28 May 2014

Jewel History: Americans Share Court Ball Honors (1908)

"Americans Share Court Ball Honors"
(originally appeared in the New York Times, 31 May 1908)

Several Americans who were presented at the recent Courts were disappointed at not receiving invitations to the State ball given in honor of the French President's visit [1], but, owing to the number of those whose official positions gave them first claim, the Lord Chamberlain was obliged to be as adamant to many supplications.

Mrs. Whitelaw Reid [2], as the wife of the American ambassador, was, of course, there, and all other ladies of the Embassy. Ogden Reid, who has come over for his sister's wedding, was also present. Mrs. Reid wore a handsome dress of pale heliotrope satin.

Mrs. J. Ridgely Carter [3], who brought her daughter, wore white satin, veiled with black tulle and strewn with diamonds. Her jewels included a diamond tiara, a dog collar, and a rope of pearls. Miss Mildred Carter, who always looks charming, wore white satin and tulle and had no jewels.

Mrs. Gibbons [4] and Mrs. Cloman [5] were both in white.

Mrs. John Jacob Astor [6], who was not at the Court on the 22nd, as reported in some papers, was at the State ball, and looked beautiful in white satin and diamonds.

Mme. de Dominguez [7], one of the most popular Americans in London, wore white satin, and Mrs. Lulu Harcourt [8], J. Pierpont Morgan's niece, was stately as usual, in black tulle with many diamonds.

The Duchess of Roxburghe [9] deserted her favorite blue for a lovely dress of the palest rose red net, made in classic style and embroidered in long lines of diamonds and pearls. She also wore her glorious rope pearls and a very high tiara.

Lady Willoughby de Eresby [10] (née Breese), who is one of the leading American-born belles in London, was particularly beautiful in white. Her sister, Lady Alastair Innes-Ker [11], also wore white with diamonds. Their mother, Mrs. H.V. Higgins [12], was also at the ball, wearing rich gray satin thickly worked with pearls.

Lady Dufferin [13], the daughter of John H. Davis of New York, wore white satin charmeuse in a long, clinging Directoire dress filled with pale blue tulle and embroidered with wheat ears in diamonds. The tiny sleeves were soft black tulle, which gave a very effective note to the dress. The sleeves were caught up by diamond ornaments.

Everyone admired Lady Paget's [14] (née Stevens) dress, which was of soft shades of blended blue and pink mauve, the underdress being a Princess robe of pale blue satin, while the chiffons which veiled it were worked in with trailing sprays of embossed orchids. She also wore a beautiful tiara and chain of diamonds. By universal consent, this was one of the most successful dresses of the evening.

Mrs. Samuel Newhouse [15] wore an Empire dress of white lace embroidered in pale blue, and altogether very chic, as her dresses always are.

1. In 1908, the French president was Armand Fallières.
2. Elisabeth Mills (1858-1931) married Whitelaw Reid in 1881. Before becoming the American ambassador to the UK, her husband edited a newspaper (the New York Tribune), served as ambassador to France, and (unsuccessfully) ran for vice president on the 1892 Republican ticket. They were also major philanthropists who donated major money to educational institutions. Ogden Reid was the couple's only son. He was visiting the UK for the wedding of his sister (their only daughter), Jean Templeton Reid; she married the Hon. Sir John Hubert Ward, an equerry to the king, that June.
3. Alice Morgan (1865–1933) was the wife of John Ridgely Carter, then the First Secretary at the American embassy, working for Whitelaw Reid. Their daughter, Mildred (1888-1965), also in attendance at this ball, would later marry (and divorce) the 5th Earl of Gosford.
4. Maud Ely (1876-1953), wife of John H. Gibbons, naval attaché to the American embassy.
5. Flora Louise Smith (1869-1943), wife of Sydney A. Cloman, military attaché to the American embassy; she had previously been a major figure in Washington society as the wife of Victor Clement.
6. Ava Lowle Willing (1868-1958), the first wife of John Jacob Astor IV, would divorce her husband two years after this ball. Two years after that, he drowned on the Titanic. Her second husband was the 4th Baron Ribblesdale.
7. Helen Murphy was the American-born wife of Vicente J. Dominguez, the Argentine minister to Britain.
8. Mary Ethel Burns (d. 1961), niece of banker J.P. Morgan, was the wife of the 1st Viscount Harcourt (and owner of the famous Harcourt emeralds).
9. Mary Goelet (1878-1937), wife of the 8th Duke of Roxburghe, was one of the richest "buccaneer" heiresses to marry into the British aristocracy. (That's her in the portrait at the top of the post.)
10. Eloise Lawrence Breese (d. 1953) was the wife of Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, who would later become the 2nd Earl of Ancaster.
11. Anna Breese (b. 1885), sister of Eloise, married Lord Alastair Innes-Ker, the son of the 7th Duke of Roxburghe (and brother of the 8th Duke -- which made Anna the sister-in-law of Mary Goelet).
12. Marie Louise Parsons (b. 1857), mother of both Anna and Eloise Breese, was first married to stockbroker William Lawrence Breese. Her second husband, Henry V. Higgins, was the managing director of the Royal Opera in Covent Garden.
13. Flora Davis, daughter of an American banker, was the wife of the 2nd Marquess of Dufferin and Ava; after his death, she married the 4th Earl Howe.
14. Minnie Stevens (1853-1919), the wife of Sir Arthur Paget, was the daughter of an American hotelier and a famous jewel collector.
15. Ida Stingly, whose mother ran a boarding house in the American west, was married to Samuel Newhouse, a Utah silver mining magnate.