The History Behind the Masquerade

August 4, 2011
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Masquerade balls are popular across the world. Women love the glamour; putting on expensive dresses and hand-crafting intricate masks adorned with jewels. Men enjoy the drama of it all; channelling their inner macho man whilst behind the facade of a mask. However, many people who say they enjoy these balls will probably have no knowledge of their fascinating history. So here’s the low-down on the history of the masquerade ball…

The roots of the masquerade ball lie in medieval times; where in these grand events would be held to celebrate big marriages or events within Royal families. The Royals particularly enjoyed the balls as it gave them a chance to escape from the day-to-day etiquettes and strict rules they had to follow. Cheeky princesses could indulge their mischievous side and naughty princes could help them!

However, by about 15th/16th century, masquerade balls became more of a public event; servants and some peasants were allowed to attend – as long as they dressed appropriately.

The Venetian masked ball was a particular favourite with invitees; as these were considered the most elaborate and upper-class.

As time went by, the masks become more inventive, the outfits more grand and the balls became a totally  better grand affair. By the time, the early 1800s rolled around, masquerade balls had been popular throughout Europe; with London especially revelling in their grandeur. Although the events were glamorous and glitzy, they also become slightly more light-hearted. More poetic justice was afforded to those designing the outfits, and fancy dress became an option.

However, not everyone was having a good time, as in America, an anti-masquerade movement had become. Led by writers such as Samuel Richardson, the movement claimed that the balls encouraged foreigners to visit other lands – bringing with them promiscuity and immorality. This led to the balls becoming a more underground affair; however, it didn’t stop them for long, as over the next 100 or so years, they began to rise in popularity again.

Now, balls of this type are held across the world once more – albeit on a less grand and formal scale. They are a favourite with prom, university balls and other institutions; encouraging creativity among younger people.

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