The premier gentleman’s club of the Regency is also the oldest in London, and has its origins in White’s Chocolate House, which opened in 1693. In 1736, White’s began to operate as a private club on St. James’s Street in the site now occupied by Boodle’s. Four years later it moved across the street to larger premises, which burnt down in 1753. The club then relocated in a building at the top of St. James’s, where it still stands. Shortly after the original club was formed, everyone wanted in and the rush for membership became overwhelming. A second club was formed called the “Young Club.” Vacancies in the original “Old Club” were filled by members of the Young Club. The two clubs were finally merged into one in 1781. White’s and other exclusive gentlemen’s clubs in London used a method of voting for proposed new members whereby a system of black and white balls were deposited, in secret by each election committee member, into a special box. A single black ball was sufficient to deny membership. Hence the term “blackballed.” In 1811 a bow window was added to the facade. It was in this window that Beau Brummell sat and held court until his downfall in 1816, passing judgment on passersby, with his inner circle, including Lord Alvanley, seated beside him. After Brummell left England, Alvanley took over the seat of privilege in the bow window.
White’s continues to be an exclusive club. The Prince of Wales is a member. Prime Minister David Cameron was a long-time member, but resigned in 2008, ostensibly in protest at the club’s refusal to admit women, though he still visits the club from time to time.
- In Once a Scoundrel,
Anthony wins the Ladies’ Fashionable Cabinet while gambling at White’s.
- In A Change of Heart,
Jack and his friends Lord Bradleigh and Lord Sedgewick discuss Jack’s marital plans in the subscription room at White’s.
- In In the Thrill of the Night,
Adam endures good-natured ribbing and bawdy advice regarding his recently announced betrothal from the gentleman gathered at White’s.
- In An Affair of Honor,
Sedge accompanies his friend Jack to White’s, where he is first teased by his friends for his lovesick behavior, and is then challenged to a duel by Meg’s brother.