Without accident the royal party reached Washington about four o'clock (October 3d). A crowd of thousands of persons, preserving the most excellent order, received the prince at the depot with the heartiest cheers which he has received in this country. A railing was erected around the entrance to the car, and none but officials—not even reporters—were admitted inside. General Cass, the Secretary of State, accompanied by James Buchanan and James Buchanan Henry, the nephews of the President, received the Prince at the cars. In a brief speech Secretary Cass exprest the delight and pleasure which it afforded him personally, and as the representative of the President, to welcome the Prince of Wales to Washington. The Prince replied by bowing and extending his hand. The Duke of Newcastle and the Prince's suite were then introduced.

The Prince and party entered the President's carriages, and were driven directly to the White House. At first the carriages had some difficulty in passing through the crowd, but a lane was opened and they were heartily cheered. During the ride the Prince attentively observed the city, and looked with much apparent interest at the public buildings pointed out by General Cass. At the White House the royal party were introduced to the President by Secretary Cass, and then by the President to Miss Lane.2 Five of the suite, including the Duke of Newcastle and the Earl of St. Germain, remain there. The rest will be the guests of Lord Lyons.3 The introduction was purely formal, the President receiving the Prince as a private gentleman.

At six o'clock a grand dinner was given by the President, at which the members of the Cabinet and their ladies, Lord Lyons and his Secretary of Legation, Mrs. Senator Slidell, and several other lady friends of the President, were present, the whole company numbering about twenty. The table was most elegantly decorated. In the center, upon a large golden tray, were seven richly ornamented golden vases, the extreme vases being in filagree and the sides of the tray of lattice work. These were filled with beautiful artificial flowers and grasses. Around these were bouquets of natural flowers in splendid vases, and the appearance of the table, with these decorations and its rich service, was superb. The Prince sat on the right of Miss Lane, at the side of the table and opposite the President, at whose right sat the Duke of Newcastle. . . .

At ten o'clock this morning (October 5th), the Prince, with Miss Lane, the President and Lord Lyons, started for Mount Vernon, the suite, among which was Sir Henry Holland, the Queen's physician, following in carriages to the dock, where the cutter Harriet Lane was prepared for the party. About forty-five persons embarked, among whom were several members of the Cabinet and Mesdames Slidell, Givin, Ledyard, Riggs and others, and the Hon. Augustus Schell, of New York.

The voyage up occupied only a hour and a half. Upon landing the party inspected the entire grounds and gardens most attentively. The Prince and royal party were deeply observant, asking many questions, and apparently were much imprest with the feelings natural to the occasion. Mrs. Riggs, vice-regent of the Mount Vernon Association, acted as chaperon, and the rule excluding all other visitors, altho Friday was the regular visiting day, was rigidly observed, the regular steamers postponing their trips till tomorrow. . .

At the request of the Mount Vernon Association, the Prince planted, with but little formality, a young horse-chestnut tree, to commemorate his visit to the place. The tree was planted upon a beautiful little mound, not far from the tomb. This ceremony being over, the party again stood for a few moments before the tomb, and then turning away in thoughtful silence, slowly and silently retraced their way to the Harriet Lane, which during their absence had been transformed, by means of canvas and gay flags, into a beautiful dining saloon, with covers laid for the entire party. . . .

On the arrival in New York of the Harriet Lane (October 11th), alongside the pier there was a general rush in the gallery for front seats while the cheering on the several vessels in the bay—which were decorated in all their bravery— announced the event to those inside Castle Garden. At half past two, the Prince and his suite entered Castle Garden from the water entrance. He had on his left Lord Lyons and the Earl of St. Germain, and the Duke of Newcastle on his right. He was drest in a blue frock coat, gray trousers, and "garrote" shirt-collar. . . .

In accordance with the program, as soon as a review in the park had been completed, the Prince, suite, and followers proceeded along Broadway to the Fifth Avenue Hotel. To convey an accurate idea of the crowd, which next to the Prince, was the great curiosity of the day, would be impossible. It was huge, immense, enormous, stupendous, infinite and indefinite. It was a multitude countless as the leaves of the forest—one of those crushes which are perfectly bewildering to the senses. A stratum of humanity was so wedged in and macadamized together that, to move one individual, was to stir the whole mass. Every window-sill was a rough frame, within which the faces of beautiful women and smiling children made up an attractive picture. Every opening, every story, every roof was a parapet, from which constantly played a battery of bright eyes. Every available place was occupied, and where circumstances naturally failed to provide accommodations, ingenuity brought into requisition boxes, benches, tables, and any other appliance that would effect the desired object. As an illustration of the extent to which this species of invention was carried, we saw standing on the narrow ledge of the first story of a house, a place not much wider than the heel of one's boot, two young men, who maintained their position by means of a rope passed around their bodies, and going thence inside the building through the windows on either side.

Those who could not enjoy the privilege of a window were content to take to the street, and the quantity of well-drest ladies and children, mixed in with the not over fragrant crowd of unscoured publicans and sinners, was painfully amazing to behold. Once in, it was almost impossible to get out. The poor women were compelled to endure the pains of purgatory to gratify the curiosity they couldn't resist. Even side streets were made use of. Here vehicles of various kinds were prest into service and speedily crowded with human beings. . . .

For the "Diamond Ball" (October 12th), a magnificent apartment, comprizing the parquette of the Academy of Music, and embracing the stage, was provided. As arranged, it was 135 feet in length by 68 feet in breadth. The ends toward the stage were arranged in semicircular form, while toward the other end were placed three superb couches, the central one for the Prince himself, those on either side for his suite. A supper-room was especially erected for the occasion on ground between the Academy and Medical College. In length it was 144 feet by 28 feet in breadth. Connecting with the ballroom and the supper-room was a passage facing on Fourteenth Street, 154 feet in length and 24 feet in breadth. This passage was covered with stout scarlet cloth, as were other parts of the building, including the ball and supper-rooms. The carpet, 500 yards in amount, was especially dyed for the occasion, as there had not been a sufficient quantity in the city for the purpose. Twenty brass chandeliers, each containing six burners, were suspended from the roof, making a brilliant display. The building, tho temporary, was constructed in a manner which would have befitted a more permanent edifice. The arrangements for ventilation were perfect. In the center was a tower, rising some forty feet from the level of the street, while two dormer windows were placed at each end.

The entire building was draped in alternate strips of pink and white muslin, with large mirrors intervening. These were twenty-four in number, and made a splendid show. Along the supper-room were parallel tables, from end to end. They were brilliant in all the appointments of gold, silver and china. At the upper end was the Prince's table, raised on a dias, semicircular in form, at which the Prince and his immediate suite were placed. Back of the table were three magnificent mirrors, reflecting and flashing the lights. The center glass in particular was lofty and magnificent. The flooring of this room was not carpeted in scarlet, but in squares, in the center of each a cornucopia, with a red border. This had a very pleasing effect. All around the room were flags, arranged in graceful festoons of red, white and blue, emblematic of America and Great Britain.

On leaving the ballroom for the supper-room, a passage of considerable length was traversed, as already mentioned; but at the entrances from the one to the other were placed a number of figures of ancient knights in armor, supposed to represent all previous Princes of Wales. Among them was the celebrated Black Prince, who displayed his bravery on the bloody fields of Poictiers and Cressy, and entered London with two kings as his prisoners, namely, the King of France and the King of Scotland. It was a strange thing, in that temple of democracy, to witness such things as knights and princes, done up in all the panoply of the Middle Ages. Around these entrances were hung battle-axes, spears, shields, and other implements suggestive of the age of the Crusaders.

The Academy gained the only additional attraction it needed when it gained a large, richly-drest crowd. At half past seven o'clock the first of the company began to arrive, at first singly, then in crowds of four, five, and six, and at last in a continuous stream of black coats and superb dresses. At first the floor, then the parquette, the dress circle, the upper tiers, the lobbies, the dressing-rooms, were completely filled. The first arrivals were the gentlemen of the committee of arrangements. Then came the bands, in uniform, who took their places in the second tier. Then the policemen, at first drawn up in platoons and afterward stationed along the lobbies and the several entrances, where their onerous duties were quietly but efficiently performed. Then came the guests, wandering curiously around the vast spaces. Soon the crowd became great; the dressing-rooms were closed, promenaders left the supper-room and circled the building, the band struck up a favorite air, and conversation began.

The Academy, at ten o'clock, was filled. Those who arrived later sank unregarded into the throng, like rain-drops into the ocean. The private boxes were occupied by those who preferred to overlook the brilliant assemblage which moved restlessly beneath. Beneath thousands of gaslights the crowds surged backward and forward, shifting and changing like the figures in a kaleidoscope, or like the ocean rippling beneath gentle winds and bright sunshine. But there was no jam, for a "jam" expresses a fixt, immovable body of persons; this was rather a throng, mobile, variable, versatile, fickle, quick, changing—sea of heads, but besides a sea of colors, the light flashing back from the gayest and richest of dresses, from pearly white shoulders and brilliant complexions, from jewels iris-hued and rivaling in brightness the eyes which flashed above them.

The full-dress black coats absorbed the superfluous light and softened the blaze of a thousand lamps. Rich military uniforms, ornamented with golden lace and epaulettes, relieved the uniformity of the gentlemen's toilettes. The throng seemed to diminish the size of the house, and yet, by a common but singular paradox, aided one to appreciate its great extent. Filled, but not jammed, crowded, but with plenty of room for all to move comfortably and without disturbance—for separate entrances were reserved for egress and ingress—the Academy was now ready for the ball to begin.


1 As reported in the New York Herald, October 4, 6, 7, 12, 13, 16, 1860. The Prince had come to the United States by way of Canada, entering at Detroit and going thence to Chicago and Washington.
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2 Harriet Lane, the President's niece, and mistress of the White House.
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3 The British Minister.
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© 2002, 2003 by Lynn Waterman