Regency Bicentennial:   Cleopatra’s Emerald Mine Rediscovered in Egypt

This coming Wednesday marks the two hundredth anniversary of the rediscovery of an ancient emerald mine in Egypt which is believed to have supplied emeralds to the legendary Egyptian queen, Cleopatra. This mine was completely abandoned in the early Middle Ages and by the Regency, had become the stuff of legend. Many people were of the opinion that Cleopatra’s emerald mine was nothing more than a myth. But in the autumn of 1817, a very determined French explorer and mineralogist, Frédéric Cailliaud, found that mine, just as it had been left when it was abandoned more than five hundred years before.

The rediscovery of Cleopatra’s Emerald Mine . . .

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Hall and Entranceway Lanterns

As winter approaches and the days grow shorter, it seems an appropriate time to discuss an important lighting fixture in most upper- and middle-class Regency homes, the lantern which illuminated the main entrance hall to the house. Though such lanterns had been in use in Spain, Italy and France from at least the seventeenth century, similar light fixtures did not become common in Britain until the middle of the eighteenth century. By the Regency, those large entranceway lanterns had become fairly common in most affluent homes. But they were not just simple light fixtures.

Entranceway lanterns through the Regency . . .

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Regency Bicentennial:   The Death of Princess Charlotte

This coming Monday marks a sad Regency bicentennial, for Princess Charlotte died on that day in 1817. But this tragic event was not just the heartbreaking loss of a young mother and her child in childbirth, it was also the loss of the hope of a nation. Everyone in Britain, with the probable exception of the Regent, was looking forward to the reign of this beloved princess. Certainly, she was the only legitimate heir produced by any of the thirteen adult children of King George III. Even more importantly, most people in Britain believed she would revive the honor and integrity of the monarchy, which had been significantly diminished during the regency of her self-indulgent and dissolute father.

The passing of Princess Charlotte and the hope of a nation . . .

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Silent Girls and a Dumb Cake

With the approach of Halloween, it seems only appropriate to share a superstitious tradition related to romance which was still observed by some women and girls during the Regency, often on that night. As with most superstitions, the specifics of the practice varied from region to region, though the end result was essentially the same, a single young woman might be able to learn the identity of her future husband by baking one of these special "cakes." Such a superstition might be just the thing to add a little bit of magic to a Regency romance.

When silent girls made dumb cakes . . .

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Knucklebones:   From Oracles to Games

Though it may seem rather ghoulish to toy with knucklebones taken from the skeletons of various animals, people have actually done it for millenia. Many children, and even some adults, were still doing it during the Regency. And some of those games have come down to modern times, though, for the most part, they are no longer played with pieces of animal skeletons. Should a Regency author be in need of an interesting game for children to play in a story, one of the games played with knucklebones might serve the purpose.

A brief history of knucklebones and some of the games in which they were used . . .

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Dartmoor Prison Through the Regency

Today, HM Prison Dartmoor houses male convicts who have been tried, convicted and sentenced within the British judicial system. However, what many people do not realize is that Dartmoor Prison was not originally built as a convict prison. It was actually built during the Napoleonic Wars, with the cooperation of the Prince of Wales, to house French prisoners of war. While in use for that purpose, in the first half of the Regency, it would house not only French, but also American, prisoners of war. Yet, in the last years of the Regency, it lay empty and abandoned. Whether during the period it was in use, or after it was abandoned, Dartmoor Prison might make an interesting setting for at least a few scenes in a Regency romance.

A confined history of the Dartmoor Prison through the Regency . . .

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Sewing Needles Through the Regency

Several years ago, I published an article here about pins in the Regency. It seems to be time to give the needles of that era some attention. All sewing needles in the Regency were hand sewing needles, since there were, as yet, no commercially available sewing machines. It is important to know that sewing needles were even more expensive than pins during the Regency, due to the intensive labor required to produce them. Though hand sewing needles are widely available today, and relatively inexpensive, such was not the case during our favorite period. Therefore, a Regency author will not want to trivialize the value of any sewing needles which feature in a story set during that era.

Sewing needles through the Regency . . .

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