Category: History

The Season

Susan’s musings:

London was the center of the Regency universe, and the London Season was the center of the marriage market. The season began with the opening of Parliament, usually in March. Hunting season was done and it was time for a different kind of hunt: the hunt for suitable marriage partners for the daughters and sons of the nobility and gentry.

Some families came as early as Christmas to prepare for the opening of Parliament. This allowed the females of the family plenty of preparation time and enabled the young ladies to acquire a bit of town bronze. Much shopping, dress fittings, and “seeding the ground” for those all-important invitations kept them in a flurry of busy anticipation for the season.

Her first season was a dramatic turning point in a young girl’s life. At around age eighteen, everything changed overnight and she was no longer a green girl. She was now allowed to dress and wear her hair in adult fashion. She began her season taking part in the ritual of being presented to the queen wearing some quite strange mandated apparel which included a feathered headdress and hoopskirts. This was known as her come out. An average debutante might attend 50 balls, 60 parties, 30 dinners, and 25 breakfasts over the course of a season.

Women visited with their friends, patronized the fashionable shops and showed off their finery at lavish balls, the theater and the opera. Gentlemen, when not busy at their clubs, courted the ladies and pursued manly sports.

A typical day during the Season might begin with a ride in Hyde Park, then breakfast. Shopping and paying calls on close friends came next for the ladies, followed by lunch. The men went off to their clubs or to Parliament, while the ladies went out to pay even more calls. Dinner was at six or seven, followed by soirees or the opera, with balls or dances, going on until three in the morning. Popular dances included the cotillion, and the waltz. The height of the season began after Easter, signaling the beginning of a dizzying, three-month round of social events.

This expensive frivolity had the serious goal of marriage behind it. If a girl did not take, and get leg-shackled to an eligible parti by, at the latest, her second or third season, she was considered a failure. The season ended officially on August 12, when Parliament adjourned, after which everyone retreated to their country estates.

You have noticed some bold words above. What are your favorite bits of Regency slang?

Originally posted 2012-03-19 10:00:00.

Regency Recipe–Wild Goose Chase

To write an historical romance, it sometimes is necessary to feed your characters (can’t let them starve now, can we?), which means researching food from the time period is just as important as other aspects of research.

While researching for my regency Christmas ebook, I discovered that transposing period recipes from Georgian or Regency cookbooks is a challenge. For one thing, cooks of the day didn’t usually measure their ingredients in the traditional sense. Recipes called for “a large haunch of venison,” or, “one fowl, good for a supper.” Then, ingredients might be listed as, “one good spoon of mace,” or “a quick handful of oats,” and so on.

Also, they had no thermostats for their ovens which were often merely described as “a hot fire,” or “a moderate oven.” As adventurous as I am at times in my kitchen, I hesitate to spend time trying something that might not work. I like the tried and true when it comes to recipes. (When things go wrong–as as they occasionally do in my cooking, at least I know I’m the one to blame!)

Thankfully, there are cookbooks out there today with modernized recipes from the past. I still enjoy looking through the older ones with their “hot fires” and “handfuls” of flour, however. They did things, despite the lack of modern conveniences, on a surprisingly grander scale. They arranged dinners in courses (if the family could afford to) and used meats that we would consider exotic today.

A typical meal would easily find four or five sources of protein on the menu, served in courses, sometimes with multiple meats in one course. Rabbit, venison, pheasant, grouse, and even partridge were not unusual entrees. Duck, goose, quail and wild turkey were also game (couldn’t resist). Dishes were arranged on the table according to how important they were. “Middles” were the main dishes, while “sides” were, well, you know. We still call them sides.

I usually make two, sometimes three sides for my family. During the regency, the well-to-do dinner table would have a few with each course! No wonder they needed to employ a kitchen staff.

I confess I’ve had grand plans to join the ranks of the kitchen experimenters who try and cook up the old-fashioned recipes. “Plans” is the operative word. I can enjoy a good day in the kitchen, really, especially for baking, but with a family to feed, I have little time to spend just “experimenting.” In the spirit of modern-day ease, therefore, I offer here a recipe for “fowl” anyone can do. You can squirrel it away (hmmm, I wonder if they ate squirrel back then, too?) for your next lavish holiday table. It has the atmosphere of olde England about it, as it’s traditional for Christmas, but works for today’s ovens–and measuring spoons!

Wild Goose Chase 

  • 1 cup dried apricots, halved
  • 2 cups dried prunes, halved
  • 1/2 cup Madeira wine
  • 1 Goose (12 pounds)
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash paprika
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 1 1/4 cups Wild Goose Sauce (recipe below)

Place apricots and prunes in a mixing bowl. Add Madeira. Mix and set aside. Preheat oven to 325 F. Rinse goose and pat dry. Prick all over with a fork. Rub inside and out with the orange juice.  Add apples and orange zest to apricots and prunes. Sprinkle goose inside and out with salt, pepper and paprika. Stuff cavity with fruit. Skewer opening closed. Lay bacon slices across breast. Place goose, breast side up, in a shallow roasting pan. Roast for 1 1/2 hours, removing accumulated fat every 30 minutes (there will be a lot). Remove bacon and roast for 1 hour more, removing fat after 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Let stand 20 minutes before carving.

Wild Goose Sauce

  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup Madeira wine
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns, slightly crushed
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Scrape brown pan drippings from roast into saucepan. Add green onions, 1/2 cup of the chicken stock (saving 1/4 cup), Madeira and peppercorns. Simmer 5 minutes. Mix cornstarch with remaining 1/4 cup stock until smooth. Slowly drizzle into sauce, stirring rapidly. Add salt and pepper. Stir, simmer 5 minutes. Serve over goose.

Enjoy!

Have you ever made goose for your family? How did it turn out? I tried it once and there really is a TON of fat that must be removed during cooking. We enjoyed the roast, however. What about you? If not goose, did you try some other meat or other old-fashioned recipe that is unusual? Tell us about it; we’d love to know about your experience!

Linore.  Recipe from Regency House Christmas: The Definitive Guide to a Remarkably Regency Yuletide by Linore Rose Burkard

Check out my Kindle short, Coach and Four: Allisandra’s Tale!

Originally posted 2012-03-16 07:00:00.

My Carriage Awaits… Maybe

Vanessa here, writing with tongue in cheek about Regency transportation.

News of the heroine’s abduction has made its way to the hero. With a quick prayer for strength, he yanks on his tailcoat and readies to chase after the villain and reclaim the lass. How will the hero get to his sweetheart in time? It all depends upon the hero’s fortune and location.

Poor vicar standing in his country parish.

More than likely, he’s going to walk. To keep a carriage for his personal use and maintain his household (a cook and a valet/groom) he’d have to have a living of at least 700 pounds per year above his keep. (Modest household annual expenses cost about 350 pounds.) If the tithe from his parish weren’t enough, maybe his noble patroness would lend him the use of one of her carriages.

Man of good income standing in the drawing room of his country manor.

He’d rush to his steward to send word to his grooms to ready his vehicle in the coach house.  The coach house was an independent building kept on the hero’s lands that housed his carriage(s), similar to what a garage does today. There the vehicles could be kept clean and safe from the weather or critters. The hero couldn’t keep the carriage in a stable. Being so near the feed would invite mice. Varmints do bad things to the fabrics of the interiors. It simply wouldn’t do for the hero to arrive in a shabby condition.

American Heritage Dictionary: Carriage in a Coach House.

Man of moderate income living in London.

He’d rush to his groom or valet, whoever was in closer proximity within the few feet of his leased rooms. The hero would instruct his servant to hire a gig (a generic term for any two-wheeled vehicle with seating for two) or a hackney (the “cab” system of Regency London) if the villain kept the heroine within the city. If the villain had fled London, the groom would be sent to the nearest stable or coach house to rent transport. This is not instant and could take hours to arrange.

Man of good income living in London.

He’d rush to his groom or steward, whoever was in the closest proximity within the first level of the hero’s leased town home and follow his man out to the mews in the alley behind the house. The hero’s horse(s) and carriage would be kept there. Mews are similar to the coach houses, just smaller.

So the hero has “called” for his mode of transportation, but what are his options?

Horse: If the hero has a long way to travel and time is of the essence, nothing beats horse back. If the weather is bad with snow on the ground, road travel by carriage would be nearly impossible. The road conditions were poor enough in good weather.

The hero would have no choice but to travel by horse. At a gallop, a horse could average 30 miles per hour, which is faster than the 5 to 7 miles per hour in a carriage. Thoroughbred, Percheron, Belgian, Clydesdale, and Shire breeds were available during the Regency. Hopefully, the heroine wouldn’t mind him on horseback. Maybe she fancies being saved by a knight in Damask waistcoat armor.

Know your Horseflesh

Barouche: This is a large vehicle typically drawn by two horses. The seated occupants face each other. A large hood could fold over the passengers but could be driven open, for every one to see the occupants. Closed, this vehicle was good option for medium distances, 25-50 miles.

The Barouche Carriage

Landau:  This is a four-wheeled carriage known for being driven open to show off the occupants. It’s typically drawn by a pair, four-in-hand. The top is soft and folds into two sections exposing the interior. Our hero’s rescue plans may be thwarted in an open carriage, not to mention the dangers of the heroine’s reputation being sullied to the world.

1819 Ackermann’s Repository Landaulet Landau Carriage

Georgiantimes.homestead.net – Know your Landau Parts

Chaise: This is an open carriage with seating for one, two, or even three (if the driver rides one of the horses, postilion style.) Our hero would have to be creative with his rescue plans to use the smaller versions of the chaise. Hopefully, the heroine is alone, no little sister in tow. Thus unusual riding arrangements won’t be needed.

Chaise Illustration by Pearson Scott Foresman

The Post Chaise: This is a four-wheeled closed carriage driven by a team of four. The driver had to ride one of the horses. The post chaise could have windows, even in the front, perfect for searching the landscape. It also had a luggage platform, which could carry supplies or a portmanteau for a change of clothes. If the hero has to travel a far distance, this is the vehicle of choice, and it’s perfect for ferrying a group of servants or secondary characters.

Courtesy of the Suffolk Museum – The Post Chaise

The Rear of the Post Chaise

Coach and Four: This is a four-wheeled closed vehicle drawn by four horses. There is a luggage box in the front. The driver would sit or straddle this depending on the coach design. The back also had a luggage box or basket. The interior hosts hidden compartments for bags of ransom money or a flintlock.

If this is our hero’s lot, he will languish with worry with his head nestled on the Padua silk lining the walls as he drives his fist into the upholstered brocade fabric of the seat backs. Carriage interiors could be contrived with anything the hero or his patroness could afford: silk, tapestries, glass windows, lanterns for lighting, etc. Leather was typically used for open carriages because of the smell arising from the chemicals used in tanning and treating the hides.

Wealthy members of the Ton used the Coach and Four for daily transport. The less wealthy would use these for long distances. If money is of no concern for the hero with his 30,000 pounds per year, this would be in his coach house or mews.

Even if the hero is tight with his coins, for a long journey this would be the hero’s best option.

The Coach and Four with Servants on the Roof

Cocking Cart: This is a two-wheeled open carriage led by one horse. The hero would have to drive this. There is only room for him and the heroine. This is a less expensive option, so a hero of modest means could lease this.

GeorgianTimes.Homestead.net – Cocking Cart

Curricle: This is a two-wheeled open carriage pulled by two horses (preferably well matched so that the carriage doesn’t jerk.) This vehicle is typically controlled by our hero, not a groom, though the hero could have a groom drive. These vehicles are built for speed, but these speeds were no more than 5-10 miles per hour.

The Curricle

Dogcart: This is a two-wheeled or four-wheeled vehicle with back-to-back seating for four. The dogcart is another less expensive option but not very speedy. If the heroine has a best friend or little sister in tow, he may not have the option of enjoying the heroine’s fine eyes if the hero and heroine cannot share the same seat.

The Dogcart

Phaeton: This is an open carriage with four-wheels with one or two seats. A high phaeton as shown below would be so tall, the villain would see our hero coming. Also, some were prone to tipping. Tipping would probably doom the rescue.

The High Phaeton

The hero’s dilemma is great as is his choices for transport. With the exception of the Victoria and the Corbillard, the illustration shows an abundance of carriage choices known to the Regency World.

Illustration from The Dictionary of P. Larousse

Closing Thoughts

Transportation options varied in the Regency from walking to horseback to carriages. As income dictates whether the average Joe can afford a Chevette or Cadillac, it also weighed heavily on all members of Regency society. Plausible cases can be made for any of the hero’s options, but it should be consistent with his status, time frame, geography, and even the weather.

Hopefully, the hero has chosen wisely and is now on his way to save the heroine. Let’s pray he gets there in time.

References:

http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/pptopics.html

http://www.rubylane.com/

http://www.susannaives.com/nancyregencyresearcher/

http://main.thebeaumonde.com/

http://www.britannica.com/

http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com

http://historicalhussies.blogspot.com

http://janeausteninvermont.wordpress.com

Driving horse-drawn carriages for pleasure: the classic illustrated guide to coaching, harnessing, stabling, etc. by Francis T. Underhill

An Economic History of London, 1800-1924 by Michael Ball, David Sunderland.

 

Originally posted 2012-03-12 10:00:00.

Sporting Madness ~ The Existence and Growth of Organized Competition


Even the president of the United States takes time to fill out his basketball predictions.

Ah, Spring. When a young American man’s fancy turns to brackets and basketballs and he is likely to put more consideration into picking which college to root for than he did selecting which college to attend. There’s a reason it’s called March Madness.

 

Kristi here, and the fascination with sports is not a new one. The Regency era saw a culture on the cusp of the organized sporting events. While many games remained unofficial skirmishes, there were several championship challenges emerging by the beginning of the Victorian era. And of course, all of them got gambled on.

 Royal Ascot – Horse Racing

Ascot, 1791

In 1711, Queen Anne acquired land near Ascot in which to hold horse races. The first race had a purse of 100 guineas. By 1813, races at Ascot were such a part of the fabric of England that Parliament stepped in, passing an act to ensure the racing grounds remained a public racecourse.

 

Prinny, the future King George IV, made Ascot one of the most fashionable social occasions of the year. After ascending to the throne, he had a new stand built for the exclusive use of guests of the royal family. The Royal Enclosure still exists today and admittance to it is very difficult to obtain.

An example of a modern day hat worn by an attendee in the Royal Enclosure.

The Royal Ascot was, and still is, a four day event. It was the only racing event held at the racecourse during the 19th century. England’s elite would gather to watch horses above the age of six barrel through the course in pursuit of the Gold Cup.

The grandeur of the original races continues today in the strict dress code requiring formal day dresses and those infamous hats for the attending ladies. Men must still wear the morning suits and top hats as a nod to the Regency era.

During the early 1800s, fashion was always important to the upper class and the Royal Ascot was certainly no exception. The importance of dressing right for the races even lent its name to the traditional wide morning tie, now known as an Ascot Tie.

The Royal Ascot takes place in June, one of the last hurrahs of Spring Season.

 Players Vs Gentlemen – Cricket

A Cricket Game at Darnell

This amateur against professional game of cricket actually skipped over the true Regency. It began in 1806, disappeared for a while, and then re-established as a yearly tradition in 1819. It remained in place until 1962 where is phased out again only to be revived in recent years, with matches in 2010 and 2011.

At the time of conception the Gentlemen, or amateurs, were largely aristocratic men who had played during their school years. The Players were professionals, paid to play by various county cricket clubs.

Cricket Ball. Image courtesy of Ed g2s

Unlike professional athletes of today, the professionals weren’t hired to play each other but rather to play the gentlemen that were members of the cricket clubs. Rather like a tennis pro or golf pro at a modern day country club.

The game lasted for three days and usually took place at Lord’s. Not including the most recent matches, the Players had 125 wins to the Gentlemen’s 68. Today the Players are professional athletes from England’s competitive cricket circuit and the Gentlemen tend to be pulled from the University cricket teams.

 Intercollegiate Sports – The Boat Race

The Boat Race, Oxford V. Cambridge, 1841

Colleges had always prized physical skill in addition to mental learning, but it wasn’t until the early Victorian era that they began to officially meet each other on the playing field. Prior to this point, most collegiate athletic competitions were between houses within the college.

Cricket and Rowing competitions between Oxford and Cambridge both started in the 1820s.

The Boat Race, as it is still referred to today, began in 1829 and has had a tumultuous history ever since. It would be another twenty-five years before the race settled into being an annual event, but the spirit and drive that propels people from different schools to meet on the field, or river in this case, of athletic competition was alive and well during the Regency. Currently Cambridge is on top, with 80 wins to Oxford’s 76. This year’s race will be held in April.

What sports competitions do you get excited over? What was the last major sporting event you went to see?

Originally posted 2012-03-05 10:00:00.

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

 

 

Originally posted 2012-02-29 05:00:00.

Surprised by War

Dancing and travel: two of the joys of the Regency. My picture of that elegant period of history is full of flowing dresses and swiftly-moving carriages.

But the balls and the journeys didn’t always end as planned, and on two memorable occasions the frivolity of the English was brought to a shocking halt not by a lame horse or a torn hem, but by the intrusion of soldiers, terror, and war.

Storm in the Strait of Dover by Louis Meyer (public domain)

 

The Breaking of the Peace of Amiens

In 1802, there was a halt to the hostilities between France and England and as a result thousands of British visitors poured into Paris. Englishmen of means had always been fond of visiting the continent, but war had stopped them from indulging in this fondness for some time. When the Peace of Amiens was signed, many of then crossed the Channel to see the sights.

In fact, a gentleman named Edmund John Eyre went over to France and wrote an account of his journey, hoping to sell it as a guidebook to other English travelers. (You can read an electronic copy here.) Alas, he was not to make much money on his endeavor, because in May of 1803, just a little over a year after peace was declared, war broke out again between the two countries.

The problem for our British travelers? When war recommenced, the French declared that all male British citizens between the ages of 18 and 60 currently in France were to be arrested. Many English tourists were trapped on the wrong side of the Channel, most of them unable to return home to England for over a decade. They went to France to see the sights, but they ended up seeing the entire war – from the wrong side.

 

The Duchess of Richmond's Ball, by Robert Hillingford (PD-Art|PD-old-100)

The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball

At the other end of that long decade of war came another surprise for some pleasure-seeking English ladies and gentlemen. Once again, those who thought that the war was over were in for a shock.

In Brussels, in 1815, Lady Richmond was holding a ball attended by Wellington and many of his soldiers. There was dancing and drinking, but in the middle of the party Wellington received a message, a confirmed report that Napoleon had escaped and was coming to meet them with an entire army marching at his heels.

The people dancing at the ball didn’t know it, but they were scarce days away from one of the most famous military encounters of all time: the Battle of Waterloo. Some men even went directly from the ball to the battle at Quatre Bras still wearing their evening dress.

It’s hard to picture this happening today, with the nearly instant communication offered to us by telephones and the email. But back then, news traveled only as fast as a boat might sail or a horse might ride. In an instant, a holiday might become an exile, and a dance might become a war.

Jessica Snell 

Originally posted 2012-02-20 10:00:59.

Reflections on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day in Regency England

Cards were already a popular custom for all classes by regency times. Most were home-and-handmade from plain to fancy, depending on what the sender could afford. Fancier ones might include gilt-edged paper and real lace (paper lace didn’t come into production until later in the century). Woodcuts or copperplate engraved cards existed but this process was still hand-done and thus time-consuming, so mass-produced cards didn’t come on the market until the 1820s. This coincided with the standardization of the postal system, making sending cards cheaper.

For those who had trouble with a rhyme, there were publications called “Valentine writers,” chock full of ready-made verses for gentlemen to use. Some even contained poetical replies for ladies to use.

Everybody’s Valentine Writer; or True Lover’s Notebook; and Kemmish’s Annual and Universal Valentine Writer, or the Lover’s Instructor were a couple published in England in the late 18th century.

A sample of a lady’s reply to a gentleman’s verse, from Everybody’s Valentine Writer:

To a Gentleman

With proverbs, sir, I see you play;

With proverbs, too, I answer nay—

 

The Language of Flowers

Although special significance of flowers became most popular in Victorian times, lovers’ messages through flowers was already seen in regency times. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, wife of the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire , described a “secret language of flowers,” when her letters home were published posthumously in 1763. This language was a form of Turkish and Persian poetry called selam, which used words that rhymed with flower names. In 18th century Europe this developed into giving flowers sentimental significance (ie. a rose symbolizing love).

 

Various and changing meanings were ascribed to different flowers, but you wouldn’t want to receive a striped carnation in 1819, which according to Madame Charlotte de la Tour, who published a dictionary on flower language entitled [sic] Le Language des Fleur, meant “I’m sorry, I must say no.”

Yellow carnation, you disappoint me...

 

 

Nor would you want to receive a yellow carnation, which meant “You disappoint me.”

 


 

Better would be a red rose from your true love; or a pansy (“you occupy my thoughts”); or perhaps an arum, which meant ardor.

The Art of the Valentine Card

The reputedly oldest valentine card in existence is owned by the British Royal Mail. It dates from 1790. Its four points open up to reveal a love poem, but the outside words are already quite enchanting:

Valentine card circa 1790

“My dear the Heart which you behold,
Will break when you the same unfold,
Even so my heart with lovesick pain,
Sure wounded is and breaks in twain.”

 

Sources:

The Evening Independent, Feb. 14, 1977

The Year’s Festivals, Helen Philbrook Patten, 1903

The Quest of the Quaint, Virginia Robie, 1916

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1947/02/15/1947_02_15_021_TNY_CARDS_000207379

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/11feb2011-aac.pdf

Originally posted 2012-02-13 10:00:00.

Wedding Hotspots in Regency England

Naomi here, and we’re talking about weddings today. More particularly, wedding hotspots. In today’s society, destination weddings seem to be growing in popularity. A person can’t just get married in a church anymore. Oh no. We have to fly to Hawaii, trade vows on a Jamaican beach at sunset, or visit the Florida keys in order to have the perfect wedding. Does anyone get married in a plain old church anymore?

In Regency England, church weddings were all the rage. They had to be. It was illegal to get married anywhere else (unless you were super rich and bought your way out of the church deal, but we’ll get to that in a moment).

According to the Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753, if a couple wanted to marry, they needed:

  • a license
  • banns read in church services for three consecutive weeks
  • parental consent if under the age of 21

Then the marriage itself had to:

  • be performed in the morning hours between 8:00 and 12:00
  • be held in a public chapel or church (Church of England church, Jewish synagogue or Quaker meeting)
  • be conducted by authorized clergy
  • be recorded in the marriage register with the signatures of both parties, the witnesses, and the minister.

As you can well see, the British Government was gracious to all those poor people wanting to get married two hundred years ago. And the sad thing is, England has so much lovely scenery. You know those beautiful White Cliffs of Dover? Do you want to get married there at sunset? Regular folk likely couldn’t have, though there were two ways around the tedious list of marriage regulations.

  • For a modest sum, you could purchase a license from the local clergy, which enabled the marrying couple to skip the banns.
  • For an exorbitant sum, you could purchase a special license from no less than the Archbishop of Canterbury, which enabled the marrying couple to skip the banns, get married outside a church, and marry after noon.

However, there was a more dramatic way to circumvent the Marriage Act of 1753: Elope. The Hardwicke Marriage Act was only law in England. Scotland didn’t adhere to such strict marriage regulations, and towns along the Scottish/English border became a popular place to elope, (especially if the bride or groom was under 21 and didn’t have parental consent). Today people fly to Vegas; in Regency England they rode four days (or more) from London to Gretna Green, Scotland. Or Coldstream Bridge, Lamberton, Mordington, or Paxton Toll.

Blacksmith's shop in Gretna Green

For those wealthy, law abiding citizens not wishing to circumvent the Marriage Act or do something so extreme as to marry out of doors, the place to get married was St. George’s, Hanover Square. Interestingly enough, St. George’s is not located on Hanover Square itself, but a block or two away. It was located in the fashionable place for the ton to live when in London: Mayfair.

The church held about 1,000 weddings per year in Regency times, which comes out to three weddings per day. And remember the majority of these weddings had to take place between 8:00 am and noon. Can you imagine getting married there? Maybe, if you were lucky, you would have had the church for a whole hour before getting get kicked out so the next bride in line could have her turn. Which makes me equate St. George’s to a modern day Las Vegas wedding chapel.  The record for marriages at St. George’s was set in 1816, with 1,063 weddings, including nine on Christmas Day.

The Most Fashionable Regency Wedding Church
Where everyone wanted to get married

So there you have it, Wedding Hotspots in Regency England, and the reason why those places were so hot: The Hardwicke Marriage Act.

*******

A mother of two young boys, Naomi Rawlings spends her days picking up, cleaning, playing and, of course, writing. Her husband pastors a small church in Michigan’s rugged Upper Peninsula, where her family shares its ten wooded acres with black bears, wolves, coyotes, deer and bald eagles. Naomi and her family live only three miles from Lake Superior, where the scenery is beautiful and they average 200 inches of snow per winter. Naomi writes bold, dramatic stories containing passionate words and powerful journeys. Her debut novel, Sanctuary for a Lady releases in April of 2012.

Originally posted 2012-02-06 06:00:00.

Apologetic View of Slavery in Demerara

Vanessa here.

I love reading primary sources to gain a view of the world within the context of the time. The Political Economy is one such narrative.

I had the opportunity to read it and observe what I can only hope was an abolitionist’s view of how to economically show the ills of slavery. In truth, it feels like an earnest but inauthentic gaze at the life of the enslaved complete with white saviors and a debasement of the underhanded negro, “gaming the system” to the peril of his owners to gain his freedom.

Harriet Martineau’s Political Economy, circa 1832. Below is a critique of planters or settlers in the West Indies.

Stats used to show that manumitted slaves were able to care for themselves and not incapable as often thought by slave planters.

Comparison of Barbados’s enslavement and that of Demerara, somewhat arguing that higher rates of manumission equalled higher productivity.

The book may have been effective. Slavery in the colonies like Demerara ends The statistics are interesting. Slavery Abolition Act passed Parliament in 1833 and abolished slavery in British colonies, freeing more than 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean, South Africa, and Canada. It received Royal Assent (William IV) on August 28, 1833, and took effect on August 1, 1834.

Originally posted 2019-10-22 10:26:34.

Dealing with Otherworldly People – Mental Illness in the Regency

Vanessa here,

As you all know, I love Regency Romance, everything from the comedy of manners, spies, war torn lovers, and my beloved favorite, marriages of convenience. A few times I’ve read a few where the character was described as otherworldly. This is Regency speak for nutters, missing a few marbles, etc.

Now all of us have accquaintances who fly off the handle, or we swear they missed their medicine. Or maybe you have people in your life who are too random or flighty for your tastes and perhaps their own good. (You know who you are, and I’m praying for you.)

I am not talking about those bless-your-heart souls. I am talking about the one’s who struggle with depression, the ones who have difficulty remembering to smile, who battle with suffocating thoughts in their head, and even the one’s trying hard to discern between reality and fiction.

Multicultural Historical Regency Romance
Amora Norton

My heroine in Unveiling Love, Amora Norton, suffers from depression. She has survived a harrowing ordeal but has kept the trauma and nightmares bottled-up inside. Yet, those memories can’t be contained. They burst free and shatter everything– her marriage and her will to live.

Depression is real. It is real now and in the time of Jane Austen.

For my sun-loving brethren, can you image living in the year of 1816, the year of no summer. Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia erupted producing volcanic clouds that literally changed the weather patterns over most of Europe. England had cold weather for the entire year.  Yes, an entire year…

People rioted from food shortages that year. Can you imagine being cold, hungry, and in the dark?

flavored spa candle on a wooden background
                  We need light in the dark.

But what did Regency folks think about mental illness? Maybe it’s a very British concept, but family member’s seemed to manage it as a part of their responsibilities.

Jane Austen shows us a look at mental instability with Emma (1815). Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse is in mental decline. He has moments of paranoia, in which Emma’s patience helps to re-establish his footing. Here are Emma’s thoughts on her father:

Emma could not but sigh over it, and wish for impossible things, till her father awoke, and made it necessary to be cheerful. His spirits required support. He was a nervous man, easily depressed; fond of every body that he was used to, and hating to part with them; hating change of every kind. Matrimony, as the origin of change, was always disagreeable; and he was by no means yet reconciled to his own daughter’s marrying, nor could ever speak of her but with compassion, though it had been entirely a match of affection, when he was now obliged to part with Miss Taylor too; and from his habits of gentle selfishness, and of being never able to suppose that other people could feel differently from himself, he was very much disposed to think Miss Taylor had done as sad a thing for herself as for them, and would have been a great deal happier if she had spent all the rest of her life at Hartfield. Emma smiled and chatted as cheerfully as she could, to keep him from such thoughts.

Here are Mr. Woodhouse’s own words:

“I believe it is very true, my dear, indeed,” said Mr. Woodhouse, with a sigh. “I am afraid I am sometimes very fanciful and troublesome.”

Because of her father, Emma believes that she cannot marry. She is very young and now that the other caregiver, Miss Taylor, now Mrs. Weston, has gone, Emma takes on the whole responsibility of caring for her father. This underlying thread in Emma points to a few things:

  1. Regency families were aware of the affects of depression.
  2. Families and friends took responsibilities to support those with mental illness.

Notice Emma’s thoughts aren’t to send him away, but to make him comfortable and secure. They aren’t even to medicate him, which at that time would have been an opiate, very addictive stuff.

The next part of my series will discuss how the Regency dealt with severe mental illness, where life and limb are at risk, but for now I leave with you these thoughts:

  1. Depression is real and can be debilitating.
  2. Though suicide rates are higher in spring and early summer, cold winter temperatures, less sunlight, and blizzards impact many with increasing rates of depression.
  3. Many suffer in silence. A pray and smile can go a long way.
  4. Act with love, seeking your friend’s comfort. Save the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps talk for a sunny day.
  5. Check on those struggling and urge them to seek help.

 

Originally posted 2016-01-25 08:40:56.