Creating Paradise by Richard Wilson and Alan Mackley

Yet another delightfully serendipitous find at my local library. And yet another reason to be grateful that libraries, with real books on their shelves, still exist in this increasingly digital world. Thought this is not the sort of book I would have thought to seek out, it is indeed a treasure which I am very happy to have encountered in my periodic perusal of the book shelves at the Boston Public Library. So many stories of romance in the Regency are set all, or in part, in a country house. It seems only natural that Regency authors might like to know more about how those uniquely English homes came to be. This book sheds a great deal of light on the subject.

Some of the things I like about Creating Paradise . . .

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The Parachute Through the Regency

Certainly, our Regency ancestors did not enjoy the sport of skydiving. However, a functional parachute had been invented some years before the Prince of Wales became Regent. In fact, a woman had made a successful parachute jump in the last year of the eighteenth century. Yet, by the Regency, a human gently coming to earth by means of a parachute was a rare spectator event, which generated much the same degree of interest as that of a hot air balloon ascension. And, though the back-pack style harness of the modern parachute was still a century away, there were at least one or two instances when a parachute was used to save a life or for a stealthy entry into foreign territory.

The parachute through the Regency . . .

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The Secret Cave of the Sisterhood at Windsor Castle

Lest you think that what follows is a tale of a feminine version of the Hellfire Clubhouse, please disabuse yourself of that notion immediately. "The Sisterhood" to be discussed here was about as far distant from that lecherous league as it was possible to be. This was a very exclusive sisterhood in Regency England, the surviving unmarried daughters of King George III and Queen Charlotte. Unfortunately for these sisters, the very circumstances of their birth consigned them to loneliness and boredom for much of their lives. But from time to time, they did find ways to escape, if only briefly, from the onerous restrictions which were placed upon them by their mother. One of those escapes was their secret "cave" on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

The cave of the Sisterhood through the Regency . . .

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Regency Bicentennial:   The Disafforestation of Exmoor Forest

Two hundred years ago, this coming Monday, the disafforestation of the Royal Forest of Exmoor culminated in the sale of large tracts of Crown land to a private citizen. However, due to the ideosyncracies of English law, this did not mean that Exmoor, which had never had many trees, was completely logged off and the land left bare. Rather, it was a change in the designation of the property which allowed the new owner to put it to uses which had not been attempted there in several centuries. This significant change in the status of the land was to have various ramifications for both people and animals living in the vicinity of Exmoor, any of which might serve the plot of a Regency romance set in the area at that time.

The disafforestion of the Royal Forest of Exmoor . . .

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John Crace & Sons

Though this firm is not widely known today, it was the most important interior decorating firm in England through the nineteenth century. The Crace family was a favorite of the British Royal Family, particularly the Prince of Wales. They were commissioned to decorate a number of notable rooms at both Carlton House and the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, among other royal residences. In addition, several noble families regularly commissioned work from John Crace and his sons. However, many other clients during the Regency also commissioned the Crace firm to provide them with fashionable furnishings and interior decor. Regency authors who have affluent and/or pretentious characters who want the most fashionable decor in their London town house or country home may want to allow those characters to commission the Crace family firm to do the work.

The firm of John Crace & Sons through the Regency . . .

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Regency Bicentennial:   The Stothards and the Bayeux Tapestry

Two hundred years ago, this week, Charles Stothard was making plans for his third trip to France, at the direction of the Council of the Society of Antiquaries. He would travel to the French town of Bayeux in order to complete his series of detailed drawings of the famous tapestry depicting the Norman Conquest of Britain. Though the tapestry was more than seven centuries old, it was only in the second half of the eighteenth century that British scholars had begun to take an interest in it. Stothard’s drawings would be crucial to further study of this remarkable textile. Unlike his previous trips, this time he would be accompanied by his new bride, whom he had married only months before. Unbeknownst to her, a half century later, she would be accused of vandalizing the extraordinary tapestry her husband was there to record, since most people thought she had already passed away.

Mr. and Mrs. Stothard and the Bayeux Tapestry . . .

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Liquid Magic:   Lavender Water Through the Regency

Last month, I posted an article here about rose water, which, like orange flower water, was a popular ingredient in a plethora of concoctions created through the centuries, including during the Regency. Another popular, and even more ancient flower water, which was widely used during the Regency, was lavender water. Like the other flower waters, lavender water was an essential element in a number of foods, medicines and cosmetics during our favorite decade. In addition, even during the Regency, lavender was believed to have a flock of powerful magical properties.

Lavender and lavender water through the Regency . . .

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