The decade of the English Regency is my favorite period in history, bar none. Period. It is a tiny slice of time between the rougher, cruder eighteenth century and the repressively straight-laced Victorian age. England was still mainly rural, most of the technology we take for granted today was still decades away and the pace of life was slower and certainly more graceful than our own time. Plus, the art, the architecture, furnishings and the clothes of that time were certainly more elegant those of the present day.
Next year, 2011, is the bicentennial of the beginning of the Regency in England. It was on Wednesday, 6 February 1811, at Carlton House, that the Prince of Wales took the oath which made him Regent. As a lover of novels set in the Regency, I certainly hope that something will be done to mark this auspicious anniversary.
I realize that the bicentennial of the inauguration of the English Regency may not be an anniversary of monumental proportions for the world at large. But I do think is significant to those of us who love romances set in the Regency. I also think this anniversary might be something on which publishers of Regencies could capitalize to help them increase interest, and hopefully sales, of Regency novels. That would be a good thing for everyone who loves Regencies, as publishers will only publish them if it is financially beneficial for them to do so. There could also be benefits for all of us Regency lovers, if publishers decide to do some clever things to celebrate the Regency bicentennials.
I initially thought the best way to go about alerting publishers to the upcoming Regency bicentennial was to email them, but I quickly discovered that it is not so easy to find contact information for many of the publishers who publish Regency romances. It then occurred to me that it might be more useful to email my favorite Regency authors. Most of them have their contact information posted on their websites, and they all have direct contact with the publishers of their novels. These authors can be better advocates for a Regency bicentennial celebration of some kind by their publishers. But we, their loyal readers, can help them by providing emails which they can forward to their publishers to demonstrate there is an interest in this anniversary. If you, too, think the two-hundredth anniversary of the Regency should receive some kind of recognition, please think about letting your favorite authors know.
And now, to the headline of this article. You may have noticed it is "Celebrating the Regency Bicentennials." Bicentennials, plural. Because there are any number of interesting bicentennials approaching over the next nine plus years. I like to think that this is an opportunity to live through the Regency myself. I did the same thing during the bicentennial of the United States. Though the main focus of the US bicentennial was the Declaration of Independence and the bulk of the celebrations took place on 4 July 1976, I personally noted many of the other significant dates from that time through to the end of the war and on to the ratification of the US Constitution. It gave me a very interesting perspective on how all of those events played out over the years. When you read about them in the history books, the events of a given year might be followed by the discussion of events a decade later in the very next paragraph. Everything just runs together. But when you note the various anniversaries as you continue to live your life, day in and day out, you get a much better sense of the march of time between each notable event.
For just the year 1811, there was the Parliamentary debate and vote on the Regency bill, the ceremony when the Prince of Wales took the oath, his final break with Mrs. Fitzherbert, the grand fête which he gave at Carlton House, ostensibly to honor the French Royal family, but in reality to celebrate his new power. And that is just through June of that year. Not to mention all of the other events which do not directly relate to the Regent himself. All six of Jane Austen’s novels were published during the years of the Regency. Beau Brummell held sway over London fashionable society for the first half of the Regency. Byron published some of his most notable works during the Regency and like Brummell, was forced to flee England forever before the decade was over. Wellington and his army fought across the Iberian Peninsula to stop Napoleon in France. This was followed by the great victory celebrations in London. Then came Napoleon’s hundred days after Elba, until he was finally, permanently, stopped by Wellington and the allied forces at Waterloo. And that just brings us to 1815.
We all have the opportunity to experience the Regency years for ourselves over the course of the next decade, if we choose to do so. Mark your calendar with the Regency events which are of interest to you and then just go on about your life, noting the passage of time between each of those events as you do. In that way, you can get a sense of the true amount of time in which all of these events played out. I am planning to post articles here about some of the Regency events which interest me on or near their anniversaries over the coming years.
Happy Regency Bicentennials to all!