The ballroom was an inherently political space in late Georgian Britain. Indeed, dance was a tool used by political hostesses to communicate and perform allegiances and identities in the homes of Britain’s elite in London. The Prince of Wales’ position in society and his fondness for dancing made him a sought-after guest for any hostess of the Bon Ton, but particularly for those in Opposition. The Prince of Wales’ establishment in the early 1780s fundamentally changed the type of political jockeying for power, as the energetic heir apparent made being in Opposition fashionable. The flamboyance of the Prince of Wales and the Opposition generated a cohesive community and identity against the staid nature of George III’s court, deliberately using dance, performing cohesion, and communicating political views. This paper will examine the performance of political allegiance through dance to celebrate the election of Charles James Fox during the 1784 Westminster election. Dancing was a regular feature of the social and political season in Georgian Britain, and was deftly used to great effect by political hostesses and their leader, the Prince of Wales. Balls were integral to the political process, consolidating party spirit by strengthening the links of personal identities to a faction, and signalling collective identities to the Bon Ton.
Hillary Burlock has recently been awarded her PhD in History at Queen Mary University of London. Her thesis explored the intersection between Georgian political culture and social dance from 1760 to 1830. From 2019 to 2020, she was a BSECS and Georgian Papers Programme Fellow at the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, and took up a fellowship at the Huntington Library in 2021. She currently holds a fellowship from the Lewis Walpole Library in Connecticut. Hillary Burlock has recently published articles in the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies on the ritual of royal birthday balls, and The London Journal on the political role of dance during the 1784 Westminster election and Regency Crisis.
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