Imperial grandeur for a state occasion on the banks of the beautiful Danube River in Hungary was the elegant backdrop for the one of Carnival's most anticipated moments — the appearance of the Mystic queen for 2018.

The Mystic Club's 2018 bal masque captured the ambiance of a visit by Hapsburg Emperor Francis and his Empress Caroline Augusta of the Austrian Empire. The locale for the monarchal merriment was the western bank of the river in the city of Buda, the capital of Hungary, where the royal duo were also king and queen.

Thus was the setting for the evening's magical voyage to another realm, with Mrs. Christian Trousdale Brown elegantly personifying Empress Caroline Augusta, the Mystic queen, shimmering in a pale pink gown highlighted by elegant silver beaded floral and fauna.

"We are joining them at Buda Castle on the west bank of the Danube. A vast medieval fortress, it was rebuilt as a magnificent palace by Austria’s Queen Maria Theresa in 1769. With its gorgeous English-style gardens, it sprawled across the hilly landscape of Buda down to the banks of the Danube overlooking Buda’s sister city of Pest on the flatlands along the river’s east bank. Not until 1873 did the two cities merge to become Budapest.

"Buda Castle was the residence of the Palatine of Hungary — the monarch’s permanent representative. In 1820 this was Joseph Anton Johann, Archduke of Austria, and Hungary’s most important personage — except when King Francis and Queen Caroline Augusta were in residence. The castle was the heart of Hungary’s highest and most fashionable society — as well as the center of patronage for the kingdom’s rich arts and music.

"Francis was much admired for his beliefs in justice and fairness. His queen, while unassuming and even shy, was immensely popular, because of her devotion to family and her activities in social work and her assistance to the poor. In spite of the palatial surroundings of Buda Castle, their majesties espoused a well mannered, pleasant, successful family life for themselves and their subjects, something much admired by the rising bourgeoisie of the early 19th century.

"This evening’s arrival of Francis and Caroline Augusta is a state occasion of the grandest order. They will be eagerly attended by Hungary’s aristocracy — and Mystic’s inclusion in this stately event is indeed an honor."

Ladies in waiting to the gracious Empress Caroline were Mrs. Mark Walton Brown, as Princess Esterházy of Galánthe; Mrs. Stephen McCloskey Farnsworth, as Duchess Marie-Caroline de Berry; Mrs. Ludovico Feoli, as Archduchess Henrietta of Teschen; Mrs. Bryan Wallace Westfeldt Fitzpatrick, as Countess Borbála Kendeffy of Malomvíz; Mrs. Jason Todd Spence as Duchess Mária Dorothea of Württemberg; and Mrs. John Giffen Weinmann Jr., as Countess Júlia Zichy de Vásankeõ.

A number of debutantes of the season were presented to the monarchs. Taking bows before their imperial majesties were Misses Madeleine Anne Bienvenu, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Albert Bienvenu IV; Margaret Ann and Virginia Currin Bryan, daughters of Mr. and Mrs. James Randolph Bryan; Mary Elizabeth Conwill, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Oza Conwill; Virginia DeRussy Dodenhoff, daugther of Mr. and Mrs. William Carrere Dodenhoff; Ellen Ashley and Megan Lane Feringa, daughters of Dr. and Mrs. Peter Anthony Feringa III; Sarah Jane Holbrook Freeman, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Louis McDaniel Freeman Jr.; Elizabeth Macon Hamrick, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Thomas Hamrick Jr.; Jane Talley Hodges, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Philip Nalty Hodges; Elle Colton McLeod, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Evans Martin McLeod; Mary Fleming England Redd, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edmund England Redd; Michelle Elise Rivière, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Christopher H. Rivière; and Shelby Jane Ottley White, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Bright White. 

Her imperial majesty, Kia Silverman Brown, was raised in Charlottesville, Virginia. Following graduation from St. Anne’s-Belfield School there, she earned a bachelor of arts degree from St. Lawrence University in New York where she was a member of Delta Delta Delta fraternity.

Following her undergraduate education, she pursued a love of the arts, working at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and later with auction houses.

The monarch then embarked on a career in health care, earning her master's degree in Chinese medicine and practiced acupuncture for several years in Virginia before moving to her beloved, adopted city of New Orleans.

The Mystic queen's volunteer work reflects her commitment to education, nutrition and the arts. She has served on the boards of The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, CASA, The Second Street Gallery, New Orleans Museum of Art and NOCCA Institute, and currently serves on the board of The Crescent City Farmers Market.