The Regency of the Redingote

The precise dates of the English Regency are 6 February 1811, to 29 January 1820. King George III began his final decent into madness in 1810. By early 1811, it was clear to all that he was unlikely to recover. Thus, on 5 February 1811, the Regency Act was passed by Parliament, and the next day his eldest son, George, Prince of Wales, was sworn in as Regent at Carleton House. Prince George continued as Regent until the death of his father, on 29 January 1820. He then became King George IV, and the Regency was over.

So, naturally, the Redingote will only consider those historical events circumscribed by the years 1811 to 1820.

No.   Why?

Because no period in history exists in isolation. They are all merely the arbitrary divisions we assign to organize our comprehension of the past. The important figures of the Regency were born in the eighteenth century. Some of the defining events of the Regency had their antecedents decades, even centuries, before 1811. Several of the leading lights of the Regency went on to even greater renown and distinction long after 1820. Landmark events of the Victorian age, and even later, had their roots in the Regency years.

The Regency will certainly be the nexus of the historical snippets which will be published in the Redingote. But those snippets will not be strictly confined to the nine years between 1811 and 1820. Such a policy would disqualify too many fascinating scraps of history which I hope will enliven and expand the appreciation of this significant, if brief, period in the history of England.

Since I am on the subject, the English Regency lasted barely nine years. Which is no more than a blink of an eye in the continuum of British history. But it is one of the most appealing and popular periods for romance authors and their many readers. I think that is because it is the time during which England made the transition into what we know as the modern era.

Daily life became more like ours. People had begun to bathe more regularly. They wore garments more recognizable to us in fabrics and style than those of the 18th or earlier centuries, and laundered them more frequently. Housing during the Regency became more diversified and comparable to that of our own time.

Unlike our modern world, women had less freedom and fewer rights. Gentlemen subscribed to a code of honor for which they might have to fight a duel. A sense of propriety and decorum, conforming to the rule of society, was de rigueur. Social events could be incredibly elegant affairs, often including a live orchestra, always lit by a multitude of candles and teeming with the beau monde. The "landed" aristocracy still drew their wealth and power from the land. The Industrial Revolution had only made small inroads into the English economy. There was little machinery in use, certainly no automobiles, no household appliances, no computers or telephones. It was still an essentially rural country. There were only a handful of large cities in the kingdom, but many rural villages, some of which bordered great estates.

The Regency was like our modern world in some ways, yet different enough in others to pique our curiosity. As women, we take umbrage with the lack of rights which women had. Yet that makes it all the sweeter when the heroine of the novel we are reading overcomes such subjugation. Emotions run high when the hero must fight a duel to satisfy honor. A ride in a high-perch phaeton through Hyde Park at the fashionable hour is a chance to show off one’s most recent purchase from the modiste. A picnic on the grounds of a beautifully landscaped estate can be deliciously romantic. Oh, yes, the Regency is a place we can enjoy whenever we travel there via the novels of our favorite authors.

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About Kathryn Kane

Historian with a particular interest the English Regency era.   An avid reader of novels set in that time, holding strong opinions on the historical accuracy to be found in said novels.
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2 Responses to The Regency of the Redingote

  1. Pingback: The Wearing of Costume | The Regency Redingote

  2. Pingback: The Wearing of Costume | The Beau Monde

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