Finders, royal keepers and so it was when dozens of radiant women assembled to recall their past reign, to celebrate the current one and to hail 150 years of the second-oldest Carnival organization: the Twelfth Night Revelers. “The pageantry was beautiful, really stunning,” commented her majesty of several decades ago, just after the scene unfolded in the Orpheum Theater. Truly it was.
Held in other venues on the past, the TNR powers wanted a theater-like atmosphere for the Sesquicentennial Ball and chose the Orpheum. Guests were seated on three tiers with mothers of the queen, court maids and junior cooks; the former distaff monarchs; and special ladies seated on the ground floor. The two balconies held additional guests, who marveled at the perspective of the pageantry. Many kept a keen eye on the proceedings of the first dance, that of the unmarried ladies, as the 2019 court and queen were selected. At that point, the aforementioned ladies, as well as 11 debutantes of the season, moved about the oversize TNR cake, accompanied by their costumed fathers. All the ladies received little boxes. Most contained slivers of cake, following the tradition of such a confection on King’s Day, Twelfth Night. For the debutantes, who were gowned in white, silver beans on a delicate chain awaited. For the queen, a gold bean.
Once again, the Goddess of Chance found a monarch, and Miss Julia Margaret Plauché, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gerard Anthony Plauché, was chosen. Her immediate smile showed her gratitude and delight. Thrilled as recipients of the silver keepsakes were Misses Hanton Quarles Agnew, McAlister Wynn Brewer, Emily June Hardie, Kristina Britt Johnsen, Althea Gibert Kingsmill, Lucie Sandoz Lanier, Madeleine Claire Moise, Ashley Linfield Murphy, Ashley Nicole Parker and Laura Mary Tompkins Schramm. Three of them wore the crown for prominent sub-deb balls. Her TNR majesty Julia was queen of Apollo, Lucie Lanier of Les Pierrettes, and Ashlin Murphy of Squires.
When his majesty of 2019, the Lord of Misrule, was presented seated on the impressive signature gilded throne, the audience greeted him with thunderous applause. It continued and continued and he acknowledged his appreciative subjects with a wave of his scepter.
Guests perused their handsome programs, the covers of which depicted the head of a jester with a red fool’s cap; the intertwined TNR initials in red, green and brown; and the wording “150th Representation, The Twelfth Night Revelers, Opera House. January 5th, 2019.” Almost always held on Jan. 6, the ball was held the day before, on a Saturday, to respect Sunday.
Inside the program was background information on the organization, starting with “The twelfth night of Christmas is the first night of the Carnival season” and the continuation of “the royal traditions of the King Cake (Gateau des Rois) and the Bean.” Several paragraphs recaptured the story of “The First Twelfth Night Ball.” Then, it followed a street pageant, which has been brought back recently and has members afoot following a French Quarter route after their gala dinner at Antoine’s, the city’s oldest restaurant.
What every eye turned to, as well, were the names of the court of last year, which was headed by “Her Majesty, The Queen Caroline Bailey Acomb.” Outfitted in full regalia, and escorted onto the white-canvas ballroom floor by Mr. Vaughan Fitzpatrick, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Dwight LeBlanc Acomb reprised the glorious appearance of her reign and enjoyed an earlier toast in her honor. Maids of the 2018 court were Misses Madeleine Anne Bienvenu, Elise Lockett Clay, Virginia DeRussy Dodenhoff, Ellen Ashley Feringa, Megan Lane Feringa, Sarah Jane Holbrook Freeman, Sarah Elizabeth Grehan, Jane Talley Hodges, Charlotte Worley Huger, Madeline Ann Landry, Page Ferrier Morehead, Mary Fleming England Redd, Katherine Kergosian Simmons, Eugenie Cecile Whealdon and Shelby Jane Ottley White. During the just-past debutante season (and even during earlier years), most of this court sat on monarchal thrones.
Listed, too, in the programs were the 2019 Junior Cooks: Masters Litchfield Clark Barba, Jackson Westfeldt Windmeyer Fitzpatrick, Tucker Caldwell Graham, Martin Rene de Laureal III, Armand Louis LeGardeur, Robert Edward Milling, Robert Wade Van Horn, Collier Pratt Villere and Foster Frye Woods. “So cute” exclaimed one kid-gloved audience member, who watched the boys dance with their mothers at a certain point during the ball.
One of the highlights of the evening that was replete with them was the appearance of five captains of the oldest krewes — Comus, Rex, Momus, Proteus and Atlanteans — all dressed in their glittering ensembles and welcomed by their TNR host, the captain. With the Jimmy Maxwell Orchestra playing significant numbers, the fivesome paid homage to the gala anniversary event and its past and present royals. Never identified, several former kings of TNR, each called Lord of Misrule, were noted, some wearing baker’s outfits and hats.
Past queens, starting with 2018’s Miss Acomb of 2018 and concluding with Adelaide Wisdom Benjamin of 1953 were then presented in succession according to their year. They were Catherine Lapeyre Barry, Corinne Adele Guillot, Isabel Nott Jackson, Virginia Legier Alpaugh, Margaret Mason Stewart, Katherine Boh Eshleman, Rachel St. Paul Bland, Margaret Mills Weinmann, Eleanor McCay Schwing, Patricia Brooke Burlingame Adams, Virginia Saussy Stewart Evans, Katherine Charbonnet Flower, Elizabeth Frances Treadway Garrison, Elizabeth Flower Saer Jones, Elizabeth Lee Jahncke Mead, Celeste Claire Flower Eustis, Whitney Louise Eastman Miller, Susan Mary Hamilton Hanlon, Anne Juden Sarpy Phillips, Jane Hayward Alpaugh Delmar, Elise Claiborne Lapeyre Merlin, Eleanor Winship Bernard Carney, Katherine McCall Whann, Jacqueline Laure Provosty Guillot, Sidonie Scott Read Petagna, Charlotte Clayton Robinson Pritchard, Julia McCall Waters Burlingame, Marie Louise Minor Barry Richard, Eugenie Elizabeth Huger Sloss, Helen Eileen Eshleman Stewart, Catherine Cook Flower Earhart, Nancy Eugenie Nolan Parsley, Anne Cameron Kock Mayer, Lynn Agnes Favrot Nolan, Kathleen Maginnis Frater, Ellenor Roger Clay, Judith Kemble Walshe Whann, Courtney-Anne Sarpy, Elise Marie Lapeyre Connolly, Isabel Swoop Nott McCay and, as the final in-attendance monarch, Mrs. Benjamin. In 1871, Miss Emma Butler drew the golden bean as the first queen.
In addition to the program, favors included the handsome krewe one of “TNR” initials accented with rhinestones, tiny dance cards with wee pencils, and boxes of cake. It was quite good.
As did the early revelers of the first balls, their 2019 successors enjoyed socializing and dancing. Such will be the activity for weeks to come before Mardi Gras caps the Carnival excitement on March 5.
After the ball, a Queen’s Supper unfolded at a handsome location on St. Charles Avenue. More seasonal liveliness ensued, as did the opportunity to thank and congratulate her majesty’s parents, Erin and Gerald, and the queen herself. When asked if she was surprised that she drew the gold bean, monarch Julia replied, “Oh, yes, I really was. And then, I hugged my father.”