Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Queen's Birthday Ball 1765

The Bath Chronicle of 24th January 1765 reported:

"On Friday last [18th January] being the Celebration of the Queen's Birthday"

Queen Charlotte
Since Queen Charlotte was born on the 19th May this must have been the date set for the official birthday celebrations a practice introduced in the reign of George III's grandfather George II. In 1765, Charlotte was 21.

The Chronicle's account continues:

"the same was observed here with the greatest Marks of Loyalty and Rejoicing; the Morning was ushered in with ringing at Ono o'Clock at Noon the Guns at Mr Simpsons were fired off, at night the was a subscription ball in his rooms by the order of the Master of the Ceremonies,"

Samuel Derrick

At this time, the Master of Ceremonies was the notorious Irish writer Samuel Derrick. The Chronicle's account continues.

"........ the appearance of the company was more splendid than was ever known: there were near fifty minuets danced, and it is thought there were near six hundred people present; who were all dressed with a brilliancy [sic] and elegance that seemed peculiarly adapted to the night."

It is worth noting that Simpson's rooms were 50 feet in length; 36 feet in breadth and feet 30 in height so 600 people would have had 3 square feet each if they were all in the ballroom and this ignores the additional space required for the numerous servants and the musicians and the furniture including benches to allow people to sit and watch.

It seems that the evening did not go off entirely smoothly as the Chronicle goes on to tell us that:

"The Master of the Ceremonies at Bath finds himself under the necessity to republish the following rules.

1. That no Gentleman present himself  for a minuet, except in full dress; or at least in a full dress French frock suit. Regimentals are an exception, being every where a proper dress.

2, That no Lady can dance minuets, without a full dress hoop and lappet head.

3. That no Lady can dance country dances with A HOOP OF ANY KIND, and no lady that attempts it can be angry at being desired to sit down, her standing up being against rule:"

Bearing in mind the restricted space and the large numbers the re-iteration of and emphasis in this rule suggest that Derrick and his assistance must have faced some very awkward situations on the night.

He goes on to point out to Ladies that:

"there is a retirement, always ready, and a maid-servant to assist those that chuse [sic] to put off their hoops."

Presumably, the maidservants were also able to pin or tack up the skirts as they would otherwise have dragged on the floor to an intolerable extent. The last rule is a little harder to understand.

"4, Gentlemen in LEATHER-BREECHES must undergo the same fate with the country dancers hoops; there being no servant to assist them."