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copyright V&A

William Montagu Hay,
10th Marquis of Tweeddale

as the Count de St. Bris

Lady (Susan Elizabeth) Clémentine Hay,
later Lady Clémentine Waring

as Valentin

In this touching father and daughter portrait, the Marquis of Tweeddale and Lady Clémentine Hay recreate the fraught relationship between the Count de St Bris and Valentin from Jakob Meyerbeer's hugely successful 1836 opera Les Huguenots.

The Marquis of Tweeddale, who devoted his life to public service, business and church affairs, had been in India during the 1857 Sepoy Rebellion but is perhaps best remembered as the person who, in 1848, established and laid out the Botanical Gardens in Ooty, in Tamil Nadu, India.  For the Ball, he wears a costume which would have been instantly recognisable at the time. A carte de visite of the great French bass, Pol Plançon, in the same role shows him in an identical costume including the Collar of the French Order of Saint Esprit.

Lady Clementine was making her first big entrance into society at the Ball, although her official debut was three months later. Her costume, consisting of a white riding costume and a large feathered hat, is more literally derived from the libretto of the opera than that of famous performers of the time.

This image was made in the Lafayette studio two days after the ball. An image of Lady Clémentine alone, for which a negative no longer exists, was published in October 1897 to accompany a notice of her society début.

Plus blanche que la blanche hermine,
plus pure qu'un jour de printemps,
un ange, une vierge divine,
de sa vue éblouit mes sens.
Whiter than the white ermine,
purer than a day in spring,
an angel, a divine maid,
dazzled my senses!
Jakob Meyerbeer, Les Huguenots, Act I, Scene II, text by Eugène Scribe first performed 1836



Negative number: V&A L1321, 05-07-1897