Interesting Facts about the Prince Regent

Susan here — let’s take a light look at the Prince Regent — the namesake of our beloved Regency period. Born in 1762, died 1830, King George the 4th (Prince Regent) was one of 15 children. The oldest son of King George the 3rd, he did not follow his father’s conservative ways. He was Prince Regent from 1811 to 1920, and then king for ten years.

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Age he “left home”: 18

Favorite vacation spot: Brighton

Age at ascension to the Regency: 49

Age at ascension to the throne: 57

Number of concurrent marriages: 2 (Maria Fitzherbert, Caroline of Brunswick)

hated: flat roofs

Took unjust credit for: British victory in Spain, and the overthrow of Napoleon

Was firmly convinced that: he fought in the Battle of Waterloo

Favorite authors: Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott

Famous book dedicated to him: Emma, by Austen

Waist measurement: 50″ (1824)

Health problems: gout, arteriosclerosis, dropsy, and possibly porphyria

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Information about George the 4th (the Prince Regent) is accessible and understandable. I recommend a brief study of his life to better frame your Regency knowledge.

Who’s your favorite historical figure of the Regency?

 

 

Why Regency?

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you are a fan of the Regency fiction genre. You’re all about high-waisted dresses, chaperones, Almack’s, Gunther’s, house parties, and more.

But do you know why there ever was a Regency? It was madness! The madness of King George III. His health required the contingency plan of a prepared handing off of the reins of power – this plan laid out a form of emergency government/royal powers which was known as the regency. It’s a situational set-up for when a monarch is unable to fulfill his duties.

You can’t uncrown a living king, right? So, in their wisdom, the high advisors of the land made the Prince of Wales, eventually Goerge IV, the Prince Regent.

King George III (king during the American Revolution) had a disease now thought to be Porphyria. Porphyria is a rare blood disease and drove the king to complete madness and seclusion in 1810.

King George III
(“Farmer George”)

For Americans, King George III is a vaguely hated figure, because of the Revolutionary War, but he doesn’t sound all bad. His nickname was “Farmer George” due to his keen interest in agriculture. Said to be a devout Christian, he was a dedicated, yet repressive parent (not enough grace?), a faithful husband, and a plain-living man. The information about his interests is fascinating, if you decide to learn more, and the manner in which his first born son rebelled is an instructive cautionary tale.

The Prince Regent,
King George IV, (“Prinny”)

Do you enjoy knowing the nicknames of historical figures? If you know some, please share in the comments.

Why There Was A Regent ~ The Decline of King George III

King George III, by Gainsborough
King George III, by Thomas Gainsborough, via Wikimedia Commons

Any Regency aficionado knows that many of our stories are set in the years 1811-1820 when George IV, Prince of Wales was made the Prince Regent. In the Regency Act of 1811 Parliament determined that King George III was unfit to rule. But what do we know of King George III, what is the legacy he left behind during the longest reign of a king up to that point in history?

Personally, he married Charlotte of Mechlenberg-Streltitz and bore fifteen children. It says much about the time that, though his popularity waned over his reign,England’s populace was always proud of him for being faithful to his wife of 59 years!

Source: Wikicommons – Queen Charlotte

Side note: Queen Charlotte is noted to have African ancestry, from Margarita de Castro e Souza, a 15th-century Portuguese noblewoman part of the black branch of the Portuguese Royal House. English Royal painter captured her appearance without softening her features which was called mulatto in nature.

His two eldest sons, George IV (later Prince Regent) and William IV left him constantly faced with their excessive extravagance, dissolute lifestyles and profligate ways. Both of those sons eventually wore the crown, but died without surviving legitimate children.

That began the reign of Queen Victoria, the last monarch of the House of Hanover.

King George III by Beechey
King George III in battle, painted by William Beechey, via Wikimedia Commons

As king, war was the one constant of King George III’s reign. He oversaw the defeat of France in the Seven Year’s War, and was subsequently nicknamed “The King Who Lost America” from the constant battle with the Colonies’ War of Independence. But with the defeat of France in the Napoleonic War,Britain emerged the world’s leading power, though King George III was not in power when it ended.

In Parliament, bad choices in the men he kept around him, and detesting those he had no choice in appointing, made government stability rare and created a volatile atmosphere with his Prime Ministers and in the House of Commons.

But he was also the first British Monarch to study science, chemistry, physics, astronomy and mathematics. He learned French and Latin, geography, commerce, agriculture and constitutional law. And despite the loss of the Americas, there was great expansion of the empire and trade. The population almost doubled and there were great strides in agricultural methods and advances in technology. The tide of moral and religious improvement which began in the days of John Wesley, kept the popularity of a King whose religious education was wholly Anglican.

The Prince Regent, later King George IV
The Prince Regent, Later King George IV, by Thomas Lawrence, via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, he was far from well during the last twenty years of his life. He had three different bouts with mental illness, but in October 1810 he had a major mental breakdown; even to the point of being restrained in a straight jacked and tied into chairs. He was renamed “The Mad King” and he spent the last years of his life completely blind and deaf but lovingly cared for by his wife and doctors.

It is sad to think that the people finally saw him as an object of sympathy once George IV, was made the Prince Regent. Britain’s people watched and compared him to his son as the Prince Regent squandered the already low coffers of England and kept the dissolute lifestyle his father had hated.

Happy Leap Year Day!

 

Leap Year A La Regency

Thirty days hath September, 
April, June and November; 
All the rest have thirty-one, 
Excepting February alone 
Which hath but twenty-eight, in fine, 
Till leap year gives it twenty-nine. 

Just as young people desiring to bypass all the rigmarole to get married in Regency England could hightail it to Scotland, women could also thank the Scots for making it a law allowing women to propose to men one day a year, every four years on Feb. 29.

Tradition has it that this law came on the books back in 1288—and that if a man turned a woman down, he must pay a fine, anything from a kiss to a pair of gloves or even a silk dress. Another tradition has it that the spurned woman must be wearing a visible red petticoat if she wanted the fine paid. Tradition aside, there is no written evidence on the books of Scottish Parliament’s having passed such a law.

Another legend has it that it was over in fifth century Ireland that St. Brigit asked St. Patrick to allow women to propose to men, since, supposedly, men were laggards in this area. After a bit of negotiating, St. Paddy allowed it every four years on Leap Year Day.

The American Farmer, published in 1827, quotes this passage from a 1606 volume entitled Courtship, Love and Matrimonie:

Albeit, it is nowe become a parte of the Common Lawe, in regard to the social relations of life, that as often as every bissectile year doth return, the Ladyes have the sole privilege, during the time it continueth, of making love unto the men, which they may doe either by wordes or lookes, as unto them it seemeth proper; and moreover, no man will be entitled to the benefit of Clergy who dothe refuse to accept the offers of a ladye, or who dothe in any wise treate her proposal withe slight or contumely.

So, wherever or however the tradition developed, by the time of the regency, Leap Year as a year or a day of female initiative in the romantic sphere was well-known. 1812, 1816 and 1820 were all leap years. Even though the Gregorian calendar had made the bissextile year (having an extra day) official back in 1582, Britain ignored the date of Feb. 29, so legally it didn’t exist. British law conveniently “leaped over” the date, probably because of so many negative superstitions associated with it, especially concerning livestock and crops. Ignoring this day resulted in a tradition of “anything goes”—hence women proposing to men. According to the Encyclopedia Americana 2004 Edition (Volume 17), King Henry VIII’s reign had an English law passed making February 28 the official birthday of “leaplings” or “leapers,” those born on Leap Year Day .

LEAP YEAR, OR JOHN BULL’S PEACE ESTABLISHMENT

[Published March, 1816, by S. W. Fores, 50, Piccadilly]

This British political cartoon satirizes the royal marriage of Princess Charlotte of Wales (the Prince Regent’s daughter) to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg on May 2, 1816.

The British Parliament settled £60,000 on the newlyweds, with £50,000 more for the prince should his bride pass away. The cartoon depicts the English nation on its hands and knees, a bit in his mouth, driven by Her Royal Highness with a horsewhip.

John Bull is the national personification of England, the way “Uncle Sam” is to the United States. He is loaded down with packages labeled with all the heavy tax burdens imposed on the populace at the time. After more than a quarter century of war with France, Britain’s people were financially exhausted. The Prince Regent’s extravagant lifestyle and building projects only filled them with disgust and caused a growing number of riots (one reason the Prince Regent preferred spending time at his seaside retreat, the Royal Pavilion at Brighton).

In the cartoon, Prince Regent George supports himself on crutches formed of dragons from his Brighton money pit. “Push on!” he shouts, “Preach economy! And when you have got your money, follow my example.” “Oh! my back,” groans John, crawling under the weight of his heavy burdens. “I never can bear it! This will finish me.”


 Sources: English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century/Chapter 3, Wikisource.org; Smithsonian Magazine.com; http://www.altiusdirectory.com/Society/leap-year.html; http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Leap-Year-Superstitions/; http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/historical/a/leap_year_2.htm; http://voices.yahoo.com/leap-year-2008-history-facts-798349.html?cat=37