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A Real Southern Belle

Updated on January 20, 2012

The Archetype

Although there were belles all over America in the nineteenth century, Southern belles have always held a strange, seductive power around the country that endures to this day. Belle is French for "beautiful" and is referring to any young beauty. The ladies were known for not only their beauty, but also their easy grace and elegance in everything they did. The moment a Southern woman opens her mouth, she is branded for better or for worse with the term. The term designates a woman born and bred in the South who is usually of the upper class, adheres to strict societal rules, and knows how to plan and execute an elegant event. She was expected during the 1800's to have some education in mathematics, literature, foreign languages, and the art of conversation as well as be accomplished in an art of some type: sewing, music or art. In this fashion, she would make an excellent wife and hostess.

Octavia Debuts in Washington, D.C. in 1833

Her portrait was painted by the artist Thomas Sully, who later painted Queen Victoria.
Her portrait was painted by the artist Thomas Sully, who later painted Queen Victoria. | Source

Great Movies About Southern Belles

LeVert Mansion and Doctor Office

The LeVert mansion, now destroyed due to Bankhead Tunnel construction.
The LeVert mansion, now destroyed due to Bankhead Tunnel construction. | Source
Dr. LeVert had his office which matched the mansion, right next door.  Today it is the Mobile Bar Association and is still standing.
Dr. LeVert had his office which matched the mansion, right next door. Today it is the Mobile Bar Association and is still standing. | Source

Octavia Walton LeVert (1811-1877)

Today no one is familiar with Octavia, who was the queen of the Southern belles. American royalty, she was the granddaughter of George Walton, one of the Georgia signers of the Declaration of Independence. George was immediately tapped to serve as the territorial governor of Florida in nearby Pensacola. Octavia, being an intelligent child, relished Native American tales of the area and valued them, even naming Florida's capital, Tallahassee. They returned the favor calling her "the White Dove of Peace". Later, her father moved the family to Mobile, Alabama in 1835. Earlier there, she had traveled from Pensacola and met the Marquis de Lafayette in 1825, who predicted she would have a brilliant career when she was just 14 years old.

Accomplished in all the arts as well as speaking five different languages, she was celebrated by Washington Irving, who said,"Such a woman comes but once in the course of an empire." During a yellow fever season visit to Saratoga, New York, she entranced Edgar Allen Poe, who wrote a poem, "Octavia" for her. Famed statesman, Henry Clay was godfather to her children. A handsome French doctor, Henry LeVert of Mobile, AL, won her hand despite admirers such as Zachary Taylor, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and James Buchanan.

In her home in Mobile, which was then the third largest port in the USA, she ruled over a European-style salon where she entertained important visitors and was a tastemaker all over the South through newspaper stories about her pink satin slippers and the like. Her salon was open on Mondays from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m.; unusual for the time, she entertained actors.. Later, she wrote a book called "Souvenirs of Travel" about her European tour. During the tour, she inspired the marked interest of Queen Victoria, as well as other European royalty, including the Pope, with whom she conversed fluently in Italian.

Of her appeal, it is said that although of a very pleasing appearance of brown hair and shining blue eyes, she wasn't incredibly beautiful. Her appeal lay in her intelligence, vivacious charm and graceful way of handling conversation. She was a brilliant conversationalist. She was considered "the most charming woman in the world." Her reign ended when she, never really a Confederate supporter, invited high-ranking Union officers into her home after the Civil War. Immediately censured by Mobilians, who perhaps resented her power, and having recently lost her husband to death, she first retired to the North and then to her birthplace, Augusta, Georgia, to die in obscurity and impoverished.

She is all but forgotten, despite her reign over statesmen such as Clay and Calhoun, who called her "the South's gifted daughter" nearly two centuries ago. Today her portrait and artifacts, as well as others of her husband and parents, can be found at the Historic Mobile Preservation Society's house museum, the Oakleigh Mansion. Her lessons, to be an attentive and engaged listener with a kind and joyous spirit that ignites the beauty within us all, are timeless.

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    • DemiMonde profile image
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      Demi 5 years ago from Mobile, Alabama

      Angie, thanks for reading about her. Those years of the 1830's through 1860 must have been giddy years during the very short reign of the Cotton Kingdom!

    • DemiMonde profile image
      Author

      Demi 5 years ago from Mobile, Alabama

      THanks Daniella- I do too. She also played a big part in the preservation of Mount Vernon. I just scratched the surface of Octavia.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Fascinating subject, Demi ... it's amazing how such a woman could have completely dropped off the radar in her later days. It seems so sad she should die in poverty after having had it all.

      Congratulations on your HubNugget nomination and a warm welcome to HubPages ...

    • Daniella Lopez profile image

      Danielle Lopez Newcomb 5 years ago from Arkansas

      Great hub! I love reading about strong, southern women. Voted up. :)

    • DemiMonde profile image
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      Demi 5 years ago from Mobile, Alabama

      I'm glad, Arizona Sue. I have another one coming up soon- a wild southern belle who defied the rules! Demi

    • profile image

      Arizona Sue 5 years ago

      Preserving important women in history is a great contribution. Loved it and hope for more.

    • DemiMonde profile image
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      Demi 5 years ago from Mobile, Alabama

      Thanks so much, Deborah! She's such an interesting person to read about. I collect out of print books on Mobile and her book, "Souvenirs of Travel" was my first substantial purchase as it was completely out of print then. Fortunately, it's finally been reprinted.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      Congratulations to you.. what a wonderful hub.. And welcome to the hub.

    • DemiMonde profile image
      Author

      Demi 5 years ago from Mobile, Alabama

      Thanks for reading! I'm very excited about the nomination, too!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      It's nice to meet a real southern belle. :D

      Would you also like to meet new writers on Hubpages and doing a wonderful job with coming up with great hubs? Congratulations you are one of those nominated on the Hubnuggets. Check it out today: http://pattyinglishms.hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub...