If I were still collecting wonderful pieces of Victorian ephemera, I would have my hand in my pocket today.
The Most Honourable and Loyal Society of Ancient Britons, founded in 1715, was one of those 'charitable' groups of wealthy and sociable gentlemen who got together, annually, for a 'Festival', ie an extravagant dinner, liberally laced with best of wines, a concert, lots of cheerfully self-congratulatory speeches (with toasts), and who paid largely (and well-publicisedly) for the 'charitable' pleasure.
|1725: first catch your Prince|
The Ancient Brits were however a bit different to the Guild of Girdlemakers and other such 'Festivallers' and City Diners, in that they were what would now be doubtless dubbed 'racist', and which I prefer to call 'geographically circumscribed'. Their charity extended only the wandered children of Wales: Welshfolk who had left Wales for London, and there found poverty. The Ancient Brits founded a free school for the children of these foolish unfortunates, and their annual beanfast produced the wherewithal to house them and/or sponsor their education.
|The school in Gray's Inn Road|
However, there was a little more to it than that. A scholar has adeptly described '[it] was a complex and multi-faceted patriotic phenomenon. It was simultaneously a mouthpiece for royalist propaganda and a haven for political radicals, a piously charitable foundation and an excuse for having a good time. In a period when distinctly Welsh institutions had largely ceased to exist, the Society’s annual celebration of St. David’s Day in the English capital offered a rare example of eighteenth-century Welsh people deliberately imagining into existence an identifiably Welsh nation, using ceremony, sociability, poetry, and politics to fill the institutional void'.
So, our ticket is for the 139th annual, at London's most popular venue for such events, the Freemason's Tavern, in 1854. These 'Festivals' were often reported in huge detail, with all the notable names, and toasts, and answers to toasts listed and described. We are actually rather lucky in that, in 1854, the Welsh paper's shorthand-writer 'had an accident' so the spoken part of the proceedings could not be (shame!) reported verbatim, but they did their best ...
PS Sophia Messent can be found here https://kurtofgerolstein.blogspot.com/2019/08/little-treasures-of-musical-history.html