- A white satin dress, with a border richly embroidered; a superb body, ornamented round the bottom with diamond stars, and sleeves fastened up with diamond brooches and armlets; the drapery richly spangled in silver shamrock, with a beautiful and simple border to corespond; at each corner was embroidered the Prince's feathers. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.

COUNTESS SELKIRK. -- A white satin round dress, with beautiful silver embroidery at the bottom, waist, and sleeves; and evening promrose and silver tissue robe and drapery, trimmed with rich scolloped fringe, rope, and tassels. Head-dress a very full flume of white feathers, and superb coronet of diamonds; diamond earrings and necklace, &c.

COUNTESS OF MORNINGTON. -- A white and silver tissue robe, lined with green, made in the Court style, with ruffles.

LADY GLYNNE. -- A dress of silver satin, richly embroidered round the train with concave spangles and silver fringe, a superb tunic of lace splendidly embroidered in clouds of spangles; the border whichwas new and elegant, was beautifully embroidered in silver and concave spangles, with links of brilliant chains which had the appearance of diamonds; body spangled, and ornamented with amethysts; Spanish sleeves fastened with silver tags studded with diamonds; and armlets and necklace of amethysts and diamonds. Head-dress diamonds and feathers.

LADY FRANCES OSBORNE. -- A dress of white satin, richly embroidered with a border of silver; a tunic of white crape with superb noubelle border, embroidered in silver, and richly covered with leaves of embroidered silver, confined by splendid chains and tassels. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.

LADY WINNINGTON. -- A rich dress of white satin, superbly embroidered in silver, with a lace tunic splendidly embroidered with silver spangles, and encircled by a border of elegant white floss silk roses and silver-embossed leaves, confined by brilliant silver chains. Head-dress a superb plume of ostrich feathers and diamonds.

LADY DALRYMPLE. -- A dress of white satin, with handsome embroidered border in silver; a tunic of fine lace, richly embroidered and interspersed with stars of silver, with a superb border embroidered in bright and dead silver, and rosette of white floss silk. The tunic confined with brilliant silver chains.

LADE CATHERINE FORRESTER. -- A dress of white satin, with a beautiful border of silver spangles, a superb drapery of white crape, embroidered with silver leaves, with a magnificent border of silver leaves and grapes, the corners ornamented with clusters of grapes, from whence were suspended brilliant tassels. Head-dress diamonds and feathers.

LADY AMELIA SPENCER. -- An elegant dress of white satin, with a brilliant embroidered border of silver tulips, of singular beauty, and over which was worn a splendid but simple drapery of fine transparent lace, superbly embroidered with a border of white silk roses, with leaves of silver laurel, and fastened in front with brilliant silver chains and tassels; the body and sleeves studded and profusely ornamented with diamonds. Head-dress diamonds and ostrich feathers.

LADY MARIA WALPOLE. -- A white satin dress, with a Grecian silver border and stomacher; a short crape tunic, superbly embroidered with real silver.


Kleidung um 1800 said...

That fete was amazingly impressive and it's a feast for imagination to read about all the beautiful dresses for the event...however La Belle Assemblée's Walking Dress Fashion Plate is probably the most hideous garment I've ever seen


Natalie Ferguson said...

Dear Sabine,

That dress...the illustration makes it look like the model is an Amazon in a Greek dress with blue steel armor over the top, accented in the wrong places with green rope.

There were some real fashion flops back then, as now. I am still gagging at muffin tops.