Guest Post – Being An Edwardian Debutante By Katherine Woodfine
THE HONOUR OF YOUR COMPANY IS REQUESTED AT LORD BEAUCASTLE’S FANCY DRESS BALL.
Wonder at the puzzling disappearance of the Jewelled Moth! Marvel as our heroines, Sophie and Lil, don cunning disguises, mingle in high society and munch many cucumber sandwiches to solve this curious case! Applaud their bravery as they follow a trail of terrible secrets that leads straight to London’s most dangerous criminal mastermind, and could put their own lives at risk . . .
It will be the most thrilling event of the season!
The follow up to Katherine Woodfine’s bestselling debut novel, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow
The 25th February 2016 marks the release day of the follow up to Katherine’s debut novel, The Mystery Of The Clockwork Sparrow……
The Mystery Of The Jewelled Moth
Today I am over the moon to be featuring a fab guest post from the lovely Katherine Woodfine!
After featuring Katherine last year around the release of The Mystery Of The Clockwork Sparrow ( you can find this post here ) I was so excited to be asked to feature another brilliant guest post and this time Katherine talks about…..
Being An Edwardian Debutante
Without further ado here is the lady herself…..
Manners, Mean Girls and Morals: Being An Edwardian Debutante
‘Are you certain that this is a good idea?’ asked Sophie, for at least the dozenth time.
Lil smiled beatifically at her reflection in the looking-glass, as she tilted her hat to a better angle. ‘Of course I am. It will be fun – rather like acting and after all, I am an actress. I shall simply be playing the part of the perfect debutante.’
– The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth
For aristocratic young ladies in the Edwardian era, growing up happened almost overnight. The Edwardians had no concept of being a ‘teenager’ or a ‘young adult’ so until the age of seventeen or eighteen they were treated as children – then, all at once, it would be time to pin up their long hair, lengthen their skirts, and exchange the school-room for the ball-room, as they embarked on their very first London Season.
This sudden transition from childhood to adulthood must have been quite an alarming one, especially because as debutantes (young ladies making their first appearances in society) they would have to go through the nerve-wracking ritual of being presented at Court. For this very special occasion, each debutante wore a head-dress of three curled white ostrich feathers, a white dress, and a pair of long white gloves. Accompanied by a sponsor – a lady who had already been presented, usually a mother, aunt or older sister – she would attend the Court Presentation, and when her turn came, be ‘presented’ to the King and perform her curtsey.
Once this ceremony was out of the way, a debutante would embark on the whirl of grown-up balls, parties, dinners, afternoon teas and events that made up the London Season. She would have the chance to dress in beautiful gowns, mingle with London’s high society, and most importantly, to meet eligible young men – though of course, never without the supervision of her chaperone, in accordance with the strict rules of Edwardian etiquette. For many young ladies, finding a suitable husband was the ultimate goal of the Season – years earlier, Lord Byron called the London Season ‘The Marriage Mart’, and so it still was during the Edwardian period.
For some girls, the highlight of their first Season would be their own ‘coming-out ball’ to celebrate their coming of age – and in The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, debutante Miss Veronica Whiteley’s coming-out ball has an especially important part to play in the story.
Each of these Edwardian debutantes has a role to play in finding the missing Jewelled Moth!
Illustration © Júlia Sardà
To help locate Veronica’s missing jewelled moth brooch – which she is desperate to find in time for her coming-out ball – Sophie and Lil go undercover amongst the debutantes. There, they meet three of Veronica’s friends, Phyllis, Mary and Emily, each of whom has a role to play in helping our young sleuths discover the truth.
Writing about these characters, and the ritzy, glitzy world they inhabited was great fun – but it also gave me chance to explore what I can only imagine must have been the turbulent ups-and-downs of a girl’s first Season. Tightly-corseted (in more ways than one!), the debutantes had to contend with strict rules, high expectations, the pressure to look perfect, and a total lack of freedom or independence. What was more, they were constantly pitted against each other in a competition for social triumph that makes Mean Girls look tame.
Veronica is certainly a bit of a Mean Girl herself, but who can blame her when she has been so suddenly plunged from the sheltered, comfortable world of childhood and home into the strange adult world of London high society? Here, she soon finds herself grappling with some dark and shocking secrets, and alarmingly sinister schemes – but with the help of Sophie, Lil and her friends, her Season as a debutante becomes an opportunity for a coming-of-age of a very different kind.
You can buy The Mystery Of The Jewelled Moth here or why not visit your local independent bookshop!
About Katherine Woodfine
I spent six years working as Arts Project Manager for reading charity Book Trust. I was lucky enough to be the project manager of the Children’s Laureate, which gave me the chance to work with children’s writers and illustrators including the likes of Anthony Browne, Julia Donaldson and Malorie Blackman. I also ran book events such as YALC (the UK’s Young Adult Literature Convention), managed book prizes and created materials such as Book Trust’s annual Best Book Guide.
I now combine writing with other children’s book projects, including continuing to run YALC on a freelance basis. In 2014, I started a monthly children’s book radio show, Down the Rabbit Hole on Resonance 104.4FM, which I run and co-host with Melissa Cox and Louise Lamont. Find out more about the show and listen to some of our past episodes here.
You’ll also find me chairing children’s book events and interviewing authors everywhere from the London Book Fair to the Hay Festival to Waterstones Piccadilly to the World Book Day Teen Fest.
Apart from books and writing, I love going to art galleries, Earl Grey tea, wearing cosy jumpers, going for long windswept walks, black and white films, red shoes, and of course, cake.
You can find out more about Katherine on her website – www.katherinewoodfine.co.uk
Or why not follow her on twitter using @followtheyellow
You can buy these books here
Or check out The Mystery Of The Clockwork Sparrow post here
A huge thank you to Katherine for such a fab post and to Maggie at Egmont for asking me to be part of the tour to celebrate the release of the book.
Will you be buying The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth? Have you read The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow? I would LOVE to hear from you! Why not leave me a comment using the reply button at the top of the post or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !