Friday, July 15, 2011

The Prince Regent's Party Planner

No, I don't know who the Prince Regent's party planner was! But I did get thinking about the immense amount of staff it must have taken to put on one of his entertainments. Here, for example, is one of his parties as reported in the Edinburgh Annual Register--July 1, 1813:
"Last night the Prince Regent gave a ball and supper to a numerous and splendid party. By the heavy and incessant rain which fell during the day, considerable damage was done to the tents erected on the lawn at Carlton-house, and it was feared they could not be used; however, the preparations went on. The entrance to these temporary erections was from the supper-rooms, along a temporary passage about sixty yards in length, boarded, and covered in with canvas, lined with green glaze cotton, decorated with artificial flowers, and the whole illuminated by chandeliers at proper intervals. The tents were arranged on each side of this passage or promenade, and their entrances were hung with curtains, festooned with artificial flowers. The tents were eighteen in all, and supper was to be laid in each of them for twenty-eight persons. At the extremity of the promenade was the Prince Regent's tent, which was lined with light printed cotton, and the centre pole ornamented with artificial flowers.

About nine o'clock, the Queen and the Princesses proceeded in their chairs from the Queen's Palace to Carlton-house. The company began to arrive after this in great numbers."
That is over five hundred sitting down to dinner. The organization boggles the mind. Who was the overseer of all the details? Every aspect must have had a 'sub-contractor'. Secretaries for the invitations, and the menus. Designers to organize the set-up and the decorations. Tradesmen to execute the designs. And the suppliers--of cotton, canvas, tents, artificial flowers, etc. All wondering if they would be paid, and when!

And then there was the meal--cooks, under-cooks, confectioners, right down to the scullery maids. I wonder how many hours it took to wash the dishes after such an event, and who over-saw the work. And what about the major-domo, the butler, the foot-men, and the maids who made the company comfortable and saw to their every need. It needed a master-mind to orchestrate all these details.
'A Squeeze at Carlton House'
The Prince Regent's Fete held June 20, 1811 was an even more extravagant party--some 3,000 guests accommodated at Carlton-house, including French royalty as well as English.

"The full band of the Guards, in their state-uniforms, play in the court-yard various martial airs."

"The ball-room floors were chalked in beauitufl arabesque devices."

"The hall was adorned with a variety of shrubs, and an additional number of large lanthorns and patent-lamps."

"The gold-room shone with unequalled spelndour; the ceiling and walls here are painted delicately, on a ground of gold."
The Golden Drawing Room at Carlton House
This was the event at which "...there was a meandering stream to the bottom of the table, bordered with green banks...It contained also a number of gold and silver fish." Who designed this? Who wrung his/her hands when the fish died and floated belly-up among the decorations? I am indebted to The Literary Panorama and Annual Register for 1811 for an account of this 'fete', and I was charmed to read the following at the end of the account:
"Every praise is due to the superior officers of the household;--also to several noblemen, military officers, and other friends in the confidence of H.R.H. for all possible accommodation..."
Even the military reviews held by the Prince Regent showed a similar extravagance and must have required the use of an 'army' of subordinates to design and orchestrate the business. One such event was held on Wimbledon Common, June 10, 1811. There were 20,000 troops on parade, and it was estimated "200,000 persons on the ground".  Much of the organization would have been down to the military for this event, but
"The Regent was also attended by a vast retinue, and was mounted on a beautiful grey charger, richly caparisoned; he was dressed in a full suit of General's regimentals, with the order of the garter, and a diamond star."
This is a Hyde Park review of 1814
It all required planning, and it all required staff. So here's to the Prince Regent's talented and, no doubt, long- suffering party planners. By all accounts they did a splendid job with spectacle after spectacle. I hope they got thanked--and I do hope they received their wages!

'Til next time,


Sources: The Literary Panorama and Annual Register 1811 The Edinburgh Annual Register 1813
both free downloads from Google Books


Kristine said...

Another fabulous post!

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it...