The Regency Era spanned the years 1795-1830. The era began with King George III being declared unfit to rule because of fits thought to be of some kind of inherent madness. This was until recenty thought to be the result of lead poisoning or more likely as porphyria.
His son, George IV took over the throne and adopted the title the Prince Regent. It was in this period that Jane Austen was composing her novels. Emma is dedicated to the Prince Regent.
The Regency era can be characterized as a time of great class distinction and intellectual richness. Industrialisation was growing, creating a greater distinction between the wealthy and poor.
With new ways of obtaining wealth through industry came a desire for the astrocratic class to maintain its distinction of wealth and privilege. New money or money from trade or industry was looked down upon as less genteel. With these severe class divisions came a focus on showing immense respect to those occupying a higher class.
It was considered more desirable to have a family fortune passed down from generations than via trade or labour. Families with fortunes from trade would often try to hide it by having their children educated to behave as gentry so they could seamlessly mix with the higher class.
Popular culture emphasized opulence and a display of wealth. Britain was becoming a global trader and importation of goods from all over the world was becoming very common. People responded to this by decorating their homes with expensive, exotic good from India, France, China ect. It was the fashion to have tea sets from China and furniture from France.
People took great pride in their possessions and even the less fortunate took pride in the few luxuries they could afford.
The fashion of the period was long empire waist dresses for women, which were my light and airy. Male regency fashion included linen trousers, overcoats, breeches and boots. Think Beau Brummel! This simplistic elegance was adopted to preserve the distinction of a more lavishly dressed upper class.
Jane Austen’s work focuses mainly on this era from the perspective of country life. Romantic and simplistic, away from all the industry and its by-products. Her world is more focused on the social aspects of life rather than the functions of politics or global affairs.