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?

 

 

More Caricatures from the Regency Era

In November, we looked at James Gillray and some of his more famous caricatures from the Regency Era. Today I wanted to introduce another caricaturist and illustrator, George Cruikshank. George was the son of caricaturist, Isaac Cruikshank (a contemporary of Gillray’s), and apprenticed with his father at an early age. After spending a decade or so making caricatures, George then turned his attentions to book illustrations. The most notable of his illustrations are those he did in the 1830s for his friend, Charles Dickens.

Cruikshank British_valour
From 1813, this mocks American boasting in the face of the British Navy.

This mocks some of the rather impractical fashions of 1818
This mocks some of the rather impractical fashions of 1818.

This mocks servants trying to act as their masters in the kitchen
This mocks servants trying to act as their masters in the kitchen.

This is one of Cruikshank's numerous illustrations for Oliver Twist.
This is one of Cruikshank’s numerous illustrations for Oliver Twist.

Do you like any of these caricatures and illustrations? Do you prefer the ones that satirize regular life or politics? Why?

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.

Market Towns: The Mall of the Regency

Kristi here. Imagine for a moment that you are a resident in a small town in Regency England. You have a small garden, perhaps a farm. Maybe you are in trade and live in town. No matter where you live, one thing is sure: At some point you are going to want or need something and you’ll have to buy it from someone else.

Where would you go if you needed a few more chickens or a bushel of apples? The market, of course.

If you lived in a large town, such as London, there were several markets to choose from, open all week long. But, if you lived farther out, you had to travel to a market town.

New charter (1553) replacing the original charter (1196) and allowing the town of Stratford on Avon to hold weekly markets.  Click picture for more details.
New charter (1553) replacing the original charter (1196) and allowing the town of Stratford on Avon to hold weekly markets. Click picture for more details.

Market towns had existed in England for centuries. There were, in fact, strict rules as to which towns could hold a market and which couldn’t. Towns had to apply for a royal charter if they wanted to hold a weekly market. If a market town already existed within a day’s walk (there and back) the town could not hold a market.

Chichester Market Cross
The Market Cross in Chichester (Wikimedia Commons)

Many towns had a market cross in the middle of the designated area. The actual meaning of the crosses is unknown and theories are as varied as the cross designs. Possibly the religious landmark was to curry God’s favor on the proceedings. It could also have stood as a reminder to the vendor and the buyer to deal fairly with one another. Still another option is that it hearkened back to the original, informal markets that grew up on the grounds around the churches.

Whatever the reason, some of these market crosses became very elaborate, more along the lines of pavilions or buildings than mere religious icons on a tall pillar. Some towns even constructed their roads with the markets in mind. One example is Stow on the Wold in Gloucester whose narrow side streets were designed to make managing herds of sheep easier.

Since many people lived spread out across rural England, market days (typically Saturdays) were their only opportunity to acquire what they needed, unless they could go directly to someone local to barter or buy. Farmers and craftsman would bring their wares to town and set up stalls along the extra wide main streets.

Norwich market
Norwich Market, 1799 (Wikimedia Commons)

As leisure travel increased in the Georgian era, some market towns, such as Norwich, became fashionable shopping destinations. Permanent stores grew up around the market places, but transitional and temporary stalls were still used for the weekly market.

Today, many of these towns still hold a weekly market, though you’ll more likely find purses and technology accessories than a chicken and a sheaf of wheat.

 

William Wilberforce: Abolitionist and Friend, Politician and Evangelical

“If this be madness, I hope that it will bite us all!” said one of William Wilberforce’s friends after the young politician became an evangelical Christian. His other friends thought his newfound beliefs and life changes madness, and they still counted him friend and so much more.

Photo and link to William Wilberforce article on Christianity Today
William Wilberforce

Born in 1759, William was a sickly young man with poor eyesight, slight stature, and a quick mind. He sang and conversed in ways that pleased his interlocutors to the point the writer and socialite Madame de Staël described him as the “wittiest man in England”. And the Prince of Wales said he would go anywhere to hear Wilberforce sing.

Wilberforce was born to a wealthy merchant family. After his father died when the lad was young, he went to live with an uncle. But other relatives thought that evangelical Christian branch of his family was not a good influence, so brought William back to Hull, where he’d been born. He attended Cambridge and, though became quite a college partier (not a term that would have been used during the Georgian era of course), he managed to pass the exams and receive undergraduate and graduate degrees from that august institution.

Still interested in gaming and other less savory pursuits, William became a politician, using his great voice to persuade listeners. Never did he choose a party. He voted his conscience. It, or perhaps his poor eyesight and health, cost Wilberforce a post in William Pitt’s ministry. When Mr. Pitt became prime minister, whatever the reason, they remained friends.

Especially after his conversion, Wilberforce took up the subject of slavery. By the late 1780s, he was working toward the abolition of the trade. Opposition was fierce. Many Englishmen were getting rich taking trade goods from England to Africa to purchase slaves. These men and women were transported to the West Indies under horrendous conditions. From the West Indies, the English ships brought back sugar and rum.

Hannah More, link to her poetry
Hannah More, poet and abolitionist

In 1802, Wilberforce engaged in other important issues of the day such as the Society for the Suppression of Vice, working with Hannah More and the Association for the Better Observance of Sunday, and also Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He also married and became the father of six children, to whom he was devoted. The abolition of slavery, however, was his life’s most important goal.

1833 Abolitionist Act photo and link to U.K. educational site.
1833 Abolitionist Act succeeds in Britain

In 1807, the slave trade ended in England greatly because of Wilberforce’s work. Slavery, however, continued for those already enslaved in British colonies. All through the Regency, Wilberforce fought for the complete freedom of those enslaved.

In the early 1820s, he retired from politics due to poor health. He did not stop fighting for the abolition of slavery. Three days before he died in 1833, Parliament passed the act to abolition slavery in British colonies.

British Rights: Habeas Corpus and the Bill of Rights

On Wednesday, we started looking at the different rights that Regency Era subjects had in relation to their government. We talked specifically about the Magna Carta and Petition of Right of 1628. Today we’re going to continue that discussion and further analyze what protections, if any, the people of Regency England had from their king and his government.

Habeas Corpus

Habeas Corpus is the next major political document that further helped protect the British. If you recall, the Petition of Right declared that a British subject living in England could not be “detained or imprisoned without cause.” While that in and of itself is an excellent protection, it left the actual aspect of imprisonment free for abuse. Say the government had a cause to imprison you. Great. (Well, not really, but it works for our purposes). So you get thrown into prison because you were suspected of stealing a loaf of bread or some such. How long until you appear before a magistrate or a jury of your peers?

Possibly never. Because while the Petition of Right protected you from being wrongfully imprisoned, it didn’t guarantee you a trial. Habeas Corpus guarantees that a person can be take before a court if they so wish.

So did Habeas Corpus protect the average English man and woman? Definitely! In fact, most countries today have their own form of Habeas Corpus (which is still very much alive in the United Kingdom as well).

Habeas Corpus

Bill of Rights

Our last piece of legislation to look at is the Bill of Rights of 1689 (and yes, this is different from the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution). This bill limited the power of English sovereigns by guaranteeing the king or queen could not:

  • Interfere with the law.
  • Establish a tax by him or herself and without an act of Parliament.
  • Maintain a standing army during peace times.
  • Limit firearms for citizens.
  • Interfere in parliamentary elections.
  • Question the freedom of speech used in parliament.
  • Use excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishment.

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So yes, the Bill of Rights did protect your average Regency subject, and furthermore, the Bill of Rights of 1689 has been considered a forerunner of similar documents in France, the United States, Canada, the United Nations, and the European Union.

Evidently the British hit on something very important when they came up with the first ever Bill of Rights. I’m certainly glad that people during the Regency Era were afforded such protections. At the same time, my heart goes out the the French and American people for having to fight so hard to secure similar freedoms for themselves in the century that followed.

Okay, thank you for joining me as we explored British rights for the past two day. I certainly hope you enjoyed the discussion.

British Rights: What Protected Regency Subjects from the Government?

Hi Everyone,

It’s July, and with this month every summer comes national celebratory days in several countries. Canada celebrates Canada Day on July 1. The United States celebrates their Independence Day on July 4. And France celebrated its Bastille Day earlier this week on July 14. So all the celebrations of the past few weeks (as well as some research I’ve been doing on the Napoleonic Wars) led me to ask a few questions about our Regency men and women.

The Americans had their Constitution and Bill of Rights by this point, and the French had their Declaration of the Rights of Man as well as Napoleon’s Civil Code to help protect its citizens from the government. But did England have anything? If so, what? The entire social class structure that so dominated the Regency Era has never really struck me as fair or liberating, nor does the concept of a hereditary monarchy and peerage. So I did some homework, and it turns out England did indeed have civil rights protection for it’s subjects during the Regency Era (at least those subjects residing in England itself). In fact, England was really one of the first countries to start implementing these protections. We’re going to spend both today and Friday looking at them.

Magna Carta

The first of these documents  is the Magna Carta, signed by King John of England on June 15, 1215. The Magna Carta established rights of English barons and large land owners–rights that the king could not take away for any reason. In so doing, the Magna Carta also limited the power of the king. It is almost a prophetical document of the constitutional monarchy that was to come in the 1600s, and is known for “bringing the king under the law.”

So did the Magna Carta protect the every day commoner? The short answer is “No, it did not.” It protected the already wealthy and powerful from the more wealthy and more powerful king. But it was a start, a very good start, at recognizing the innate value of each and every human being, not just the king.

Petition of Right of 1628

The next major political act protecting the rights of men and women was the Petition of Right of 1628. This document delineates certain liberties that the king could not infringe upon. It says no person would be:

  • Forced to provide a gift, loan, or tax without an act of Parliament.
  • Detained and imprisoned without cause.
  • Forced to house soldiers or members of the navy.
  • Made subject to martial law unless under circumstances of war or direct rebellion.

This petition was passed by Parliament in 1628 and then again in 1641, though it still had a rather rough road ahead of it and would eventually be one of the causes of the English Civil War. But it was a start in affording the common citizen with liberties. And unlike the Magna Carta, the Petition of Right protected the common Englishman and Englishwoman.

The more I study British history, the more I see how its ruling class took actions to protect the lower classes earlier in history that the rest of the world.  Did England have a ruling class that often took advantage of the lower classes? Certainly. But at the same time, the British peerage didn’t shamelessly use the commoner the way the French aristocracy and monarchy did the peasant. They didn’t even extort the average commoner the way they did the colonists across the Atlantic Ocean.

Do any of the rights mentioned above surprise you? I was a little shocked–not that the rights existed, but that some of them existed so early.  Do you feel one of the rights delineated above stands out above the others and is more important in some way? I’d love to hear which one and why in the comments below.

And don’t forget, I’ll be back on Friday to finish this discussion.

The War of 1812 ~ Guest Post by Roseanna M. White

A privateer boat in War of 1812
The Chasseur, one of the most famous privateers of the War of 1812. This Baltimore
captain harassed the British merchant fleet in their own waters.

You know, it’s really kind of funny. When reading the Regency-set novels I so love, I often find references to the on-going war with France and the audacity of Napoleon. Only rarely, however, do we see the British perspective of another war going on at the same time, one with the upstart Colonists that had declared their independence a generation before. Even America often forgets their War of 1812, and in Europe…well, it tends to dim in comparison to the Napoleonic Wars. It’s become overlooked by both sides. But oh, how interesting it is!

In 1811, England had been fighting France for long enough that the escalating troubles with America were little more than a nuisance at first. They sent men and ships, but for the first two years of the war, their focus remained set upon France. In North America, they were concerned largely with protecting their Canadian assets, using raids along the Chesapeake to distract American forces from their invasion northward. After Napoleon surrendered, however, everyone–both British and American–new exactly what it meant.

It was time for the fighting to get serious in America.

Not only were those in the Admiralty tired of fooling around with the upstarts, but the citizenry were beginning to fuss about the audacity the Americans demonstrated in this second fight, even sending privateers to harass the British in their own waters! They demanded that the Americans’ cities be burned and her people crushed for their impudence. Ready, I daresay, for a breath of peace, more men and ships were sent from Europe to Bermuda and then, finally, to either the Chesapeake or Canada.

Privateers at war during the battle of 1812
Privateers engaged in battle during the War of 1812

But the men were weary. After months and years of suffering in the war with Napoleon, followed by months idle on the ships across the Atlantic, their hearts weren’t in it. More, the humid mid-Atlantic summer–one of the hottest recorded–caused heat-stroke left and right. More men were felled by vicious storms and intense heat for the first few months than by the sword or shells.

For many, this second war with America was but a P.S. to the first. The Revolution went wrong, they were sure, because of bad leadership decisions. Their men–the fathers of those now in charge– were killed or injured because of this. So it was their duty to put it to rights, especially when America persisted in ignoring the laws of citizenship and rights-upon-the-seas that England had held to for centuries.

It was, for many of those involved, a war no one wanted to fight. It was an afterthought to some and forgotten by many more since. A war based on little more than affronted prides. But like any other, it was also a war with heroes and bravery and determination. And as such, it deserves to be remembered.

Especially now, during its two-hundredth anniversary.

~*~

Roseanna-WhiteRoseanna M. White pens her novels under the Betsy Ross flag hanging above her desk, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When she isn’t writing fiction, she’s editing it for WhiteFire Publishing or reviewing it for the Christian Review of Books, both of which she co-founded with her husband. The first book in her Culper Ring Series, Ring of Secrets, is set during the American Revolution and available now.

Fairchild’s Lady, a FREE bonus novella starring a secondary character from that first book is available for pre-order and will release June 1. The second book in the series is set during the War of 1812–Whispers from the Shadows releases this August.

Culper Ring Series

Trial by Combat

Trial by Combat

Or the Changing Face of Justice

 “Those woods are mine and mine alone for hunting.”

“I am afraid, sir, that you are mistaken. Thos woods belong to my family and have been for six hundred years.”

“The deed to the land says otherwise.”

“My sword says more otherwise than the deed.”

“En guard!”

With clashing swords and combat to first blood or death, trial by combat, whether criminal or civil, was not an uncommon way to settle disputes in England in the Middle Ages. In fact, the issue arose in 1818 when someone demanded to settle a dispute in such a manner.

“Are you saying that is still on the books?” One can hear the authorities exclaim. “But we are civilized now. We have a different system.”

Yes, indeed, it was still on the books, though hadn’t been used for hundreds of years.

By the Regency, England’s courts had evolved from the days of trial by ordeal or combat or simple pronouncements from on high. They had become a complex and loosely jointed system of magistrates, justices of the peace, and circuit judges for the assizes.

How the system evolved from the days of Anglo-Saxon rule until the Regency is a complex system on which entire books have been written. This is a brief description of the duties of the men who handled around ninety-five per cent of England’s criminal cases during our time period. It changed again in 1830, and then again in 1971, and we don’t need to fret about those because this is its own era.

Who were justices of the peace and magistrates? They were usually gentlemen who sat in the various offices in London, hearing criminal trials brought to them from various sources. Coroners for murder, for example. Bow Street is the most famous of these offices, and possibly the most famous of the Bow Street magistrates is Sir John Fielding, brother to the eighteenth century author and also a Bow Street magistrate.

Fielding, Sir John, was called the Blind Beak of Bow Street. A “beak” in street cant, was a respected man. Sir John was blinded serving in the royal Navy, but legend has it that he recognized the voices of 3,000 criminals.

Outside of London, we had justices of the peace. These were gentlemen, but not peers. If a peer was a justice of the peace before gaining a peerage, he could keep the post, and peers did not take on the role. JPs performed the same duties of hearing cases as did magistrates. They were simply outside of London. Both sent serious criminal cases up the chain to higher judges.

On a side note here, neither magistrates nor justices of the peace could perform weddings at this time. That fell solely under the jurisdiction of the Church of England.

Outside of London, circuit judges traveled around the country and held trials at the assizes. Assizes occurred twice a year. That meant an innocent man accused of murder could languish in prison for up to six months until the next meeting of the assizes.

Inside London, serious crimes such as murder were heard by the Court of the King’s Bench.

Sadly, corruption, taking of bribes, and other forms of misconduct by judges was not uncommon. In some eras, though I haven’t found much evidence of it during the Regency, judges were removed and even sentenced to death for corrupt practices.

Regardless of these slips into sin, a trial before a judge and jury proved far more effective than trial by combat or ordeal.

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.