ASHLEY — About a hundred guests stopped at the St. Leo/Holy Rosary Church hall in Ashley on Sunday for a spot of tea — and a history lesson.
The Altar & Rosary/St. Ann’s Society hosted “Tea with the Queen and Her Court,” complete with scones, finger sandwiches and sweets. Patrons were also greeted by “Queen Victoria’s Court” — a group of nine friends representing Queen Victoria and her “Royal Court,” educating the public on the history of tea time, etiquette, types of tea and royal history.
“We all went to a tea at Laflin, many of us met each other there,” confessed Margaret Messana, who portrayed Duchess Anna in today’s event. “It all started from there, nine years ago.”
First, the ladies took a stroll, one-by-one, through the crowd, showing off their dainty Victorian-era attire as their outfits were explained. (Note: lace, feather hats and floral attire is a must for tea.)
Once the Court was complete, it was time for Queen Victoria herself (as portrayed by Leslie Bommer) to make her appearance. After promenading to the front of the room with royal sceptre in hand, Bommer gave a short biography on the life of Queen Victoria, who recently lost her designation as the longest reigning queen in history to Queen Elizabeth.
She explained that tea time in England began due to the Duchess’ need for a bite to eat before the royal dinnertime, so she’d request the kitchen staff to bring up tea and biscuits. Eventually, Queen Victoria caught on to the sneaky snack and soon joined in on the tea and treats. Word began to spread of the tradition and, soon after, all of England was having tea.
Bommer also spoke of the teacup’s history and it’s physical changes over time, and just exactly how milk found it’s way into the beverage.
“Milk in tea is an English invention — just to save the cup!” Bommer said, creating some giggles from the crowd as she explained how fragile original teacups were, and that cold milk would prevent the cups from shattering from the scolding heat of the tea.
The women also gave a crash course in etiquette before the official tea party began, including where to put one’s napkin, how to stir your tea without clanking the cup and how — and in what order — to eat your food.
Jane Clarke, chairman of the tea, had the idea of hosting the event after attending one herself.
As she traveled around pouring tea for patrons, Clarke said that she was impressed with the knowledge and attire of Queen’s Victoria’s Court.
“I was very impressed with the clothing, the information,” she said.
Guests were impressed with the event as well.
Irene Clark, of Ashley, attended with her friend, Lois. They too, found the event to be informative and elegant.
“It was very interesting,” Clark said. “It made a nice afternoon.”
Mary Holmgren, of Hanover Township, said she also enjoyed the party, after inciting laughter from her table by joking that she only came because her mother made her.
Society President Rose Mary Strish said the event was the first of its kind for the group, and attributed its success to the hard work and attention to detail from its members.
“Our members worked really hard and gave a lot of time to make this all happen,” Strish said, admitting the idea was originally just for a small get-together with family and friends that grew into something much larger.
Aside from tea and treats, 50/50 tickets were available, as well as 15 raffle baskets ranging from household and beauty to food and children’s items.
Tickets for the event cost $10 per person, with proceeds going to offset costs to put on the event.
Reach the Times Leader newsroom at 570-829-7242 or on Twitter @TLnews.