Thursday, January 22, 2015

Etiquette and the “London Season”

In 1957, LIFE Magazine readers were taken on "an intimate tour of this rich and various pageant, a magnificent relic of old world society." LIFE Magazine, August 5, 1957

"An elegant old society shows off its granduer... "

The Duke of Bedford's step-daughter, 18 year old Lorna Lyle, danced with Hon. Charles E. Cecil, at her debut in 1957

On the Queen Charlotte Ball

The ball has been running almost every year since 1780, when King George III first organised the Queen Charlotte’s Ball as a way to celebrate his wife’s birthday. 
The ceremony remained unchanged- with debutantes paying respects to a large iced cake at Buckingham Palace, overseen by the monarch- until 1958, when Prince Philip persuaded the Queen to stop receiving each year’s crop at Court.
Philip is said to have complained that the annual Ball, at which girls aged 17 and 18 were expected to meet their suitably-moneyed future husbands, was ‘bloody daft’. 
The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, was even more forthright, saying later ‘we had to put a stop to it . . . every tart in London was getting in!’ 
Since 1958 the ball was held sporadically at various exclusive venues in the capital to varying degrees of success before being relaunched in 2009 and held annually since, albeit without its royal seal of approval.  –From the Daily Mail, 2014
Henrietta Tiarks, a banker's daughter, was called by some London papers, the "Deb of the Year" in 1957
For a dozen generations, in and out of wars and austerity, the traditional elegance of British society has been concentrated in a unique institution known as the London season. The season, roughly embracing the months of May, June and July, is the time of debutantes: first their formal presentation at court, then the brilliant world of their coming-out parties.

But the season is even more than this, for it encompasses a series of splendor social functions possible only in England. These gorgeous affairs are climaxed by the Queen's garden party at Buckingham Palace and by the Royal Ascot race meeting, where it is a social must for everybody who is anybody to be bidden to the royal enclosure - or even to that social holy of holies, the Queen's lawn. Other hallowed events include the royal regatta at Henley on the Thames and the Eton- Harrow match at Lord's Cricket Ground.

This year the season has been even more brilliant -and more costly - than any with in recent memory. Well over 100 young ladies like the Duke of Bedford's stepdaughter, are being launched at debut parties costing an average of $4,000 each. In these times of inflation and ruinous taxes such openhanded spending is an expensive privilege reserved for Britain's wealthiest view, and even they must make hard sacrifices to preserve the tradition. - LIFE Magazine

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia