Regency romance author, Ann Lethbridge, whose new book, Captured Countess, will be released in December, often writes about Regency fashions at her blog. During the course of her research, she discovered that in the fall of 1813, there were gowns named for a grand fete which had been held that summer at Vauxhall Gardens. The fete was given to celebrate the great victory in Spain which had been won by General, the Marquis of Wellington over the French forces in the Peninsula.
In today’s article, Ann tells us about the grand fete given to celebrate Wellington’s victory at Vittoria. It sounds like quite a crush, at least for some of those in attendance. Perhaps the event might be just the setting for a few scenes in one of your upcoming Regency romances.
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After I discovered the gowns named for the fete I thought it might be interesting to learn a bit about the event itself, and there was far more to know than I could possibly describe here. I just wish I had some pictures.
the Vittoria Fete was held in Vauxhall Gardens. This Grand Military Festival in honour of the Battle of Vittoria, won by the Marquis of Wellington (he became a duke later) on 21 June, was held under the chairmanship of the Duke of York, the commander-in-chief of the army.
A grand dinner of a thousand gentlemen at two guineas per head which began at nine in the evening. The Duke’s royal party sat in a semi circle in the rotunda with gold plate displayed behind them along with a bust of Wellington, who was far too busy fighting the war to attend himself, the standard of the 100th French Regiment taken in the battle and the baton of Marshal Jourdan. Among the guests were, in addition to the Prince of Wales and members of the Royal family including the Royal Dukes, were the Prince of Orange, the Prince of Conde, the Dukes of Bourbon and Berri and the Duke of Brunswick.
After dinner there was a concert of vocal and instrumental music attended by some twelve thousand people, including the wives of those gentlemen. Tickets to the event were sold at Carlton House and other venues and were quite expensive. All through the gardens, symbols of British victory and glory were displayed, such as the names of battles where the British had been victorious along with the names of victorious generals. Fireworks were let off displaying emblematic devices at intervals under the direction of Colonel Congreve. The party continued all night until daylight the next morning.
One young lady who attended spoke of the hours that she waited trying to approach the gardens by carriage. And having failed to do so because of the traffic, her party then took a ferry. She was most indignant that the waterman who handed her into the boat put a dirty fingerprints on her white gown. She also describes having her gown cut by a pickpocket and her hair falling in disarray about her face. They did go into the ballroom, but because of the crowds were unable to dance more than a quarter of a half a dance and went home thoroughly disgruntled.
In fact it was something we might well describe these days as a bun fight. Certainly George Cruikshank was not impressed. He thought the money would have been better spent caring for the widows and orphans of the men who fell in battle.
But many of those who attended thought it was a splendid recognition of Wellington’s achievement, and certainly Britain needed something to celebrate after so long a war.
Until next time Happy Rambles
© 2013 – 2014 Ann Lethbridge
Originally posted at Regency Ramble
Posted at The Beau Monde by permission of the author.