Carnival aficionados await this moment year after year: the Meeting of the Courts of Rex and Comus. The highlight, and there are many, occurs amid the conjoined Carnival pomp and elegance when the four monarchs stand on the stage together at the ball of the Mystick Krewe of Comus and sweep, in unison, three scepters and one silver cup. On Shrove Tuesday, and in the ballroom of the New Orleans Marriott, the royal ritual occurred to the delight and ovation of the attendant subjects.
Limelighted for the Rex royalty were the king and queen of Carnival, Mr. Christian Trousdale “Christy” Brown and Miss Charlotte Lane “Laney” Langenstein, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Henry Langenstein III, Bill and C.C. Last year, the crowns were worn by Mr. John P. “Jack” Laborde and Miss Carroll Irene Gelderman, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Anthony Gelderman III.
Comus, as the king of the Mystick Krewe is called, reigned anonymously, but his dazzling queen was Miss Patricia McCarthy “Scout” Beron, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Edouard Beron, Thomas and Wendy. Holding the scepter in 2014 was Miss Pauline Mason Ukrop, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Scott Ukrop.
The two kings, Rex and Comus, still have their mothers. Gowned in royal blue, Mrs. Brown, Louisette (Mrs. Alfred Whitney Brown Jr.), turned heads at the Rex Ball in the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel.
At that ball, Rex, in the 144th year of his reign, descended from his Summer Palace on Mount Olympus for the annual hibernal gallivanting. Mr. Lynes R. Sloss was the ball chairman, mastheading a committee of 31 Rex members with Mr. Brown listed as ex-officio.
Applause and smiles were abundant as the Rex court, debutantes and 50-year queen appeared at the Sheraton scintillation. The maids and their dukes were Misses and Messrs. Glenny Ann Brown (first cousin of her majesty Laney) and William Henry Hodges III; Sage Lyons Laborde and James Harcourt Burlingame; Grace Catherine Mallette Cary and Brooks Jardet Kiser; Rebecca Buckley Lapeyre and Hunter Wood Ham; Leah Katherine Whann and Robert Parker LeCorgne Jr.; Evelyn Burkenroad Bories and McClain Ronald Forman; Laura Elizabeth LeBlanc and John Havens Jaubert Cary (brother of court maid Grace Catherine); and Ellen Durel George and Sanders Phelps (grandson of Ashton Phelps, the 1970 Rex). Several others have connections to past Rex royalty and courts.
Both the 2015 monarchs have a direct monarchal link: In 2009, Amelie Munro Brown, the daughter of Christy Brown, reigned with Thomas Dugan Westfeldt II as the king. The late Dolly Ann Souchon (later Johnsen), maternal grandmother of queen Laney, ruled in 1949, and Laney’s step-grandfather, Eric Frithjof Johnsen, wore the 1991 crown.
Crowned heads for other Carnival organizations among the 2015 court maids included Misses Lapeyre, Oberon; Whann, Mithras; and George, Atlanteans.
Masters John Middleton Polk Huger and Frank Hampton Gomila were the pages and rode with Rex during the hours-earlier parade, which was titled “Wars That Shaped Early America.”
At the ball, a half dozen white-gowned debutantes of the 2014-15 season were presented to their majesties. They were Misses Ella de los Reyes Baus, Claire Marie Clay, Catherine Clare Conwill, Katherine Renee Hodges, Jamie Favre Pellerin, and Nicole Elizabeth Weinmann, who held the scepter on Jan. 24 for the centennial ball of Osiris and is the granddaughter of Rex of 1996, John Giffen Weinmann.
Decades before that, Miss Louise Person Smither (later McDonald) reigned at the Rex Ball and returned on Tuesday evening as the 50th anniversary queen. She was presented to king Christy and consort Laney by her husband, Denis Henry McDonald, Rex in 2001. Also, during the course of the Shrove Tuesday formalities, Rear Adm. Kevin Cook, USCG, commander, 8th Coast Guard District, received a Rex decoration.
Throughout the evening, guests admired queen Laney in her shimmering gold gown by Suzanne Perron St. Paul. It was trumpet-shaped, and made of hand-embroidered Italian tulle over silk lamé with an inverted V Empire band, a grid pattern of beading and scrolling vine motifs. The gold and crystal chevron motif in the gown was inspired by the one worn by her above-mentioned grandmother. The organization’s traditional mantle, Medici collar and jewelry completed the effulgent picture.
As for Rex Brown of 2015 — who was referred to (among several titles) as the Monarch of Merriment — he was regally resplendent. Recalling Shakespeare, “From the crown on his head to the sole of his foot, he was all mirth” and majesty.
Noted, too, were Kia Brown, his wife, and C.C. Langenstein, respectively in emerald green and red ballgowns by Mrs. St. Paul, along with Mmes. William F. Grace Jr. and Thomas D. Westfeldt II, whose husbands answered to Rex in 2002 and 2009.
Special friends, families and the court of the Rex monarchs gathered at the Langenstein and Brown homes after the parade and before the 8 p.m. Rex Ball and imperial reception. In the idiom of Carnival power, guests were “commanded” to be present.
Hours before, and during the course of the “Wars That Shaped Early America” parade, which took the usual route, Rex Brown’s float stopped at the reviewing stands in front of the InterContinental New Orleans on St. Charles for a series of toasts to the white-suited and hatted queen, Laney, and her court.
Just a few blocks away, his regal float paused for a toast at 1:10 p.m. to the Comus majesty, Miss Beron, and her court maids. The site for the stop was the Pickwick Club and President Karl E. Hoefer greeted him and the Rex pages, John Huger and Hampton Gomila, saying, “We have the honor of toasting Rex and his pages, John and Hampton.” He added that queen Scout was looking forward to the Rex parade and greeting him (and his queen, Laney) that night at the Comus ball. “Hail Rex!” was repeated three times by President Hoefer, Pickwick members and guests, and the crowd on the street. King Christy referred to points in common that he and the Comus queen have (including a deep love for New Orleans) and the fact that he has known four generations of Scout’s family. He concluded with “I look forward to being with you tonight on the throne.”
Daytime suits at the Pickwick Club were the sartorial fare for the queen, whose ensemble was grayish-beige, and 12 court maids. The tones ranged from pastel, to red, to navy, and black and white.
Post parade, the Comus court dressed for the gala ball before which it assembled at the Beron home in Metairie (not very far from that of the king of Carnival), where they enjoyed congratulations and a collation.
Hours later, they garnered the figurative spotlight at the Comus ball in the Marriott. Applauded, along with her majesty Scout, were Misses Catherine Crawford Adams, Sarah Kent Agnew, Eleanor Brennan Davis, Jordan Elizabeth Devlin, Courtney Cooke Geary, Elizabeth Ashland Hines, Isabel Nott Jackson, Madeleine Moret Livaudais, Karoline Havens Mallette Patrick, Kelly Wright Swanson, Maia Margaret Weston, and Catherine Turner Worley. Regal robes during the last weeks were worn by Misses Devlin, Momus; Geary, Achaeans; Hines, Proteus; Jackson, Twelfth Night Revelers; and Worley, Mystery.
The four pages were Masters Lynton Guy Cook IV, William Lyons Cook, John McDonald Currence II, and Walker McCall Montgomery.
Ilaine Hartman created the stunning silvery, A-line gown worn by queen Scout that was made of French Chantilly lace, silver silk chiffon and lamé. From the sweetheart neckline to the double-layered scalloped train, the lace was fully hand beaded and embellished with Swarovski crystals and rhinestones. Her brilliant look was completed with the organization’s traditional Medici collar, fur-trimmed mantle, crown and scepter, and royal jewels.
Enjoying the Comus ball were Mrs. Gary Hyder Brewster, Cathy, and daughter Mimsy, both former queens of Proteus; Mrs. E. James Kock III, and daughter Anne, a former Comus queen; Mrs. C. James McCarthy, Winifred “Winx,” Scout’s maternal grandmother; the above Mrs. Robert Scott Ukrop, Lilo, the 2014 queen mother; and Mrs. John Duncan Wogan, who as Carolyn Crusel, was hailed as the Comus queen 50 years ago. She accessorized her red dress with the regal necklace she wore in 1965.
The glory of the two full courts dazzled the guests at the Marriott, where Rex arrived (at the invitation of the Mystick Krewe) for the above Meeting of the Courts, which included the Carnival thrills of the double grand march and the staged synchronization of the sweep of the scepters and the scepter-goblet by the monarchal quartet.
Some of the foursome’s nearest and dearest stayed, by invitation, for “Supper” at the invitation of their majesties, “The Queen of Carnival and The Queen of Comus,” back across the red carpet on Canal Street in the Sheraton Hotel, where the Rex ball had taken place. The Sheraton’s Napoleon Ballroom was filled with the excitement of a hearty breakfast, an opportunity to see and perhaps chat with members of the two courts, and dance to the music of Jubilation! What a joy it was to see the two queens, each without a mantle, dance with gusto.
In 2016, the concluding moments will occur on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 9. Before then, and as it was in the just-finished Carnival season, scores of monarchs will be hailed and the powers of mystique and merriment will be re-created in a plethora of royal roles.