Having a degree in fashion design doesn’t make me an expert on historical fashion, but in my case it added fuel to my lifelong interest in clothing, beauty, and fashion. Beauty queens, Barbie dolls, princesses, and movie stars: all early building blocks of my fashion passion.
The Regency period’s fashions were definitely covered in the History of Fashion course I took in my junior year, but learning Regency fashion details was done on my own, outside of class. I still have much to learn on the topic, for example: what exactly is Pomona green? A color, yes — mentioned in several Regency historical novels, but not yet found in any dictionary I have searched.
I hope to elaborate and enlighten the readers of this blog on the wardrobe item known as the pelisse. What is that? From the context in which it is found, it is pretty obvious that it is a type of coat. But what type? Why does it have a special name and what are the specifics?
Since the dresses were often short-sleeved and light-weight, the pelisse was a necessary and essential item. The pelisse is a coat following the lines of the dress-styles of the day. Ankle-length, with the waist just under the bosom, it was close-fitting, and had closures across the bust or all the way from neck to hem. They were usually elegant and ornamental and their trimmings often matched a particular dress. The sleeves were long and extended over the hand, and could be puffed, or trimmed with fur at the shoulders.
In our day, we don’t have a garment directly correlating to the pelisse, but the closest we see in the current era would be a dressy two-piece outfit of sheath dress and matching evening coat. In future posts, I will be covering Spencers, shawls and reticules and how they related to the lives and wardrobes of Regency ladies. I welcome your requests of fashion-related topics you would like me to address … and if you know what Pomona green is, do let me know.
Wanting to spare the heroine from an arranged marriage to an ogre, the hero suggests that he marries her and they elope. The heroine agrees, since she has had a tendre for the hero since she was a schoolgirl. Unfortunately, the 1754 Hardwick Marriage Act has stiffened the laws of marriage. The heroine hasn’t yet reached her majority and they can’t take the time to obtain a special license in London. Waiting for the banns to be called is out of the question, as that will take three weeks and the parents and ogre suitor will catch up with them long before then, even if they can obtain parental permission for the under age—under twenty-one—heroine. Their only alternative is to elope to Gretna Green in Scotland.
Unfortunately again, Scotland is close to four hundred miles away. They must hire a post chase or go on horseback and, because the journey will likely take more than a week to accomplish, they will have to stay overnight before they are married, unacceptable to these two proper—other than eloping—young people. The situation appears hopeless.
Except it isn’t. The hero has some friends amongst the fishermen who have told him about carrying an eloping couple to an alternative marriage location.
In approximately fifteen hours of sailing,
the eloping couple can reach one of the Channel Islands, mainly the Island of Guernsey. Evidence presents us with the knowledge that boats waited at Southampton, Hampshire, to carry eloping couples across the channel. Logic says Plymouth, Falmouth, and a few other southern ports just might have provided the same service.
Guernsey is closer to France than England. Although it belongs to England, many of the laws differ from those of England. The marriage laws are one of those even today.
So many couples eloped to Guernsey that tracking the history of residents of the island has proven difficult, for distinguishing those who simply arrived in St. Peter Port to get married in haste, from those who lived on the island and married in the same parish, isn’t easy two hundred years later. Genealogists have focused on whether or not couples later baptized their children in that same parish in order to trace ancestry to Guernsey.
Nowadays, one does not need a license to marry in a Church of England ceremony on Guernsey. One does need a license for a civil ceremony on Guernsey.
So if your couple finds themselves hundreds of miles from Gretna Green, they can hop onto a fishing boat, or perhaps the hero’s yacht, and sail across the Narrow Sea to a channel island. First, however, he might wish to ensure that the heroine doesn’t get seasick on the way.
Gentle Readers, I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to the newest member of the Regency Reflections family! You can learn more about Kristy L. Cambron on the Blog Editor bio page. We’re so excited to have her with us. Welcome, Kristy!
I love the power of dance to drop a layer of enchantment over a room.
I can recall one of the first things I said to my husband on our wedding reception dance floor. The lights had been dimmed and as the notes of our special song played, I whispered: “And my dance card will always be full...”
I meant it. For all the years my husband and I would share after that moment, I knew my future dances would always have a special partner.
Stunning dresses. Dapper gentlemen. Ladies hidden behind their fans. Lively music and sophisticated steps… Today that all-important first dance may be synonymous with the wedding celebration, but the Regency ballroom was just as alive with color and spirit as our reception dance floors are today.
Or dare I say, more so?
Though weddings were primarily private family affairs in the Regency (as opposed to the social events we see today), ballrooms and wedding parties alike were brought to life by vivid dance reels and lively music. After all, the ball was the social event by which all others were judged. Moreover, to grasp a partner’s hand in dance was often the only socially acceptable touch between an unmarried man and woman.
Affection was born and engagements followed, all over the steps of the most popular dances of the day…
~ The Cotillion
Distinguishing characteristics: Originated in France during the 18th century. Includes four couples dancing in square formations with elaborate steps and changing partners. French for petticoat, the term cotillion was said to have been coined after the flash of petticoats that could be seen as partners swiftly changed on the dance floor.
Interesting Fact: Georgette Heyer’s historical romance, Cotillion (1953), is one of her much loved Regency novels. Though a generally cheery novel, the title is mirrored in a story that centers around the overlapping love lives of four couples (much like the steps of the cotillion dance itself).
Distinguishing characteristics: Another dance import from France. Similar to the cotillion, it includes four couples dancing in square sets but omits the repeating “chorus” dance. Was later combined with the popular waltz to form a hybrid of the two dances, the Waltz Cotillion (as seen in this video – click HERE).
Interesting fact: Introduced early in the Regency and immensely popular by 1815, the quadrille was a very lively dance that often adapted music from stage plays and was thought to be quite flirtatious at the time. A form of the quadrille can still be seen today in modern day square dancing.
~ La Boulanger
Distinguishing characteristics: A simpler dance for three couples. Often used as the last dance of the evening at a ball or party.
Interesting fact: As many dances could include quite intricate steps, dance masters were often hired by wealthier families to educate their children on the art of the popular dances. (A very popular dance master of the day was Thomas Wilson, who published many influential books on the art of dancing and etiquette.) For you Jane Austen fans, la Boulanger was a favorite of the authoress and was a dance declared by name in her novels.
Distinguishing characteristics: First popular in Vienna (1780s) but introduced to the English ballroom during the Regency. New sensation but slow to catch on because of the “closeness” enjoyed by two dancing partners.
Interesting fact: The waltz caused a bit of a scandal when it first popped onto the English ballroom scene around 1810. Because of the close proximity shared by two dancing partners, the embrace was thought improper and in fact, was often ridiculed by early opponents. In 1825, the Oxford English Dictionary actually defined the waltz as “riotous and indecent”. (Boyd Hilton, A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People? England 1783–1846 (Oxford U P 2006).
Feet tapping for more references? Here are some good ones:
Click [HERE] to see an example of a stunning Regency Era ball gown.
Click [HERE] to hear samples of Regency Era dance music.
Click [HERE] to learn more about Regency dances from the Jane Austen Centre at Bath.
Whether it was one of the English country dances with the fun names (such as the “Teasing Made Easy”) or the classic Minuet, our Regency friends certainly knew how to fill up their dance cards.
Welcome back to our continuing series on the poets of the Regency! This is where we find out what might have been in the slim volumes of verse a Regency heroine would reach for in her well-appointed library when she wanted a little literary distraction. Today’s Regency-era poet? The master of the English Romantic movement: William Wordsworth.
The glory of the hills
The Lake District was Wordsworth’s stomping ground and inspired much of his poetry. Part of the reason the area became a popular tourist destination during the Regency (if you’ll remember, Elizabeth Bennett made plans to visit the area with her aunt and uncle in “Pride and Prejudice”), was because of Wordsworth’s poetry (he also published a guide to the area in 1810).
In an era before National Geographic television specials, Wordsworth’s command of words took the natural glory of the Lake District and brought it to life in the minds of city-dwellers, firing their desire to visit the land full of fells and falls.
The religion of nature
But if his poetry had merely been a recitation of the beauties of nature, it would never have struck the deep chord that it did. Instead, Wordsworth took the sweetness of what he saw and heard in the hills and distilled it down into an essence of peace that comforted him when he was again “in lonely rooms, and mid the din/Of towns and cities“.
Indeed, he was almost a panentheist, sensing in the world around him
A presence that disturbs me with the joy Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime Of something far more deeply interfused, Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, And the round ocean, and the living air, And the blue sky, and in the mind of man, A motion and a spirit, that impels All thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things.
This sub-Christian philosophy had the effect both of deepening the meaning of his work and of making his sentiments provocative and controversial. Personally, I always want to read him twice: once to drink in all the beauty of his verse, and once to argue my way through the philosophy of it.
But what I have learned from Wordsworth – what I will be forever grateful to have learned – is how to drink in God’s creation when I am in the midst of it. How to notice, really notice, the glory of my surroundings when I’m somewhere beautiful like the high Sierras or the Oregon coast, and then how to take those memories out and relive them when I’m again trapped in the concrete jungle of the city, or when my heart is discouraged or my feelings low. Wordsworth didn’t just “wander lonely as a cloud”, he taught us all how to keep our eyes and our hearts open during our wanderings, and to return home richer than we left, memories full and minds engaged in thoughts about everything we saw when we were out in the world.
Make like a lady of the Regency and read some Wordsworth
Two poems to start with? One, the famous “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”. It’s short, but much richer than you might expect from a poem ostensibly about little yellow flowers. Then, if that whets your appetite, go on to the slightly longer, immensely powerful “Tintern Abbey”. Remember, it’s always going to be better read aloud, so you can hear the rhythm and flow of the language.
If you do go and read some Wordsworth, come back and tell me what you thought of him in the comments! Or if you’ve a favorite Wordsworth poem already, let me know what it is!
Also, let me know if you have a beautiful place you bring to your mind when you need a little bit of beauty to life your heart. My favorite is King’s Canyon in the Sequoia National Forest, and I’d love to hear what yours is!
“For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke 14:11 KJV
(Read Luke 14:7-11.)
This passage often comes to mind when writing about the Regency. The notion of sitting at the lowest place, of abasing oneself in society is an anathema to what we show amongst the peoples of the Regency. Getting the highest honors, marrying the highest ranked man or the richest heiress was what the world was all about, or at least what the world we portray was all about. And yet we write Christian Regencies, which means our characters must have a Christian world view while living in a society that insisted upon promoting one’s social standing and/or wealth—politely, of course. On the one hand, they are not supposed to raise themselves up if they are to be serious followers of Christ. On the other hand, they cannot move through the halls and balls of even the gentry without looking, acting, and simply being the best in an attempt to attract the best.
As I write my characters, I struggle with this dichotomy for them. And then I think how apropos to today’s society are the struggles of my characters.
Nowadays, everything is about networking. To network, we need to promote and promote and then, for a change, promote some more. Get our names out there for the world to see, recognize, respond to, we’re told. Editors won’t buy books from authors who don’t already have a web presence, etc., etc., etc.
Hubris is the word that comes to mind. Extreme pride or arrogance. It’s practically de rigueur for a Regency hero to be that way. Yet how can we have an arrogant hero who is a Christian? How can we as Christians be prideful of our work enough to tell people they should select ours above all others?
I’d like to know the thoughts of others on this subject, as it is something with which I struggle for my characters of my books and within my own character. My conclusion is to put others first, uphold others, place them at the head of the table, and let God take care of the rest.
Ah, titles. They are one of the most fascinating things about the Regency period, I think. It’s no secret that people are enamored with the idea of royalty. (Have you seen the one year anniversary dolls of William and Kate?) The fascination with titles and everything that comes with them is part of the draw of the Regency time period. Right before the industrial revolution and the rise of the middle class, the power and prestige that came from sheer luck of birth was still riding high at the beginning of the 19th century.
Kristi here, with a look at how all that power and prestige makes its way down the family tree. On the surface, inheritance is simple. But the intricacies can get very complex.
But, just for kicks, I’m going to make up another one to use in this example. Introducing the Duke of Handsomeshire (because, really, what good is a fictional duke if he doesn’t look good?)
The Creation of the Duke of Handsomeshire
Sometime back in history, the king thought someone deserved great honor and bestowed upon him the title of Duke of Handsomeshire. He was given some land and possibly some money and a whole bunch of other favors because the king liked him.
Now the First Duke of Handsomeshire feels very responsible for this new title. He gets himself a wife and sets about having an heir and a spare or two. Or five or six because children died way too often back then. We’ll call his sons Adam, Benjamin, Charles, and Edward. (D was Deborah and she’s a girl, so sadly means nothing in this article.)
The Progression of the Dukedom
The title, property, money, and all of that other fun stuff pass down to son number one, Adam. He becomes the second Duke of Handsomeshire. All the other kids? Well, good luck to them. If Adam is feeling generous he might help the others, but really he doesn’t have to. All Adam has to do is manage the estate, find him a wife, and make lots of little heirs of his own.
This continues down the line for several generations. As long as the Duke of Handsomeshire has sons, there’s little question of who inherits. However, years go by and the sixth Duke of Handsomeshire is blessed with lovely, talented, beautiful daughters. Who can’t inherit squat as far as the title is concerned.
By now the family tree of the original duke looks like this:
The Rerouting of the Direct Line
Once the sixth Duke of Handsomeshire dies, the powers that be start tracing the tree backward. Since women can’t inherit, they can immediately be ignored.
Hopefully the sixth duke had a younger brother. If that younger brother is dead, then hopefully the younger brother had little boys of his own. But, alas, it’s a generation of skirts, so up the tree we go.
If, as I have made the case here, there aren’t a whole lot of male progeny, they have to trace quite a good distance back to keep it in the direct male line of the original title holder. In this case we have to go all the way back to the 1st duke’s fourth son, Edward. Benjamin had lots of daughters and Charles sadly died without any offspring. You can make his death as tragic as you like. It really has no bearing on the inheritancy.
What you end up with is this:
The 8th duke isn’t going to inherit until his father dies, of course. He’s just labeled to show the continuation of the line.
The Ramifications of the New Line
Now over six generations, the family is going to spread out. With no tie to the title or the family money, descendents of younger sons have had to make their own way in life. It’s feasible that somewhere along the line these men moved. Possibly even out of the country. Not expecting to inherit, and indeed possibly not even knowing there was a duke back in branches of the family tree, they’ve gone about their lives.
Suddenly a guy shows up with a complicated diagram and a whole lot of legal papers stating you’ve inherited something from your sixth cousin. And this is how you could end up with an American (or French or German) Duke of Handsomeshire that actually knows how to farm or run a business or some other such un-aristocratic skill.
The Case of No Male Descendants
There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. When a peerage was made, there could be provisions set that allowed certain titles to descend through the female line. Probably the most famous exception was the Duke of Marlborough. His family looked like this:
But neither of the lads in the picture survived, leaving him with only daughters. This meant that the brand new title had nowhere to go. So provision was made for the title to pass through the female line down to the next male heir.
Knowing this, it now makes a lot more sense why so many second and third cousins could be found hanging around and reminding everyone of their connection to the peerage. One never knew when one might inherit.
If you’re looking for more information about the details of exceptions to this male-inheritance rule as well as pesky things such as entails and what happened to a title if there were no male sixth cousins hanging around, you can read this article from ChristianRegency.com.
Now just for fun, go trace your family tree and see how far you are away from a title. Unless you’re female. Then you can see how many people would have to die for your brother or husband to inherit. Should only take you a couple dozen years or so.
Murder in Parliament sounds like the title of a mystery novel. Sadly, the title is the raw truth. On may 11, 1812, an assassin walked up to the prime minister and shot him. The Right Honorable Spencer Perceval died within minutes of the shooting, and the killer turned himself in moments after that.
Murder is always tragic, and this one made more so for its seeming pointlessness. At first, before details were known, some thought the assassination a French plot. After all, the French seemed to be winning the war. The British weren’t doing well on the continent at any rate. Why not disrupt the government with an assassination? But, no, the killing shot was triggered from the hand of an individual, a subject of Great Britain, John Bellingham.
So why did John Bellingham have special pockets sewn into his coat to hold his pistols concealed? Why did he wait in the lobby of Parliament, wait for Perceval to appear, then walk up and shoot him through the heart?
Many said he was insane, that he must be insane. Others denied this fact, one of those being John Bellingham himself. Another who said he was sane was Sir James Mansfield, the judge who presided over his brief trial and pronounced his immediate sentence.
Bellingham wanted justice. He may or may not have been the John Bellingham who went to sea as a midshipman in the 1780s. That ship went aground after the crew mutinied. He may have been the same John Bellingham who’s tin business in London failed a few years later. No one is quite sure. That he worked in a counting house is certain. He also went to Russia for importers and exporters, and there is where the real troubles began.
A ship insured by Lloyds of London was lost in the White Sea. Before the merchants could collect on the insurance, Lloyds received an anonymous letter saying the ship had been sabotaged. Suspecting Bellingham was the author of said letter, the owners of the vessel claimed he owed a substantial debt, which landed Bellingham in a Russian prison. A year later, he managed his release, went to St. Petersburg, and dove into more trouble that landed him back into a Russian prison. He was released in 1808, received permission from the czar to leave Russia, and ended up back in England in 1809—to no happy homecoming.
Bellingham petitioned the British government for compensation for his imprisonment in Russia. But nothing was forthcoming. Due to Russia’s relationship with France at the time, the British had broken off diplomatic relations with Russia. At the persuasion of his wife, Bellingham gave up and went to work, but tried again in 1812.
Allegedly, a civil servant at the foreign office told Bellingham he could take whatever measures he thought proper. I expect this clerk thought Bellingham would write letters or even waylay someone like Lord Gower, the British ambassador to Russia at the time of Bellingham’s imprisonment in that country.
Bellingham, however, made other plans. He bought the pistols, had the pockets made, and executed his plan as Perceval strode through the lobby of Parliament.
One can dismiss the incident as someone with a grievance taking it out on the highest person he could reach. One might think that people would be appalled by him and call out with joy at his hanging. On the contrary. Much sentiment lay with Bellingham. He had carried out justice and maybe in the future, those in high places would listen when petitioned by a wronged common man.
Indeed, though no one—or perhaps a few far-sighted thinkers of the time—realized that this assassination did change the course of history, that John Bellingham’s actions brought about justice. A different government came into power after Perceval leadership was gone, a government that reenacted much needed reforms that helped the poor.
As for Bellingham’s family. A collection was taken, and his family ended with far more money than they had before his dastardly deed and consequent execution.
Kristi here. Have you called your mother today? Probably not. But if your mother lives in the US, she’ll be expecting that phone call Sunday since it is, after all, Mother’s Day. (If she lives in England you should have called on March 18 – hope you did!)
Mother’s Day (or Mothering Sunday as the characters in our books would have referred to it) was a very important day. Celebrated at least since the 16th century, Mothering Day in England is part of Lent. It is the Sunday when Eating restrictions are relaxed in honor of the feeding of the five thousand. During the Regency (and surrounding periods) it was also when domestic servants were allowed to journey home, often with a gift of cake or flowers, to see their family.
The Importance of Motherhood
It doesn’t surprise me that mothers were considered important enough to allow one’s servants to make the sometimes long journeys to visit them. While traditionally and biblically the father is the head of the household, mothers have always been the backbone.
In Proverbs 31, the woman is a wife and mother who does the grocery and clothes shopping, manages investments, stays up at odd hours, does charity work, ensures her family’s comfort and safety, cares for the home, and teaches the children. And she does all of this with honor and wisdom. It is no wonder that “Her sons rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her.” Proverbs 31:28
Blessings on Mothers
Mothers come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties. There are adoptive mothers and foster moms, mothers with one child and mothers with nineteen. Women who don’t have any official claim to the title of mother, but act in that capacity with boundless love.
No matter what the pathway to motherhood, know that God considers it one of the highest callings a woman can receive. He is trusting you with His most precious gift, His very creation. He trusts mothers to protect, raise, and instruct them in how to be effective children of God.
If you are blessed enough to have your mother with you, take some time, holiday or not, to rise up and call her blessed. It’s what she’s done all that work for.
The Imperfection of The Fallen World
On the other hand, you may not be blessed with the existence of your mother. Whether by illness, age, neglect, or misunderstanding, you may not have a mother to pick up the phone and call. There is good news for you as well.
“As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you.” Isaiah 66:13
Despite the practice of giving Him a male personification, God is capable of being everything you need, including a mother. We live in a fallen world where mothers make mistakes because they are human. Disease enters their bodies. The grief of losing or never having your mother is deep, but God’s love is deeper.
Rise Up and Call Her Blessed
Since I became a mother I understand my own so much better. I have days where I call her just to tell her I now realize what an awesome mother she is. It often makes her cry. The reason mothers love those handmade cards and popsicle stick ornaments is because they are reminders that our children think we’re special. There is no greater gift you can give your mother than to tell her thank you.
Maybe you don’t have a mother and God has already filled that void in your life or maybe you have some extra time on your hands. Bless another mother by keeping her kids while she does the grocery shopping or bringing her a meal. Call a new mother up and tell her she’s doing great. Call a broken hearted mother and offer her your shoulder.
Henry Bickersteth, First Baron of Langdale (1783 ~ 1851) is credited as saying, “If the whole world were put into one scale, and my mother in the other, the whole world would kick the beam.”
You are blessed, mothers of the womb and of the heart, for you have become the physical manifestation of God’s arms on earth. Love your children with the love of God and you cannot go wrong.
Kristi here. If you live in the United States and you’re reading this article it means either A) you’ve already finished your taxes or B) you’re avoiding doing your taxes by perusing the internet. If the latter I suggest you hop to it because Tax Day is right around the corner.
“The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin
How true, how true. Taxes are a way of life if you want to have a funded government. During the Regency, with the American Revolution having just wrapped up and the Napoleonic Wars raging, not to mention a Prince Regent with an eye for expensive decor, the English government taxed the citizens in every way it could think of. Newspapers, soap, tea, pins, sugar, coffee, even horses and dogs were taxed. By the time the Regency rolled around the English government had gotten very good at taxing people in unique ways.
The Window Tax
Probably the most infamous of the taxes was the window tax. It was doubly bad because there was also a Glass Excise tax. So you got taxed when you bought the glass for the window and then taxed for having the window.
Any portal that allowed you to see outside of the house – even a small ventilation hole – counted towards a home’s total number of windows. Homes were classed into three groups: less than 10 windows, 10-20 windows, and more than 20 windows. The rates were occasionally raised, coming to their peak during the Regency, before slowly decreasing until the tax was eradicated altogether in 1937.
While some people, particularly poor people, did brick up certain windows to avoid the tax, false windows were also a popular architecture feature. This was awfully convenient if you did want to brick up a window because it kept it from looking out of place.
The Servant Tax
Next time you’re reading (or writing!) a Regency novel, pay attention to the number of people running around performing services for all the characters. All of them drew a tax from their employers. Footmen, butlers, valets, game-keepers, grooms, and gardeners all added together to make money to fund wars on the American and French fronts. The scale was as difficult to figure out as their money.
Families were charged different rates than bachelors. Eventually a sliding scale, based on the number of servants you employed, was applied to the rates.
Originally the law applied only to male servants working in homes or on estates. By the time Prinny came to power, women servants, waiters, book-keepers, clerks, stewards, and even factory workers and farm laborers were being taxed. The rates had also been risen to their highest point in history, making the sheer effort of making a living and running a household an expensive endeavor. While things did get better after 1823, the tax was not entirely repealed until 1889.
The Church Tax
Yes, the Church of England was also in the game of raising funds. At the time the church was responsible for much more than religious education, fellowship, and Godly worship. They also cared for the roads, the poor, and upkeep of certain public buildings – including the place of worship.
This was separate from the tithes expected from farmers and craftsmen which paid the living for the clergy. Also, while not a requirement, it was expected that people pay pew rental fees to the church to secure their seats for worship services. One would also have to tip the person who opened your pew box for you to sit down.
All of this taxation served to make the poor poorer and the rich a little irritated. The poorest of people lived in houses without ventilation and didn’t wash because of the tax on soap. This made them sick and unable to care for themselves, in which case they had to rely on the church which meant the church had to collect more in taxes as well which led the rich to go to great lengths to drive the poor to another district. What a vicious circle.
Sadly, things haven’t changed much. Between income tax, property tax, sales tax, ad valorem tax, and other things like estate and capital gains taxes, just about everything we touch is taxed as well. I guess Ecclesiastes is right… there’s nothing new under the sun.
Money was undergoing a change during the Regency. It began during the early part of the Napoleonic wars, in 1797 to be exact, when the guinea was discontinued officially. Guineas were still in circulation, though, and people spoke in terms of items costing X number of guineas.
So what was a guinea? 21 shillings.
Clear as mud?
Let’s break this down to the simplest terms possible.
Farthing (as in “I don’t give a farthing for that.) ¼ pence
Hapenny or half penny: ½ penny or pence
Penny: a penny or pence shown as amount in numbers with a d.
Tuppence: two pennies
Thrupence: three pennies
Sixpence: six pennies or half a shilling
Shilling: 12 pennies r pence and shown as amount in numbers with an S
Half Crown: 30 pence or 2S 6D
Crown: 60d or 5s
Pony: Slang term for 25 pounds
Monkey: Slang term for 500 pounds.
Sovereign: In 1816, Great Britain went on the gold standard and issued the sovereign, which was a pound in a gold coin.
Although bank notes were issued for convenience, they were not legal tender as we think of paper money nowadays. That didn’t occur until a little over a decade after the Regency ended. Bank notes were promissory notes saying that the bearer could exchange it for the face value of the note in gold coins. This was one way in which money passed from bank to bank.
To explain the banking system and how it worked before even telegrams could be exchanged to verify accounts is a complicated subject that will have to wait for another post.