The British Embassy in the Faubourg St. Honore is no longer the Mecca of diplomatists, although it still represents one of the most desirable of ambassadorial posts. Politically, it is, of course, as important as ever, and it carries a salary of over 11,000 a year, but much of the old glamour has departed with the obliterated list of historic names which once represented the French official world.
The house itself is shut off from the Faubourg St. Honore by a high wall, and is approached through a courtyard. It stands in its own grounds, and the beautiful garden in the rear is brilliantly illuminated when summer fetes are given. It is within easy distance of the Elysee Palace, the residence of the President of the Republic, and at no great distance from the Ministry of the Interior and the Trocadero. The Embassy, like a ship at sea, forms part of the territory represented by the flag which waves above it. All members of it, even the servants, are immune from all laws and jurisdictions other than those of the country they represent. They cannot be arrested, they cannot be prosecuted, and the Ambassador is exempt from all taxation and Customs Duties.
The Ambassadress in Paris now leads a much quieter life than did her predecessors of the old days. Embassy entertainments must be adapted to the social atmosphere of a country, and it would be folly to entertain now in a manner that could vie with the splendours of the Second Empire or the court of Louis XV. The
The British Embassy at Paris, a stately mansion standing in its own grounds. The Embassy forms part of the territory whose flag it flies, and its residents are amenable to that jurisdiction alone photos, Chussean-flavens functions now are even less brilliant than they were in the time when Lady Granville did the honours of "England in France" with patrician grace. The reserve of her manner charmed the French to emulation at a time when the miasma of party politics hung over the salons of their own great ladies. The gatherings at the Embassy now partake of a family character, although, if advisable, they could easily be invested with greater display.
The present Ambassadress, Lady Bertie, confines her hospitality within a comparatively small circle. She is very fond of bridge parties and quiet amusements; she dresses very simply, and does not regret the absence of social g a i e t ie s . She exercises, however, the greatest tact in being gracious to all, without being too familiar; and this is an admirable quality nowadays, when Society is composed of many heterogeneous elements. She shares her husband's privilege of being brought into contact with remarkable men and women, but plays a passive role in proceedings upon which depend the fate of empires.
She spends her time very much like any other great lady - in driving, in visiting one or other of the manybeautiful art galleries, in exchanging social calls, or in patronising charitable institutions. She is particularly interested in the Ada Leigh Home for English Women, founded in 1872. Her afternoon parties unite the best sets of the social world, although the families of the old French nobility now keep more or less to themselves, and the new " pillars of Society" are not free from resentment at their attitude.
One of Lady Bertie's predecessors was Lady Currie - "Violet Fane" of the fascinating pen. She it was who held a literary salon at the Embassy, and surrounded herself with celebrities of the artistic and scientific world. Her charming poem, "For Ever and brilliant and splendid, but calls for the possession of great tact and diplomacy
The Grand Ball Room at the British Embassy, Paris. The simplicity of a republican government makes the social entertainments of an Ambassadress less
For Ever," which Tosti has set to music, is known to all lovers of song. One recalls her half-whimsical, half-pathetic remark, when she was first called upon to fill the post of Ambassadress: "Well, perhaps with a new tiara and a bottle of hair-dye I may be able to hold my own." But she needed neither the one nor the other, for she possessed that indefinable and compelling charm which is more potent than the bloom of youth.
Lady Dufferin left here, as elsewhere, the impress of her inimitable grace and amiability, and is still spoken of in Paris with enthusiasm by those who knew her most intimately.
When the Ambassador arrives in Paris, the fact is notified to the President, who appoints an hour for receiving the envoy in his official capacity as a representative of the person of his sovereign. Carriages and escort are sent to the Embassy to conduct him to the Elysee under the auspices of the tricolor cockade. No difference is made in the character of credentials to the heads of republican and monarchical countries, although, of course, much re-presentative glitter of necessity falls away.
The Ambassadress is presented to the President's wife, and from that moment is an important figure in the social world. The receptions at the Elysee are no longer the motley gatherings they were during the earlier days of the Third Republic, although La France qui s'amuse is a very different one from that of the days of the Compiegne stag hunts and shooting parties, when the poet emperor, Louis Napoleon, dreamed of being L'empereur Soleil.
Madame de Girardin spoke of Paris as Varsenal des modes, and the innate grace and good taste of the green. The English custom of wearing low dresses at all dinner parties and theatres does not hold good in Paris, any more than in other Continental capita] . and a1 the intimate little Embassy dinners one may the demi-toilette in all its perfection. Full dress, however, is always worn at the gorgeous gala performances at the Grand Opera, which is the finest in the world, and covers an area of two and three-quarter acres. Here the Ambassadress has her appointed place, and in the absence of Court lite these gatherings resolve themselves into the most brilliant Society functions. People dress also for the performances at the Theatre Francais, the Odeon, and the Opera Comique. The season in Paris coincides more or less with our own, but the beau monde of Paris is often seen here at Goodwood and the last Court ball.
Paris and the late King: Edward
Many a tale of wit and humour is told in connection with the Embassy dinner parties some years ago. Once a certain Comtesse d'a------- was spoken of as the probable author of the much-discussed "Societe de Berlin," and an exalted personage remarked: "What a pity! When I had the pleasure of knowing her she was contented with being merely beautiful."
On another occasion, the wife of a newly made official was painfully ill at case. As women are always remarkable when out of their clement, the same exalted individual, quick glance in her direction, said, sotto voce, to the lady next to him M
Z------- has caught the ' air aristocratique' from the wrong model, and looks merely like a woman with a note of interrogation after her name."
A Home in Exile
A lady who boasted of having done little else but travel ever since she could remember was looked at curiously by him as he remarked: "I always beware of a woman whose cradle was a travelling trunk." Adding inconsequently: "If the Comtesse de B - - continues much longer fanning herself so energetically while whispering to poor old
R-------, the latter will be laid up again with ear-ache for a week."
Diplomatists are the peacemakers of the world, and their wives play an important part in the difficult task they are called upon to perform in conducting the intercourse of nations with each other. Exceptional qualities are needed with which to meet an exceptional position, and the subtlety of tact can be exercised until it becomes a fine art.
Diplomacy is said to imply more or less exile, yet the Ambassadress can transform this exile into home, while at the same time upholding the traditions of the mother country in a foreign land.