The first “Grand Ball” of the season will he given at the Tuileries on Saturday next, when about 5,000 guests will be packed into the state ball-rooms, the spurs and swords of the “military” tearing the finery of the ladies’ dresses to pieces, and strewing the grounds with shreds of gauze, muslin, and tulle. Six or eight of these crowded, and not over-elegant gatherings, take place each winter, the guests being very much “mixed.” The Empress’ private balls, and the Monday evening soirées which she gives in her own private apartments are, on the contrary, very select and extremely elegant.
It is very difficult to obtain admission to these; her fair Majesty always making out the list of invitations with her own hand, and not allowing even the Emperor to add a single name without her permission. At these parties, the rigidity of Court etiquette is somewhat relaxed. Conversation is carried on with the utmost freedom; amusing and interesting novelties are admitted, music, tableaux vivant, private theatricals, charades, etc., are got up by amateurs; and the evenings, which are extremely animated and agreeable, wind up with an elegant supper. – Letter from Paris, 1865
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