Arthur, 1st Duke of Wellington - A Peace of Paris Masquerade Ball Brooch, 1814
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45mm x 30mm
Gold, vitreous paste and glass. Obverse: a profile bust relief portrait of the Duke of Wellington over a gold scroll inscribed ‘PEACE 1814’, the portrait contained within a laurel branch border surmounted by the royal crown. Reverse: inscribed ‘Watier’s / 1 st. July / 1814’. Fitted with pendant loop and brooch mount to the reverse.
The present brooch is a prize won at an extraordinary fancy dress ball held at Burlington House, Piccadilly on the night 1 / 2 Juy 1814, in which the Duke of Wellington appeared as a Spanish monk. Following the defeat of Napoleon in 1814 and the premature declaration of the Peace of Paris, King Louis XVIII of France visited London together with the Allied heads of state Tsar Alexander I of Russia and the King Frederick William III of Prussia. Balls were given in their honour throughout the summer, one of the first being at organised by London’s oldest gentleman’s club White's on 21 June. London’s newest club Watier’s, or the Dandy Club as Lord Byron called it, under the presidency of the uber fashionable Beau Brummel, was not to be outdone, and announced a Masquerade Ball for 1600 guests to be held at Burlington House, then still a private house. As with other Dandy Balls, it was an opportunity for Watier club members, who all dressed up as pale blue dominoes, to invite courtesans normally barred from society events. One such, the Regency harlot Harriette Wilson, who numbered the Duke of Wellington among her clients, recalled queuing with her friends for hours in her carriage in Piccadilly, such was the throng.
The guests were entertained by acrobats, jugglers and dancers from the best London theatres, while the Duke was lauded by a troup of actors dressed as Jack Tars singing ‘See the Conquering Hero Comes’. At half past midnight the ‘Lottery of Bijoux’ was drawn ‘with interest and delight’. A contemporary newspaper reported, ‘Every Lady received with her ticket, a token, which entitled her to draw a ticket, and every ticket was a prize, from twenty-five guineas value to one guinea each. They consisted of gold watches, chains, broaches [sic], pins, rings, boxes, etuis, &c. mostly decorated with perfect likenesses of WELLINGTON, ALEXANDER , &c. …’ With our brooch won, the sixteen hundred masks sat down to eat in the supper room, all under the gaze of the royal table. The catering was the responsibility of the Prince Regent’s favourite chef, Jean Baptiste Watier, who at his royal master’s request had accepted the commission of establishing a fashionable dining club where the food was to be substantially better than that offered at White’s.
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