The Regency was a brief period of English history that was characterized by elegance and upheaval. Named for the Prince Regent, who ruled the country from 1811-1820 after his father, George III, went insane, the era saw much political, social, and military change, including the beginnings of the industrial revolution, agricultural reform, the movement of population from country to city, and the birth-pangs of a social conscience and women’s rights.
But much of the aristocracy took its cue from the Regent, a fat, fashion-conscious, fun-loving man whose interests encompassed art, architecture, food, music, clothes, and women. In many ways, the scandals surrounding the royal family today mirror those associated with their regency ancestors.
Notable figures of the period include:
- Napoleon -- the megalomaniac who tried to take over Europe
- Wellington -- the man who prevented him from doing it
- Jane Austen -- the first regency romance author
- Beau Brummel -- the dandy who dictated fashion
- Lady Jersey, the Countess Lieven, Princess Esterhazy, Mrs. Drummond-Burrell, Lady Sefton, and other Almack’s patronesses -- the women who determined everyone’s social standing
- the artists: Sir Walter Scott, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, Mary Shelley, and others who painted with words; Beethoven, Schubert, Paganni, Rossini, and others who painted with sound; Blake, Turner, Constable, and others who painted with pigment
When we add an amusing collection of bucks, blades, dandies, rogues, rakes, rapscallions, dowds, diamonds, and dowagers, we begin to taste the flavor of Regency Romance.
Bright, witty, light-hearted, and usually chaste, Regency Romances are comedies of manners and mores that capture the glitter and elegance of a fleeting but romantic moment in history.
Article ©1998 Allison Lane
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