Thursday, April 25, 2019

Greek Royal Children's Court Ball

The little girls are led out by the officers... – The invitations signed by the Prime Minister read as follows: “Their Majesties, the King and Queen of the Hellenes have requested the presence of at the palace on the day of this month.” 

The Baby Ball at Athens
Attended by Children Invited by the King and Queen.
A Night at the Royal Palace – How the Ball is Conducted 
Little Princes and Princesses

The greatest event in the life of a little Greek girl is the Children’s Court Ball which takes place at the Royal Palace in Athens every year in the Autumn. Of course little boys also attend this Ball, but they do not have as good a time as the girls for reasons which I will presently explain. About three hundred children make their debut at this grand affair every year, the average age for their first appearance being ten years, although I have seen little girls there as young as eight. These newcomers, however, are not the only children present for those who have attended in previous years are allowed to go again until they become big girls and boys, in fact until they are quite grown up. So highly do they prize this privilege of dancing before the King and Queen that young ladies of twenty do not scorn to be seen on the floor with their little brothers and sisters. No little Athenian girl or boy may be present at this Ball except on an invitation addressed personally by the Prime Minister. And this honor is reserved for the children of distinguished families and those whose parents belong to the diplomatic circle. 

Great is the excitement, therefore, among these ten year old young ladies and young gentlemen of Athens as the time approaches for the invitations to be sent out. Many are the eager faces at the doors and windows of Athenian homes watching for the mounted soldier in green and red uniform, whose mission it is to distribute the precious missives. These are engraved in French, on square cream-colored cards enclosed in envelopes bearing the large red government seal. The invitations signed by the Prime Minister read as follows: “Their Majesties, the King and Queen of the Hellenes have requested the presence of at the palace on the day of this month.” I shall never forget the day when my invitation came, and how my heart beat as the soldier drew up his big black horse in front of the American Consulate where I was living. I can still see him taking the paper from his knapsack —the paper that had my name inside, and I remember how imposing he looked with his chin held in the strap from his cap, and his long sword at his side. I was just eleven years old.

The etiquette of the court is very strict about dress, and the girls’ costumes are carefully prepared sometimes for weeks in advance. The frocks are of white silk or satin covered with lace, the skirt reaching to the knees. The waist is cut low with short sleeves, and with these are worn long silk mits to match the sash and stockings. The hair is usually worn flowing loosely down the back, or knotted with a bow of ribbon. All Greek children wear a tiny chain around the neck with some medal given them at their baptism. This, and a few bracelets are the only trinkets that may be worn at the Children’s Ball. All the girls wear little bronze dancing shoes strapped up over the ankles, just allowing the stockings to bs seen. An odd feature of the ball is that the children never carry flowers the costume for the boys is more easily disposed of as most of them attend either military or naval schools, and simply wear their full dress uniforms.

The Ball always takes place on a Sunday evening, this being a gala day in Athens, and by eight o'clock a long line of carriages fillet with children and their mothers or chaperons is drawn up in front of the King's palace. The palace stands in the heart of the city, and is a large white marble building not very imposing, but placed in the midst of beautiful gardens. At the door, a gorgeous flunky receives the children and escorts them into an ante-room, where two of the Queen‘s Maids of Honor inspect the little Debutantes. This is merely a matter of form, for it rarely happens that any one of the little girls receives anything more severe than a smile of encouragement. 

I was a little frightened as we entered the palace and was surprised to see the self-possession shown by most of the Greek children. I suppose they were more accustomed than I to the idea of being ushered in before a genuine King and Queen. The large Ballroom used on this occasion is in the interior of the palace. It is an immense room with a ceiling like the dome of a cathedral. The walls are beautifully frescoed, and long gallery runs the entire length of the sides. At one end is a raised platform on which, as we came in, were seated the Royal family, conversing with various ambassadors in full dress... to be continued – Mabel Moffett for Los Angeles Herald, 1895

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

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