Rex & the Queen of Carnival
While many people will try to claim the title of king and queen of Mardi Gras be it a famous actor who states that they are going to be a king at Mardi Gras or the hundreds of women whose Mardi Gras costume will resemble that of a Queen, there are actually two people who each year are the official King and Queen of Mardi Gras.
They come from the Rex Krewe, whose name simply translates to that of King. Thus, it would be redundant if someone were to call the King, King Rex. However, other official titles for the King are: King of Carnival and Monarch of Merriment. The queen’s official title is Queen of Carnival.
The tradition began in 1872 when Russia’s Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff visited Mardi Gras and New Orleans. City leaders saw this as a wonderful opportunity to shift citizen’s focus away from the destruction and devastation that surrounded them following the Civil War. Thus, the Rex Krewe determined that they would honor the Grand Duke by arranging a daytime parade around his arrival and the tradition was born that still lives on today!
It is time honored tradition that the Rex arrives into his kingdom by boat the Monday before Mardi Gras (Lundi Gras). He is then transported to City Hall where he is presented the keys to his temporary kingdom.
In addition, the Rex balls are just as famous. Unlike other balls they are not a costume party but rather an opportunity for the guests to view that year’s Carnival Royalty. Admittance is by invitation-only and over the years the invites to the Rex Ball have become just as valuable. This is due to the fact that the Rex Krewe goes to great lengths to produce invitations that are not only stunning, visually, but are unique to the specific year. They are a collectors item in New Orleans.
In 2006, the King of Carnival was Tabasco tycoon Paul McIlhenny who is a New Orleans native. People thought that this was an appropriate choice given McIhenny’s jovial demeanor and his long-time ties to New Orleans. The 2006 Queen of the Carnival was Charlotte Smallpage, another New Orleans’ native, who carried on a strong tradition of Rex royalty within her family. Her sister and mom had previously served on Rex courts over the years.The Queen of Carnival’s role is a little bit more reserved as she has the honor of sitting on the official reviewing stand to gaze upon the Rex parade as it rolls past. It is also tradition that the Rex blows the Queen of Carnival a kiss when his float rolls past the reviewing stand.