There always seems to be one among the debutantes who is expected to be the toast of them all. The most desirable girl in the bevy of the season. She did not have to be beautiful, or graceful, or well bred, or possess good taste, but she did have to have all of those things plus manners. Good manners were the ticket one constantly showed others to underscore your breeding.

The lionized debutante was deferred to, celebrated in the press and among the members of society. However, the position of the most desirable could change in the blink of an eye with the fickle nature of those around if another more exquisite debutante showed up, or something disgraceful happened to the reigning deb.

The Belle would attract many suitors, of course. But she had to be careful for there were a great many neer-do-wells among them masquerading as a good potential husband. Penniless titled folk (who would love to catch a rich unsuspecting girl who was marrying for position), men of bad character, and adventurers were pitfalls which the lady had to tinker with but avoid. Of course, a slew of eligible men presented themselves earnestly in this courting ritual. Some were better than others and the parents often took the helm (in public and in private) in steering the young lady toward the man whom they felt had the best combination of breeding, wealth, and possibility of compatibility (in that order). The girl’s happiness always came a distant last.

Finally, you have to remember that The Belle would have her own feminine “court”. She would generate a best friend (usually someone who is her peer but a bit less in some department, for instance not quite as stunning to look at), a “circle” of other debs who make it a point to invite The Belle to their parents’ parties and amusements in hopes of reciprocation. It was with her circle that The Belle gossiped, shopped, visited, promenaded, and attended the whirl of social doings. She often set the fashion for the members of the circle as well.

The Belle would also create an enemy or two. Sometimes it would be another girl who felt she was entitled to be the most favored, or it might be a set of parents who had been grooming their girl to be the toast of the season. In any event, The Belle had to pray that her enemies wouldn’t have much influence on her prospects, or that she could win them over with charm and inclusion into her circle. Rivalries could last a lifetime.

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