Waterloo ’16 Tour: June 16

Eileen Goes to the Ball Part 3

Let’s see. I’ve dressed up in my finest togs, burned my hair to a crisp trying to create the kind of curls that would seat a tiara well, ruined my feet for years to come and donned perfect gold and coral jewelry to show up at the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball. I had some champagne with my close personal friend the Duke of Wellington(won’t he be surprised when he finds out), ogled a couple of military men(and quite a few lovely reenactors) in all their finery(one of which included the Order of the Bath) (and no, smart aleck, it isn’t who gets washed first). I’ve listened to a military band and watched Highlanders dance about swords. And then, invited back into the foyer of the palace, I was invited to eat. And here was where the rubber met the road. Or shall we say, this was where Cinderella was reminded that she cleaned fireplaces for a living instead of sat in front of them.

You see, there were two large, chandeliered, frescoed, gilded, mirrored rooms in which to enjoy dinner. There were many round tables(I admit I was a bit disappointed. I had an image in my head of one of those state dinners at Windsor Castle where the glasses march down the 30 foot table like Guardsmen on parade and enough crystal and silver is on display to redeem the national deb. Alas, we ate like normal people at a banquet). The fun thing was that each table had the name of an original participant: i.e., the Richmond Table, the Wellington Table, the Blucher table. We were so far down the list that we had a German commander I didn’t recognize. No problem. But we were forced to walk by all the cool tables and on into the second room(or as one wag called it, the kiddie tables). We were, in fact, at the colonies table. Sally and I from the US, two women from New Zealand, a couple from Australia, and a German gentleman and a Russian lady for diversity, I guess. I have no complaints. We had a lovely time. Everyone commented appropriately on Sally’s and my attire(appropriate being sincerely impressed, of course), they shared witty stories about their lives, travels and families. And most important, when we began talking Waterloo, they not only knew all the history we knew, they read the same sources(and yes, that did include Georgette Heyer and Bernard Cornwell). They knew the same anecdotes and argued the same strategies that we had been trying to understand (Napoleon, you had a whole day before it rained, and more importantly Blucher could get to Wellington’s aid. Why didn’t you do anything? Who exactly thought riding great warhorses right by the canons was a good idea? Where was Napoleon during that time they couldn’t find him, and why?) It was such a relief. When I bring up these topics at home, the Engineer, as much as he loves me(and he must if he puts up with these unending one-sided discussions), tends to go glassy-eyed and look longingly toward the TV where he could be watching Alaska Wilderness Survival instead of listening to the gruesome story behind Waterloo teeth. All the people at our table had pertinent opinions, ideas, and information that added to the discussion.

As your faithful correspondent, I couldn’t fail to mention the repast we enjoyed with our white and red wine. We began with Tartare de Salmon D’Ecosse, Pomme Fruit et Concombre with Creme Anglaise, (white wine) followed by Noisettes D’Agneau en Croute de Pain Poilane a la Moutarde douce, Asperges Vertes and Grantin Dauphinoise (red wine), and Notre Sable aux Fraises du Pays a la Menthe Fraishe, Marquise au Chocolat Amer, Coulis de Franboise au Croustillant de Muesli(no wine. We were supposed to get coffee, but there seemed to be some communication error which kept the main room waiting. So no coffee either until later when they brought out a cake) And yes. The food was absolutely delicious, the service impeccable, and the wine a perfect complement. Sally asked me if I was going to translate the dishes to you, but I ask you. Would Georgette?

As we ate, one of the organizers read an excerpt from Byron’s the Eve of Waterloo, which was lovely. With desert they finished off the auction for items such as tea with Hugh Grant in the Savoy. It should come as no surprise that I couldn’t afford any of it. In point of fact, I’m not sure they expected anybody in our room to bid, as they seem to have forgotten us completely. The lady in charge kept exhorting someone named Tommy to bid higher. I think poor Tommy went home with commemorative books and a large bag of Belgian chocolate. Sally and I drifted off toward the main hallway where they were displaying the cake and my friend Jeremy, who helped me with the technicalities of paying for my ticket, begged us all to go dance to the swing band in the other salon. Instead we ended up outside in the cool courtyard with many of the other attendees. We spent the time speaking to a lovely lady named Margery, a journalist from Belgium who also dressed up in period attire, and was fascinated by authors.(and yes, Barbara Vey. I did bring along my PR book postcards to hand around). I admit, I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to wear my pretty dress and tiara for days, just because I could.

But I couldn’t. All good things come to an end, and we caught our pumpkin—yeah, that would be a taxi–back to the Metropole Hotel with its cage elevator and gilded ceilings and concierge in Edwardian dress, who simply smiled when they saw us. Sally helped me undo all the various closings(Regency attire has a confusing array of tapes and buttons to master), and I prepared for bed. The tiara didn’t come off, though, until I had to put my c-pap strap on my head instead. But you’d better believe that I’m wearing it to the Beau Monde at RWA this summer. No tiara should go unappreciated.

And now, the clock has struck, the princess is home from the palace, and life goes on. Fortunately for me, it goes on in Bruges for a few days, and then we catch the tour to the battlefield. More history for me. I can live with that.

Adeiu for now. This princess has to turn back into a field mouse.

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