Destined to be royal

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 22, 2009

After trying on just one crown Hannah Loy knew she was meant to be a queen.

Loy, the 2009 Natchez Garden Club queen, said the crown she will be wearing was the first one she tried on and the only one that “felt right.”

“As soon as I walked in (the store) I saw it and said ‘I want that one,” Loy said. “They kept making me try on different ones, but I knew I wanted the first one.”

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The headpiece may be the crowning glory of serving as queen, but Loy was in training for the position much of her life.

In the past, Loy has participated in every Historic Natchez Pageant tableau except for dancing the part of Fannie Elssler in Showboat Under-the-Hill and Can-Can.

“Anything they would let me do, I would do it,” Loy said.

Loy said her love for the Pageant grew out of two things — her love of history and being a “girly girl.”

Loy said, being a history buff, growing up in Natchez, and being surrounded by the history of the city, is something she always took for granted. But now, as a history minor at Ole Miss, she considers herself lucky.

“Living here and growing up here you don’t realize how fortunate you are,” Loy said. “Not everyone has an antebellum house on practically every corner or pieces of history all over the city.

“That is something you realize after you’ve moved away.”

Loy is a political science major at Ole Miss where she is an Associate Student Body senator, a member of College Republicans, on the board of directors of Students for Green Campus and is active in her sorority, Pi Beta Phi.

Loy said Pageant also allows her to show off her girly-girl tendencies from an early age.

“I’ve always loved dressing up in the antebellum dresses,” Loy said. “And when I was younger, it was fun to get to wear makeup before my mom would really allow it. You got to wear lipstick and blush, and it was just a lot of fun.”

Loy’s feminine side will be on display during her two-week reign that began on Saturday. She will be wearing a gown worn in 1999 by former Natchez Garden Club queen Mary Margaret Ernst Gilly. It was originally designed by Cindy Whittington with the incorporation of elements from the gown of Emily Smith Henderson, who was queen in 1989.

The gown is candlelight bridal satin, re-embroidered French Alencon lace and silk organza. The lace, accenting the lines in the design, is embellished with pearls, iridescent sequins and aurora borealis crystals. The en Coeur neckline forms a slight V in the front and then extends slightly off the shoulders.

The satin skirt is banded by narrow re-embroidered lace and a wide design of cutout re-embroidered lace separated by an organza overlay. The focal point of the skirt is an oval jeweled lace medallion.

Attached at the waist is an 18-foot train of satin, edged entirely with jeweled encrusted lace. The train was also worn by Mary Junkin Seibert, who served as queen in 1970.

“(The gown) was one that always stood out to me because it was so beautiful,” Loy said. “When my mom told me she ran into Mrs. Ernest, who offered to let me wear the gown, (my mom and I) were both so excited.”

Loy said it was appropriate that her mom was the first to know about the gown, because it is her mother’s hard work that has allowed her to reign.

Loy is a 2006 graduate of Cathedral High School. She is the daughter of Barry and Sue Loy of Natchez and the granddaughter of Harley Loy of Natchez and the late Jane Loy and Mrs. And Mrs. Charles French of Mount Carmel, Ill.

She said her mom put in many hours of work over the years, including running the garden clubs’ gift shops. Loy said she remembers spending her vacation time at Magnolia Hall with her mother.

“Since the library is right behind the house, I would go there and get books and read them while she was working,” Loy said. “In between tours, I would sit and read in the parlors of the house.”

Loy said that while she is the one wearing the gown and crown and carrying the scepter in the final tableau, she is really just a stand in for her mother.

“This is really her honor,” Loy said. “She is the one who put in all the hours of work to make this possible. I’m thankful for her.”