Late Victorian Fancy Dress: The Devonshire House Ball in 1897

The Devonshire House Costume Ball of 1897 was one of the most anticipated social events of 1897. To stress the importance of th magnificent affair, the London Photographic Firm Lafayette was invited to take studio-style photographs of the guests in their costumes, which ranged from mythical goddesses, figures from paintings, and historical kings and queens.

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The Duke of York, later King George V (1865-1936), as “The Queen’s Champion” and the Duchess of York, later Queen Mary (1867-1953)  as “a Lady at the Court of Marguerite de Valois” at the Devonshire House Fancy Dress Ball, 1897 via

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Frances Evelyn (Daisy), the countess of Warwick, chose Marie Antoinette as her costume for the elegant and highly anticipated evening. The costume, made by Worth of Paris, was studded with real diamonds and used both gold and antique lace via

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Lady Randolph Churchill (1854-1921), née Jennie Jerome in a Worth Parisian Costume, as Empress Theodora, while attending the Devonshire House Ball, 1897 via

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Consuelo Marlborough (née Vanderbilt), dressed for the Devonshire House Ball, 1897 via

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Mary Teresa (‘Daisy’) (Cornwallis-West), Princess of Pless dressed as Queen of Sheba for the Devonshire House Ball via

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Miss Goelet as Scheherazade via

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The ethereal beauty of Mrs J Graham Menzies in the role of Titania, Queen of the Fairies via

Beautiful Edwardian Era Photos of “Dollar Princess”Consuelo Vanderbilt

Consuelo Vanderbilt (1877 – 1964), was a member of the prominent American Vanderbilt family. Born in New York City, she was the only daughter and eldest child of New York railroad millionaire William Kissam Vanderbilt, and his first wife, budding suffragist, Alva Erskine Smith. By the time she she’d made her debut in 1895, she possessed $20 million (ca. $4 billion today). Her marriage to Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough became an international emblem of the socially advantageous, but loveless, marriages common during the Gilded Age.

It was only a matter of time before their marriage was in name only. The Duke of Marlborough married Consuelo Vanderbilt so he could preserve the family seat Blenheim Palace. The duchess eventually was smitten by her husband’s handsome cousin, the Hon. Reginald Fellowes (the liaison did not last, to the relief of Fellowes’s parents), while the duke fell under the spell of Gladys Marie Deacon, an eccentric American of little money but, like Consuelo, dazzling to look at and of considerable intellect. The Marlboroughs separated in 1906, divorced in 1921, and the marriage was annulled, at the duke’s request and with Consuelo’s assent, on 19 August 1926.

Consuelo’s second marriage, on 4 July 1921, was to Lt. Col. Jacques Balsan, a record-breaking pioneer French balloon, aircraft, and hydroplane pilot who once worked with the Wright Brothers. Also a textile manufacturing heir, Balsan was a younger brother of Etienne Balsan, who was an important early lover of Coco Chanel. Jacques Balsan died in 1956 at the age of 88.

During the second decade of the 20th Century she was a leading champion of women’s rights and child welfare causes.

Consuelo Balsan published her insightful but not entirely candid autobiography, The Glitter and the Gold, in 1953. It was ghostwritten by Stuart Preston, an American writer who was an art critic for The New York Times. A reviewer in the New York Times called it “an ideal epitaph of the age of elegance.”

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Wedding via

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Consuelo Vanderbilt (From the USA Library of Congress Bain collection) via

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Consuelo Vanderbilt via

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Consuelo Vanderbilt by Lafayette, 1899 via

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Consuelo Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Marlborough, 1911 via

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Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough with her sons John Albert William Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blanford (later 10th Duke of Marlborough) and Lord Ivor Charles Spencer-Churchill by Rita Martin via

A Colection of Vintage Photos Feat. Lady Randolph Churchill

Lady Randolph Churchill (1854 – 1921), born Jeanette (Jennie) Jerome, was the daughter of a wealthy New York stock broker. She was one of 350 Dollar Princesses marrying into British aristocracy to save their estates.

In 1874 she married Lord Randolph Churchill, the third son of John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough and Lady Frances Anne Emily Vane. Their son was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

She was part of the Prince of Wales’ set (Queen Victoria’s son) and a close confidante of the man who would become King Edward VII (and who was rumoured to have been one of her lovers). Their crew had a fondness for fast living and tattoos – Jennie had a snake design curling around her wrist (source).

Throughout her life she wore the finest fashions of the age, setting trends in striking creations by Worth and maintained her luxurious standard of living even when running desperately short of funds. She was lavish in the way she lived – her clothes, her affairs, the energy she poured into furthering Winston’s career – and unapologetic, even when society scorned her for marrying men young enough to be her sons (her second husband, George Cornwallis-West was twenty years her junior and her third, Montagu Phippen Porch, was even younger (source).

Lady Randolph Churchill, 1875 via

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Lady Randolph Churchill via

Lady Randolph Churchill, 1877 via

Lady Randolph Churchill, 1895 via

Lady Randolph Churchill via