Balls & Galas

The Rose Ball in Monte-Carlo: Celebration of the Viennese Secession

The Ball de la Rose conjures images of Disney princesses and fairy tale romance. And that wouldn’t be too far from the truth!

Grace Kelly, who lived her own fairy tale romance to become the Princess of Monaco, had the idea to create this enchanting springtime ball. The first Ball de la Rose was held in 1954, after her marriage to Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Every year, Princess Grace was personally involved in the event’s preparation. The choice of roses as a main detail of the decoration was not random, as roses were the favourite flowers of Monaco’s beloved Princess. After her tragic death, her inconsolable husband founded The Rose Garden in Fontvieille in memory of his beautiful Grace.

The Ball was not meant to be just a social event. Charity was always important to the Princess, and to this day it remains a charity ball, with all profits going to the Grace Kelly Foundation, sponsoring children with special needs or serious illnesses. On top of the usual auction and the entrance price of 800 Euros, guests are also welcome to make donations. Now in its 62nd year, these funds have helped scores of children.

From the very first ball, sophistication was the key factor. In 1954, when Latin American dances such as samba, foxtrot and mambo were popular, Henry Astrik, the creative director for Société des Bains de Mer, came up with a bold idea: to make the waltz the main dance of the Ball. He also suggested to avoid ornate decorations and use only roses. For the musical instruments, only one hundred violins would do. By 1957, the Ball included a ballet “Mimi la Rose” with Colette Marchand, a French prima dancer and film actress.

In 1975, the spirit of the Ball remained the same: waltz, roses, a hundred of violins and a ballet as a background—but the venue was changed. The Ball moved to the chic Monte-Carlo Sporting Club, featuring a “starry ceiling” decorated with hundreds of tiny blue and white light bulbs, giving extra charm to the Ball’s romantic atmosphere. The same year, the tradition of a fashion charity lottery with many generous prizes was established. World-famous fashion and jewellery brands presented their products for the highest bidder.

In 1977, French dancer Jacques Chazot, performed at the Ball. Since then, a new musical theme has been chosen every year: gypsy music, French cancan, Charleston and the tango. Over the years, famous dancers and actors were invited to perform at the Ball, which made the event even more popular and glamorous. However, no matter how often the theme was changed, one thing remains the same: 25 thousand roses decorate the Ballroom.

The Ballroom at Sporting Monte-Carlo before the Ball de la Rose
The Ballroom at Sporting Monte-Carlo

Half of a century later, this traditional ball remains a highlight of the Principality. Each year, the royal family chooses a famous artist or fashion designer to decide on a theme and decorate the Ballroom.

In 2012, the spirit of London and British dandy of the 1960s was chosen as the main theme. And it was not a random choice: the British theme was selected as a prelude to the Olympic games in London in 2012. While in 2010, the motif of the event was Moroccan with colourful and sultry oriental motifs.

In 2014, Karl Lagerfeld was the chosen designer of the Rose Ball and he chose Russian constructivism as its theme. Everything from invitations to table decorations was done in this style. The paintings of Kazimir Malevich and other artists of the same style decorated the Monte Carlo Sporting hall.

Decorated table at the Ball de la Rose in Monte –Carlo in 2016

There is a rumour that the guest list is personally made by Prince Albert II, Princess Caroline and Princess Charlene. They make their own additions and approve the final version. Every year, the list invites about 1.000 guests from around the world.

Beatrice Borromeo, Pierre Casiraghi, Princess Caroline, Karl Lagerfeld, Charlotte Casiraghi
From left to right: Beatrice Borromeo, Pierre Casiraghi, Princess Caroline, Karl Lagerfeld, Charlotte Casiraghi

Alongside the royal family, guests include European high society and famous stars. Recent guests have included British pop-star Lily Allen, who performed for the guests in 2014, and famous British singer and composer Shirley Veronica Bassey, mainly known for writing three James Bond soundtracks. Regular guests include Japanese designer, Kenzo Takada; famous French TV presenters, such as Stéphane Bern (announcing the charity lottery); other TV stars and some politicians.

There is a strict “black tie” dress code at the Ball de la Rose. Men have to wear a black or dark-blue tuxedo, trousers of the same colour, a black bow tie and a white shirt. Shoes cannot be shiny, but Derby or Oxford type. A “black tie” dress code for women is less strict and mainly requires a long evening dress with the length below the knee.

Traditionally, the Ball is opened with a royal dance. In the beginning, it was Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III. After the Princess’ death in 1982, Prince Albert II and Princess Caroline took over the organization of the Ball and the opened the opening dance. After the marriage of the Prince Albert II, he and his wife Princess Charlene now open the Ball.

This year Karl Lagerfeld again took on the role of Artistic Director of the Rose Ball, announced for the 18th of March on the theme of the Celebration of the Viennese Secession.

A duo is reunited. Together, Princess Caroline and her friend Karl Lagerfeld have been working on the 63rd Rose Ball. This year the evening’s theme is Art Nouveau and the Viennese Secession to celebrate “one of the most elegant artistic and architectural movements: the Viennese Secession”as explained in the press release announcing the event given for the benefit of the Princess Grace Foundation.

This style developed in Austria and then throughout Europe at the end of the 19th century via the work of Gustav Klimt, Joseph Olbrich or the architect Otto Wagner. Lagerfeld drew the first sketches for the evening, starting with the invitation card which features the profile of Mela Koehler, a young designer and pupil of the graphic artist Moser, from a sketch for a postcard of the 1914 Wiener Werkstätte.

Taking Stoclet’s palace as inspiration, Karl Lagerfeld drew on various architectural references for the Salle des Étoiles. At the entrance, the designer has recreated the atmosphere of the Viennese Art Workshop, Wiener Werkstätte.

In the room, the decorations were conceived as a tribute to the music hall of Stoclet Palace, by Josef Hoffman. A playful use of architectural volumes with a series of ceiling chandeliers will amplify the graphic effect. The tables will be covered with tablecloths inspired by the sketch of the woven rug “Fleurs en clochette” from the Stoclet Palace and Gustav Klimt workshop. The guests will arrive in a replica of the reception room of the Austrian pavilion from the 1914 Cologne Werkbund exhibition. A set of golden lights and transparencies and motifs taken from the ex-libris designed by Carl Otto Czeschka will elevate the decor. If the guest-list has not yet been unveiled, it promises to contain some “beautiful surprises” according to the Société des Bains de Mer.

More information:

On 18 March, starting at 8 pm, in the Salle des Étoiles. Price per person: 800 euros. Reservations: 98066341 and

With Karl Lagerfeld reprising his role as Artistic Director for the Rose Ball, this year’s event is sure to be a glamourous one.

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