June

Louise, Duchess of Devonshire’s ‘Queen of Zenobia’ Ball Gown for the Devonshire House Ball

Object: Louise, Duchess of Devonshire’s ‘Queen of Zenobia’ Ball Gown for the Devonshire House Ball

Manufacturer: The House of Worth

Materials: Under-robe: cream silk satin with silver thread work and gems.

Over-dress: gold/silk organza heavily embroidered with gold and silver wire and thread work, multi-coloured gems, silver sequins and jewel coloured foil.

Train: green silk velvet heavily embroidered with gold and silver wire and thread work, multi-coloured gems, silver sequins and jewel coloured foil.

Bodice: gold/silk organza outer with fine gold embroidered linen sleeves with delicate drop gem edging.

Place: Paris

Date of Creation: 1897

Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire, UK

EMu user since 2011

Louise, Duchess of Devonshire’s ‘Queen of Zenobia’ Ball Gown for the Devonshire House BallBall gown with an under-robe of cloth of silver, wrought all over with silver thread and brilliants, and with an over-dress of green and gold shot-silk gauze, embroidered to the waist with green and gold metalwork, decorated with jewels. A long train of turquoise velvet, embroidered in gold to an oriental design, was attached to the shoulders. A bodice of gold cloth and lace was fitted over a whalebone corset into which the waist was tightly laced. The headdress that went with it has not survived.

In 1892 the 8th Duke of Devonshire married the widowed Duchess of Manchester, born Louise von Alten. The “Double Duchess”, as she became known, was a famous hostess, and both Devonshire House in London and Chatsworth became the focus of lavish entertainments. This dress was made for Duchess Louise to wear at the Devonshire House Ball, one of the most splendid celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. It was a fancy dress ball and Louise attended as Queen Zenobia, the warrior Queen of Palmyra.

The Duchess may have got the idea for the theme of the dress from Inigo Jones’s costume designs for Court Masques that are in the drawing collections at Chatsworth. The Devonshire collection also includes a book of photogravures by the photographer Lafayette, recording the costumed guests at the ball. These images show the sumptuous range of outfits for both men and women.

Acknowledgements

The Devonshire Collection, Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement

Photography: by permission of Historic Royal Palaces