Duchess of Richmond's ball
The Duchess of Richmond's ball was held in Brussels on 15 June 1815, the night before the Battle of Quatre Bras, by Charlotte, Duchess of Richmond. Her husband, Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond, was in command of a reserve force in Brussels, which was protecting that city in case Napoleon Bonaparte invaded.
Elizabeth Longford described it as "the most famous ball in history".1 "The ball was certainly a brilliant affair",2 at which "with the exception of three generals, every officer high in [Wellington's] army was there to be seen".3
According to Lady Georgiana, a daughter of the Duchess,
|“||My mother’s now famous ball took place in a large room on the ground-floor on the left of the entrance, connected with the rest of the house by an ante-room. It had been used by the coach-builder, from whom the house was hired, to put carriages in, but it was papered before we came there; and I recollect the paper—a trellis pattern with roses. … At the ball supper I sat next to the Duke of Wellington, when he gave me an original miniature of himself painted by a Belgian artist. …||”|
—Georgiana, Dowager Lady De Ros, 4
Lady Louisa, another of the Duchess's daughters, recalled:
|“||I well remember the Gordon Highlanders dancing reels at the ball. My mother thought it would interest foreigners to see them,5 which it did. I remember hearing that some of the poor men who danced in our house died at Waterloo. There was quite a crowd to look at the Scotch dancers.||”|
|“||whispered to ask the Duke of Richmond if he had a good map. The Duke of Richmond said he had, and took Wellington into his dressing-room. Wellington shut the door and said, "Napoleon has humbugged me, by God; he has gained twenty-four hours' march on me. … I have ordered the army to concentrate at Quatre Bras; but we shall not stop him there, and if so I must fight him there" (passing his thumb-nail over the position of Waterloo). The conversation was repeated to me by the Duke of Richmond two minutes after it occurred.||”|
—Captain Bowles, 7
The atmosphere in the room changed when news circulated among the guests that the French were crossing the border:
|“||When the duke [of Wellington] arrived, rather late, at the ball, I was dancing, but at once went up to him to ask about the rumours. He said very gravely, "Yes, they are true; we are off to-morrow." This terrible news was circulated directly, and while some of the officers hurried away, others remained at the ball, and actually had not time to change their clothes, but fought in evening costume. I went with my eldest brother (A.D.C. to the Prince of Orange) to his house, which stood in our garden, to help him to pack up, after which we returned to the ballroom, where we found some energetic and heartless young ladies still dancing. I heard afterwards that it had been said that "the Ladies Lennox were fine, and did not do the honours of the ball well." …
It was a dreadful evening, taking leave of friends and acquaintances, many never to be seen again. The Duke of Brunswick, as he took leave of me in the ante-room adjoining the ball-room, made me a civil speech as to the Brunswickers being sure to distinguish themselves after "the honour" done them by my having accompanied the Duke of Wellington to their review! I remember being quite provoked with poor Lord Hay, a dashing merry youth, full of military ardour, whom I knew very well for his delight at the idea of going into action, and of all the honours he was to gain; and the first news we had on the 16th was that he and the Duke of Brunswick were killed. …
—Georgiana, Dowager Lady De Ros, 4
Katherine Arden daughter of Richard Arden, 1st Lord Alvanley described the events towards the end of the ball and the rest of the night:
… on our arrival at the ball we were told that the troops had orders to march at three in the morning, and that every officer must join his regiment by that time, as the French were advancing, you cannot possibly picture to yourself the dismay and consternation that appeared on every face. Those who had brothers and sons to be engaged openly gave way to their grief, as the last parting of many took place at this most terrible ball; others (and, thank Heaven, we ranked amongst that number, for in the midst of my greatest fears I still felt thankfulness was my prominent feeling that my beloved Dick was not here) who had no near relation yet felt that amongst the many friends we all had there it was impossible that all should escape, and that the next time we might hear of them they might be numbered with the dead; in fact, my dear aunt, I cannot describe to you mingled feelings; you will, however, I am sure, understand them, and I feel quite inadequate to express them. We stayed at this ball as short a time as we could, but long enough to see express after express arrive to the Duke of Wellington, to hear of aides-de-camp arriving breathless with news, and to see, what was more extraordinary than all, the Duke's equanimity a little discomposed.
We took a mournful farewell of some of our best friends, and returned home to anything but repose. The morning dawned most lovelily, and before seven o'clock, we had seen 12,000 Brunswickers, Scotch and English pass before our windows, of whom one-third before the night were mingled with the dust. Mama took a farewell of Duke [of Wellington] as he passed by, but Fanny and myself, at last wearied out, had before he went, retired to bed. …
At the time of the ball no accurate record was kept of where the ballroom was. In a letter to The Times which was published on 25 August 1888, Sir William Fraser reported that he had discovered the likely room. It was not part of the principal property that Duke of Richmond rented on the Rue des Cendres, but was a coach house that backed onto the property and had an address in the next street, Rue de la Blanchisserie. The room had dimensions of 120 ft. long, 54 ft. broad, and about 13 ft. high (the low ceiling was a case where reality impinged on one meaning of Lord Byron's artistic allusion to "that high hall").89
The following were sent invitations to the ball:10
- Prince of Orange
- Prince Frederic of Orange
- Duke of Brunswick (killed by a gunshot at Quatre-Bras)
- Prince of Nassau
- Duc d'Arenberg
- Prince Auguste d'Arenberg
- Prince Pierre d'Arenberg
- Lord van der Linden d'Hoogvoorst, Mayor of Brussels
- Duc et Duchesse de Beaufort and their daughter11
- Duc et Duchesse d’Ursel
- Marquis and Marquise d'Assche.12
- Comte and Comtesse d'Oultremont
- Comtesse Douairiere d'Oultremont and her daughters
- Comte and Comtesse Liedekerke Beaufort
- Comte and Comtesse Auguste Liedekerke and their daughter
- Comte and Comtesse Latour Lupin
- Comte and Comtesse Marcy d'Argenteau
- Comte and Comtesse de Grasiac
- Comtesse de Luiny
- Comtesse de Ruilly
- Baron and Baroness d'Hooghvoorst, their daughter and son C. d'Hooghvoorst
- Monsieur and Madame Vander Capellan
- Baron de Herelt
- Baron de Tuybe
- Baron Brockhausen
- General Baron Vincent (wounded at Waterloo)
- General Pozzo de Borgo
- General Alava
- Comte de Belgade
- Comte de la Rochefoucauld
- General d'Oudenarde
- Colonel Knife (?), A.D.C.
- Colonel Ducayler
- Major Ronnchenberg, A.D.C.
- Colonel Tripp, A.D.C.
- Captain De Lubeck, A.D.C. to the Duke of Brunswick
- Earl and Countess Conyngham and Lady Elizabeth Conyngham13
- Viscount Mount-Charles and Hon. Mr. Conyngham (afterwards 2nd Marquess Conyngham)
- Countess Mount-Norris and Lady Julianna Annesley
- Dowager Countess of Waldegrave
- Duke of Wellington
- Lord and Lady Fitzroy Somerset (Neither were present; Lord Fitzroy lost his arm at Waterloo)
- Lord and Lady John Somerset
- Mr. and Lady Frances Webster
- Mr and Lady Caroline Capel and their daughter
- Lord and Lady George Seymour and their daughters
- Mr. and Lady Charlotte Greville
- Viscountess Hawarden
- Sir Henry and Lady Susan Clinton (He was Lt.-Gen. and G.C.B. and commanded the 2nd Division)
- Lady Alvanley and daughters Katherin and Fanny Arden14
- Sir James, Lady Craufurd, and their daughter
- Sir George Berkeley, K.C.B.,15 and Lady Berkeley
- Lady and Miss Sutton16
- Sir Sidney and Lady Smith, and Miss Rumbolds
- Sir William and Lady Johnstone
- Sir Hew and Lady Delancey (invited but declined.17)
- Hon. Mrs. Pole (afterwards Lady Maryborough)
- Mr. and Mrs. Lance, their daughter and son, Mr. Lance, Jr.
- Mr. Ord and his daughters
- Mr. and Mrs. Greathed
- Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd
- Hon. Sir Charles Stuart, G.C.B. (Minister at Bruxelles) and Mr. Stuart
- Earl of Uxbridge (commanded the Cavalry; lost his leg at Waterloo)
- Earl of Portarlington
- Earl of March, A.D.C. to the Prince of Orange
- General Lord Edward Somerset (commanded the Household Brigade of cavalry, wounded at Waterloo)
- Lord Charles FitzRoy
- Lord Robert Manners
- Lieutenant-General Lord Hill (Commanding the 2nd Corps)
- Lord Rendlesham
- Lord Hay, A.D.C. (killed at Quatre Bras)
- Lord Saltoun
- Lord Apsley (afterwards Earl Bathurst)
- Hon. Colonel Stanhope (Guards)
- Hon. Colonel Abercromby (Guards; wounded)
- Hon. Colonel Ponsonby (afterwards Sir Frederick Ponsonby, K.C.B.; severely wounded)
- Hon. Colonel Acheson (Guards)
- Hon. Colonel Stewart
- Hon. Mr. O. Bridgeman, A.D.C. to Lord Hill
- Hon. Mr. Percival
- Hon. Mr. Stopford
- Hon. Mr. John Gordon.18
- Hon. Mr. Edgecombe
- Hon. Mr. Seymour Bathurst, A.D.C. to Gen. Maitland
- Hon. Mr. Forbes
- Hon. Mr. Hastings Forbes
- Hon. Major Dawson
- Hon. Mr. Dawson, 18th Light Dragoons
- Major-General Sir Hussey Vivian (commanded 6th Cavalry Brigade)
- Horace Seymour, A.D.C. (afterwards Sir Horace Seymour, K.C.B.)
- Colonel Hervey, A.D.C. (afterwards Sir Felton Hervey-Bathurst, 1st Baronet)
- Colonel Fremantle, A.D.C.
- Lord George Lennox, A.D.C.
- Lord Arthur Hill, A.D.C. (afterwards General Lord Sandys)
- Major Percy, A.D.C. (son of 1st Earl of Beverley, brought home three Eagles and dispatches)
- Hon. George Cathcart, A.D.C. (afterwards Sir George Cathcart, killed at Inkerman, 1854)
- Sir Alexander Gordon, A.D.C. (died of his wounds at Waterloo)18
- Sir Colin Campbell, K.C.B., A.D.C.
- Sir John Byng, G.C.B. (created Earl of Strafford, commanded 2nd Brigade of Guards)
- Lieutenant-General Sir Jphn Elley, K.C.B. (deputy Adjutant-General of Cavalry, wounded)
- Sir George Scovell, K.C.B. (Major commanding Staff Corps of Cavalry)
- Sir George Wood, Colonel, Royal Artillery
- Sir Henry Bradford
- Sir Robert Hill, (brother of Lord Hill)
- Sir Noel Hill, K.C.B. (brother of Lord Hill)
- Sir William Ponsonby, K.C.B. (Brother of Lord Ponsonby; commanded the Union Brigade of cavalry; killed at Waterloo)
- Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Andrew Barnard (commanding 1st Battalion the 95th Regiment of Foot (Rifles), afterwards Governor of Chelsea Hospital)
- Major-General Sir Denis Packe, G.C.B. (commanded the 9th Brigade)
- Major-General Sir James Kempt, G.C.B (commanded the 8th Brigade)
- Sir Pulteney Malcolm RN
- Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton, (commanded 5th Division, killed at Waterloo)
- Major-General Sir Edward Barnes, Adjutant-General (wounded at Waterloo)
- Sir James Gambier
- Hon. General Dundas
- Lieutenant-General Cooke (Commanded 1st Division)
- Major-General Maitland (afterwards Sir Peregrine Maitland, G.C.B.; commanded 1st Brigade of Guards)
- Major-General Adam (Not present; commanded 3rd Infantry Brigade. Afterwards Sir Frederick Adam, K.C.B.)
- Colonel Washington
- ColonelWoodford (Afterwards F.M. Sir Alexander Woodford, G.C.B. Governor of Chelsea Hospital)
- Colonel Rowan, 52nd Regiment of Foot (Afterwards Sir Charles Rowan, Chief Commissioner of Police)
- Colonel Wyndham (afterwards General Sir Henry Wyndham)
- Colonel Cumming, 18th Light Dragoons
- Colonel Bowater (afterwards General Sir Edward Bowater)
- Colonel Torrens (Afterwards Adjt.-Gen. in India)
- Colonel Fuller
- Colonel Dick, 42nd Regiment of Foot (Killed at Sobraon, 1846)
- Colonel Cameron, 92nd Regiment of Foot (Killed at Quatre Bras)
- Colonel Barclay, A.D.C. to the Duke of York
- Colonel Hill(?) (Col. Clement Hill, brother to Lord Hill)
- Major Gunthorpe, A.D.C. to Gen. Maitland
- Major Churchill, A.D.C. to Lord Hill and Q.M.G. (Killed in India)
- Major Hamilton, A.D.C. to Gen. Sir E. Barnes
- Major Harris, Brigade Major to Sir Hussey Vivian (Lost an arm)
- Major Hunter Blair (Wounded)
- Captain Mackworth, A.D.C. to Lord Hill
- Captain Keane, A.D.C. to Sir Hussey Vivian
- Captain FitzRoy
- Captain Widman, 7th Hussars, A.D.C. to Lord Uxbridge
- Captain Fraser, 7th Hussars (Afterwards Sir James Frasier, Bt)
- Captain Verner, 7th Hussars
- Captain Elphinstone, 7th Hussars (taken prisoner, June 17)
- Captain Webster
- Captain Somerset, A.D.C. to Gen. Lord Edward Somerset
- Captain Yorke, A.D.C. to Gen. Adam (Afterwards Sir Charles Yorke, not present)
- Captain Gore, A.D.C. to Sir James Kempt
- Captain Pakenham, R.A.
- Captain Dumaresq, A.D.C. to Gen. Sir John Byng (Wounded in the chest by a musket ball, delivering a despatch to Wellington. d. 1836)19
- Captain Dawkins, A.D.C.
- Captain Disbrowe, A.D.C. to Gen. Sir G. Cook.
- Captain Bowles, Coldstream Guards (Afterwards Gen. Sir George Bowles, Lieutenant of the Tower)
- Captain Hesketh, Grenadier Guards
- Captain Gurwood (Afterwards Col. Gurwood)
- Captain Allix, Grenadier Guards
- Mr. Russell, A.D.C.
- Mr. Brooke, 12th Dragoon Guards
- Mr. Huntley, 12th Dragoon Guards
- Mr. Lionel Hervey (In Diplomacy)
- Mr. Leigh
- Mr. Shakespear, 18th Light Dragoons
- Mr. O’Grady, 7th Hussars (Afterwards Lord Guillamore)
- Mr. Smith, 95th, Brigadier-Major to Sir Denis Packe; killed at Waterloo
- Mr. Fludyer, Scots Fusilier Guards
- Mr. Montagus (John and Henry, late Lord Rokeby, G.C.B.)
- Mr. A. Greville
- Mr. Baird
- Mr. Robinson, 32nd Regiment of Foot
- Mr. James
- Mr. Chad
- Mr. Dawkins
- Dr. Hyde
- Mr. Hume
- Rev. Mr. Brixall (Rev. Samuel Briscall)
The ball inspired a number of writers and artists in the 19th century.20 Sir Walter Scott mentioned it in passing in Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk.21 It was described by William Makepeace Thackeray in Vanity Fair and by Lord Byron in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Byron emphasises the contrast between the glamour of the ball and the horror of battle, concentrating on the emotional partings,
Ah! then and there was hurrying to and fro,
—Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.22
Thackeray's dramatic use of the ball in Vanity Fair inspired, in turn, a number of screen depictions. One notable example comes from the 1935 RKO production Becky Sharp, the first full-length Technicolor film released after perfection of the full-color three-strip method,2324 which makes the Duchess of Richmond's Ball the first historical set-piece ever staged in a full-colour feature film. Critics of the day were not kind to the picture itself, but the sequence in which the officers hurry to leave the ball - the red of their coats suddenly and emotionally filling the frame - was widely praised as showing great promise for the dramatic use of colour on-screen.25
The ball also inspired artists, including John Everett Millais, who painted The Black Brunswicker in 1860, Henry Nelson O'Neil who painted Before Waterloo in 1868 and Robert Hillingford who painted The Duchess of Richmond's Ball.26
The ball was a scene in the third act of a melodrama called In the Days of the Duke written by Charles Haddon Chambers and J. Comyns Carr, it was displayed sumptuously in the 1897 production, with a backdrop by William Harford showing the hall and staircase inside the Duchess's house.272829
The ball was used by Sergei Bondarchuk in his 1970 film Waterloo for dramatic effect. Bondarchuk contrasted an army at peace with the impending battle and in particular as a dramatic backdrop to show how completely Napoleon managed to "humbug" Wellington.
In the novel Sharpe's Waterloo (1990), Bernard Cornwell uses the ball in a similar way to Bondarchuk, but includes a sub-plot where Sharpe brawls with Lord John Rossendale, Sharpe's wife's lover and a man who owes Sharpe money.
A fictional account is given of the Duchess of Richmond's ball in The Campaigners, Volume 14 of The Morland Dynasty, a series of historical novels by author Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Some of the fictional Morland family and other characters attend the ball and the events that unfold are seen and experienced through their eyes.
On 15 June 1965 the British Ambassador in Brussels held a ball to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and the Duchess of Richmond's ball. 540 guests attended the function of whom the majority were Belgians.30 This commemoration ball has now become an annual event with the money raised going to support several charities.3132
- Hastings, Anecdote 194. pp.230–234
- Bulloch, p. 42
- Arden, Letter
- Georgiana, Dowager Lady De Ros.
- Charlotte, Duchess of Richmond, was herself a Gordon: The eldest daughter of Alexander, Duke of Gordon and Jane, the daughter of Sir William Maxwell, 3rd Baronet of Monreith.
- "In the course of the evening the duke asked my father for a map of the country and went into his study, which was on the same floor as the ball-room, to look at it. He put his finger on Waterloo, saying the battle would be fought there. My father marked the spot with his pencil, but alas! That map was lost or stolen for it never returned from Canada with his other possessions." (Georgiana, Dowager Lady De Ros).
- Archibald Forbes Camps, Quarters, and Casual Places,(Project Gutenberg). In the chapter The inner history of the Waterloo Campaign cites the Letters of the First Earl of Malmesbury
- Frazer p. 270–273
- Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto the Third, stanza XXIII.
- "The following list of the invited guests was given by my mother to Lord Verulam, who sent me a copy of it. Several of the officers were not present, being on duty." (Georgiana, Dowager Lady De Ros)
- "Ducal and princely families of Belgium: House of Beaufort-Spontin". Eupedia. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
- Lady De Ros annotated her list with this comment "(from their house we saw the wounded brought in: Lord Uxbridge, Lord F. Somerset, etc.)" (Littell's living age p. 309.)
- The daughter, Lady Elizabeth Conyngham, married Charles Gordon, 10th Marquess of Huntly (Bulloch, p. 42).
- Lady Alvanley, and daughters Katherine and Fanny (Arden, Letter).
- Duke of Wellington's liaison officer at the Prince of Orange's headquarters (Peter Hofschröer. Did the Duke of Wellington deceive his Prussian Allies in the Campaign of 1815?, p. 2, website of A. W. Cockerill, Retrieved 18 October 2009)
- Lady Sutton was the widow of Sir Thomas Sutton, 1st Baronet (Miller, p. 92).
- Fuller-Sessions, Ruth (19 June 2008). "Unseen for 100 years, the sad love story of a wife and the final days with her husband who died at Waterloo". Daily Mail.
- Grandson of George Gordon, 3rd Earl of Aberdeen (Bulloch, p. 42).
- The Gentleman's Magazine July 1838 page 443
- Fraser, p. 272
- Scott, Walter. Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk, R. Cadell, 1841. p.16
- wikisource has the original text of this poem.
- Martin B. Hart. Technicolor: Early Live Action Films: All singing, All dancing, All Color!, The American WideScreen Museum, Retrieved 23 February 2010.
- Staff, What? Color in the Movies Again?, Fortune Magazine, October 1934, reproduced on the website of The American WideScreen Museum, Retrieved 23 February 2010.
- Higgins (2007), Chapter 3
- Painting of The Duchess of Richmond's Ball by Robert Alexander Hillingford in Goodwood House, the seat of the Dukes of Richmond
- Bulloch, p. 43
- "In the Days of the Duke"; Successful Presentation of the New Melodrama in London., New York Times, 10 September 1897, p. 7
- Adelphi Theatre 1806–1900, Eastern Michigan University. Retrieved 18 October 2009
- "Brussels (Waterloo Ball)". Hansard. 2 July 1965. "HC Deb 02 July 1965 vol 715 cc134-9W". Retrieved 22 January 2013.
- Robinson 2011.
- The Duchess of Richmond's Ball – Brussels, Committee of the Duchess of Richmond Ball, retrieved December 2012
- Arden, Katherine (1898), "Letter", in Smith, George; Thackeray, William Makepeace, The Cornhill Magazine (Smith, Elder and company) 77: 72, and also: Making of America Project (1898), The Living Age … 216
- Bulloch, John Malcolm (September 1902), Gordon book; published for the Bazaar of the Fochabers Reading Room, Aberdeen: Rosemount Press
- Fraser, William Augustus (1902), Words on Wellington; the duke — Waterloo — the ball, London: John C. Nimmo, pp. 256–312
- Dowager Lady De Ros, Georgiana (July 2005), "Personal Recollections of the Duke of Wellington", Complimentary Issue, The Regency Library Originally published in Murray's Magazine, Part I, 1889: 40,43.
- Hastings, Max (1986), The Oxford Book of Military Anecdotes, Oxford University Press US, ISBN 978-0-19-520528-2
- Higgins, Scot (2007), Harnessing the Technicolor rainbow: color design in the 1930s, University of Texas Press, ISBN 978-0-292-71628-5
- Littell, Eliakim; Littell, Robert S., eds. (1889), Littell's living age (T. H. Carter & Co.) 180
- Miller, David (January 2006), Duchess of Richmond's Ball, Spellmount, ISBN 1-86227-229-8
- Robinson, Frances (10 June 2011), "Real Time Brussels Friday History Club: Champagne, Frocks and Warfare", Wall Street Journal blog, Insight and analysis from The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones team in Brussels
- contemporary location, Google Map. compare with the diagram on page 307, of Fraser's book (cited in the References section above).
- Pierre de Wit. The guest-list of the ball of Richmond, www.waterloo-campaign.nl, Revision as of: 25 March 2006. Cites Cf. Dalton, Ch. "The Waterloo roll call".
- Hibbert, Christopher (1998). Waterloo: Napoleon's last campaign. Wordsworth. ISBN 1-85326-687-6. pp. 154–156