As political leaders go, the Marquis de Vaudreuil was not known for his integrity, but he sure enjoyed pomp – under any circumstance. Vaudreuil, who served as French Louisiana’s governor from 1743-‘53, saw himself as the extension of his boss – King Louis XIV – in the new world. New Orleans, a mucky, grimy frontier town, was a big distance from Versailles in both geography and elegance, but Vaudreuil tried. He imported silver and china and staged opulent balls. French rule would not last, but New Orleans remained a ball-going town. Through the decades the soirees would merge with the city’s burgeoning Carnival celebration, as well as the tradition of debutante presentations already popular on the East coast. What emerged was the New Orleans-style Carnival society ball as refined by men’s mystic societies. Pictured here is a 1982 ball of the Atlanteans, generally considered to be the highest of the city’s high society. (Consequentially, its ball is one of the smallest and easily the most exclusive.) That elegance survives in a town recently plunged again into muck and grime speaks well of the determination of its people. Kingdoms fall; hurricanes will attack – but the ball must go on.
This article appears in the December 2006 issue of New Orleans Magazine