Parisian High Life Below Stairs
The Paris correspondent of the London Morning Post describes a “magnificent” ball which took place in the Sal Valentino, known as the annual cook’s ball:
The aristocracy of the kitchen, and the more beautiful women of the halle, together with the knights of the cassero e, mustered strongly. It is no exaggeration to say, that the toilettes of the ladies wore worthy of the most aristocratic salons of Paris, and diamonds and precious stones abounded, leading me to conclude that the culinary art in Paris must be very handsomely remunerated. Some of the more beautiful women of the fish market wore jewelry which must have cost thousands of francs. Quadrilles of honor were formed by the kings and princes of high life below stairs, who chose for their partners, the more renowned female aristocracy of the monde-cuisiniere. At the commencement of the evening, it appeared to me that a haughty reserve and proud etiquette prevailed throughout the brilliant society; but as the evening advanced, and negus and punch were imbibed by the vigorous dancers, a more familiar language and an easier attitude possessed both ladies and gentlemen.
The cavaliers were dressed precisely in the same white cravat, white gloves, and embroidered shirt sublimity which forms the characteristic appearance of other noblemen of another class. It was pleasant to join in the refreshing conversation of the belles of this ball. Instead of the namby-pamby nonsense of other aristocratic circles, it was interesting to hear one’s quadrille partner, after the dance was over, indulging in a vigorous abuse of this or that noble family, the phrases heing sprinkled with epithets singularly expressive. I came to the conclusion that all classes of society are very much alike, in that all indulge in scandal, detraction and abuse when they are natural. It was not until 3 o'clock that the carriages of the company blocked up the Rue St. Honoré and the servants of the guests arrived, and gradually beckoned away the dancing company. The utmost hilarity and good breeding prevailed, and I do not believe the kitchen staff of any other nation of the world could have contributed so well-dressed so well-educated and so polite a society. It only wanted the presence of the Emperor and Empress to make this soirée as brilliant as any given at the Court of the Tullieries. – Daily Alta, 1868
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia