Saturday, February 11, 2006

01May1855, The Queen's Ball

LONDON, May 1st, 1855.
—A memorable day indeed ! My head was washed by Strathearne, a hairdresser, and he says it ought to be a " very good 'ed of 'air." He did Agnes'(Agnes Gladstone) and my hair in the evening, at about 7. At 8 1/2 we were to be at the Palace for the Queen's ball. We were rigged, figged, and launched into two carriages in tolerable time, and our dresses were something magnificent. A beautiful muslin frock trimmed with ruches and daisies. White silk stockings, white satin shoes with white bows, white kid gloves trimmed with white daisies and a wreath of two rows of daisies on polls, was the dress of Agnes and me. On the way a bathingfeel for nearly the first time assailed me. We went under the arch, and into Buckingham Palace Hall, from whence we proceeded to a grand room where we took off our wraps. We then went up the grand staircase into a beautiful gallery. Presently the glorious National Anthem struck up ; the numerous company divided on this side and that and a crowd of grandees appeared at the further end of the Gallery. Presently Prince Albert came forward alone, holding by the hand the loveliest little being I ever saw. It was Prince Arthur, in honour of whose birthday the ball took place. His Highness is four years old, and the smallest child of his age I should ever think was born. In a Highland dress, with a dear little curly head, large blue eyes, little chiselled nose, fair complexion, and oval face, he looked like a blessing sent to be beloved of everyone ; bless him !
Well, the Queen came up soon, everybody curtseying as Her Majesty passed, and soon she came up to where we were. Oh, ecstasy, she shook hands with me ! imagine my feelings and my curtsey ; I kept hold of her dear hand as long as I dared. With the Queen were the Prince of Wales, Prince Alfred, the Princess Royal, Princess Alice, Princess Helena, and Princess Louise, the two latter pretty and one of their Royal Highnesses very like the Queen. Besides these there were the Duchess of Kent, and a number more of fat duchesses. One of them shook hands with me : everybody curtseyed to them, and when they had all passed, we moved after them. Presently we arrived at the Throne Room, where the ball was to be. The Queen and the Royalties went to a sort of low platform at one end ; and a fat duchess stood on each side of the Queen and Prince. Then the dance began, the Royalties dancing with the rest. But the whole was a sort of romp, the little ones not knowing exactly what to do, and an unfortunate dancing master in vain endeavouring to establish order. There were valses, quadrilles, galops, and two reels, the last of which we did not witness, being having some refreshments. But the first we saw, and very pretty it was. The Prince of Wales asked me if I could dance it, but alas ! I couldn't. His Highness danced with Agnes, and so did Prince Alfred : happy girl ! in a quadrille and galop, I think. Little Prince Arthur danced a little after a fashion. I danced mostly with Willy, galops, and every time we went close up to the Queen and Prince ; so near that I verily believe Willy would twice have " punched " Prince Albert, if I hadn't drawn his arm back. There was one quadrille in which the Queen and grandees danced, but as the children were romping through another, we didn't see much of it. After a time Her Majesty descended from the platform, and led the way to the supper-room. Such a magnificent one ! with a table this shape. (Drawings frequently adorn the original. ) Nobody eat much, though, I think ; everybody stood. Then back we went, and I had my most delicious of all galops with a little page, and Willy. Prince Arthur, precious little darling, went to bed after supper. Then the ball broke up, and passing through a door, we had another beautiful view of Her Majesty and the Prince, while the National Anthem crashed from the band. Oh-h, didn't it thrill one ! We then went thrilling home, which we reached at about 1 o'clock. So ended that memorable 1st of May.

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