Politician Chips Channon (right) entertains guests at his home in Belgrave Square, 1947
Thomas Turner, a grocer in Sussex, writes in his diary, 22nd February 1758
About four pm I walked down to Whyly. We played at bragg the first part of the even. After ten we went to supper on four boiled chicken, four boiled ducks, minced veal, sausages, cold roast goose, chicken pasty and ham. Our company, Mr and Mrs Porter, Mr and Mrs Coates, Mrs Atkins, Mrs Hicks, Mr Piper and wife, Joseph Fuller and wife, Tho. Fuller and wife, Dame Durrant, myself and wife and Mr French’s family. After supper our behaviour was far from that of serious, harmless mirth; it was downright obstreperous, mized with a great deal of folly and stupidity. Our diversion was dancing, or jumping about, without a violin or any music, singing of foolish healths, and drinking all the time as fast as it could well be poured down; and the parson of the parish was one of the mized multitude… About three o’clock, finding myself to have as much liquor as would do me good, I slipt away unobserved, leaving my wife to make my excuse…
This morning about six just as my wife was got to bed, we was awaked by Mrs Porter. My wife found Mr Porter [the parson], Mr Fuller and his wife, with a lighted candle, and part of a bottle of wine and a glass. The next thing was to have me downstairs, which being apprised of, I fastened my door. Upstairs they came and threatened to break it open, so I ordered my boys to open it, when they poured into my room. Their immodesty permitted them to draw me out of bed, as the common phrase is, topsy-turvy. Instead of my upper clothes; they gave me time to put on my wife’s petticoat; and in this manner they made me dance, without shoes or stockings, until they had emptied the bottle of wine and also a bottle of beer.
Lord Byron writes to Thomas Moore from Piccadilly, 31st October 1815
Yesterday I dined out with a largeish party, where were Sheridan and Colman, Harry Harris and his brother, Sir Gilbert Heathcote, Kinnaird and others, of note and notoriety. Like other parties of the kind, it was first silent, then talky, then argumentative, then disputatious, then unintelligible, then altogethery, then inarticulate, and then drunk. When we reached the last step of this glorious ladder, it was difficult to get down again without stumbling; and to crown all, Kinnaird and I had to conduct Sheridan down a damned corkscrew staircase, which had certainly been constructed before the discovery of fermented liquors, and to which no legs, however crooked, could possibly accommodate themselves. We deposited him safe at home, where his man, evidently used to the business, waited to receive him in the hall.
Henry “Chips” Channon, Conservative politician and socialite, records in his diary a party at his house in Belgrave Square, 25th November 1947
My own big dinner, and as usual the house “played up” and looked very grand and glittering. Lit up and full of yellow chrysanthemums from Kelvedon [his country house in Essex]. I laced the cocktails with Benzedrine, which I find always makes parties go. Noël Coward arrived first, wearing what he called the “Coward emeralds,” and everyone was in gala dress—white ties and the women dripping with jewels. I never saw a lovelier sight. The Queen of Spain arrived punctually and I was on the doorstep to meet her. Five minutes later the Queen of Rumania drove up with her sister in a taxi.
After dinner we grouped ourselves about upstairs and the two Queens held rival courts, and I led up the men to talk to them in turn. It was after midnight that Queen Helen [of Rumania]—quietly elegant in black with an ermine jacket—rose… I then ordered Her Majesty’s car and she left with the Duchess of Aosta, her sister and devoted shadow. Meanwhile the Queen of Spain had settled down to enjoy herself and I found her ensconced on a sofa between Peter Coats and Sacheverell Sitwell…
The party went on. It was four before they all left. A great, great success—as he left, Willy Maugham whispered to me “This is the apogee of your career.” In a way it was, and I am sorry that Queen Freddie [of Greece] and the Duchess of Kent could not come too (they are on a secret visit to the affronted German relations, to tell them about the Wedding [of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip five days previously]). Three Queens it would have been like a hand at poker. But a pair is not bad.