Natchez Mardi Gras krewes are steeped in history and mythology

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

Editor’s note: This the first of a series of columns on the history of Mardi Gras in Natchez and the various Krewes in our city. If you serve on a Krewe and would like to send Christina information about your Krewe you can do so at

According to Greek mythology the Phoenix is a great sized bird covered in gold and red plumage. But most fascinating of all about this bird is the method by which he continues to live.

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Once he has reached the age of five hundred years he builds a nest mad of cinnamon and myrrh in the top of a palm tree. When the nest is complete he places himself in the nest and spontaneously catches on fire, from his ashes a baby Phoenix is born who will also live for five centuries. As soon as he is big enough the young Phoenix flies to Heliopolis and lays the nest before the doors of the Temple of the Sun.

So for generations we have associated the Phoenix as a symbol of someone or something rising from ashes, rebirth and rebuilding.

In 1983 a group of Natchez citizens gathered together and decided to rebuild Mardi Gras in Natchez and they chose as their name the Krewe of Phoenix. The names chosen for their king and queen were Rex I for the king because the Rex in French translates into king in English and great krewes of New Orleans have always had a grand king. Rosalie was chosen as it was the name given to the Duchess de Pontchartrain. Not only was she instrumental in arranging the financing for the explorations LaSalle but when the French formed a settlement in Natchez they named their first fort Rosalie in her honor. Serving as first king and queen for the Krewe of Phoenix were Rex I, John S. Callon and Rosalie I Kristie Byrne Chandler.

For their Dukes and Duchesses’ names they chose Duke Great Sun and Duchess La Glorieuse to represent the Natchez Indians. They called their leader Great Sun and La Glorieuse was the name attributed to a Natchez Indian woman served as a liaison between the French and Natchez Indians. The Duke of Versailles and Duchess Marie Therese were chose to represent the French period of Natchez history. During this era of history the king of France lived in the palace named Versailles and his queen was named Marie Therese.

Representing the English period of Natchez history were Duke Montfort Browne and Duchess of Panmure. Montfort Brown was the first commander of the fort in Natchez which was named Fort Panmure. The strong Spanish history in Natchez is represented by Duke Manuel Gayoso De Limos and Duchess Marguerite Theresa De Limos. De Limos was the Spanish Governor during that time and Marguerite was his wife. And of course what would Mardi Gras be without representation from the antebellum period of Natchez? The names Duke of Monmouth and Duchess Eliza Lowe Little were chosen to for the home of Congressman John Anthony Quitman and Eliza Lowe Little, the mistress of Roaslie, the home built on the original site of Fort Rosalie. And for the years when there are six Duke and Duchess couples the names Duke Jefferson Davis and Duchess Varina Howell Davis are added.

Rising from the ashes of no Mardi Gras, the Krewe of Phoenix has grown to be an economic boon to Natchez. Not only do they provide us with a great parade their parties help fuel the economy and they are involved in several philanthropic activities, one of which is their scholarship program. I am proud to be serving a Queen Rosalie XXII this year with Ricky Smith as Rex XXII. The Krewe of Phoenix and the many other Krewes are another way that you can be involved in something fun in Natchez and good for your community.

Christina Hall

writes a weekly column for The Democrat.