The palindromic number 303 is the combined ages of Comus and Rex, which were started respectively in 1857 and 1872. All the while, they have both tended to the cultivation of Carnival and its festive flowering.
Gardening specifically has enjoyed a regal focus. In 2015, “Secret Gardens of Kyoto,” was written on the bronze-gold doubloons for Comus as was “The Golden Cup of Comus” and “Sic Volo, Sic Jubeo,” translated as “As I will it, there will be joy.” Days ago, the yellowish-gold Rex doubloon thrilled paradegoers with “Royal Gardens: Horti Regis 2016” and the inscription “Pro Bono Publico,” (For the Public Good).
Invitations to the 2016 balls — held in the impressive hotel ballrooms of the Sheraton (Rex) and across Canal Street in the Marriott (the Mistick Krewe of Comus) — featured the bounty of horticultural nature. For the invitation extended by His Majesty Rex, lush magnolias graced the fold-out form. Water lilies and a plethora of posies appeared on that of the Mistick Krewe, as did, along with other garden denizens, dragonflies, bees and butterflies.
At each gala event, the loveliest “rose” was a royal one. At Rex, Miss Adelaide Dabezies Goodyear was called queen, while the same appellation dubbed the florally named Miss Lily Reiss Saer at Comus. Their respective parents are Mr. and Mrs. Charles Waterhouse Goodyear IV and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hayes Saer. Audiences at both marveled at their loveliness and that of their courts. When the two courts met at the invitation of Comus (and at the Marriott), Goethe would have smiled. “This makes our earthly ball a peopled garden.”
“The Grand Ball of His Majesty Rex in the 145th Year of His Reign” bannered the program that indicated Mr. Lynes R. Sloss as ball chairman. In 2013, daughter Nina O’Brien Sloss sat on the Rex throne with Mr. William Hugh Hines.
Another father of a queen of Carnival — meaning Rex, and answering to Niquette LaCour Kearney — is Mr. Michael Wermuth Kearney. On Mardi Gras, he occupied the royal throne with her majesty Adelaide Dabezies Goodyear.
Maids of honor and dukes to the royal pair of 2016 were Misses and Messrs. Isabella Slatten Healy and William Pierce Freeman; Shelby Heath Sharp Meckstroth and Matthew McQueen Saer (brother of Comus queen Lily), Agnes Robeson Bell and John Kenneth Saer III; Bryn Ellen McFadden and William Brennan Davis; Alexandra Bedsole Demmas and Edgar Allen Gordon Bright IV; Sara Layne Gambel and Joseph Ryan Acomb; Katherine Elise Johnsen and William Rushton Foster Duncan; and Hailey Simmons Becker and Michael Bright White Jr. Almost everyone has extensive Carnival links to impressive royalty.
Several wore crowns during the past debut season: Misses Meckstroth, Osiris; Bell, Mithras; Gambel, Oberon; and Becker. Proteus. As sub-debs, Aggie Bell was queen of Apollo and Sara Gambel, Squires.
Pages to their majesties Mike and Adelaide were Masters Walker McCall Montgomery (a Comus page in 2015) and Thomas Andrew Wisdom.
Special presentations were made to Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, adjutant general, Louisiana National Guard; Christine Phillips Westfeldt, who caught every eye and elicited hearty applause as the red-gowned, 50-year queen; and the 2016 debutantes: Misses Matalin Mary Carville, Mary Callaghan Rome (the Caliphs of Cairo queen), Elizabeth Brooks Ellinghausen, and Katherine Woodworth Slatten (the Nereus queen).
Noted at the ball were the royal pair of 2015, Miss Charlotte Lane Langenstein, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Henry Langenstein III, and Mr. Christian Trousdale Brown, whose daughter ruled at Rex in 2009 as Miss Amelie Munro Brown. She was the consort to Rex Thomas Dugan Westfeldt II, the brother of the 50-year queen Christine.
The latter’s 50-year Comus counterpart was Catherine “Cathy” Maunsell, whose married name is Mrs. Marshall L. Posey. She was at the Rex Ball to be with her close friend Susu Kearney, wife of Rex Mike.
More close kin and kith of the 2016 royals attended the grand ball and applauded with gusto.
All admired queen Adelaide’s graciousness. Her gorgeous gown, too, which was created, as was that of Comus’ queen Lily, by Suzanne St. Paul (as were the gowns of Mmes. Goodyear and Kearney). It was inspired by flowers from around the world and from where she lived, such as China and Australia, in her earlier years. Made of gold solstiss scalloped lace layered over gold metallic and silk chiffon, it featured a trumpet silhouette and sprays of intricate floral beading, inspired by the theme of “Royal Gardens: Horti Regis” of the Rex parade.
The gown of royal mother Elizabeth Goodyear (nee Dabezies) was of colorful floral embroidery on navy silk satin and finished with a distinctive back drape cascading into a sweeping train. Susu Kearney (nee Wilkins) wore a strapless ball gown of iridescent copper silk twill with dark purple foiled Italian lace to create a dramatic look. Appliqued flowers trailed toward the hem.
Hours before the 8 p.m. ball and imperial reception at the Sheraton, and the at-home party given by the Goodyears at which “Her Majesty the Queen of Carnival” commanded one’s presence (in the special royal idiom), Rex Kearney’s float stopped during the street parade at several locations. One was at the Morris-Downman House on St. Charles Avenue. The plaque in front of it reads “Every Mardi Gras, Rex stops for a special toast here, the only remaining home of a former Rex on the parade route.”
From there, the Rex parade continued to the reviewing stands in front of the InterContinental Hotel on St. Charles for a series of toasts by his majesty Mike to his white-suited and hatted queen, Adelaide, and her court. Just a few blocks away, his regal float paused for a toast to the Comus monarch, Miss Saer, and her six court maids, who were outfitted in suits or jacket-skirt ensembles. The site for the stop was the Pickwick Club and President Karl E. Hoefer greeted him (a “fellow brother of Delta Kappa Epsilon”) and the Rex pages, Walker Montgomery and Thomas Wisdom, adding that it was an honor to do so and to have queen Lily present. As has been a tradition, President Hoefer called for the triple “Hail Rex” toast from those nearby and standing on the parade route. Mike Kearney, as Rex, thanked the president and the Pickwick Club, announced that he was looking forward to seeing queen Lily and her entourage at the Comus Ball, commented on the glorious day (“the weather gods have smiled on us”) and wished everyone a wonderful Mardi Gras.
During the Rex parade, and after the stops at the hotel and the Pickwick Club, queens Adelaide and Lily and their courts were whisked to their homes to prepare for the evening. As did the Goodyears, the Saers opened their home “at five of the clock” so that family and close friends could see the radiant queen close up.
After the invitation to attend the Comus Ball that was extended by the captain, Rex, his queen and their court accepted, crossing to the Marriott. There they joined the Comus monarchs, queen Lily and the king (who is addressed as Comus and is unidentified) and their court: Misses Mary Faith Lindner, Jean Tate Mabon, Sarah Marie McLellan (the sub-deb queen of Harlequins), Caroline Bernard McGraw, Emily Louise Eble Nelson, and Rosemary Conrad Turner (the Atlanteans ruler). Prior to making her debut, Lily Saer reigned at Les Pierrettes.
For Comus, she followed in the royal footsteps of the in-attendance Patricia McCarthy “Scout” Beron, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Edouard Beron.
Completing the court for the Comus monarchs were pages John Blakemore Schwing Jr., Thomas Westervelt Werner, Clayton Spencer Murphy, and St. Denis Julien Villere IV. Mr. Richard M. Currence was the chairman of the ball.
As the four royals and their two courts processed in the double grand march, Comus guests could admire the regal gown of their queen. It was of silver silk lame layered with metallic netting and plume embroidered illusion. The strokes of feathered plumes were created with bugle beads, sequins, rocaille beads and Swarovski crystals. Deep inverted pleats extended from the Empire line to the hem and, as a tribute to the royal wearer, were defined by pearl, crystal and beaded lilies of the valley. Both queens, in their refulgent royalty, wore glittering Medici collars, mantles and crowns. In their hands, and in that of Rex was a scepter. Comus, whose mother, father and wife were all at the ball, held a cup.
Those accessories figured prominently near the conclusion of the Comus Ball when, during the meeting of the courts, and while the monarchs were on stage, they swept, in unison, the scepters and cup, a royal ritual that delighted the onlookers and elicited a hearty ovation.
Under the direction of two white-garbed captains, those of Rex and Comus, each of the four royals departed with great formality. A bit of levity was injected when the last to leave, Rex Mike, was given a gilded tennis racket, a nod to his favorite sport. He used it as a scepter to bid farewell to all the subjects.
A number of the foursome’s nearest and dearest stayed 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 in another area. The Sheraton’s Napoleon Ballroom was filled with the excitement of a hearty breakfast and an opportunity to congratulate their majesties and chat with their families. Comus queen mother, Katherine Saer (nee Van Horn) was stunning in her couture gown. When the band Jubilation struck up hit tunes, it was a joy to see the two queens, each without a mantle, and Rex Mike dance with a series of partners with regal gusto. “We Are Family” made its point to the Queens’ Supper assembly, many of them quite close knit, and “My Girl” targeted Adelaide and Lily in affectionate singularity.
In 2017, the concluding moment will occur on Shrove Tuesday, Feb. 28. Before then, and during Carnival, scores of monarchs will be hailed and the powers of mystique and merriment will be re-created in a plethora of royal roles as it was for Adelaide and Mike, and Lily and her Comus.