This painting is considered by many to be one of Zoffany’s outstanding paintings and a tour de force. Though it was completed in 1772, and the artist passed away in 1810, this fascinating group portrait was the property of the king and it was on display from time to time during the Regency. Though, on the surface, it may appear to be a group portrait of the founders of the Royal Academy, there are many inside jokes and even a few risque comments about some of the members incorporated into the painting. Though most people today are unaware of Zoffany’s mischievous presentation of his fellow Royal Academicians, there were many people living during the Regency who would have been fully cognizant of its sometimes ironic, naughty and/or chauvinist secrets. There are any number of ways in which a Regency author might incorporate these details into a romance set during our favorite decade.
The special meanings to be found in Zoffany’s painting of the early Royal Academicians . . .
This year marks the two hundredth anniversary of the introduction of the industrial manufacture of gelatin. Prior to 1818, anyone who wanted to enjoy a dish which included gelatin, such as jellies or aspics, would have to spend a great deal of time extracting it from various animal sources. Therefore, only the affluent were able to enjoy special treats like jellies, since they had the staff available to do all the work necessary to create the crucial ingredient for such elegant dishes. Yet, this new industrial production was due primarily to the privations suffered in France during the Napoleonic Wars.
Jellies, from glue to health food to dessert . . .
During the Regency, a young woman was actively engaged in transforming herself into a man, and then into a highly competent doctor. This determined woman then went on to live the rest of her life as a man. She joined the British Army, and eventually attained the second highest medical office in the service. As a respected doctor, she also lobbied for a number of medical reforms which saved or improved thousands of lives. She managed to hide her gender until her death, when it was revealed, against her wishes. There was great consternation when that fact became public and such a scandal that Army officials sealed all of their records regarding the doctor for a century.
When Margaret Anne Bulkley transformed herself into Dr. James Barry. . .
This very rare astronomical event occurred two hundred years ago, this week. However, the fact is, during the Regency, this event was "occult" in more ways than one. Very few of our Regency ancestors would have seen it, those that did so had to travel nearly halfway around the globe, and there are no known written observational records of this event which are extant today. Nevertheless, due to the extreme rarity of this astronomical event, a Regency author might find it a useful plot device for a special romance set during this extraordinary and spectacular "affair" between Venus and Jupiter.
When Venus occulted Jupiter in the Regency . . .
The year 1817 saw a multitude of changes in the world of our Regency ancestors. Sadly, two of the most notable women of the era passed away. That same year saw the appearance of a strange woman who took in a great many people before the truth came out. However, there were several more positive events which also occurred during this year, some of which have changed how we live our lives down to the twenty-first century.
A synopsis of the year 1817 . . .
I love eggnog. It is one of my favorite treats of the Christmas season. And I was wondering the other day if our Regency ancestors were also able to enjoy it. I was delighted to learn that they were, though not in quite the same way as most of us do today. In addition, I discovered that one of the eggnog drinks which is most popular at this season was created by the journalist and man about town who has provided us with much of the information we have today about sporting and city life in England during our favorite decade.
Eggnog, through the Regency, and a little bit after . . .
Before you reject the prospect out of hand, Dear Regency Authors, you might find that one of these unique objects could make an interesting prop for an upcoming tale of romance. Many prisoners of war held in England from the late eighteenth through the early nineteenth centuries made craft items which they sold or traded in order to acquire a few small necessities which would ease the spartan harshness of their lives. In this season of gift-giving, it seems an opportune moment to discuss the wide array of useful, charming, even beautiful, objects which these men were able to produce while they were incarcerated far away from their homes. It is quite possible that a significant number of these hand-made items were purchased and given as gifts during our favorite decade.
The craft production of Napoleonic prisoners of war in Britain . . .