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January 11, 2008
Fort York National Historic Site kicks up its heels with Queen Charlotte’s Birthday Ball
English country dancing returns to Fort York National Historic Site on Saturday, January 19 with the 7th annual Queen Charlotte’s Birthday Ball. In honour of this year’s special focus on Portugal and the 200th anniversary of the start of the Peninsular War, the occasion will include an instructive port tasting.

Each year, history and dance aficionados - many in costume - descend on the fort for a lavish celebration that summons seasonal entertaining in Upper and Lower Canada. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries a January ball would be held to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. Focused on the music, food and dance of the period, this year’s event features a dance workshop, an illustrated lecture, Port tasting, and a Georgian-style buffet supper, featuring a selection of early 19th century recipes. Following the meal, guests will “hey” and “figure eight” their way through an evening of English country dancing to live music played on authentic period instruments. Costumes are encouraged.

Pre-registration is required and prices are as follows: $95.23 (plus GST, all day), $61.90 (plus GST, dinner/ball only), $23.80 (plus GST, dance workshop and speaker), or $19.04 (plus GST, port tasting). For details and to register, call 416-392-6907.

Special guests this year include Portuguese language and culture expert Manuela Marujo, whose 1 p.m. lecture is titled “Wellington’s Victory Invigorates the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance.” Chef and libation specialist Tonia Wilson leads the port tasting beginning at 3:30 p.m. Music for the evening is directed by Ken Purvis, a Program Officer at Fort York and member of the musical group “Gin Lane.”

Melanie Garrison, Program Assistant at Fort York, leads the dance workshop beginning at 2:15 p.m., as well as the evening ball. The music and the dances are all taken from original source publications of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Some of the featured dances have been chosen because they are mentioned by name in diary and newspaper accounts from the time. Others are chosen for their simplicity and ease in execution, and some will reflect this year’s theme of Portugal and the Peninsular War in their titles. Registrants are reminded that at Fort York, dances will be danced in “longways sets” in the early 19th century style, and not in the modern “take hands four from the top” style.

The phrase, “A profusion of every delicacy,” was used to describe the midnight supper served at one Queen’s birthday ball in York (Toronto) in January of 1817. In creating the supper for Queen Charlotte’s Birthday Ball, Bridget Wranich, Fort York Program Officer, and Fort York’s volunteer historic cooks have chosen and tested foods that reflect the Georgian culinary style with a nod to Portuguese influences. Vegetarian selections are available, and should be requested when registering by phone.

Queen Charlotte was the wife of King George III (1738-1820). She was a direct descendant of Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a branch of the Portuguese Royal House. The Peninsular War, also known as the “Seven Year War” (1807-1814), pitted an alliance of Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom against France on the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars.

Fort York National Historic Site is one of 10 historic museums operated by City of Toronto Culture. For more information, visit

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. In the past three years, Toronto has won more than 70 awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Media contact:

Christopher Jones, Museums and Heritage Services, 416-392-6832,



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