‘Every Tart In London’

Great Britain


'Tarts In London'Welcome to England, where for some, it’s still 1935.

Queen Charlotte’s Ball was created so that the daughters of society’s old-money families could make their social debut. The event was introduced by King George III in 1780 as a way to celebrate his wife’s birthday. It was intended to help the ladies find a suitable husband.

Incredibly, it’s back. This week the Daily Mail ran several million photos of the event so that its readership (housewives living in the wrong part of Kent) could lust for romance over the ironing.

Actually, the whole thing feels rife with potential corruption; tickets cost thousands and are purchased through connections by the nation’s richest families. Until 1958, young debutantes used to be presented to the Queen at Buckingham Palace, until Prince Philip pointed out that it was ‘bloody daft’.

The Queen also felt that such an elitist event was at odds with her desire for a more modern monarchy. Her sister, Princess Margaret, was not a fan, either. She said: ‘We had to put a stop to it – every tart in London was getting in.’

The ball was cancelled once and for all in 1976, but was revived in 2007. Once it was the season for duchesses – now it belongs to the daughters of hedge fund managers, the ultimate gift from Daddy.

At least they’re not doing anyone harm, and sometimes raise money for charity. Admin likes to stay impartial to such silliness, but this feels like the sort of thing that gives a country a bad name.

14 comments on “‘Every Tart In London’”

  1. Alan Morgan says:

    Not entirely the same but now schools have a prom for the 5th years (or whatever they are now) as they leave, or go into XIth form. We’re talking dresses and tux, limos – the works. A friend of mine was gushing up here about how her daughter looked, and the dress, and the nails, and the fake tan, and the cost of it all. I blame John Hughes, or at least not John Hughes but whoever decided that teen movies no longer feature the fringe kids doing good. From dim memory there might have been a school disco* when I was that age but I certainly never went.

    I’m earnestly hoping my daughters rebel enough not to go in for such tosh. Or they can get a job to pay for it themselves. Rather like weddings…

    *Obviously for many here disco would be far after their own time at school. There was a war on after all. Albeit the Crimean War. 😉

  2. pheeny says:

    In other words a cattle market.

    I wonder how many goats you would have to pay to get a banker’s daughter?

    Don’t even talk to me about proms Alan – ghastly American import

  3. Dan Terrell says:

    I agree, but it might be a Ball is a notch up from sitting at a bar in a juke/C&W,rap bar with your trusted best friend hoping your soul mate will sail by.
    Having read all of Ray Chandler and one Mike Hammer paperback, I know bar pickups are always the start of something dangerous and disappointing.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Let’s see, end of gr. 12, ceremony to present various awards & scholarships and then off to a dance in the community hall. Boys wore sports jackets and slacks, although Dick Vernon probably wore jeans since his idea of appropriate transport for his date was the washed dump truck. How Heather ever climbed up in her heels I’ll never know. We went to the home of one of our classmates afterward and ate and talked till 6 am. There may have been a bottle around but there certainly were no signs of it. That of course was 1960 and by the time my son graduated in 1984 it was tuxes and limos and the dance at the classic major hotel downtown. The parents were required to attend that one, though.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Why do girls lift the front of their skirts when they’re not likely to catch the front hem? It would be more to the purpose if they lifted the back. Lift the front when you’re going up stairs. You don’t want to show your ankles any way.

  6. Ken Murray says:

    About ten years ago government diplomats were begining to voice concern during trade negotiations, that their Chinese counterparts were becoming increasingly bold in negotiations. The rational they were hearing was that China considered themselves at the hight of human endeavour throughout history, and that the last 60-70 years were an aberation to be corrected. In short they had an entitlement to succeed.

    I wonder if the re-emergence of things like debs balls is evidence of a similar desire for the entitlement generation in the west, to re-establish an elitist fantasy world and the so called ‘ruling classes’? Or am I just being paranoid? :0)

  7. snowy says:

    When walking downstairs esp. in heels, the toe of the descending foot can catch the front hem and pitch the unfortunate wearer ‘base over apex’. [The back hem dragging pulls the front hem in towards the feet.]

    I can’t recall the exact parting words delivered to my year group on leaving school, but the sub-text was plain. [The Police were explicitly mentioned, and there was definitely no dance.]

    As to the original ball, it was touted in part as a way for the Queen to pick out new ladies in waiting. [But more likely a ruse for the King and various princelings, to get ‘first dibs’ on the ‘new talent’.]

    When did Proms get to be a thing in the UK? It must have been post ‘Carrie’? Can’t quite see how they are allowed in the current teaching climate, all that competition, angst and rejection rolled into one evening.

    And all that fuss to get a quick fumble, a torn frock and sick in your hair, and that’s just the teachers.

  8. crunchypop says:

    Instead of attending my BA Hons graduation ceremony with it’s perquisite expensive hire of gown and odd hat, I went down the pub. Instead of attending my MA graduation ceremony with it’s perquisite expense, I went down the pub. Bah humbug (is it too early to say that ?) the Queen Charlottes Ball is over-egging the omelette. Come the revolution they are first against the wall.

  9. pheeny says:

    The only ball I ever attended was the Berkeley Square ball ca 1980 which was immensely dull. Also I felt very out of place – the fact that I was wearing an old cheesecloth nightie for want of anything more classy may have had something to do with it.

  10. pheeny says:

    And on the subject of balls: apart from the above they have never featured overmuch on my social calendar and I can still remember my slightly horrified incomprehension when as a teenager I came across that timeless quote from Jane Austen: “At sixteen Catherine began to curl her hair and long for balls”

  11. Helen Martin says:

    Of course, Pheeny, but you weren’t planning on marrying in the next twelvemonth, either.
    Snowy, that’s just another reason to lift the back of the skirt & prevent the back hem from dragging.
    Since I was +50 when I completed my bachelor degree I went to the ceremony, had a paid half day to attend and it didn’t require fancy dress at all – the academic gown covered it. The gown and cap were available for a nominal rental for the afternoon, since we don’t wear academic dress except for ceremonies. There were two up-coast First Nations grads in our ceremony and they wore red button blankets and cedar head dresses. They sure got applause.

  12. snowy says:

    Not to get too deeply into this area.

    The trouble with grabbing the back of your frock as you walk is that it looks to all the world like your knicker elastic has gone ‘ping’.

  13. Vivienne says:

    You don’t have to worry. The ‘debutantes’ still know who they are and have their private gatherings and other upper class get-togethers without the need for the royal approval: the Windsors are not, after all, old family and part of the same set at all, are they?

  14. glasgow1975 says:

    Of course back in the day, that was the point of attendants & ladies in waiting, they held your train so you didn’t need to sully your hands, if you want real silliness, try the recent Miss Universe National Dress, the UK was represented by a faux Elizabethan hooker from a Steampunk Animé and Miss USA went as a Transformer, obviously not realising (bless) that was of course a Japanese cartoon long before the current risible Hollywood film franchise. The rest were the expected feathers and sequins you’d expect, with a few doll heads you’d not, thrown in . . .

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