Last Curtsey: The End of the Debutantes
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Last Curtsey: The End of the Debutantes

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  60 ratings  ·  12 reviews
Filtered through some of its colourful and eccentric inhabitants, from Lady Caroline Lamb in the eighteenth-century to Princess Diana in the twentieth, this work offers a portrait of Britain as both empire and the customs and certainties of the old order came to an end.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 5th 2006 by Faber and Faber (first published January 5th 2006)
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Helen
undecided about this book. Interesting subject but poorly executed. After a while the name-dropping just makes your head spin (although it shows the importance of names in this world). Sadly the most interesting part - the careers of the debs post-1958 is confined to a few end pages.
Stephanie Patterson


“The Last Curtsey” was a really satisfying read. Ms. MacCarthy went into the 1958 presentation season knowing that there was a place for her at Oxford in her future.
She describes the history and customs surrounding being presented at court (though I still don’t know why women had to wear those peculiar looking feathers in their hair) and her experiences during the final season in 1958. Queen Elizabeth announced that presentations would cease. Rumor had it that Prince Philip was trying to make...more
^
This book is a fascinating read; the last formal vestige of the “marriage market”; nowadays conducted with so very much more subtlety and informality; as indicated in Peter York & Ann Barr’s later Sloane Ranger Diary. Perhaps the most important change in the ‘marriage market’ is that since the invention of the contraceptive pill, families have not been required to worry about getting their ‘gals’ to the altar, unsullied. Who could have imagined the consequences to society of the discovery of...more
Caroline
I found this book a lot more interesting than I'd anticipated. It's effectively about the end of an era, the end of the Season, the final débutantes to be presented to the Queen, the changing mores and attitudes of the aristocracy. The death-knell for the aristocracy was effectively cast by the First World War, but its death-throes lingered well into the 50s. In a way, the world painted in this book is more redolent of the pre-WW1 era than the 1950s.

MacCarthy herself was one of the last débutant...more
Gemma
I bought this book when I was visiting one of the Royal Palaces as I thought it would be an interesting topic. The story of the last year of presentations before the Queen is good as it shows how mixed up Britain was with some people holding on to old traditions while about them things were changing dramatically.

The problem with this book was that it just wasn't clear what the view of the author was or what the focus was. Sometimes it was about the season and sometimes it was about the life of...more
Kate Davis
Fascinating to read about the debutants and their family lifestyles as it is so different to the society now and my family.

However, I felt this book didn't really know what it wanted to be. Was it Fiona MacCarthy's autobiography, was it is a review of the debutants in 1958 or was it a social history of debutants. It also got confusing at times as lots of names were mentioned that meant nothing to me so it was difficult to keep track of everyone.

I enjoyed the book and learnt a lot about the some...more
Erica Chambers
I really enjoyed this book. It is the first book of Fiona MacCarthy's that I have read and I wanted to start with something slim before I took on the bag breaking tomes of William Morris and Byron. I discovered that she has a very accessible writing style.

MacCarthy went through the last official Season in 1958. She justifies the existence of the phenomenon whilst still sighing at the "silliness" of all the behaviours. She has led a pretty privileged lifestyle; but at no point does she seem to t...more
Veronica
After visitng Kensington Palace and seeing the debutante exhibition - I really looked forward to reading this book. It was enjoyable to read, giving a debutante's view of the last curtsey. However, I did find it a bit too factual at times - lots of name dropping of people who I didn't know and at times it became confusing.
E
This was not worth reading. I bought it in Scotland, hoping for a social history, meaty analysis. Nope, it was overly precious, self-aggrandizing, and awful. Reinforced debutante stereotypes.
Mary
British social history and the changes to the aristocracy after the second world war. An enjoyable read.
Chris
A memoir by a member of the last group of young women to be presented at court, in 1958.
Hannah
An interesting and entertaining read!
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