On this day, exactly 193 years ago, a dapper 46-year-old Frenchman attended an elegant ball in the Assembly Rooms of the Old Ship Hotel, Brighton. What a splendid affair. The rooms had recently been redecorated by Frederick Crace following his successful work at the Royal Pavilion. The officers of the 52nd Infantry and the 7th Hussars were in their dress uniform (although the latter disgraced themselves by dancing while wearing their swords). The ladies were magnificent in their ballgowns and jewels. Even elderly Mrs Fitzherbert graced the event with her presence.
“Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Duchess de Noailles, and many other ladies of distinction, were present at the Cricket match, and dined in a marquee pitched on the ground, for that purpose. The Prince’s band of music attended, and played during the whole time the ladies were at dinner. In the evening, Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Duchess, Lady Clermont, and Miss Piggott, walked round the ground, seemingly the better to gratify the spectators with a sight of the French lady. The Duchess de Noailles appears to be 21, or 22 years of age, is very handsome, and her figure and deportment are remarkably interesting.”
The Napoleonic Wars were long over. The 1830 Revolution in France was done and dusted. It was time for young Queen Victoria to visit the former enemy land. It’s always good to be on congenial terms with your neighbours. Early September 1843 was to mark the first visit of a reigning British monarch to France for over 300 years. Louis-Philippe, King of the French, was at great pains to ensure that his guest would lack for nothing. How did he go about ensuring comfort fit for a queen?