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Our History

First organised during the great "Tartan Revival" of 1822, the Royal Caledonian Ball has been held almost annually since and remains a staple of the London social season. Its many traditions give it an unparalleled sense of heritage and history: to dance at the Ball is to dance in the footsteps of the generations who came before. Although we are still discovering some of the detail of our rich and fascinating history, here are some of the highlights from the last two centuries:



The first ball

The "Grand Caledonian Ball" is first held at Almack's Assembly Rooms, St James's, London - mere months before King George IV would travel to Scotland, the first British monarch to do so in nearly two centuries.

Under the patronage of many of the same ladies who would welcome the King on his journey north, the Ball was held for the benefit of the Caledonian Asylum, an institution launched by members of the Highland Society of London in 1815 to provide a home and education for Scottish children in London who had been orphaned in the Napoleonic Wars.

The Ball attracted some 1200 people and was described by contemporary papers as "one of the most splendid fêtes ever seen".


Royal patronage

Her Majesty Queen Victoria, in her fourth year as monarch, formally grants her Patronage to the Ball. The Ball had already been attended by various members of the extended Royal Family prior to this.



A new name

The first known mention of the Royal Caledonian Ball, the name which survives to this day.


Very important guests

The newly married Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) attend the Royal Caledonian Ball. The Princess - wearing a white dress, a wreath of white flowers studded with diamonds, and a "Royal Stuart scarf [sash]" - was given a bouquet of flowers arranged to form the Danish national colours upon their arrival.

The Danish-born Alexandra is described as being "much amused" by the traditional Highland Quadrille which opened the Ball - a predecessor of what is now known as the Set Reel.



A new venue

The Ball moves to the New Club in Covent Garden, the Prince of Wales' favoured venue.


Eightsomes introduced

The Duchess of Atholl replaces the traditional Highland Quadrille - which had always opened the Ball in years before - with the Eightsome Reel. A total of six Eightsomes grace the floor, though the Duchess and her husband (who was President of the Ball) do not themselves take part in one. 

Seventy years after its inception, the Ball is still held in support of the (now Royal) Caledonian Asylum, although another charitable cause - the Royal Scottish Hospital - has been added. Pipers and pupils from the Asylum continue to be 'presented' to guests in between the dances. 

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Another move

The Ball moves from Hotel Metropole (now the Corinthia on Northumberland Avenue) to the Hotel Cecil (now Shell Mex House on the Strand).


Royal mourning

46 years after first attending the Ball with his new bride, King Edward VII's death forces the Ball's cancellation. The King is shown here at Balmoral in his later years. 



Home to Park Lane

The Ball moves to its current home, Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, London. The hotel - built on the site of Grosvenor House, the former London residence of the Dukes of Westminster - had been opened the previous year. Although originally built as an ice rink, the hotel's Great Room is now one of the largest ballrooms in Europe.


The Princess post-war

The Ball returns after six years of war with Princess Elizabeth (later Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II) in attendance. Her Majesty is reported not to have missed a single dance and remained the Ball's Royal Patron until her death in 2022.



A new generation

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal becomes the Ball's Patron. She is shown here dancing with the Scots Guards. 


Traditions reintroduced

Lady Dalmeny, in her role as Chairwoman, reintroduces the tradition of children being allowed to watch the Set Reel from the Great Room's Balcony. She is shown here with three of her daughters.  



Celebrating two centuries

The Ball celebrates its Bi-Centenary after two years of absence because of the COVID19 pandemic.

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