Social Victorians/People/Louisa Montagu Cavendish
Also Known As[edit | edit source]
- Louise, Duchess of Devonshire (15 January 1832 – 15 November 1911)
- Louisa, Duchess of Manchester
- Luise Friederike August Gräfin von Alten
- Louisa Montagu
- Louise Cavendish
- The Double Duchess
Overview[edit | edit source]
- Louisa (or Luise) Friederike Auguste Gräfin von Alten first married William Drogo Montagu, 7th Duke of Manchester when she was 20 and he was 28. He was one of the 33 dukes in the UK at this time, but not one of the wealthiest ones.
- Louise and Spencer Compton, Marquis of Hartington knew each other socially for a long time and began a sexual relationship, probably, in early 1863 or late 1862, after he returned from the U.S. and after her last child was born.:p. 26
- The Duke of Manchester died in 1890, freeing her to pursue a more formal relationship with Hartington, who was created Duke of Devonshire the next year, in 1891. They married in August 1892.
- Louise was the Duchess of Devonshire between 1892 and 1911. The Duke of Devonshire died in 1908, the title going to his nephew, but she would have been the Dowager Duchess until her death in 1911.
- Louise and Devonshire hosted their famous fancy-dress ball at Devonshire House in London on 2 July 1897.
- Louise was the subject of much comment and gossip in her life, arising in large part from her prominence in society and to a lesser degree in part from her conduct, which was not particularly controlled by middle-class notions of respectability.
- Referring to her long-standing relationship with Hartington, the man who became the Duke of Devonshire, Henry Vane highlights Louise's power in the late-Victorian political world: "Louise Alten, for her part, exemplifies another vanished feature [of Victorian England], the role of the political hostess. The part she played in Hartington's career even while she was his mistress gives a special twist to this function, and her more conventional ascendancy as Duchess of Devonshire, when she was said to be the most powerful person outside the government, shows the influence that could be wielded by women in a political system from which they were formally excluded.":12
- Although she was fashionable and known for her beauty, she was individual in her choices and not a slave to fashion. [quote about knickers]
Acquaintances, Friends and Enemies[edit | edit source]
Friends[edit | edit source]
- Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (beginning about 1852)
- Spencer Compton Cavendish, Lord Hartington (later 8th Duke of Devonshire)
- Daisy, Lady Warwick
- Lady Mayoress, Mrs. Benjamin Samuel Faudel-Phillips, 2nd Baronet, presented to Victoria by Louisa Cavendish at a Queen's Drawing-room on Wednesday, 24 February 1897 at Buckingham Palace.:p. 5, Col. 6c
- Mrs. J. E. Mellor, presented to Victoria by Louisa Cavendish at a Queen's Drawing-room on Wednesday, 24 February 1897 at Buckingham Palace.:p. 5, Col. 6c
Enemies[edit | edit source]
- Consuelo Spencer-Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (at least, in 1901):pp. 31–32
Business Relationships[edit | edit source]
She had an account at Henry Poole & Co., 15 Saville Row, London, and used it to buy "a fancy silk vest (waistcoat) as a gift for the Prince of Wales."
Organizations[edit | edit source]
Timeline[edit | edit source]
1852 July 22, Luise Friederike Auguste Gräfin von Alten and William Drogo Montagu married.
1858 March through 1859 June, Louise, Duchess of Manchester was appointed Mistress of the Robes for Queen Victoria, during the Derby ministry.
1859: "As for Louise, a glimpse of her unconventional ways is given by Lady Eleanor Stanley, describing a paper-chase at Kimbolton in 1859: 'The Duchess of Manchester, in getting too hastily over a stile, caught a hoop of her cage in it, and went head over heels, alighting on her feet with her cage and whole petticoats remaining above her head. They say there was never such a thing seen — and the other ladies hardly knew whether to be thankful or not that a part of her underclothing consisted of a pair of scarlet tartan knickerbockers (the things Charles shoots in) — which were revealed to all the world in general and the Duc de Malakoff in particular.' Lady Eleanor says that the other ladies hardly knew whether to be thankful because at this date a lady's normal wear under her petticoats was only a pair of leggings laced up to the waistband, an arrangement that could be unduly revealing in combination with a crinoline. ... But some of the more active ladies were beginning to adopt / Louise's expedient of donning a hidden pair of breeches for rambles in the country.":25–26
1863, early, or late 1862, Louise and Spencer Compton Cavendish began a relationship.:p. 26
1873 December 10, Mary Louise Elizabeth Montagu (daughter) and William Douglas-Hamilton married.
1876 August 10, Louisa Augusta Beatrice Montagu (daughter) and Archibald Acheson married.
1889 January 5, Alice Maude Olivia Montagu (daughter) and Edward Stanley married.
1890 March 22, William Drogo Montagu (7th Duke) died.
1890 November 14, William Angus Drogo Montagu (grandson) and Helena Zimmerman married secretly, in London.
1891 December 21, Hartington's father, the 7th Duke of Devonshire, died.
1892 August 16, Louise Friederike Auguste Gräfin von Alten Montagu and Spencer Compton Cavendish, her second husband, married.
1897 July 20, Mary Louise Elizabeth Montagu Douglas-Hamilton and Robert Carnaby Foster married.
1900 November 14, William Angus Drogo Montagu and Helena Zimmerman married.
1901 Spring, Paris, Consuelo Spencer-Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, describes a meeting with Louise Cavendish in the spring following Queen Victoria's death at the horse racetrack, Longchamps:
A renowned character and virtually dictator of what was known as the fast set as opposed to the Victorian, Her Grace was a German aristocrat by birth. She had first been married to the impoverished Duke of Manchester, and when he died had improved her status by marriage to the rich Duke of Devonshire, who waged an undisputed influence in politics. Rumour had her beautiful, but when I knew her she was a raddled old woman, covering her wrinkles with paint and her pate with a brown wig. Her mouth was a red gash and from it, when she saw me, issued a stream of abuse. How could I, she complained, pointing to my white gloves, show so little respect to the memory of a great Queen? What a carefree world we must have lived in, that etiquette even in such small matters could assume so much importance?:p. 115
The Duchess of Marlborough's description here, only 4 years after the ball, carries emotional content suggesting enmity between the two women. It may be merely uncharitably accurate, or it may be cruelly exaggerated in some way.
Annual Events[edit | edit source]
Every year, as Duchess of Devonshire (thus, beginning in 1893), Louise held a dance on the night after the Derby at Epsom Downs, which at this point was held on Wednesdays after Easter.
The Duchess of Devonshire's 2 July 1897 Fancy-dress Ball[edit | edit source]
Louise, Duchess of Devonshire and Spencer Compton, 8th Duke of Devonshire hosted the famous fancy-dress ball, which took place on Friday night.
According to House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth,
Such an event required extensive planning and attention to detail. The housekeeper aided by two secretaries was in charge of organisation inside the house with precise instructions from the Duchess on menus and all arrangements.:137
The Devonshire House Staff at the Ball[edit | edit source]
The Dukes of Devonshire did not keep employment records of the staff working at their various properties. The Servants and Staff Database managed by Chatsworth House has a list of everyone ever named in any documents as a servant or staff member, and by 1891 census records included employment at places like the properties owned by the Duke of Devonshire.
Questions[edit | edit source]
- Who was housekeeper? Who were the secretaries?
- Where did this info about the "precise instructions" come from?
The Historical Zenobia[edit | edit source]
Louise, Duchess of Devonshire attended the ball dressed as Zenobia, queen of Palmyra.
Zenobia (240 – c. 274) was queen of the Syrian Palmyrene Empire, ruling as regent for her son after her husband's assassination. The historical Zenobia as well as fictional characters merely named Zenobia were popular subjects in 19th century art, literature (including Benjamin Disraeli, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Walter Savage Landor), opera, sculpture, and paintings. She was also the subject of travel books; middle-eastern traveller Lady Hester Stanhope (1776–1839), for example, discussed Zenobia in her memoirs, published in 1847.
We do not know what sources, if any, were consulted by Louise, Duchess of Devonshire in preparing for personating Zenobia for the ball. Noting, as always, language that is offensive to us now, Edward Gibbon's 1761–1789 History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire includes Zenobia:
Modern Europe has produced several illustrious women who have sustained with glory the weight of empire; nor is our own age destitute of such distinguished characters. But if we except the doubtful achievements of Semiramis, Zenobia is perhaps the only female whose superior genius broke through the servile indolence imposed on her sex by the climate and manners of Asia. She claimed her descent [p. 19 / p. 20] from the Macedonian kings of Egypt, equalled in beauty her ancestor Cleopatra, and far surpassed that princess in chastity and valour. Zenobia was esteemed the most lovely as well as the most heroic of her sex. She was of a dark complexion (for in speaking of a lady these trifles become important). Her teeth were of a pearly whiteness, and her large black eyes sparkled with uncommon fire, tempered by the most attractive sweetness. Her voice was strong and harmonious. Her manly understanding was strengthened and adorned by study. She was not ignorant of the Latin tongue, but possessed in equal perfection the Greek, the Syriac, and the Egyptian languages. She had drawn up for her own use an epitome of oriental history, and familiarly compared the beauties of Homer and Plato under the tuition of the sublime Longinus.
This accomplished woman gave her hand to Odenathus, who, from a private station, raised himself to the dominion of the East. She soon became the friend and companion of a hero. In the intervals of war Odenathus passionately delighted in the exercise of hunting; he pursued with ardour the wild beasts of the desert, lions, panthers, and bears; and the ardour of Zenobia in that dangerous amusement was not inferior to his own. She had inured her constitution to fatigue, disdained the use of a covered carriage, generally appeared on horseback in a military habit, and sometimes marched several miles on foot at the head of the troops. The success of Odenathus was in a great measure ascribed to her incomparable prudence and fortitude. Their splendid victories over the Great King, whom they twice pursued as far as the gates of Ctesiphon, laid the foundations of their united fame and power. The armies which they commanded, and the provinces which they had saved, acknowledged not any other sovereigns than their invincible chiefs. The senate and people of Rome revered a stranger who had avenged their captive emperor, and even the insensible son of Valerian accepted Odenathus for his legitimate colleague.
After a successful expedition against the Gothic plunderers of Asia, the Palmyrenian prince returned to the city of Emesa in Syria. Invincible in war, he was there cut off by domestic treason, and his favourite amusement of hunting was the cause, or at least the occasion, of his death. His nephew, Mæonius, [p. 20 / p. 21] presumed to dart his javelin before that of his uncle; and, though admonished of his error, repeated the same insolence. As a monarch, and as a sportsman, Odenathus was provoked, took away his horse, a mark of ignominy among the barbarians, and chastised the rash youth by a short confinement. The offence was soon forgot, but the punishment was remembered; and Mæonius, with a few daring associates, assassinated his uncle in the midst of a great entertainment. Herod, the son of Odenathus, though not of Zenobia, a young man of a soft and effeminate temper, was killed with his father. But Mæonius obtained only the pleasure of revenge by this bloody deed. He had scarcely time to assume the title of Augustus before he was sacrificed by Zenobia to the memory of her husband.
With the assistance of his most faithful friends, she immediately filled the vacant throne, and governed with manly counsels Palmyra, Syria, and the East, above five years. By the death of Odenathus, that authority was at an end which the Egypt senate had granted him only as a personal distinction; but his martial widow, disdaining both the senate and Gallienus, obliged one of the Roman generals who was sent against her to retreat into Europe, with the loss of his army and his reputation. Instead of the little passions which so frequently perplex a female reign, the steady administration of Zenobia was guided by the most judicious maxims of policy. If it was expedient to pardon, she could calm her resentment; if it was necessary to punish, she could impose silence on the voice of pity. Her strict economy was accused of avarice; yet on every proper occasion she appeared magnificent and liberal. The neighbouring states of Arabia, Armenia, and Persia, dreaded her enmity, and solicited her alliance. To the dominions of Odenathus, which extended from the Euphrates to the frontiers of Bithynia, his widow added the inheritance of her ancestors, the populous and fertile kingdom of Egypt. The emperor Claudius acknowledged [p. 21 / p. 22] her merit, and was content that, while he pursued the Gothic war, she should assert the dignity of the empire in the East. The conduct, however, of Zenobia was attended with some ambiguity; nor is it unlikely that she had conceived the design of erecting an independent and hostile monarchy. She blended with the popular manners of Roman princes the stately pomp of the courts of Asia, and exacted from her subjects the same adoration that was paid to the successors of Cyrus. She bestowed on her three sons a Latin education, and often showed them to the troops adorned with the Imperial purple. For herself she reserved the diadem, with the splendid but doubtful title of Queen of the East.
When Aurelian passed over into Asia, against an adversary whose sex alone could render her an object of contempt, his presence restored obedience to the province of Bithynia, already shaken by the arms and intrigues of Zenobia. ... Antioch was deserted on his approach, till the emperor, by his salutary edicts, recalled the fugitives, and granted a general pardon to all who, from necessity rather than choice, had been engaged in the service of the Palmyrenian queen. The unexpected mildness of such a conduct reconciled the minds of the Syrians, and, as far as the gates of Emesa, the wishes of the people seconded the terror of his arms.
Zenobia would have ill deserved her reputation, had she indolently permitted the emperor of the West to approach within an hundred miles of her capital. The fate of the East was decided in two great battles; so similar in almost every circumstance, that we can scarcely distinguish them from each other, except by observing that the first was fought [p. 22 / p. 23] near Antioch, and the second near Emesa. In both the queen of Palmyra animated the armies by her presence, and devolved the execution of her orders on Zabdas, who had already signalised his military talents by the conquest of Egypt. The numerous forces of Zenobia consisted for the most part of light archers, and of heavy cavalry clothed in complete steel. The Moorish and Illyrian horse of Aurelian were unable to sustain the ponderous charge of their antagonists. They fled in real or affected disorder, engaged the Palmyrenians in a laborious pursuit, harassed them by a desultory combat, and at length discomfited this impenetrable but unwieldy body of cavalry. The light infantry, in the mean time, when they had exhausted their quivers, remaining without protection against a closer onset, exposed their naked sides to the swords of the legions. ... After the defeat of Emesa, Zenobia found it impossible to collect a third army. As far as the frontier of Egypt, the nations subject to her empire had joined the standard of the conqueror, who detached Probus, the bravest of his generals, to possess himself of the Egyptian provinces. Palmyra was the last resource of the widow of Odenathus. She retired within the walls of her capital, made every preparation for a vigorous resistance, and declared, with the intrepidity of a heroine, that the last moment of her reign and of her life should be the same.:Ch. XI, 19–23
The Encyclopædia Britannica offers a sense of what was generally available to those interested in that kind of research. The discussion of Zenobia that would have been available in 1897, in the 9th edition of the Britannica, is embedded ion the article on Palmyra. It begins with her husband, Odænathus, and his father:
Odænathus himself seems to have been engaged in almost constant warfare in the east and north against the Persians and perhaps the Scythians, but in his absence the reins of government were firmly held by his wife Zenobia, the most famous heroine of antiquity, to whom indeed Aurelian, in a letter preserved by Trebellius Pollio, ascribes the chief merit of all her husband's success. Septimia Zenobia was by firth a Palmyrene; her native name was Bath Zabbai ... [;] and Pollio's description of her dark beauty, black flashing eyes, and pearly teeth, together with her unusual physical endurance and the frank commanding manners which secured her authority in the camp and the desert, point emphatically to an Arabic rather than a Syrian descent. ... To the union of firmness and clemency, which is the most necessary quality of an Eastern sovereign, Zenobia added the rarer gifts of economy and organization, and an unusual range of intellectual culture. She spoke Coptic as well as Syriac, knew something of Latin, and had learned Greek from the famous Longinus, who remained at her court to the last, and paid the penalty of his life for his share in her counsels. She was also a diligent student of Eastern and Western history, and the statement that she enjoined her sons to speak Latin so that they had difficulty in using Greek implies a consistent and early adoption of the policy which made the sucess of Odænathus, and, taken in connexion with Aurelians' testimony, in a letter preserved by Pollio, that she had the chief merit of her husband's exploits, seems to justify the conclusion that it was her educated political insight that created the fortunes of the short-lived dynasty. ... In the zenith of his fame Odænathus was cut off by assassination along with his eldest son Herod, and it is generally assumed that the murder took place under Gallienus. ... [p. 201, Col. 2c – p. 202, Col. 1a] The fact seems to be that, while Odaenathus was busy at the other end of his kingdom, Zenobia administered the government at Palmyra and directed the conquest of Egypt, still nominally acting under the emperor at Rome, whose authority on the Nile was disputed by one or more pretenders. ... It still seems ... strange and yet an undoubted fact that Zenobia, who not only enjoyed the real authority behind her beardless son, but placed her name before his on public inscriptions, ... struck no coins till the second year of Aurelian, when the breach with Rome took place, and she suddenly appears as an empress (Σεβαστή, Augusta) of five years' standing. Up to that date the royal pair probably did not venture to coin in open defiance to Rome, and yet were unwilling to circulate an acknowledgment of vassalship in all the bazaars of the East. ...
... Zenobia, supported by her two generals, kinsmen of her husband, was now face to face with a Roman invasion. She held Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor as far as Ancyra; and Bithynia was ready to join her party had not the army of Aurelian appeared just in time from Byzantium. She could count too on the Armenians and the Arabs, but the loyalty of Syria was doubtful: the towns disliked a rule which was essentially "barbarian," and in Antioch at least the patroness of the Monarchian bishop Paul of Samosata could to be popular with the large Christian party by whom he was bitterly hated. There were many Romans [p. 202, Col. 1c – p. 202, Col. 2a] in Zenobia's force, and it was they who bore the brunt of the two great battles at Antioch and Emesa, which followed Aurelian's rapid advance through Asia Minor. But Zenobia made light of these defeats, — "I have suffered no great loss" was her message to Aurelian, "for almost all who have fallen are Romans." ... But the empire of Palmyra came four centuries too soon. Rome was not yet exhausted, and Zenobia had neither the religious discipline of Islam to hold the Arabs together nor the spoil of the treasuries of Persia to keep their enthusiasm always fresh. Aurelian's military skill was strained to the uttermost by the prudence and energy of Zenobia, but he succeeded in forming and maintaining the siege of Palmyra in spite of its bulwark of desert, and his gold corrupted the Arab and Armenian auxiliaries. Zenobia attempted to flee and throw herself on the Persians, but she was pursued and taken, and then the Palmyrene lost heart and capitulated. Aurelian seized the wealth of the city, but spared the inhabitants, and to Zenobia he granted her life while he put her advisors to death. She figured in his splendid triumph, and by the most probable account accepted her fall with dignity, and closed her days at Tibur, where she lived with her sons the life of a Roman matron. The fall of Zenobia may be placed in the spring of 272.:p. 201, Col. 2a – p. 202, Col. 2b
This extract is from "Palmyra" in the 9th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, which does not have an article on Zenobia. The Zenobia entry in the index is a cross reference to the Palmyra article, which is about 10 columns and includes a biographical sketch of this ruler. :p. 1, Col. 1c, after p. 858 Written by George Albert Cooke, the article on Zenobia in the 11th edition of the Britannica, technically the next edition, published in 1911, is substantial, more than an entire column.:p. 972, Col. 1a–2b
The Duchess of Devonshire's Costume[edit | edit source]
At their fancy-dress ball, Louisa, Duchess of Devonshire sat at Table 1 during the first seating for supper, escorted in to the table by the Prince of Wales.:p. 7, Col. 4c
Her costume was designed by M. Comelli and constructed by the House of Worth. :p. 5, Col. 9a  Comelli seems to have designed the costumes of her retinue as well. Attillo Giuseppe Comelli (1858–1925) was an artist and costumier for opera, ballet and theatre in London as well as Europe and the U.S. Archivist for the Lafayette Archive, Russell Harris says,
For her costume, the Duchess commissioned Monsieur Comelli (1858-1925), a well-known designer of opera costumes for the London theatre and opera stage, and then had the design made up by Worth of Paris. Munsey’s Magazine noted “it is safe to say that the Queen of Palmyra never owned such a sumptuous costume in her lifetime.”
Comelli's renderings would be a fascinating addition to the information we have about the Duchess's costume. Such an addition might help us identify, for example, what Comelli designed, what the House of Worth added or changed and what accommodations to the design and constructed garment the Duchess required. The House of Worth handled not only the construction but also almost certainly any adjustments. The Duchess's body and opinions would have been central to perfecting the look and fit of this costume. The bodice and stomacher appear more loosely fitted than what many other women at the ball were wearing. As fashionable as it was, this costume would have been more comfortable than one that required tight-laced corsetry or than one whose drape and fit were more controlled. The Duchess likely had a great deal of say as well about the extremely ornate embellishment, since real jewels and pearls from her personal collection were taken out of their settings for this costume for the day of this ball and included in the spectacular trim.
This costume still exists in the collection in the Archives of the Duke of Devonshire (Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth) and has been exhibited and photographed within the last 20 years. Even though the silver still on the dress has tarnished and turned dark and the jewels have been replaced, the costume is still striking.
Lafayette's Portrait of the Duchess in Her Costume[edit | edit source]
Lafayette's portrait of "Louise Frederica Augusta Cavendish (née von Alten), Duchess of Devonshire (formerly Duchess of Manchester)" in costume is photogravure #5 in the album presented to the Duchess of Devonshire and now in the National Portrait Gallery. The printing on the portrait says, "The Duchess of Devonshire as Zenobia Queen of Palmyra," with a Long S in Duchess.
Often, the V&A Lafayette Archive contains more than one portrait of a sitter for this ball, but the uncropped portrait (above right), which shows the unfinished end of the balustrade in front of the Duchess and the edge of the painted drop behind it, seems to have been the only portrait taken by Lafayette of the Duchess in costume. The copy owned by the National Portrait Gallery in London and the copy included in the album are cropped so that those unfinished edges do not show, but they appear to be from the same photograph. That is, this photograph is the single source for our information about this portrait and the only contemporary image of her costume.
The Lafayette Archive's copy of the actual negative of this photograph is of high-enough quality that a close-up of the Duchess's head shows more detail than can be seen otherwise. The page that includes it also has a line drawing of the costume from The Queen that also includes the headdress as well as a photographic detail of a "star burst motif," possibly from an artifact at the British Museum:
- Duchess of Devonshire, full-length, standing, 3/4 (Neg. No. 1350): http://lafayette.org.uk/dev1350.html
Newspaper Descriptions of the Duchess's Costume[edit | edit source]
These almost exactly identical descriptions suggest scissors-and-paste journalism or, less likely, a shared primary source:
- The London Evening Standard, Morning Post and Times published almost identical descriptions, varying only by the occasional punctuation mark or short phrase (e.g., "supplied by Worth, of Paris"). The Times was a morning paper, published at 5 a.m. (56); the Morning Post, despite its name, was published at 3:00 p.m. (55); and the Evening Standard probably published later (81). If one of these articles is the source for the others, it is likely the version published first, in the Times. The fullest version is this one, from the Evening Standard:
The Duchess of Devonshire, as Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, wore a magnificent costume, supplied by Worth, of Paris. The skirt of gold tissue was embroidered all over in a star-like design in emeralds, sapphires, diamonds, and other jewels, outlined with gold, the corners where it opened in front being elaborately wrought in the same jewels and gold to represent peacocks' outspread tails. This opened to show an under-dress of cream crêpe de chine, delicately embroidered in silver, gold, and pearls, and sprinkled all over with diamonds. The train was attached to the shoulders by two slender points, and was fastened at the waist with a large diamond ornament. It was of green velvet of a lovely shade, and was superbly embroidered in Oriental designs, introducing the lotus flower in rubies, sapphires, amethysts, emeralds, and diamonds, in four borderings on contrasting grounds, separated with gold cord. The train was lined with turquoise satin. The bodice was composed of gold tissue to match the skirt, and the front was of crêpe de chine, hidden with a stomacher of real diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, and there was a jewelled belt.:p. 3, Col. 2b :p. 7, Col. 7a :p. 12, Col. 3b
- A morning paper, the Daily News has some of its highly detailed reportage wrong, including colors in the train and the number of people in the Duchess's entourage:
The Duchess of Devonshire was a dazzling vision, dressed as 'Zenobia,' in a glistening gold gauze gown, elaborately ornamented with suns and discs, wrought in purple and green gems outlined with gold, and having a large diamond as centre. The space between was fluted with fine silver spangles. This robe was open in front over an under dress of white crépe de chine, delicately worked in crystals, and at each side of the opening on the gold robe were large fan-shaped groups of peacock feathers, worked in multicoloured jewels. The corsage was to correspond, and had a magnificent girdle of jewels, the train of bright green velvet, hung like a fan, without folds, being fastened at each side of the shoulders by diamond brooches, and caught at the waist with a similar ornament. It was a mass of gorgeous embroidery, carried out in heliotrope velvet, lotus flowers studded with tinted gems, and other devices in terra-cotta and electric blue velvet — all enriched with gold, diamond, and jewelled embroidery — and lined with pale blue satin. ... Attending the hostess were four children, four fan-bearers, and four trumpeters, all magnificently arrayed in artistically embroidered Assyrian robes, helmets, and other accessories, correct in every detail.:p. 5, Col. 6a
- According to the London Echo,
THE DUCHESS of DEVONSHIRE was a dazzling vision, dressed as “Zenobia,” in a glistening gold gauze gown, elaborately ornamented with suns and discs, wrought in purple and green gems, outlined with gold, and having a large diamond as centre. The space between was fluted with fine silver spangles. This robe was open in front over an under dress of white crépe [may be crêpe] de chine, delicately worked in crystals and at each side of the opening on the gold robe were large fan-shaped groups of peacock feathers, worked in multicoloured jewels. The corsage was to correspond, and had a magnificent girdle of jewels, the train of bright green velvet, hung like a fan, without folds, being fastened at each side of the shoulders by diamond brooches, and caught at the waist with a similar ornament. It was a mass of gorgeous embroidery, carried out in heliotrope velvet, lotus flowers studded with tinted gems, and other devices in terra-cotta and electric blue velvet — all enriched with gold, diamond, and jewelled embroidery — and lined with pale blue satin. The crown worn with this was high, and of filigree gold, surmounted with two horns, each tipped with a large diamond. It was encrusted with large diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, and long chains of pearls fell under the chin, and about the head — one magnificent pear-shaped pearl resting on the forehead. Attending the hostess were four children, four fan-bearers, and four trumpeters, all magnificently arrayed in artistically embroidered Assyrian robes, helmets, and other accessories, correct in every detail. (2, Col. 6c)
- According to the article in The Graphic written by Lady Violet Greville, although this caption to the Lafayette photograph may not be hers, the Duchess of Devonshire wore a
Skirt of gold tissue, embroidered all over with emeralds, sapphires, diamonds, and other jewels outlined with gold. This opened to show an underdress of crème crêpe de chine, embroidered in silver, gold, and pearls, and sprinkled all over with diamonds. The train was green velvet, superbly embroidered in Oriental designs. The bodice was composed of gold tissue, and the front was of crêpe de chine hidden with a stomacher of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds.:p. 15, Col. 3b
- According to The Gentlewoman, a newspaper that often covered fashion and design,
The Duchess was attired with great Oriental magnificence as Zenobia. Her dress was a tissue of silver, embroidered with gold and jewels, an overmantle of cloth of gold embroidered in the same manner hung from the shoulders, and she wore a bandeau of gold studded with gems, and surrounded by hanging chains of pearls over her elaborate headdress; strings and ropes of jewels and pearls were worn round the neck, and hung down almost to the knees.:p. 32, Col. 1c–2a
Observations on the Duchess's Costume[edit | edit source]
Because it is in black and white, the photograph of the Duchess as Zenobia taken by Lafayette (above right) can tell us almost nothing about the colors of the costume. Fortunately, this costume has survived and is held in Archives of the Duke of Devonshire (Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth). House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth, the volume about an exhibition mounted 25 March to 22 October 2017, has beautiful photographs from several perspectives of the costume, including the train, and accessories. Photographs from this exhibition have appeared in a number of places on the web and social media. A few online magazines have printed images, apparently from this exhibition, as well.
This costume was worn by Deborah, 11th Duchess of Devonshire when the Dowager Duchess in 2000 for her 80th birthday. She wore it with the Devonshire Palmette tiara, which also was made for the 8th Duchess, in 1893, shortly after she married the 8th Duke. The 3-row base of this 1900-diamond tiara was added in 1897, but Louise, the 8th Duchess, did not wear the Palmette tiara to the ball; another headdress was made for her costume.
In the photograph of her in costume, Louise, the 8th Duchess is standing in a three-quarter front pose. That static position in a two-dimensional image makes it difficult to understand exactly how the costume and accessories worked.
The terms we use are these: train, bodice (what's on the torso, no matter how many layers), stomacher, belt (really an accessory, like the jewelry), sleeves, overskirt, petticoat (or underskirt) and frou-frou. Some of the 1897 terminology for parts of the dress differs from what we would use now. Some of the terms that appear in the newspaper reports include front, bodice, corsage, stomacher, girdle, train and overmantle, skirt, gown, robe and under-dress.
Inconsistencies in the Descriptions and Images[edit | edit source]
- The newspaper accounts of the Duchess's costume do not agree on several particulars, including the color of the train and its lining.
- Inconsistencies in the photographs continue into the 21st century. We see that the fit is different on the body of Deborah, 11th Duchess of Devonshire in 2000 and on the mannequin at the 2017 exhibition. Most striking is the color of the train of the dress, which ranges in the several recent photographs available online from a "primary" green to a goldish green, possibly in part due to the lighting, background and quality of the print of the photograph. Possibly, also, of course, the color may be fading and changing as the fabric is exposed to light.
- The dress is loosely draped on the body of Louise, 8th Duchess and on Deborah, 11th Duchess. It appears stiffer and drapes less gracefully in the 2017 exhibition photographs.
The Duchess's Body[edit | edit source]
The costume appears to have been designed to flatter the 8th Duchess's body.
- She was 65 years old at the time of the ball.
- She was unusually beautiful in her youth. In her 1984 The Duchess of Devonshire's Ball, Sophia Murphy says, "As a young woman she was extremely beautiful; Princess Catherine Radziwill saw her at a reception given by the Empress of Germany and recalls on being introduced to her 'how she struck me as the loveliest creature I had ever set eyes upon. Indeed I have only met three women in my whole existence who could be compared to her.'":p. 21
- She was confident, a "political hostess," "said to be the most powerful person outside the government.":12
- Consuelo, Duchess of Marlborough describing Louise, Duchess of Devonshire, says, "Rumour had her beautiful, but when I knew her she was a raddled old woman, covering her wrinkles with paint and her pate with a brown wig. Her mouth was a red gash ....":115 She said this a few months after Queen Victoria's death in 1901, but they knew each other in 1897: the Duchess of Marlborough was at the ball.
- Although it is impossible to tell anything about what undergarments she may have been wearing from the Lafayette portrait, the Duchess does not appear to have a tightly laced waist. The drape of the costume suggests it might have been intended to be more comfortable than to show off her waist.
- Because her almost-straight arms appear to be deliberately (and perhaps unnaturally) positioned over the front of her body, she looks as if she might be self-conscious.
- Louise typically wore earrings in portraits other than Lafayette's and appears to have had pierced ears.
The costume hangs differently on Deborah, the 11th Duchess of Devonshire in photographs of her in 2000, suggesting that it was altered to fit her body. It also hangs differently on the mannequin used in the 2017 Devonshire House Style exhibition, in part because the bottom of the skirts of the petticoat and overdress were extended to showcase the decorations at the hem.
Fit[edit | edit source]
- The recent exhibitions of the dress show a different fit than what is shown in the Lafayette photograph. Louise, the 8th Duchess's bodice is draped loosely over the stomacher, but photographs of Deborah, 11th Duchess or of the mannequin in the 2017 exhibition show a bodice fitted to the stomacher.
- Also, the costume itself may have been altered or adjusted since 1897 to make the waist more defined and the line more Elizabethan (the wide, square neckline; the A-line silhouette of the skirt; the split in the over-skirt with the petticoat or under-skirt in the middle).
- The dress seems to have been designed to flatter the 8th Duchess's body, especially her waist: the belt falls down to the hips; the skirt has an A-line shape; what we can see of the under-dress is narrow at the top and wider towards the bottom.
- The drape of the skirt falls in a straighter line on the 8th Duchess as well as the Dowager Duchess than on the mannequins. In the exhibition, the bottom of the skirt on the mannequin has been extended outward, accentuating the A-line, in order to display the complex embroidery and ornamentation. The encrustation of the jewels and embroidery would stiffen the bottom of the skirt, but its weight would pull the skirt down; it would not naturally spread out in the way it does on the mannequin.
The Original Dress (Minus the Train)[edit | edit source]
The duchess's dress was made to look like an underdress and an overdress, although of course the construction was actually quite a bit more complex than this and includes more parts. The layered dress has a bodice made up of a stomacher and a corsage, with a petticoat and skirt over it. The garments are made to be a single costume. This Worth dress is covered in typically late-19th-century frou-frou.
- The stomacher is fitted to the body, while the corsage (which, with the overskirt, is made to look like a dress) hangs more loosely from the shoulders to the waist. Similarly, the embroidered patterns on the stomacher and underskirt match, suggesting that they too are of a piece.
- According to the Pall Mall Gazette, "One of the Duchess of Devonshire’s beautiful diamond and emerald tiaras had been taken to pieces to form a stomacher, the effect of which was dazzling in its brilliancy."
- The stomacher and petticoat are look like an underdress in part because the fabric and trim match. The trim gives a three-dimensional pattern on the fabrics as well a depth and richness to the edgings. For example, the pattern on the fabric of the underdress appears to be beaded all over as well as embroidered. The pieces of the overdress also match in fabric and trim.
- The 8th Duchess did not take part in the Artistic Dress fashion of not wearing a corset, although her costume does not show the very small waist some women at the ball achieved with tight lacing. In the Lafayette portrait, Louise's stomacher appears to be fitted to her body while the overdress is more loosely draped.
- In the 1897 Lafayette portrait, the Duchess's petticoat, or underskirt, appears to be A-line, although it hangs straight down because of the weight of the embroidery at the bottom edge.
- For the 2017 exhibition, the overdress and the petticoat were fully extended at the bottom to reveal the A-line drape of the skirts and to showcase the artistry and complexity of the trim.
- Like the petticoat, the overskirt appears to be A-line. The heavy embroidery at the bottom of the overskirt is completed visually by the design at the bottom of the underskirt.
- Louise's décolletage is not as revealing as was fashionable and acceptable at this time, suggesting perhaps a modesty in dress, but baring her upper arms, which is perhaps more unusual, makes this costume more daring than it would otherwise be.
- The unusual sleeves appear to have no seam under the arm. They are open on the outside of the arm and fall below the waist on the under-arm side, and the two edges are attached at the top of the shoulders, to simulate flower petals.
- The fabric of the sleeves appears to be sheer, different from any other fabric in the dress. An embroidered and beaded paisley pattern — only very tangentially related to the shapes in the rest of the trim — is stitched along the edges.
- In the 1897 photograph, the Duchess's arms are quite bare, perhaps in part as a result of their position. In the 2000 photograph of the Dowager Duchess and the 2017 mannequins, the sleeves show the petal-like structure. In the later photographs, the dress is draped differently, showing less of the upper arm. In the photographs of the 11th Duchess, the dress appeared to have been altered and the top of the sleeves appear to be overlapped instead of caught up.
- The sequins used to embellish the costume appear to be silver, held in place with a bead sewn at the center. Sequins themselves have a long history and were probably mass-produced at the time of the ball. The silver ones like the ones used in the Duchess's costume were useful in garments worn only once because they would have tarnished, turning black and dull.
- This costume would have been worn only once by the 8th Duchess not only because the silver work would have tarnished but also because it was temporarily decorated by real stones and pearls from her jewelry. 
- The thread and cords used for the trim were made out of real silver and gold filaments.
The Original Train[edit | edit source]
- While the train looks like it falls from the shoulders, its heaviness would have distorted the dress, pulling the shoulders down in the back. It may have been made to be a part of the corsage and attached at the waist as well as at the shoulders, transferring more of the weight to the waist. The weight of a heavy garment like this train was a problem Victorian designers faced often, usually by spreading the weight of the garment to the wearer's waist. The London Evening Standard, Morning Post, Times and Daily News all report that the train was "fastened" or "caught" at the waist with a diamond ornament or brooch, but this attachment to the dress was likely far more structural and less decorative.
- The color of the green velvet on the train differs depending on the photograph. One photograph from the German Royal Magazine shows a very vivid green, although it is possible the photograph enhanced the greenness of the train to emphasize the embroidery on it. One photograph, used in two blogs without attribution, shows a yellowish color to the train. Photographs from Chatsworth House might be trusted to have truer color; published in the Chatsworth House newsletter, they are no longer directly accessible.
- Other photographs show a lighter green. This change in the color needs exploration. Without looking at the actual garment, it is impossible to know why the color appears to have changed in the several photographs. The causes could range from the condition of the fabric or the dye to the lighting of the garment during the photographing process. Furthermore, the dye formula (and mordant, used to set the dye) could be very interesting to research (although green dyes containing arsenic were no longer in use by the 1890s).
- The reporter's description of the Duchess's train in the London Daily News is confusing: it says the train is "bright green velvet" and "It was a mass of gorgeous embroidery, carried out in heliotrope velvet." Embroidery is not "carried out in" velvet. Heliotrope is not green, it's pinkish purple.
- Heliotrope was not green in 1897, either: heliotrope appears to have been a new word for a color, introduced perhaps in 1882 in A. Maerz and M. Rea Paul's A Dictionary of Colour. The OED lists 3 newspaper sources for the 1880s, The World (1882), Truth (1886), and the Daily News (1887). The Daily News describes it well: "that peculiar mauve known as heliotrope." The word itself has existed in English for many centuries, both for the flower (which turns to follow the sun) as well as for instruments that reflect or measure sunlight and also for a variety of quartz (also called bloodstone).
Mixing the Present and the Past[edit | edit source]
Historical fiction — whether novels, paintings or costumes — is always about both the past and the present moment.
The costume that Louise, the 8th Duchess wore was designed by Attillo Comelli and constructed by the House of Worth. Comelli also designed the costumes of the fan bearers, trumpeters and children in her entourage. The historical Zenobia's Palmyrene Empire was Syrian, and the entourage's costumes were described as Syrian (Assyrian) or "Babylonish." The Westminster Review says that the Duchess of Devonshire took part in the "Oriental" procession, but no other newspaper, including the Morning Post and the Times, which printed details about the processions, include her. The processions were a means of formally presenting the guests to the Prince and Princess of Wales. The Duchess would not have needed to be presented to the royals: she and the Duke welcomed them to Devonshire House when they first arrived.
The fact that Comelli designed the Duchess's costume and the House of Worth constructed it is important because the House of Worth designed fashion. Even though this was a fancy-dress ball to which they were expected to wear costumes, the guests would always have given fashionably flattering clothing precedence over what we might now call historical accuracy.
Even though Comelli would have been familiar with early clothing history, it is unlikely he would have been a stickler for "historical accuracy." He would have been accustomed to designing costumes that took into account the body (if not always the taste) of the wearer. That is, while he was likely the source of what historical accuracy existed in the costume, his designs were always Victorian treatments of the historical.
- In the 1897 portrait, the sleeve treatment and the general drape of the bodice and the skirt are consistent with what we think Victorians would consider ancient Syrian. We see the hand of Comelli, in particular, in the way the bodice and skirt are layered and not tightly fitted (possibly for comfort), the symbols and shapes that make up the trim and the way the skirt falls straight down from the hips.
- Perhaps the Duchess's bare arms were meant to be historical and suggest the climate of Palmyra.
- The costume is not "historically accurate" to 3rd century Palmyra, however, in any way. Beyond Comelli's likely treatment of the historical are embellishments common in formal clothing of the most wealthy and fashionable at the end of the 19th century, especially in the way the sequins and the shaped and faceted precious and semi-precious stones were used in the trim.
- The versions of the costume shown in recent exhibitions make it seem more Victorian than what we see in Lafayette's portrait of the 8th Duchess, especially the waist and the fit of the bodice.
- What makes the costume look so very typical of the late 19th century are its general flow or silhouette, the lines of the bodice and skirt, the fitted waist, the fit of the dress against the stomacher and the belt.
- The flow of the costume, which centers at the waist, has a Victorian shape. The two ends of the belt bring together the point of the stomacher and the lines made by the edges of the overdress, making this center.
- The lines of the bodice and skirt are Victorian in the fitted waist and the A-line of the skirt. They appear more Victorian in the latter photographs, which accentuate the A-line, than they do in the 1897 portrait.
- The belt (discussed generally in Accessories, below) looks very Victorian.
- In the more recent photographs, the tightness of the dress against the stomacher all look Victorian.
- As a piece that looks like it is attached to rather than part of the dress, the train has an ahistorical quality, not really belonging to the ancient Syrians nor what was common to late-Victorian ballgowns. In a way, its purpose can be said to have been merely decorative, to showcase the embroidery and encrustations of jewels, pearls and sequins.
- Similarities between late-Victorian and late-16th-century styles, which we can see in the Lafayette portrait, complexify the elements that are not ancient Syrian: the square neckline, the A-line shape of the skirts and the focal point just below the waist.
Trim[edit | edit source]
- The trim consists of complex matching patterns made up of cords, jewels, pearls, beads, sequins and embroidery.
- The jewels are framed, likely by gold cording, and put into settings, which makes the jewels pop — emphasizing them and giving them three-dimensionality.
- The beading at the edges of the garment pieces adds weight and helps manage the drape of the fabric.
- The sequins attached to the costume would have been metal. Since silver tarnishes over time — and tarnish cannot be removed without damage to the fabric — the sequins, beads and embroidery thread that are dark now may be silver.
- The gold thread in the embroidery has not tarnished, but the silver thread, which would have sparkled in 1897, has.
Accessories[edit | edit source]
In the 1897 Lafayette portrait of her in her costume, the Duchess also has some accessories and props. Not shown in the photograph is her entourage, perhaps 6 people in total, who also had costumes, accessories and props. In her portrait, we see Louise with a complex and ornate headdress, a fan, quite a bit of jewelry, and perhaps a handkerchief tucked into one bracelet.
- The belt is an elaborate accessory to the costume and heavily encrusted with sequins, beads and jewels, its weight and stiffness holding it in place. The focal point of the costume is the front center, near the waist, where the belt, the stomacher, the overdress and the petticoat all come together. This focal point is defined clearly by the meeting of the highly decorated two ends of the belt.
- Mostly hidden in the 1897 Lafayette portrait, the belt falls perhaps very slightly below the Duchess's waist. On the 80-year-old 11th Duchess, it appears to be closer to her waistline instead of falling below it. On the mannequin in the 2017 exhibition, the belt clearly falls below the waist in front.
- Based on what the Duchess of Marlborough said in 1901 and on how dark the hair is in Lafayette's portrait (she's 65), Louise is likely wearing a wig here. Because of the angle of her head in the portrait and the elaborate headdress, it is impossible to tell whether her hair is up or down or a little of both. Because of the angle of her body, the sleeve treatment and the fact that the photograph is black and white, the dark shape behind her might be a long braid falling down the center of her back.
- The fan carried by the Duchess, at least in the Lafayette photograph, appears to be made of long white ostrich plumes. It would have had a handle, and in this case, likely a highly ornate one.
- Louise's complex headdress looks like a crown, with a jewel-encrusted band, crescent-shaped horns, loops of pearls, a large tear-drop pearl in the center of the forehead, and white feathers (likely the traditional 3 plumes worn for the Prince of Wales).
- Louise's jewelry is addressed in its own section.
- Can't tell how many strands of pearls are around Louise's neck in the Lafayette photo, but the photographs of the recreation of the crown and of the costume from the 2017 exhibit show five strands.
- The Duchess is wearing bracelets on both wrists in the Lafayette photograph. The most visible one — on her left arm — appears to be a simple thick band, with a handkerchief tucked under it.
The Duchess's Jewelry[edit | edit source]
Newspaper reports before the ball gossiped about the jewelry associated with the costumes being developed. For example, according to the Edinburgh Evening News on 21 June 1897, less than two weeks before the party, "The ball being a fancy dress one, men as well as women will be able in certain characters to wear jewels. The Duchess of Devonshire, who is to appear as Zenobia, is getting her jewels reset after the antique style." The Pall Mall Gazette says, "One of the Duchess of Devonshire’s beautiful diamond and emerald tiaras had been taken to pieces to form a stomacher, the effect of which was dazzling in its brilliancy." (The stomacher seems less heavily encrusted with jewels than the belt or the part of the bodice that looks as if it is part of the overdress, so this reporter may have made a mistake, or perhaps this writing is simply imprecise in general, as form a stomacher is also really not very clear.)
The Duchess was known for her jewelry, and as she aged and after her marriage to the 8th Duke in 1892, the jewelry she wore only increased in scale and notability. It is not surprising that her jewelry would provide copy for the newspapers. The jewelry she wore at the ball consisted of a headdress that included loops of pearls, pearls around her neck, bracelets and at least one ring. (She does not seem to be wearing earrings in the Lafayette portrait.)
Besides the jewels and pearls Louise wore as jewelry to the ball, the embroidery on every piece of her costume was "encrusted" with jewels, pearls, beads and sequins. Some accounts of her costume suggest that all the jewels sewn onto the dress were actual precious or semiprecious stones, but the London Daily News says some of them were crystals.(p. 5, Col. 6a) According to House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth,
The skirt of gold gauze, appliquéd with tinsel medallions and peacock plumes worked in bright foils, wire coils and spangled with sequins, was worn over an ivory satin underskirt wrought over with silver thread and diamonds. Attached to the shoulders was a long graduated train in the most vivid emerald-green velvet, appliquéd with velvet and gold work in an eastern design and studied with jewels.(128)
The encrustation of embroidery, jewels and baubles would have made the costume heavy, and concentrating all this frou-frou at the bottom edges would have affected the drape and fold of not only the skirts and train but the stomacher, bodice and sleeves. The density of the decoration on the train and overskirt caused the drape to remain open and flat rather than letting the fabric fold. The structural foundation provided by the "petticoat," or underskirt, which likely continued completely around her body, also would have helped prevent folding.
Because they would have been made of metal, the sequins alone would have added considerably to the weight of the costume. Because they are so dull and black in the recent color photographs, the sequins are probably made of silver and have tarnished over time. The dull black beads are also probably silver. Some of the embroidery contained metal threads made of silver or gold. While the gold would not tarnish, the silver has blackened. Removing this tarnish is impossible using today's methods because of how small the sequins, beads and thread are and because of the damage it might do to the fabrics.
Other beads might have been made of semiprecious stones, pearls or glass, which would also have weighed down the fabric.
Newspaper Reports about the Jewels[edit | edit source]
Almost all newspaper reports of her costume at the ball mention her jewels because they were so much a topic of conversation. Because they were sewn onto the costume itself, these descriptions emphasize her jewelry. Most are very similar to each other:
- The Duchess was dressed "as Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, her dress a marvel of soft tissues and exquisite ornament, and her tiara a still greater marvel of the jeweller's art.":p. 12, Col. 2a :p. 11, 4a
- "A wonderfully beautiful dress was that which was worn by the Duchess of Devonshire as Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra. It was of golden tissue, sewn with silver paillettes, and jewelled with diamonds and other precious stones. In front there were silk embroideries, in many vivid shades of colour, and here the golden draperies opened to show a petticoat of white crêpe de chine, embroidered with pearls and gold. The short train was of brilliant green velvet, exquisitely embroidered. One of the Duchess of Devonshire’s beautiful diamond and emerald tiaras had been taken to pieces to form a stomacher, the effect of which was dazzling in its brilliancy. Long chains of pearls and other wonderful jewels were worn with this beautiful dress.":p. 7, Col. 2b
- "The Duchess was attired with great Oriental magnificence as Zenobia. Her dress was a tissue of silver, embroidered with gold and jewels, an overmantle of cloth of gold embroidered in the same manner hung from the shoulders, and she wore a bandeau of gold studded with gems, and surrounded by hanging chains of pearls over her elaborate headdress; strings and ropes of jewels and pearls were worn round the neck, and hung down almost to the knees." :p. 1, Col. 2a :p. 32, Cols. 1c–2a
- In the article about the ball in the Graphic, Lady Violet Greville says, "The Ducal hostess herself elected to appear as Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, with lavish magnificence, and wearing a corruscation of jewels which must have eclipsed the state of even the all-subduing majesty the Duchess impersonated.":p. 16, Col. 1a
As with the colors, Lafayette's photograph of the Duchess in costume does not show the jewels very clearly. We cannot see the stomacher or the "long chains of pearls and other wonderful jewels" or the pearls that "hung down almost to the knees" (although, of course, because reporters were not present at the ball, any newspaper account can be wrong).
Zenobia's Crown[edit | edit source]
The crown that the Duchess wore as Zenobia is difficult to see clearly in the Lafayette photograph (above right), and no other images of the crown exist. It was lavish, "encrusted" with jewels and featuring pearls:
- London Daily News says, "The crown worn with this was high, and of filigree gold, surmounted with two horns, each tipped with a large diamond. It was encrusted with large diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, and long chains of pearls fell under the chin and about the head — one magnificent pear-shaped pearl resting on the forehead.":p. 5, Col. 6a
- These descriptions are all identical except for the addition or subtraction of an occasional comma: The London Evening Standard says, "A gold crown encrusted with emeralds, diamonds, and rubies, with a diamond drop at each curved end, and two upstanding white ostrich feathers in the centre, and round the front were festoons of pearls, with a large pear-shaped pearl in the centre falling on the forehead.":p. 3, Col. 2b :p. 7, Col. 7a :p. 12, Col. 3b :p. 15, Col. 3b
- The Guernsey Star says, "Her Grace wore a bandeau of gold round her head, studded with diamonds, turquoise, and emeralds, and surrounded by hanging chains of superb pearls.":p. 1, Col. 2a
Do the horns on her headdress go toward the back from the apex that rises from the jewel-encrusted band or do they stick straight out to the sides? Does the headdress include the traditional three white plumes?
This crown did not survive: it was recreated from the single Lafayette photograph of the Duchess in costume for the exhibition mounted in 2017, House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth, and exhibited on the mannequin wearing the Duchess's costume. A photograph of this recreation separate from the costume, but with the pearls and the white plumes, can be seen on this Sotheby's page about C. W Sellor's, the jewelry firm that did the recreation as well as a number of other recreations for the exhibit. Although Lafayette's photograph is not conclusive, in Sellor's recreation the horns on the crown point toward back of the head rather than out to the sides.
Goldsmith, Pearl & Diamond Merchant, & Silversmith[edit | edit source]
The Duchess's pearls, which were an important feature of her costume, occasioned a great deal of direct commentary in the newspaper accounts independent of the general commentary on her jewelry. The Lafayette portrait does not make clear how many strands of pearls the Duchess's necklace contained, but it is likely 5 strands. In later appearances of the costume (on Deborah, 11the Duchess and on the mannequin in 2017), the necklace has five strands, but of course a pearl necklace strung at the end of the 19th century will have been restrung by the 21st century (assuming that it is even the same necklace).
Since at least 1892, Louise, Duchess of Devonshire had had a pearl "necklet" with five strands, which was restrung on 1 March 1897. The invoice and receipt of this restringing in the Archives of the Duke of Devonshire (Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth) is from a concern whose preprinted stationery has a crown in the upper-left corner, suggesting that they had a royal warrant, and no name other than Goldsmith, Pearl & Diamond Merchant, & Silversmith. This document offers a unique view into the evolution of one necklace, at least, over the years. It lists what are apparently three restringing of some of the Duchess's pearls. The restringings appear on the same invoice, the first occurring apparently on 15 October 1892 and the invoice sent on 20 October 1892. Possibly relevant to the Duchess's costume is a restringing dated 1 March 1897.
The first necklace is a "Pearl Necklet in original 4 rows." The invoice is dated 20 October 1892 (but the stationery was printed to assume the invoice would be used in the 1880s, so the 9 is written over the second 8, and the 2 has been added).(p. 1)
The Original Necklet: 4 Rows[edit | edit source]
The necklet she brought in to be restrung contained a "Total [of] Total 224 large pearls":
- 1st [row] 51 large pearls
- 2nd 53 large pearls
- 3rd 57 large pearls
- 4th 63 large pearls
1892 Restringing: 5 Rows[edit | edit source]
The second necklace is a "Necklet as re-strung on October 15th 1892, with addition of small pearls supplied, now consists of 5 rows, containing" a total of "224 large pearls & 227 small"(p. 1):
- 1st 41 large pearls & 40 small
- 2nd 42 large pearls & 42 small
- 3rd 44 large pearls & 45 small
- 4th 47 large pearls & 48 small
- 5th 50 large pearls & 51 small
1897 Restringing: 5 Rows[edit | edit source]
The third necklace is a "Pearl Necklet as again re-strung with additional pearls supplied 1 March 1897, now consisting of 5 Rows containing" a total of "262 Large Pearls & 267 Small"(p. 2):
- 1st Row 45 Large Pearls & 44 Small
- 2nd Row 48 large Pearls & 49 Small
- 3rd Row 51 Large Pearls & 52 Small
- 4th Row 56 Large Pearls & 65 small
Possibly these pearls may have been restrung in 1909 into a coronet, but the handwriting is not clear enough to read.(p. 2)
If the Duchess wore one of these stringings of her pearls for the ball, then it must have been the third necklet, strung in 1897 the spring before the ball, a 5-strand necklace. None of the newspaper accounts refer to a 5-strand pearl necklace, although her pearls are often mentioned.
The Duchess's Entourage[edit | edit source]
Besides the Duke of Devonshire, the retinue of Louise, Duchess of Devonshire as Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, included her grandson, William Angus Drago Montagu, 9th Duke of Manchester, dressed as a Georgian courtier.
Four newspapers say that the Duchess's entourage also included three groups, all in costume: children, trumpeters and fan-bearers.
The Westminster Gazette and the Man of Ross list the groups but do not mention the number of members of the groups. According to two sources, probably in error, the London Daily News:p. 5, Col. 6a and the Belfast News-Letter,:p. 5, Col. 9a these groups each had four members. The London Daily News may be the source (because it was published at 5:00 a.m.:55) for the Belfast News-Letter, which took part in scissors-and-paste journalism, like so many other newspapers of the 19th century, but the report in the Belfast paper is a great deal more detailed and also came out on Saturday.
These four sources describe the Duchess's retinue and how the people in it were dressed, in order by publication date and time (the first 3 coming out on Saturday 3 July 1897 and the 4th on Saturday 10 July):
- "Attending the hostess were four children, four fan-bearers, and four trumpeters, all magnificently arrayed in artistically embroidered Assyrian robes, helmets, and other accessories, correct in every detail.":p. 5, Col. 6a
- "The host was dressed as Charles V. of Germany, in black velvet, satin, and fur; and the Duchess made the most gorgeous of Zenobias, in a gown of gold gauze, and a green velvet train — both a mass of exquisite oriental embroidery. The crown and hanging ropes of pearls, the jewelled girdle, and the train of children, fan-bearers, and trumpeters — all in Babylonish garb — as designed by M. Comelli, made a gloriously imposing and picturesque group."
- "The Duchess of Devonshire was dazzingly [sic] magnificent as 'Zenobia,' arrayed in the glistening fabrics and massive jewels in which artists have delighted to depict the Warrior Queen, the costume in this case being specially designed by the clever French artist, M. Comelli, who was also responsible for the splendid attire of the Queen's suite. This was composed of four children in white Assyrian robes, draped with pink shawls; four trumpeters in white cloth robes, embroidered in subdued tones of silks, with a purple shawl draped over, beautifully ornamented with embroidery, and wearing fringed steel helmets and leather cuirasses embossed in steel; and four fan-bearers attired in pale blue robes, with crimson shawls, enriched with gold and jewelled embroidery, adorned with jewelled diadems, and holding long-handled fans of white feathers, mounted in blue and gold — a gloriously magnificent pageant.":p. 5, Col. 9a
- "The duchess was dressed as Zenobia, in gold cloth, gorgeously embroidered in gold, brilliants, and coloured stones, and opening over an under dress of white crêpe de Chine, worked finely in brilliants. The train of light green velvet was lined with blue, and sumptuously embroidered in jewels and gold, the colouring being particularly artistic. With this dress were worn splendid jewels, and a large horn crown, encrusted with diamonds, emeralds, and rubies. The duchess was attended by a suite of children, trumpeters, and fan-bearers, all picturesquely attired in Assyian [sic] costumes — the whole group being specially designed by M. Comelli."
Details of the Costumes in the Entourage[edit | edit source]
The Archives of the Duke of Devonshire (Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth) has "receipts" or invoices that functioned as receipts for several commercial concerns that were involved in making costumes or accessories for costumes for this ball. They are the following:
- M. (Attillo Giuseppe) Comelli
- B. Burnet & Co.
- Arthur Millward, Theatrical Jeweller
- Liberty & Co., Ltd.
- Lafayette, Ltd.
- Goldsmith, Pearl & Diamond Merchant, & Silversmith
This list of commercial concerns almost certainly cannot be the complete list of all concerns that contributed to the costumes. These are the only receipts or invoices about expenses for the ball, however, that the Chatsworth Archive contains; similar documents were likely not even kept or were destroyed with other papers not retained at some point in time.
The business concerns listed above were specialized and likely used for different elements of the costumes. As a theatrical designer, Comelli would have depended on the suppliers he knew and arranged with them for the construction of these costumes.
The Chatsworth Archive calls these documents receipts, which indeed they are because they were returned to Devonshire House as receipts for payment. From our perspective, though, they are invoices that contain specifics about what was used to make the costumes. The analysis of these invoices has led to an understanding of what the people who attended the Duchess in her entourage wore and a clearer sense, perhaps, of how many people walked in that entourage. This analysis is based on the items listed on the invoices and their pricing, most of which is included in the section for each invoice, below.
While the Belfast News-Letter says that each group contained four members,:p. 5, Col. 9a the invoices and receipts suggest that the newspaper, the single source for this information, was wrong about the number of people in each group. It is theoretically possible, of course, that suppliers other than the ones in the Chatsworth Archive made some of these costumes and that other invoices and receipts must have existed at that time. But the Comelli memo, below, seems definitive: he designed and seems to have overseen the construction of the costumes, which numbered six rather than twelve.
Besides providing welcome detail about the costumes of the people in the Duchess's entourage, which is available nowhere else, these invoices also raise at least as many questions as they answer.
M. (Attillo Giuseppe) Comelli[edit | edit source]
Attillo Giuseppe Comelli was a designer for opera, ballet and theatre in Europe, the UK and North America. The receipt in the Chatsworth Archive was sent from Covent Garden. The invoice lists £4 for "Making six costumes," 3s for "Extras" and 12s for "Cab fares for men paid by the request of M. Comelli."
Three other names are on this invoice and receipt:
- L. L[?] Collier [?], written under and perhaps as part of the direction to the Duchess of Devonshire
- Mr. Strong ("Forwarded to Mr Strong. [sic] by the instructions of M. Comelli," written in the same hand as wrote the majority of the memo)
- Floyd [?] Collier [??] ("Received with Thanks," presumably thanking for the payment, in a different hand)
B. Burnet & Co.[edit | edit source]
An invoice and receipt from B. Burnet & Co., held in the Archives of the Duke of Devonshire, has specific information about some of the fabrics, trims and accessories purchased for the costumes of the Duchess's retinue.
Besides itemizing some costume or accessory elements that seem clearly to be for the groups, the invoice also lists items not easy to associate with particular costumes, like the following:
- 12 yards of White silk fringe 8in deep:back left
- 12 1/2 yards of "wht cloth":back left
- 9 yards of "Selesia":back left
- 2 yards of Canvas:back right
- 4 Tan Wool Tights:back right
- 2 Tan Boys Tights:back right
At this time, we are not sure which costumes these elements were used for. Possibly the white silk fringe and the white cloth would have been used to construct the robes for the children and trumpeters in the entourage.
The number of tights suggests that the six costumes on this invoice all included tights. With other elements of the trumpeters' costumes, the Burnet invoice also lists "6 prs Assyrian Buskins." Probably, to a late Victorian, buskins would have been "defensive leggings" laced together and covering the lower leg and often feet of a soldier. To a clothing and military historian, buskins (or greaves) were worn by people in a number of cultures over millennia and varied widely in style and construction. Buskins appear in Assyrian art held at the time by the British Museum. Listing six pairs of buskins suggests that every costume in the Duchess's entrourage included buskins, possibly worn over the tan tights.
The Burnet invoice lists "4 Broad Belts," which may have held "4 Skins Fleshers.":p. 1, front of invoice (A skin flesher is a kind of knife used to separate the skin from the meat in animals.) If each group included only two members, then perhaps the belts and fleshers were worn not only by the trumpeters but also by the fan-bearers. The Millward invoice (specifics in the section on the Millward invoice below) lists "8 Doz 'Plaques' for Belts'" with a drawing of an upright rectangle with a circle in the middle, which might have been a jewel. Double lines around the rectangle suggest that the plaques were not flat or the metal was not thin. The drawing does not give any ideas about how the plaques were attached to the belts, if they were. It is impossible to tell if the plaques were attached to the "4 Broad Belts" (likely for the trumpeters and fan-bearers), but unless they were quite tiny, "8 Doz 'Plaques'" would be far too many for the belts of only the two children.
A different hand, probably "[L.??] L. Collier," wrote the following sentence at the end of the invoice and receipt, above the postmark:
All the above named articles were used for the six [?] dresses made for the Devonshire Ball.:back right
This same hand, signing what is possibly "Floyd Collier," also signed the postmark of the Comelli invoice and receipt. On the Burnet document, this writer, possibly an assistant or employee of the Duchess of Devonshire, says that "six dresses" were made (if in fact, that word is six). (No "Collier" is listed among the staff or servants of the Duke of Devonshire at the end of the 19th century.
The invoice appears to itemize materials used for six costumes: two children, two trumpeters and two fan-bearers.
Arthur Millward, Theatrical Jeweller[edit | edit source]
An invoice and request for payment from Arthur Millward, Theatrical Jeweller, held in the Archives of Chatsworth House, has more specifics about some of the fabrics, trims and accessories for the costumes of the Duchess's retinue. This invoice lists the following, which could have been used in any of the costumes for the entourage:
- 8 Doz 'Plaques' for Belts [discussed with the belts in the section on the Burnet invoice, above]
- 4 Large Armlets
- 4 Bracelets
- 8 Armlets:p. 2, back
Because Millward was a Theatrical Jeweller, it seems likely that most (if not all) of the items listed on the invoice were made of metal and the jewels mentioned were artificial, made of glass or paste.
Other items on the invoice seem to belong to the costumes of the trumpeters, which the Belfast News-Letter says included helmets:
- 2 Helmets
- 2 Centre pieces
The Millward invoice shows tiny line drawings next to the words 2 Helmets and 2 Centre pieces. These drawings suggest that the Centre pieces were attached to the helmets rather than being anything that would have been put on a table as decoration.
Other items seem to belong to the costumes of the fan-bearers:
- 2 Pearl & Gold Headdresses
- 2 Fan properties with Feathers
The "Pearl & Gold Headdresses" were likely the "jewelled diadems" mentioned in the Belfast News-Letter. The "Fan properties with Feathers" are likely to have been the "long-handled fans of white feathers, mounted in blue and gold" mentioned in the newspaper report.:p. 5, Col. 9a
At the end of the Millward invoice, a "reduction as agreed with M [Mr?] Commelli [sic]" of £1 10s is subtracted from a total of £22 3s. No reason for this reduction is given.:p. 2, back
Liberty & Co., Ltd.[edit | edit source]
One invoice and receipt from the Chatsworth Archive, dated 12 July, to the Duchess of Devonshire, lists "13 yds S&W Satin[?]," 7 yards of blue and 6 of purple. Because the fabric is satin and from Liberty, it is possible that it was not used in the costumes of the people in the entourage but perhaps for the costume of the Duchess herself???
Lafayette, Ltd.[edit | edit source]
The invoice and receipt from Lafayette, Ltd., the photographer that set up a temporary studio in the garden to take portraits of people at the ball in their costumes, may not be related to the ball at all. Three dates are written on the preprinted stationery:
- 18/2/98 (18 February 1898), under the direction to "His Grace The Duke of Devonshire"
- 4/12/97 (4 December 1897), next to the single item on the invoice for which a charge is listed: "6 [??] £1.10.0"
- 7/4/98 (7 April 1898), in a different hand, with "Recd by cheque 7/4/98 Lafayette Ltd pp[?] [??] thanks"
At the bottom of the page, in the hand that wrote all of the invoice except the receipt and thanks, is "With Lafayette Ltds Compliments."
Details for the Children in the Entourage[edit | edit source]
According to the Belfast News-Letter, four children were "in white Assyrian robes, draped with pink shawls.":p. 5, Col. 9a According to the B. Burnet invoice, the following was purchased for "White Cloth Dresses"::p. 2, back left of invoice
- "2 Terra Gown draperies with Stars 200 in all"
- "2 Cloth fronts embroidered with Square Medallions down centre"
- "2 do do [ditto ditto, that is, cloth fronts] embroidered double border down front each side and collar"
- "4 Sleeves embroidered Small Medallions"
The Burnet & Co. invoice lists 6 yards of "Terra" Silk Fringe, which perhaps was used to trim the "terra draperies," or shawls, made from 3 1/4 yards of "Light Terra Satinette" worn by the children?
Details for the Trumpeters in the Entourage[edit | edit source]
According to the Belfast News-Letter, four trumpeters were "in white cloth robes, embroidered in subdued tones of silks, with a purple shawl draped over, beautifully ornamented with embroidery, and wearing fringed steel helmets and leather cuirasses embossed in steel.":p. 5, Col. 9a The trumpeters appear to have been dressed as soldiers or military men.
According to the B. Burnet invoice, the following was purchased for the trumpeters' costumes::p. 1, front of invoice
- 7 units (yards?) of purple silk [probably used for shawls?]
- "2 skirt fronts with border alround [sic]"
- "2 sets of Leather Cuarasses [sic] Embroidered front & back"
- "4 Sleeves embroidered loop stitch"
The Millward invoice lists
- 2 Helmets
- 2 Centre Pieces [probably for helmets rather than table decorations]
Details for the Fan-bearers in the Entourage[edit | edit source]
According to the Belfast News-Letter, four fan-bearers were "attired in pale blue robes, with crimson shawls, enriched with gold and jewelled embroidery, adorned with jewelled diadems, and holding long-handled fans of white feathers, mounted in blue and gold.":p. 5, Col. 9a According to the B. Burnet invoice, the following was purchased for the fan bearers's costumes::pp. 1–2, front and left-back of invoice
- "Embroidering 2 Crimson draperies with Stars 334 in all"
- "2 Top [?] fronts embroidered & round necks"
- "4 Sleeves embroidered long stitch"The Millward invoice lists
- 2 Pearl & Gold Headdresses
- 2 Fan properties with Feathers:p. 2, back
The Burnet & Co. invoice lists 12 yards of "Red Silk Fringe," which perhaps was used to trim the "crimson shawls" or "Crimson draperies," which may have been made from the 5 yards of "Red Satinette." Again, this list suggests two rather than four costumes.
Demographics[edit | edit source]
- Nationality: born in Hanover, in what is now Germany
Residences[edit | edit source]
As Duchess of Manchester[edit | edit source]
- Kimbolton Castle, Huntingdonshire
- Manchester House, London
As Duchess of Devonshire[edit | edit source]
- Devonshire House, London (mid-April until mid-July, for the Season)
- Compton Place, Eastbourne (mid-July until 12 August:p. 32)
- Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire (12 August until the middle of September:p. 32)
- Chatsworth, Derbyshire (middle of September until early Spring:p. 32)
- Lismore Castle, County Waterford (early Spring until the middle of April:p. 32)
Family[edit | edit source]
- Louisa (or Luise) Friederike Auguste Gräfin von Alten Montagu Cavendish (15 January 1832 – 15 November 1911)
- William Drogo Montagu, 7th Duke of Manchester (15 October 1823 – 22 March 1890)
- George Victor Drogo Montagu, 8th Duke of Manchester (17 June 1853 – 18 August 1892)
- Mary Louise [Louisa?] Elizabeth Montagu Douglas-Hamilton Forster (27 December 1854 – 10 February 1934)
- Louisa Augusta Beatrice Montagu Acheson (c. 1856 – 3 March 1944)
- Charles William Augustus Montagu (23 November 1860 – 10 November 1939)
- Alice Maude Olivia Montagu Stanley (15 August 1862 – 23 July 1957)
- Spencer Compton Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire (23 July 1833 – 24 March 1908)
Archives and Memoirs[edit | edit source]
- The Chatsworth Archives of the Dukes of Devonshire are at Chatsworth House. They hold the costume Louisa, Duchess of Devonshire wore as well as a few, but not many, of documents related to the ball. Perhaps most of the papers associated with the ball were destroyed, or perhaps Louisa's papers were given to one of her children?
Notes and Questions[edit | edit source]
- Louise, Duchess of Manchester was not invited to the wedding between Bertie and Alix, Victoria's punishment for Louise's having gotten the Duke of Derby to promise her the position of Mistress of the Robes (and then exacting that promise).:pp. 47–48
- Deborah (née Mitford), 11th Duchess of Devonshire was photographed wearing the costume made for Louise, 8th Duchess in 1897 on the occasion of her 80th birthday, so perhaps 31 March 2000. She wore it as Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, so she must have worn it between the time of her husband's death (3 May 2004) and her own (24 September 2014).
- The hub for the UK National Archives bases its list of individuals on who the various archives and collections name, which means women do not always show up directly. Louise, Duchess of Devonshire does, but almost exclusively these are documents found in the Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth.
- Louise, Duchess of Devonshire is #18 on the list of people who attended her ball in 1897.
Questions That Looking at the Actual Garment Might Answer[edit | edit source]
- Is the belt is attached to the waist of the overdress? Does it have a closure?
- Is there text written into the waistband of any of the pieces?
- What is the structure under the train to hold it in place?
- Are the garments assembled into a single costume or are they in parts? (The train, for example, is it attached or separate?)
- Were closures built in to the costume, or was it sewn onto the Duchess's body?
- In the trim of the overskirt, are there really jewels in the eye of the peacock feathers, and are they really held in place by little ropes made of gold and silver cord?
- The Pall Mall Gazette [somewhere] says that the "stomacher" was "formed" by a disassembled emerald tiara, but do they mean bodice instead of stomacher, and formed is just bad writing with a generic verb?
- The sequins appear to be tarnished silver only: no gold. Is this true?
Footnotes[edit | edit source]
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