Garlands of holly gave the Marquis of Wellesley and his marble neighbor on the next pedestal, Thomas Stothard, an almost rakish air. From a table strewn with Christmas greens, young Queen Victoria, also in marble, seemed intent upon the mix of classical music and carols that harpist Rebecca Anstine was playing. The holiday season was officially under way at the British Embassy last night.

"It was all a mistake, you know," said Lady Lillian Wright, wife of the British Ambassador, watching her 200 guests sip mulled wine in the soft glow of Christmas lights. "They should have been in the Capitol Rotunda, but it was double-booked with a hunt ball. They were so disappointed that I said to come into the residence. After all, that's what the house is for, isn't it?"

For Women in Government Relations LEADER Fund Inc., staging its first major fund-raising event, the British Embassy setting was the pie ce de re'sistance to an evening that included a performance of "A Christmas Carol" at Ford's Theatre. Embassy-goers paid $125 per person and got an elaborate buffet supper thrown in; later at Ford's, they joined other supporters who paid $50 and $35 for their tickets.The organization had come quite a way since that day in 1975 when 12 women government representatives decided they needed a network of some type to help them make their way as lobbyists.

"We needed to depend upon each other for reinforcement and for contact just as men did," said Judith Pond, now director of the White House speakers' bureau, but in those days with Ralston Purina. "We needed some way to institutionalize that network."

Nobody has an exact count but Pond said there are more than 600 women working in various aspects of lobbying.

Elisabeth Hanlin of Sperry Corp., who chairs the LEADER Fund board of directors, said the group's seminars "give broader insight into government relations -- all the things nobody ever told us."