Diamonds, dance classes and dramas at the debutante ball: Behind-the-scenes at London's most prestigious society event
Historic ball for the aristocracy introduced by King George III in 178018 women aged between 17 and 20 are hand-picked by an organising committeeGirls waltz in front of a nine-tier-high cake in honour of George III's wife Charlotte
17:47 GMT, 26 September 2012
Prince Philip dubbed it 'bloody daft' and critics say that the idea of debutantes presenting themselves to the aristocracy is outdated and elitist, but for certain sections of British society the Queen Charlotte's Ball is the ultimate summer event.
Dubbed the 'crowning event of the London Season' the guest list is hand-picked with care: only young women from the richest families are invited to the September ball where, after months of careful preparation and spending over 2500 on each ticket, the young debutantes are able to show off their skills in poise and elegance.
In the past debutante balls were seen as a rite of passage for the young women of the upper classes, an opportunity to introduce themselves to society and seek out a potential suitor, but for today's debutantes the Season is seen as an opportunity to wear a designer gown, party their way around Europe, and do a little something for charity.
Debutantes Maria Austin, Amelia Simmons, Sophie Bonello, Zoe Rawson, and Georgina Riddle (L-R) attend a dress-fitting for Queen Charlotte's Ball in central London
Queen Charlotte's Ball was introduced by King George III in 1780 as a way to celebrate his wife’s birthday, and a huge cake was one of the highlights.
Up until 1958, young debutantes used to be presented to the Queen at
Buckingham Palace, until Prince Philip pointed out
that it was ‘bloody daft’.
Today the 'daft' debutantes, all aged between 17 and 20, follow the traditional Queen Charlotte's cake in to the ballroom where the girls perform special curtsies to the nine-tier-high gateaux before being judged on their posture, elegance and pace by the room.
The event involves meetings with aristocracy, etiquette classes, and charity fund-raising, and the 'deb of the year' is chosen according to 'who has worked hardest’ during fund-raising activities throughout the season and shown the most enthusiasm (she is usually the prettiest too, although that is not an official judging requirement).
The debutantes, all hand-picked girls from rich backgrounds, rehearse their entrance to the ball dressed in couture gowns
Debutante Alice Palmer is told off for walking too fast by former debutante Patricia Woodall as she rehearses. The girls make a grand entrance walking in one by one and are judged on their posture, elegance and pace
Brunette Talitha Piggott was named Debutante of the Year at Queen Charlotte's Ball on September 14, 2012
The young women spend months preparing for their dramatic entrance in to the ballroom and go to several dress fittings to make sure their couture gowns cling perfectly.
Prior to the event older debutantes are on hand to guide and critique the girls on their dress, dancing and pace around the ballroom and on the day an army of professional hair and make-up artists are on hand to make sure that the girls are glowing, setting off perfectly coiffed up 'dos with diamond studded tiaras and precious jewellery.
And on the night, once the deb of the year award has been handed out – this year Talitha Piggott won the accolade – the girls are free to dance the night away with their families, friends and the handsome male guests, dubbed the 'Debs' delights'.
Debutante Rebecca Cliffe collapses giggling in the spacious ladies' after practising her waltz in the ladies toilets
Debutante Ella Venables is taught to waltz by a well-dressed guest in the spacious ladies' toilets as the event gets under way
The ball coordinator helps up debutante Zoe Rawson who has just started studying geography at Edinburgh University and is travelling to Dubai, New York and Shanghai over the coming year for a string of debutante events
Dress designer Dana Kruszynska with one of her heavily embellished designs for the debutantes and among rails of tulle covered gowns
Austin, 20, studies drama and theatre studies at Royal Holloway, and
would like to either become a classical actor or go into business
development and says that she was attracted to take part in the London
Season partly because of the work the girls do in charity fundraising.
Austin said: 'A lot of my friends went over to Malawi and Cambodia and
did something worthwhile, and I wanted to have the chance to give
something back a little bit, so I was really interested in the charity
side of it.'
Debutante Eli Miansarow compares evening dresses with fellow debs Lucinda Royden (left) and Alice Palmer in their hotel suite
The traditional Queen Charlotte's cake is wheeled into the ballroom and as part of the event the girls perform special curtsies to the nine-tier-high creation (left) meanwhile a hairdresser fits a tiara on debutante Eli Miansarow during last minute preparations
Behind the glamour: Debutantes Sophie Bonello, Amelia Simmons and Isabella Simmons (front L-R) undergo hair and makeup preparations
Debutante Jenny Ward changes during early preparations for the ball and formal white gloves are seen laid out next to a list of names behind-the-scenes