Drawing Room at St. James's, The Presentation by Chalon, 1849
Drawing Room at St. James's, The Presentation by Alfred Edward Chalon, engraved by Henry Robinson, 1849.
During the Victorian Era being presented at court was essential for the admittance into fashionable society. There was an extensive and detailed set of protocols that had to be adhered to in order to be presented to the Queen. Anyone who wished to be presented had to apply for the honor and be sponsored by someone who had already been presented at court. Eligible candidates were the wives and daughters of aristocrats and distinguished members of the clergy, military, medical, and law professions. Applicants were carefully scrutinized by the Queen and the Lord Chamberlain, and only those who were considered to be of good character and status were accepted. If approved for presentation, the lady would spend several weeks prior to presentation day carefully preparing. Debutantes were required to wear a white, low-cut gown that had a long train, white gloves, and a feathered headdress with a long veil. Other common accessories were fans, lace handkerchiefs, and bouquets, but these were not necessary items. Ladies practiced walking and curtsying, since it was crucial that they move gracefully before the Queen. The presentation curtsy required the lady to bend so low as to almost be kneeling before the sovereign. If the lady was of nobility then the Queen would kiss her forehead. The rest would kiss the monarch's hand.
This engraving was published in the literary annual Fisher's Drawing Room Scrapbook by Peter Jackson, London & Paris, in 1849. Annuals were a major part of the book market during the 1820s-1840s. They were elaborately decorated collections of poems, short fictions, and essays. Most of the material was original and compiled by an editor. Women authors contributed often to annuals because they provided a steady source of income as well as necessary exposure. Several women eventually rose to be editors themselves. Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton (1808-1877) is one such author. She served as the editor of Fisher's Drawing Room Scrapbook from 1846-1849, and was therefore responsible for compiling the edition from which this print was taken. She was also an advocate for legal reforms regarding the rights of married women.
Alfred Edward Chalon (1780-1860) was a Swiss portrait painter who lived with his brother, the artist John James Chalon (1778-1854), in London. He entered the Royal Academy in 1797, becoming an associate in 1812. Chalon was elected as a full academician in 1816. Queen Victoria commissioned him to paint her dressed in state going to the House of Lords for the prorogation of Parliament, her first official duty as Queen, on July 17, 1837. Afterwards he was appointed Portrait Painter in Water Colours to Her Majesty. The portrait was engraved by Samuel Cousins and distributed at her coronation the next year.
- Naomi Bean