William Montagu Hay,
10th Marquis of Tweeddale (1826-1911),
the Count de St. Bris, and
Lady (Susan Elizabeth) Clémentine Hay,
later Lady Clémentine Waring (1879-1964),

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. In the ten years leading up to 1897, les Huguenots, with 39 performances, was the sixth most performed opera at Covent Garden.

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 Clémentine was making her first big entrance into society at the Ball, although her official debut was almost a year 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 the costumes 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


Click on image to enlarge
copyright V&A. Lady Ashburton 1897V&A Lafayette Archive
Negative number: L1321E

copyright V&A. Lady Ashburton 1897
The great French bass, Pol Plançon as the Count de St. Bris

copyright V&A. Lady Ashburton 1897
Less than a year after the ball, Lady Clémentine was photographed by Lafayette in her presentation gown of soft white chiffon embroidered in a delicate tracery of silver, made by Messrs. Russell and Allan, Old Bond Street.

V&A Lafayette Archive
Negative number: L1691


List of Sitters
All text copyright © Russell Harris 2011