Regency Bicentennial:   The Wedding of Charlotte & Leopold

This coming Monday marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the wedding of Princess Charlotte of Wales to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. Though there had been many obstacles in their path to wedded bliss, the young couple had persevered and finally made their way to the altar in the spring of 1816. The grand wedding of the royal couple was certainly the social event of the season. In fact, everyone in Britain was looking forward to the wedding of their beloved young princess, the woman they expected would be their future queen.

The nuptials of Charlotte and Leopold . . .

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Regency Bicentennial:   Byron Leaves England

Two hundred years ago, this coming Sunday, Lord Byron boarded a ship and sailed away from England for the Continent, leaving behind his wife and baby daughter. He would never see either of them, or England, ever again. It took a combination of events over the course of more than a year to finally drive Byron from England, a kind of perfect storm of issues which made him believe he had no choice but to flee his homeland.

When Byron left England for good . . .

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Reading & Writing Accessories by Ian Spellerberg

There was a time when the ability to read and write was not widely held. And many of those who enjoyed those skills acquired various implements to aid their activities. Some of those specialized implements were beautifully made and richly ornamented, in particular, those of the bladed variety. But reference material on these objects has always been sparse and hard to find. Until now. Professor Emeritus Ian Spellerberg has spent the past couple of years researching these fascinating objects and has written the first book on the subject. Whether you are collector of antique desk accessories, or are simply beguiled by the creativity and craftsmanship which went into their design and production, you will enjoy perusing the pages of this new book. Though some antique dealers may wish it had never been published.

In the interests of full disclosure, I corresponded with Professor Spellerberg while he was conducting his research. I was also honored to be asked to write opening essays for a couple of sections in this book.

Some of my favorite parts of Reading & Writing Accessories . . .

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The Advent of the English Chiffonier

There were pieces of furniture in France known as chiffonnières decades before the Regency began, and there are still European and American pieces known by the term "chiffonier" today. However, the English chiffonier, which originated in the early nineteenth century, was of a specific design and was most often used for a specific purpose. In Regency England, the chiffonier was a particularly popular piece of furniture with those who owned books.

The "rag-picker" of furniture . . .

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John Hunter’s "Unwritten Book"

There is no April Fool’s prank here. Though this article includes the term "unwritten book" in its title, it does indeed belong in the Places category, for this particular "book" was actually a vast collection of anatomical specimens which were on display in Regency London. These specimens were all amassed by one man, over the course of the last half of the eighteenth century, at least some of them under questionable, if not illegal, circumstances.

The Hunterian Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields . . .

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Before the Camera:   Bird Prints

People have always been fascinated by birds, for these creatures, unlike humans, were not earth-bound. They had the power of flight, to soar freely through the air at will, unimpeded by any obstacle. In addition, many of them sported beautiful and colorful plummage. And in the days of the Regency, as had been the case for all the centuries which came before, most people were aware only of those birds which lived in their area. By the early nineteenth century, between the expansion of scientific discovery and the growing availablity of inexpensive prints, more people were able to enjoy a wider range of bird species, up close, in those prints.

Bird prints in the Regency . . .

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Reminiscences of Henry Angelo

Any reader of the Regency novels of Georgette Heyer will be aware of one of the important sporting haunts of Regency gentlemen, Henry Angelo’s Fencing Academy, in Bond Street. If scenes were not set in the environs of the academy, it was often mentioned as a place where one or more of the male characters in the story spent some time in manly pursuits. Years ago, I found a reference to the Reminiscences of Henry Angelo in the bibliography of an old book on Regency history. Once I knew the book existed, I kept an eye out for it, assuming sooner or later I would find a copy somewhere. Finally, just last week, I came across a copy of the book, only to discover it was not at all what I expected it to be.

Some of the surprises in Henry Angelo’s Reminiscences . . .

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