II-123825 | Ishbel Maria Coutts Majoribanks, Countess of Aberdeen, as "Constance de la Tour," costumed for Chateau de Ramezay Ball, Montreal, QC, 1898
Ishbel Maria Coutts Majoribanks, Countess of Aberdeen, as "Constance de la Tour," costumed for Chateau de Ramezay Ball, Montreal, QC, 1898
Wm. Notman & Son
1898, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
25 x 20 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords: female (19035) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
Keys to History
The Countess of Aberdeen, wife of the governor general of Canada from 1893 to 1898, was the next prominent figure in the country to hold a fancy dress ball that would match the Dufferins', and she pushed the entertainment genre to new heights. She was involved in three such events that all received widespread press attention.
Lady Aberdeen did not like entertainment for its own sake, and for each of the two balls she herself held she chose an edifying, morally uplifting theme. The first was the Historical Fancy Dress Ball held in the Senate Chamber in Ottawa in 1896, attended by 1,200 people who each portrayed a character from Canadian history. In 1897 she held an even larger event in Toronto for 2,400 people, on the theme of the British Empire and its benefits to Canada, called the Victorian Era Ball.
In 1898 the Antiquarian and Numismatic Society in Montreal held its own Historical Fancy Dress Ball, patterned after the Ottawa event. Lady Aberdeen chose to represent her very distant supposed ancestor, the Acadian heroine "Constance de la Tour."
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Lady Aberdeen designed this dress herself and had it made by her favourite Toronto dressmakers, William Stitt and Co.
The Antiquarian and Numismatic Society had its headquarters in the Chateau Ramezay, but the floors there were judged too weak for a ball, so the event was held in the Windsor Hotel.
January 18, 1898, was the date of the ball, only three weeks after the Victorian Era Ball hosted by the Aberdeens in Toronto.
Lady Aberdeen, wife of Canada's governor general, was very attuned to the appeal of fancy dress and used such events to foster Canadian identity and historical consciousness.