Sarah Eagle: Waterloo Anniversary -Part 1, the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball

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Palais d’Egmont

Did you wish you could have gone to the Waterloo Anniversary events? Our guest today, Regency author Sarah Eagle (aka Sally Falcon & Sally Hawkes), did and she’s sharing the experience with us this week and also next Wednesday in a two-part guest post. She’s also offering a book giveaway –read to the end to find out more!

Sally Hawkes spends her days as a librarian working with library computer stuff and databases. Headshot2011Her “evil twins” are responsible for writing romantic comedies. Sally Falcon uses the contemporary setting and takes advantage of the places that she had lived around the country. Sarah Eagle goes back in time to Regency England. Ms. Eagle has been nominated for Best Regency Comedy by Romantic Times and by the Colorado Romance Writers.
Her love of old movies (a TCM addict), travel and history have helped a great deal in creating her stories. Currently she’s exploring the world of mysteries and Steam Punk. She also contributes to the Novelist, Inc. writer’s group monthly newsletter. She has BS in Education from Bowling Green State University and an MLS from University of South Florida.     *  *  *

“You’re going where on your vacation?” The questioner’s expression changed from expectant, because I’d originally mentioned Europe, to one of bewilderment.
“I’m going to the reenactment of the 200th anniversary of Waterloo,” I had to repeat. With several people I had to remind them what Waterloo actually was. However, I know anyone reading this blog will understand the excitement of this journey.

Fellow author Eileen Dreyer and I decided 5 years ago that we would go, if possible. Phone calls began last fall. The first one centered on “Do you still want to go?” YES. Some of the planning was normal and some not.   Eileen called one night and said “We can go to the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball.” (I could tell that someone really wanted to go.) OK, add one Regency period ball gown to the packing. Another call came with Eileen thinking she had to talk me into joining a tour at Waterloo. Hmmm, 100,000 spectators (later numbers were 200,000) 5,000 reenactors, 300 horses and 100 cannon were scheduled to be on site. I’d been thinking the same thing. Finally the months of planning came to the day of departure.

After a few days in Amsterdam we took the train to Brussels for the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball. We had our gowns, evening gloves, fans, ridicules, jewelry and, of course, our tiaras. Cinderellas Both gowns were made from vintage patterns. Eileen’s was made from sari silk and fully authentic. I had to tie her into it. Mine was an overdress made from curtain material. (“I saw it in the window and couldn’t resist.” -Carol Burnett)

We went to our carriage – a taxi – and realized we’d left the tickets in our room.   I got to stand very conspicuously at the curb while Eileen retrieved them. One lady asked if I was going to the opera. After the first false start our taxi driver didn’t have a clue about our destination – the Palace d’Egmont. With such an auspicious beginning, I wondered what was next. A spectacular evening!

The entrance was easy to find since two reenactors, resplendent in their uniforms, were guarding the entry. Once we showed our tickets they guided us to a photo area to have our picture done with a guard on either side. Then we were directed out in the courtyard. Courtyard2-EgmontPalaisWe walked across cobblestones between two curved lines of 10 reenactors on either side and a piper played. They were representing different regiments. Once across the way we were offered our first glass of English sparkling wine. Although the website had seemed to encourage period dress, Eileen and I were among about a dozen that followed through. It did turn out to be a wonderful conversation starter. We mingled, drank wine and ate lovely hors d’oeuvres as we talked to various guests while watching others arrive. (We didn’t know who we were rubbing elbows with sometimes.)

After an hour we were asked to move back to clear a good portion of the courtyard. I moved up the steps to the doorway and Eileen stayed on the cobblestones. She ended up near the Wellingtons. Sword danceThe reenactors exited stage right and the Royal Marine Band came out stage left to perform what our program called a Post Horn Gallop. Fantastic. Their display was followed by the Highlanders doing the traditional sword dance that had been done at the original ball in 1815. I’ve read about it many times, and it’s stunning in person.

We were called into dinner and moved up the marble stairway.  Tables had the last name of an officer who had fought at Waterloo. We dubbed our table the Colonials’ table since we had two Australians, two New Zealanders and us out of 9 people at the table. I had talked to two ladies from Texas earlier and they were at the next table. The abundance of glassware and silver sparkled while we all shared our reason for being there. It wasn’t too surprising that most everyone had read Georgette Heyer’s An Infamous Army. (Eileen wore sandals and painted her toenails gold and homage to Barbara Childe the female lead.)
At the table was a goody bag that included a monograph of Alasdair White’s Dancing in the Time of War: The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball 15 June 1815, a history of the British Charitable Fund (founded by Wellington after Waterloo) and a list of the auction items for the evening. Two of the top items were 4 tickets to the opening ceremony of the newly renovated Hougoumont and a tea with Hugh Grant at the Savoy. They went for 3,000 and 2,500 Euros respectively. Dancing? There was only modern music for a band but since it was a beautiful night, we returned to the courtyard for coffee, drinks and cake. It was a night I will remember fondly for a long time.

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Anniversary Ball Committee (Front L-R: British Ambassador to Belgium, Duke & Duchess of Wellington)

The next day we rested and did some sightseeing, then left for Bruges. The ball was on June 13, a Saturday, and the reenactments would be the following weekend. * * *

Sally’s story will continue next Wednesday with Part 2 of her adventure at Waterloo, and more pictures. Would you have liked to be at the anniversary ball with Sally? Would you have wanted to be at the original event on the eve of battle? Why do you think the Duchess of Richmond decided to hold a ball that night in 1815?

Sally is offering a book giveaway to one commenter randomly chosen from among those who comment either this week or next. (Some of our Risky followers may be off at RWA National this week!) The book she’s offering is LADY VENGEANCE, the first Regency Historical she wrote for Harper Monogram (1995) after writing traditional Regencies for Berkley. Romantic Times called it: “Fast-paced and brimming with humor.” Library Journal said: “this sexy historical with well-researched Regency roots combines the ambiance and wit of the traditional Regency with the passionate sensuality of the historical.” Please leave a comment to be entered in the drawing! LadyVengeance-330

About Gail Eastwood

Gail Eastwood is the author of seven Regencies that were originally published by Signet/Penguin. After taking ten years off for family matters, she has wobbled between contemporary romantic suspense and more Regency stories, wondering what century she's really in and trying to work the rust off her writing skills. Her backlist is gradually coming out in ebook format, and some are now available in new print editions as well. She is working on the start of a Regency-set series and other new projects. Stay tuned!
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10 Responses to Sarah Eagle: Waterloo Anniversary -Part 1, the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball

  1. Elena Greene says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing your experiences. It sounds wonderful, other than the lack of period music. Your costumes were lovely and what a clever idea it was for Eileen to paint her toenails gold.

    I’m looking forward to hearing more about your adventures!

  2. ki pha says:

    It’s so great to read your side of the adventure Sally! I was following Eileen’s day to day blog of The Wellington tour as it happened and strangely as it was I was in UK at the same time as the celebration. So I was totally envious that I couldn’t attend the ball. But I had a great time in Edinburgh and London during the celebration and re-enjoyed my visit to the Duke of Wellington’s home at Apsley House, where they had reenactments and actors/ress talk about witnessing the battle of Waterloo and life as a soldier and soldier’s wife/family. Definitely glad I was in the country for the celebration.

    • diane says:

      Oh, Ki! Lucky you. I’m so glad you are in England and got to see all these wonderful places–and Apsley House again!

  3. bn100 says:

    sounds like it was fun

  4. Sally Hawkes says:

    Glad you enjoyed the review. Next to Eileen’s daily blog while we were gone, it’s a little short. The tour account has reenactment pictures. We been frustrated that the Duchess of Richmond site hasn’t much on the 2105 event yet — just one video and nothing more. I would have thought for the bicentennial they would be more timely.

    I think Eileen mentioned this in her blogs. Reading An Infamous Army after being there and “living” the experience gives a whole new perspective! I’ve read it several times (I own every Heyer there is), but there was so much I felt I missed.

  5. Anna Tharel says:

    Thank you for sharing your amazing adventure! What a wonderful experience! I can’t wait to read more!

  6. I’m surprised more people didn’t dress up. I’m up for anything that involves dressing up.

  7. Sally Hawkes says:

    I’m wondering if others have been coming so many years so they just go with modern evening wear. I would have thought the 200th anniversary would have inspired them. There is a seamstress recommended on the ball web site.
    I know one thing traveling with a gown isn’t easy. Both Eileen and I hung them in the closet while we were in Amsterdam and immediately took them out of the suitcases in Brussels. I did have to steam my pashmina and Eileen’s satin materials needed more help than mine. I’m glad this was at the beginning of the trip so I could put it at the bottom of the suitcase the rest of the time.

  8. I’m with Heidi –surprised more people did not honor the anniversary by wearing period dress. Maybe that sort of thing is less popular over there than in the U.S.? Wouldn’t it have been splendid to see the Duke and Duchess set the tone by doing that? You can bet people would have followed their lead. Alas. But Sally and Eileen’s gowns were beautiful! And what a gorgeous setting for the event!

  9. diane says:

    Wish I had been there, too!!!

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