The London Season has a very rich history, formed over two hundred years ago when, for several months of the year, fabulous balls and parties took place, by 1780 the custom of returning to London at the end of the hunting season for this purpose was well established. King George III held a May ball, which was launched to raise money for a new maternity hospital, named after his wife Queen Charlotte. This became an annual event and Queen Charlotte’s Ball became the most important ball of the social calendar, and is still held in high regard today.
By the latter part of the eighteenth century, The London Season was firmly anchored as a marriage market for the upper echelons of society. Debutantes were launched into society at the age of 17 or 18 with a formal introduction to the monarch and a debut at a high profile ball, followed by a whirlwind six months of cocktail parties, dances and special events. These events ranged from concerts to sporting events and horse racing. These became milestones in the British social calendar and have become a ritual which has never changed.
By the end of World War II, society was changing and the social parameters that The London Season stood for were being eroded. For a time, Queen Elizabeth continued debutante introductions at royal garden parties. In 1957 she terminated court presentations. However Lady Howard de Walden continued the tradition of The London Season and was followed by the inimitable Peter Townend, former social editor of Tatler, who compiled the now famous ‘little black book’ filled with the names and addresses of suitable potential debutantes and escorts. Each year he wrote to parents in flowery writing, always in turquoise ink, inviting their daughters to take part. These debutantes were invited to a range of parties, which continued to act as a social focus for the upper classes and from 1960 to the turn of the 21st century, raising millions of pounds for children in need through the NSPCC. The focus of The London Season became very much based on raising funds for children in need across the world.
Prior to his death in 2001, Peter Townend nominated Jennie Hallam-Peel and Patricia Woodall, former debutantes, whose mothers and grandmothers were also debutantes, to be heirs to the chairmanship of The London Season. Over the past twelve years, The London Season has developed globally and whilst the former traditions are still meticulously adhered to, it now enjoys liaison with former and present kings and queens, presidents and ambassadors from all over the world with a view to raising funds for children in need.