Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lifestyles of the Rich and Royal

I recently acquired a charming fashion print from June 1816’s La Belle Assemblee (that’s it at right—“The Coburg Walking Dress” and wound up with an unexpected bonus along with it—accounts of part of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ wedding trousseau (remember poor Princess Charlotte and her short marriage?), and a detailed account of the Drawing Room, or royal reception, hosted by Queen Charlotte in honor of her grand-daughter’s wedding to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg...and when I say detailed, I mean detailed. It includes a list of the presentations made (how exciting for a young lady to have been presented to society on this occasion!) the nobility in attendance (from royal dukes and duchesses down to garden-variety misses), and most fascinating of all, accounts of the dresses worn by many of the royal and noble ladies. It reads like a who’s who of Regency society. I thought you might find a few extracts of interest...if only they included pictures of some of the dresses!


As we have been gratified with a sight of the wedding dresses of this amiable and illustrious female, a particular yet concise account of them cannot but be acceptable to our fair readers.

The Royal Bride, happy in obtaining him whom her heart had selected, and whom consenting friends approved, wore on her countenance that tranquil and chastened joy which a female so situated could not fail to experience. Her fine fair hair, elegantly yet simply arranged, owed more to its natural beautiful wave than to the art of the friseur; it was crowned with a most superb wreath of brilliants, forming rosebuds with their leaves.

Her dress was silver lama [lamé] on net, over a silver tissue slip, embroidered at the bottom with silver lama in shells and flower. Body and sleeves to correspond, elegantly trimmed with point Brussels lace. The manteau was of silver tissue lined with white satin, with a border of embroidery to answer that on the dress, and fastened in front with a splendid diamond ornament."

Charlotte’s dress budget was evidently a generous one. Among the ten other dresses described is "A superb Brussels point lace dress, trimmed with point lace over a slip of white satin. This dress alone cost eight hundred Guineas."

And as for the Drawing Room...

"A copious account of the splendid Drawing-Room held by her Majesty to receive the congratulations on the marriage of her Royal Grand-daughter with Prince Leopold, cannot fail of being interesting to our illustrious and numerous subscribers....

"A guard of honour marched into the court-yard, preceded by the band of the third regiment of Guards. The crowd collected around the Palace by eleven o’clock, and soon after twelve it was so great that the Palace was scarcely accessible, till a numerous assemblage of police officers arrived under the direction of Sir N. Conant, as well as the marshalmen, the porters, &c.....The distinguished characters who came to Court were kept in their carriages an uncommon time in the regular ranks; the carriages frequently reached to Oxford-street, and some who resided in St. James’s-square had to go as far as Oxford-street before they could get into the rank [line].... The grand object of attraction, the Princess Charlotte and the Prince of Saxe-Cobourg, arrived at a quarter before two in state; their carriage being preceded by three others in state....The Prince Regent, the Duke and Duchess of York, the Duke of Gloucester, accompanied by his Royal Sister, came in state with their full suites...The Duke of Sussex came with his full suite.

"A few minutes after two o’clock her Majesty, with her usual punctuality, entered the Drawing-Room with her numerous and illustrious family, all looking in extreme good health...."

There follows three and a half pages of text listing who was presented...and then an astounding six further pages of descriptions of dresses worn by the Queen and Royal Princesses and about a hundred of the other aristocratic ladies present. It makes for slightly tedious reading now (just in case you’re wondering, “rich white satin” appears in almost every description, and at least every other dress appeared to be in lilac) but can’t you just picture a young lady, perhaps not quite old enough to be Presented herself, reading such dress descriptions as this: "Peach satin petticoat, with silver lama draperies, drawn in festoons, and fastened with silver bullion and tassels; garniture of tissue and satin; rouleau of peach satin, trimmed with a superb border of silver lace; headdress, feathers, and diamonds", and dreaming about what her own presentation dress might look like some day? Or a provincial dressmaker consulting the article in order to be able to create “the latest London fashions” for her clients in York or Leeds? And don't forget--Queen Charlotte still favored the large hoopskirted dresses of her youth for appearances at Court. It must have been an amazing sight. No wonder there were crowds and even "several trees filled with persons, and the whole Park filled with people and carriages"!


Regina Scott said...

I'd love to see the folks hanging from the trees just for a glimpse. Talk about your royal wedding! Thanks for sharing this, Marissa. Priceless!

Anonymous said...

Very beautiful wedding dress, I would love to see it in person. Thanks for posting what the royal family wore-very interesting piece.