The Mystic Club journeyed to the races at the Hippodrome de Longchamp in Paris in 1912 for one of Carnival’s most highly anticipated events last evening: the bal masque and the revealing of the Mystic queen.
“It is the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe held on the first weekend of October and the highlight of the French racing year,” noted the program as it invited the assembled on the adventure.
“We are in the company of the Italian Prince Emanuele Filiberto and his French wife, the Princess Hélène Louise Henriette — otherwise known as the Second Duke and Duchess of Aosta. He is the cousin of King Vittorio Emmanuel III; she — the daughter of the Count de Paris and the Princess d’Orleans.
“To Europe’s aristocrats and smart set, Paris was the center of modern culture from which all glamour emanated. Indeed, it was the very heart of everything fashionable from the latest literature to clothing and automobiles. Wherever there were uniforms and fine fashion to be admired, Europeans rushed to be part of the scene and copy ‘le tout Paris.’
“The duke and duchess spent as much time as possible in the ‘City of Light’ attending the finest restaurants and clubs to be seen at society’s high points, including the races.
“One such spot was Longchamp on the Route des Tribunes and wedged between the magnificent Bois de Boulogne and the banks of the River Seine. As was custom, the couple made their arrival by boat along the river docking at the Pont de Suresnes. Longchamp had a history dating to its first race to 1857 having taken its prototype from England where the love of horse racing was ingrained. Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie attended the first race. The mood was set and racing quickly became a French obsession. The races became a fashion show, and even mannequins — live models –— from Paris couturiers displayed the latest and grandest fashions.
“Some historians call 1912 ‘Dancing on the Edge’ — one of the most extravagant and glamorous of years with the Great War lurking unbeknownst on the horizon — but that was still nearly two years away.”
Mrs. Michael Bright White reigned over the splendor of the evening as “Princess Hélène Louise Henriette,” the Mystic queen.
Ladies-in-waiting to her majesty were Mesdames Christopher Conway Bellone as Princess Henriette of Belgium; Scott Joseph Brown as Princess Margaret of Connaught; Hyde Dunbar Healy as Princess Alexandra of Hanover; Jeffrey Alan Meckstroth as Princess Thyra of Denmark; Ralph Lewis Ropp as Princess Clementine of Belgium; and Scott Tappan Slatten as Princess Hilda of Nassau.
Young ladies, debutantes of the season, presented to their majesties were Misses Grace Ann Bellone, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bellone; Genevieve Marie Bienvenu, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Albert Bienvenu; Elizabeth Brooks Ellinghausen, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin A. Ellinghausen III; Sara Layne Gambel, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gary Joseph Gambel; Adelaide Dabezies Goodyear, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Waterhouse Goodyear IV; Aby Dixon Hamrick, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Thomas Hamrick Jr.; Isabella Slatten Healy, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Healy; Shelby Heath Sharp Meckstroth, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Meckstroth; Ruth Lysbeth Ropp, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ropp; and Katherine Woodworth Slatten, daughter and stepdaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Slatten and daughter of Ms. Michelle Browder Slatten.
Her majesty, Virginia Burke White, is the mother of three children, Michael Bright White Jr., Shelby Jane Ottley White and Elinor Pitot White. Following graduation from Metairie Park Country Day School, she attended Hollins College, earning a bachelor of arts degree in art history and studio art.
For the past 30 years, Mrs. White has been an active partner in Michael B. White Investments.
Volunteer work reflects her deep commitment to family, education and the arts. She has served on the Boards of Friends of the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital, Metairie Park Country Day Alumni and Hermann-Grima/Gallier Historic Houses. She currently serves on the Metairie Park Country Day School Endowment Committee. She co-chaired the Metairie Park Country Day Patron Party, Bright School Octoberfest and Longue Vue Gardens Family Day. Through the years, the Whites have opened their home to the Preservation Resource Center Holiday Home Tour, Metairie Park Country Day School Holiday Home Tour, Metairie Park Country Day School Patron Party, Bright School Octoberfest, Longue Vue Sentimental Journeys, Hermann-Grima/Gallier Historic Houses and Episcopal High School of Alexandria, Virginia.
The monarch is a member of the Society of Colonial Dames, Junior League of New Orleans and New Orleans Town Gardeners for whom she co-chaired the first “Fun” raiser luncheon. She also assisted with events for NOCCA, the Louisiana Children’s Museum World’s Fair and the Audubon Zoo-to-Do.
Her most passionate and personal contribution is through the Virginia White Fund she founded to assist families with the cost of treatment at the Mayo Clinic Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in Rochester, Minnesota.
The queen’s hobbies include art collecting, travel and decorating. She is currently director of the White Family Fund through which she continues to further her contribution to education and the arts.