Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Etiquette, Parties and the Royal Tab

A depiction of the beautiful chapel at Blenheim Palace where the young Duchess worships.– “At all house parties honored by the Prince, he has the privilege, by one of those unwritten laws in the code of etiquette, to name the guests, and usually this list has included several titled Ladies whose names have been linked altogether too closely with that of the Prince for his wife's liking. This is one of the principle reasons why the Princess has declined to visit the country homes of the Nobility. It would be most embarrassing for her to meet any of these Ladies, and humiliating to be forced to treat them with ordinary civility.”


Blenheim’s Grand Fete
 Vanderbilt’s Dollars Will Foot the Bills 
A Gala Lasting Five Days to Cater to Royalty's Pleasure and Gratify Pride –The Girl Duchess, Consuelo, Had the Rare Distinction of Entertaining the Princess

LONDON, Nov. 27.—Consuelo, the American Duchess of Marlborough, made her real and grand entree to British society on November 23d. It was a great day for the Marlboroughs, a greater day for the historic old Blenheim, and the greatest day of all for the House of Vanderbilt. A home party was given at Blenheim from the 23d to the 27th of the month, which eclipsed anything of the kind that the people of England have seen in many a long day. For five days, from Monday to Friday, inclusive, the great structure sheltered more of unreal powers of the British swelldom than are often gathered under one roof. 

The leading guests were the Prince and Princess of Wales, and right here it should be stated that it is a premier honor for the Princess to grace a house party. Within the past half dozen years she has not been a member of more than three or four house parties, and these were given by her oldest and most intimate friends. Ordinarily, the intimates of the Prince are not honored with the friendship of the Princess. They are too gay and frivolous for the sober dignity of the lady and moreover, some of the husband's choicest friends have reputations which deny them admittance to that division of society which prides itself upon genuine respectability. 

At all house parties honored by the Prince, he has the privilege, by one of those unwritten laws in the code of etiquette, to name the guests, and usually this list has included several titled Ladies whose names have been linked altogether too closely with that of the Prince for his wife's liking. This is one of the principle reasons why the Princess has declined to visit the country homes of the Nobility. It would be most embarrassing for her to meet any of these Ladies, and humiliating to be forced to treat them with ordinary civility. 

An Irreproachable List

But there was no danger of anything like this happening at Blenheim. The list of guests was absolutely irreproachable. It included the very cream of the peerage, the principal guests being the Duke and Duchess of Abereorn, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, the Dowager Duchess of Marlborough, Lord and Lady Lansdowne, Lord and Lady Londonderry, Lady Blandford and her daughters, Lord and Lady Pembroke, Lord Durham, Lord and Lady Wimborne, Lord and Lady Georgiana Curzon and Sir George and Lady Julia Wombwell. These are all the intimate friends of the Princess, and it is shrewdly suspected that she made out the list of guests this time, instead of her husband. There was a big crowd of country notables at Blenheim on the evening of Thursday, the 26th, when the annual county ball would be given. But these folks are not of the caliber which causes the domestic worries of the Princess, and this important event passed off as it had been planned.
“Entertaining the Prince of Wales and a select company of Dukes and Duchesses is not a responsibility to be lightly assumed. The Prince is practically the master of the house during his stay. That is British etiquette. The family chef consults with the Secretary of His Royal Highness each day and reserves orders for the menu for the day. The cost never bothers the Prince, he is notoriously careless about heaping up bills which he must pay himself, and when it comes to accumulating bills for other people to pay, his carelessness is quite remarkable. Not only does he control the chef and the caretaker of the wine cellar, but he maps out the amusements for each day.” 

Interesting for Americans 

Americans should be deeply interested in this fete at Blenheim, for the single reason that American dollars will foot the bills. And these bills will amount to a pretty penny. Entertaining the Prince of Wales and a select company of Dukes and Duchesses is not a responsibility to be lightly assumed. The Prince is practically the master of the house during his stay. That is British etiquette. The family chef consults with the Secretary of His Royal Highness each day and reserves orders for the menu for the day. The cost never bothers the Prince, he is notoriously careless about heaping up bills which he must pay himself, and when it comes to accumulating bills for other people to pay, his carelessness is quite remarkable. Not only does he control the chef and the caretaker of the wine cellar, but he maps out the amusements for each day. 

Lord Lonsdale has spent $200,000 in a single week in entertaining the Prince, and it is fair to assume that the expenses at Blenheim during the great fete will not fall much below that stupendous figure. Even for a Vanderbilt, this is an enormous amount to get rid of in a single week. It is understood, however, that  Mr. William K. Vanderbilt, father of the young Duchess, has determined that nothing shall be lacking in a financial way to make his daughter's social success absolute. As is well known, the young Duke has next to nothing in the way of available money. All of his wealth is entailed and the property sadly run down by the extravagant encroachments made upon it during the careless lifetime of his father.

A Beautiful Chapel

Already a good half million dollars have been spent by the young Duchess in furbishing up the great house and in covering up the spots made barren by the late Duke, when a money-raising fit seized him. Particular attention has been paid by the Duchess to the private chapel in Blenheim, one of the most beautiful interiors of its kind in the country. In the days of the former Duke, this chapel was more of a mockery than anything else, but the Duchess Consuelo is religiously inclined, and the Sunday services are held there regularly. It would be well worth a journey to Blenheim to see the chapel alone. Its most conspicuous feature is the tomb of the first Duke and Duchess, the builders of Blenheim. It faces the pews occupied by the Ducal party, and is a gigantic mass of beautifully sculptured marble. The pulpit stands just to the left of the entrance doors and a dozen pews for other worshipers.

It is beginning to be regarded as somewhat strange that Mrs. Belmont, mother of the Duchess, and Mr. Belmont, have not yet been guests at Blenheim, and some people hint that the young Duke is not anxious for the friendship of his mother-in-law's second husband. If it turns out to be true that the Belmonts have purchased a country place in England, the young Duke will be forced to declare his position in regard to the Belmonts one way or the other. At any rate, the position of the young Duchess will be firmly established in British society by the house party, and the croakers who predict a complete failure for her at the time of her marriage, will be proven false prophets. – Los Angeles Herald, 1896 

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