Coveted Almack’s Vouchers by Wareeze Woodson
Almack’s Assembly Rooms opened its doors on King Street, St. James, in London, on 20 February 1765 and reigned until 1871. Assemblies were held on Wednesday nights, admitting only those fortunate enough to be allowed to purchase vouchers.
Much sought after, each voucher could be purchased at the cost of ten guineas for an annual, nontransferable ticket. The price, not being a real issue, allowed the Lady Patronesses to approve or disapprove of the person wishing to obtain such a gateway into the Ton (Polite Society with a capital S).
Wealth alone could not persuade the six or seven patronesses to look upon one with favor. Behavior, breeding and a noble title were helpful, but couldn’t guarantee admittance. Only three-quarters of the hereditary nobility were considered worthy.
Amelia Stewart, Viscountess Castlereagh—Sarah Villiers, Countess of Jersey—Emily Lamb, Lady Cowper—Maria Molyneux, Countess of Sefton—The Hon. Sarah Clementina Drummond-Burrell, Clementina—Dorothea Lieven, Countess de Lieven—Countess Esterhazy all met on Monday night during the social season to discuss and decide who to remove from the list or whom to add to the august membership.
At least one of the patronesses must send a person permission to apply for a voucher otherwise that person would be excluded, absolutely ruinous to one’s reputation. It represented a breath-taking horror indeed if a member lost one’s voucher. If so sad an occurrence happened, it meant a patron had been deemed no longer worthy, excluded and banned from the club, a total disaster for those wishing to maintain their position in the ton.
The Almack’s Assembly Rooms were the only establishment to allow admittance of both ladies and gentleman into the same elite club. Before that, all the balls and social gatherings were held in private homes. The strict rules created a temple of exclusivity to which one could belong.