The awestruck press thrilled all of Canada with reports of the Earl of Dufferin's 1876 fancy dress ball at Rideau Hall. Twenty years later, the Earl and Countess of Aberdeen not only topped Dufferin's extravaganza and catered to a new taste: at their Historical Fancy Dress Ball, guests promenaded as important characters from Canadian history. The next year, in Toronto, their Victorian Era Ball feted Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee by celebrating in costume the progress of her reign and the technological wonders of the century to come. In 1898, the Aberdeens induced Montreal's French and English high society to act out the ideal of national unity. Cynthia Cooper tells the stories of these four vice-regal balls, the costumes, and the optimistic nation-builders who disguised frivolity as historical research and chose costumes that allowed sexual display scandalous in any other setting. The reporters on the fringes of each event form a gushing Greek chorus, and photos by Notman and Topley show la crème de la crème of young Canada in all its finery.
About the author
Cynthia Cooper, curator of costume at the Musée Marsil in St. Lambert, Quebec, teaches costume and fashion history at LaSalle College. She is curator of the Canadian Museum of Civilization exhibition Dressing Up Canada, which includes some of the actual costumes described in Magnificent Entertainments, plus photographs and memorabilia. Magnificent Entertainments is a co-publication with the Canadian Museum of Civilization.