Tag Archives: 18th century

In which the SCANDALOUS debauchery present at masked balls is discussed (alongside music and fashion).

Bonsoir!

To those who follow me on Twitter or who know me on Facebook, it is no secret that I hold Venetian masks and all things 18th century very close to my heart. Masked balls are a constant source of delight to me, whether attending them or researching them.

Masquerade balls started life in the 14th century with one of the first famous ones being a ‘Bal des Ardents’ held by King Charles VI of France. They gained popularity throughout the 15th century as a convenient way to celebrate monarchs and their reigns but it was in the 18th century when the masked ball really gained momentum. Due to the changing society, social rules were considerably more lax, creating a sense of informality with manners and more specifically, dress too.

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‘Di degno Cavalier tenera Moglie’ by Pietro Longhi (1702–1785)

Cads, fops,rakes, doxies and concubines abounded, no longer feeling necessary to conform to the prudery of previous generations and finding numerous opportunities in which to conduct trysts. As the notoriety of masquerades increased, chaperones often accompanied others to these events. In these situations, dances were often used as a way to indulge in licentious language , physical contact and a frequent display of body language.

‘La Folia’ by Arcangelo Corelli – the ultimate piece of music to dance to at a masquerade.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHRdFILo_Yw

‘Chaconne des Scaramouches’ by Jean-Baptiste Lully – a rather elegant piece to dance to. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PW7dmsaNNm8

A minuet from ‘Les Indes Galantes’ by the incomparable Jean-Philippe Rameau.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xf8V2nZBnF0

Gavottes in D Major by the darling Johann Sebastian Bach

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dmXyG5PD3w

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A depiction of a ballroom dance by August de l’Aubin

Dances common in the 18th century were chaconnes, ridottos, minuets, sarabandes, passacaille, rigaudon and my personal favourite, the gavotte.

It  does pain me to say this but Samuel Richardson was a critic of the masked ball. Henry Fielding and Eliza (we share a first name!) Haywood too. I highly recommend this page about the ‘Anti Masquerade movement’ – do read it! http://www.umich.edu/~ece/student_projects/masquerade/anti.html

Oh mon Dieu, had these critics no notion of FUN?

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Filed under Musings about Georgians

In which I muse about King George I and his mistresses.

Bonsoir!

I’ve always found it so very peculiar that George I was described by his contemporaries as ”A sullen man with a chilly disposition masking a cold heart” yet he kept two mistresses. Granted,they were both different in personality which may have reflected his changing tastes(does that seem saucy?) but which cold hearted person could maintain what essentially was an affair?

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Ehrengard Melusine von der Schulenburg was brought to England alongside George I as she was already his long established mistress from Hanover. That is not the sign of someone who was exceedingly chilly. Then again,perhaps there was more than a degree of truth in that statement. Melusine might have been that one link for him in a new country where the customs,history and language inspired nothing but apathy. Interestingly enough, she was famed for her stoic yet soft manner which goes against all that has been said about the manner of George I.

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Sophia von Kielmansegg, Countess of Darlington

Sophia was a shrewish woman. By most accounts, she was also extremely mercenary but added to this a certain amount of charisma. This ensured that when she followed George I to England upon his assumption of the crown, there would be little trouble with making acquaintances with potentially advantageous courtiers who would secure her land,titles and money. Contrary to popular belief, Sophia was actually the morganatic half sister of George I. Caroline of Ansbach declared her to be ”a wicked woman” who would give herself the air of being a mistress and thus acquire money in exchange for promises to persuade the king to grant royal posts. Her charisma worked. Sophia was created Countess of Leinster, Countess of Darlington and Baroness Brentford as a direct result of cultivating a close relationship with George I.

Once again,this is surely proof that while George I may have been sullen,there genuinely could have been a softer side to him which, granted, only ever emerged when he was truly comfortable and had known the people surrounding him for an exceedingly long time. His reign in England lasted only 13 years – nowhere nearly enough to allow him to shed his chilly exterior.

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Filed under Musings about Georgians