Robert Coates:   From “Diamond” to “Romeo”

Robert Coates was one of the most well-known and interesting eccentrics who lived in Regency England, so much so that he acquired a number of different nicknames over the course of his life, all of them related to those things about which he was quite passionate. He was partial to an extravagant style of dress which often generated derisive comments from those who saw him. He was thoroughly enamored with acting and did so at nearly any opportunity, yet Coates was considered a perfectly dreadful actor, and was often jeered by the audience. Remarkably, Coates seems to have been oblivious to the negative remarks made about his wardrobe and his acting, among his other eccentricities. He blithely went about his life in England, amusing many of the people who encountered him throughout most of the Regency, doing quite a bit of good along the way.

How Robert Coates came to London . . .

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Of Mirrors and Looking Glasses

Though it may seem incomprehensible to most of us today, until the mid-nineteenth century, only a small percentage of people ever saw the reflection of their entire body in a looking glass. That was due to the fact that looking glasses, what we more commonly call mirrors today, were very expensive. Only the very wealthy could afford a looking glass large enough to see their entire reflection. Most people had to settle with a small glass, just large enough to see their face, while some people never owned any kind of a mirror at all. By the middle of the nineteenth century, new techniques were developed which significantly reduced the cost of making mirrors, thus making it possible for more people to have mirrors, including large ones.

A brief look at the development of looking glasses . . .

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Regency Bicentennial:   The Earliest Easter

This coming Thursday marks the two hundredth anniversary of the earliest possible date for Easter Sunday in the Western Christian calendar in half a millenia. Easter will not fall that early in the year again for more than two hundred and fifty years. That very early Easter date caused significant angst for some of our more superstitious Regency ancestors, and at least a few of them believed it was responsible for the demise of one of the members of the royal family later that year. Regardless of its early date, the Easter of 1818 was accompanied by the many other superstitions which surrounded this springtime holiday.

The earliest Easter . . .

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Regency Canned Foods

Though they were not as ubiquitous as they are today, some canned foods were available during the Regency, thanks, in part, to Napoleon Bonaparte. The French General did not invent the process himself, but it is due to him that it was originally discovered. As was common practice at the time, once the French version of the canning process was known, that process was enhanced and improved by a man in England, ironically, in large part for the benefit of the Royal Navy. Though canned foods were not widely available in Great Britain during the Regency, the process had been perfected there, and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that a few canned foods might turn up in a Regency romance.

Canned foods through the Regency . . .

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Regency Bicentennial:   The Chubb Detector Lock

Two hundred years ago, this month, the Chubb brothers were gearing up to produce their brand new door lock, the Chubb Detector Lock. This lock was so secure that it could only be opened with its own unique key, and any tampering with the lock left clear evidence of the attempt. By virtue of their remarkably strong and secure lock, within a very short time, the Chubb company became lock-makers to the monarch, the royal family and to many prominent firms and individuals across Britain and continued to hold that status for the balance of the nineteenth century. Should a Regency romance require a house, or any other location, with an unpickable, truly secure lock, the Chubb Detector Lock might be the ideal solution.

The origins of the Chubb Detector Lock . . .

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The Nineteen-Year Duel

Yet again, truth proves itself so much stranger than fiction. There ended, during our favorite period, a duel between two Frenchmen which had been fought, in installments, for a period of nineteen years. It began, with swords, when both men were captains in the French army and eventually ended, with pistols, after both had become generals. One could say the end of this duel was finally brought about, for love, through a clever stratagem. Would some, or all, of the aspects of this real-life affair provide inspiration for a Regency romance or three?

The nineteen-year duel . . .

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Of Inkstands and Standishes

Even before the Regency, these diminutive and decorative altars to the pursuit of belle lettres could be found on the desks of most educated people. Before the Regency came to a close, they could also be found in the homes of the middle classes as well as the upper classes. Like snuff boxes, watches and other personal items, they were also sometimes made as special presentation or keepsake items to honor the recipient and/or to memorialize an important event. Though these delightful objects were nearly ubiquitous during the Regency, they have long since fallen out of daily use. Therefore, a modern-day Regency author may want to know more about them in order to make use of one or more of them in an upcoming romance.

Standishes and inkstands through the Regency . . .

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