Where Was The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball?

1200px-The_Duchess_of_Richmond's_Ball_by_Robert_Alexander_HillingfordI am down to the last week before my current WIP will (hopefully!) be done and am getting close to the Battle of Waterloo. My hero and heroine are both in Brussels and are planning to attend the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, that famous ball that took place the evening that Wellington learned that Napoleon was on the march in Belgium. So I’ve been immersing myself in Waterloo Youtube videos and reading about the ball.

Did you know for years the actual location of the ball was the subject of debate? It was long thought to have taken place in the Hotel de Ville in the Grand Place in Brussels, not because there was any evidence to that fact, though.

Other locations suggested were the Duke of Richmond’s coach house and stables. In the Illustrated London News in the mid-nineteenth century, the location of the ball was listed as being at the Maison du Roi, the king’s palace, a grand location, but, again, totally false.

Henry-Nelson-O'Neil_Before-Waterloo_1868

The true location is described by a very credible source–The Duchess’s daughter who was present at the ball.

She says:

My mother’s now famous ball took place in a large room on the ground floor, on the left of the entrance, connected with the rest of the house by an anteroom. It had been used by the coach builder, from whom the house was hired, to put carriages in, but it was papered before we came there; and I recollect the paper — a trellis pattern with roses. My sisters used the room as a schoolroom, and we used to play battledore and shuttlecock there on a wet day.*

The house the Richmonds rented was on the Rue de la Blanchisserie, so named because a laundry once existed on the site. Wellington used to refer to the residence as “the Wash House,” which he thought was pretty funny and the Duchess of Richmond, a prickly sort of woman, didn’t. In any event, her daughter’s description was pretty clear that it wasn’t any of those other places.

For a beautiful description of the ball, see Amanda’s 2008 Risky Regencies blog

By the way, in my YouTube viewing I discovered two other pretty blatant errors. In one video, they stated the date of the Battle of Waterloo to be July 18, 1815 instead of June 18 (who am I to remark upon that? My book Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress contained the same mistake, a typo, in my case). Another video kept calling Wellington the “future Duke of Wellington,” but he received that title in 1814 after Napoleon’s first abdication.

And while we are on the subject, I am ALL ENVY at Susanna’s plans to attend the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo!!!

*from The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball 15 June 1815 by David Miller

Have you come across any grievous historical errors lately?

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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