Posted on

Will We Soon Be Going Into The Next Regency Era?

Could the Queen bring us our second Regency era?

The first Regency period ran from 1811 to 1820, and covered the years in which King George III had to give his full powers to his son, King George IV, because of his health. (What the exact illness which the King had is still a hotly debated topic, but the general consensus is that it was probably bipolar disorder or the blood disease porphyria.)

That was the first Regency, and now it looks as if the UK may be entering its second Regency in a couple of years if the latest word from royal author Phil Dampier is to be believed.

Queen Elizabeth is reportedly planning to trigger the Regency Act and relinquish some of her powers to Prince Charles, the heir to the throne. Previously our Queen made it clear that she regards her current position as a lifelong duty and would therefore not step down. She is still not intending on abdicating, but instead when she reaches 95 in a couple of years she may slow down and possibly the Regency Act will be brought in. She will still be Queen but Prince Charles will, in fact, take over most of the duties. In recent years Prince Charles has been increasingly taking on some of her royal duties. He has been at the state opening in Parliament and at the Commonwealth conference.

If the Regency Act is set in place, it will regulate the process of setting up a regency. According to the Regency Act of 1937, Prince Philip, the Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons must be able to provide evidence that the Sovereign is unable to perform her functions before the Regency Act takes effect.

(One final thought, if the Queen does trigger the Regency Act, and we do enter our second Regency era, can we please bring back Spencer jackets and elegant summer balls filled with dancing and refined music?)


Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Online Magazine.

Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and Jane Austen news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop

Posted on

Weddings During the Regency Era

regency era wedding

Weddings During the Regency Era

The bride was elegantly dressed; the two bridesmaids were duly inferior; her father gave her away; her mother stood with salts in her hand, expecting to be agitated; her aunt tried to cry; and the service was impressively read by Dr Grant.
Mansfield Park

Say the word “wedding” and most of us think about a bride dressed all in white, half a dozen brides maids (or more), a big bash with loads of guests and a huge cake. But what kind of weddings where common during the Regency era and Jane Austen’s lifetime? Did the bride wear white?

A Family Affair

Royal weddings tend to be big and there was no exception when Princess Charlotte married Prince Leopold in 1816.

As we have been gratified with a sight of the wedding dresses of this amiable and illustrious female, a particular yet concise account of them cannot but be acceptable to our fair readers.

The Royal Bride, happy in obtaining him whom her heart had selected, and whom consenting friends approved, wore on her countenance that tranquil and chastened joy which a female so situated could not fail to experience. Her fine fair hair, elegantly yet simply arranged, owed more to its natural beautiful wave than to the art of the friseur; it was crowned with a most superb wreath of brilliants, forming rosebuds with their leaves.

Her dress was silver lama [lamé] on net, over a silver tissue slip, embroidered at the bottom with silver lama in shells and flowers. Body and sleeves to correspond, elegantly trimmed with point Brussels lace. The manteau was of silver tissue lined with white satin, with a border of embroidery to answer that on the dress, and fastened in front with a splendid diamond ornament. Such was the bridal dress …

The jewellery of the royal bride is most superb; beside the wreath, are a diamond cestus, ear- rings, and an armlet of great value, with a superb set of pearls. The court dresses worn by the royal family and nobility on this occasion were particularly splendid; we are sorry our limits will not allow us to enter into particulars, but we cannot forbear noticing the singular taste and elegance, displayed in the superb lama dress, so beautifully wrought with silver lilies, of the Marchioness of Cholmondeley; we have never before witnessed so charming a combination of classical taste, splendour, and touching simplicity.
La Belle Assemblee (May 1816)

However, most weddings in Jane Austen’s time were private, family affairs. Even fashionable weddings at the church of choice of the day were but sparingly attended, usually only by close relatives or, if in the village church, by the local inhabitants. The bride did have a few attendants, mainly unmarried younger sisters or cousins. The groom commonly had his best man and the witnesses, of course. Usually the bride’s parents attended,as well.

What about the lavish party? Well, there wasn’t always one! Consider Charlotte Lucas’ wedding day in Pride and Prejudice,”The wedding took place; the bride and bridegroom set off for Kent from the church door.”

Most weddings were performed in church after the reading of banns. Unless the couple had a license the ceremony had to be performed in church before lunch time (hence the popularity of the Wedding Breakfast!).

The very rich, like the De Bourghs and the Darcys, would sometimes marry by special license in the family drawing room but it was very costly. Ever socially conscious, Mrs. Bennet exclaims over Mr. Darcy’s fortune, “Ten thousand a year, and very likely more! ‘Tis as good as a Lord! And a special licence! You must and shall be married by a special licence!”

According to Henry Churchyard of the Jane Austen Information Page, “All of Jane Austen’s couples would have been married according to the ceremony taken from the Church of England Book of Common Prayer; Emma Woodhouse refers to the part in which “N. takes M.” for her wedded husband “for better, for worse”. This “Form of Solemnization of Matrimony” has remained almost entirely unchanged from 1662 to the present.”

Bridal Fashions

How common the white wedding dress was during the Regency era is hard to say, but we have some reasons to suspect that it was more prevalent than many may think. Although no bridal fashion prints survive from before 1813, paintings of wedding scenes, such as Highmore’s 1743 illustration for Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, do depict brides in white. Veils seems to have become popular somewhat later in the century so most brides either wore flowers in their hair, a cap or sometimes a hat.

When Jane Austen’s niece Anna married Benjamin Lefroy in 1814, she wore “a dress of fine white muslin, and over it a soft silk shawl, white shot with primrose, with embossed white-satin flowers, and very handsome fringe, and on her head a small cap to match, trimmed with lace.”*

Although bouquets and flowers with personal meanings came into vogue during the Victorian era, flowers and herbs have been used in weddings since the beginning of time as a way of showing love and well wishes to everyone. The first recorded use of wedding flowers dates back to the ancient Greeks. Flowers and plants were used to make a crown for the bride to wear and were considered a gift of nature. Bridesmaids would make the floral decorations including garlands, bridal bouquet and boutonniere.+

Wedding Announcements

The newspaper announcement was, perhaps, the most socially important part of the wedding. Jane Austen, herself, once wrote, “The latter writes me word that Miss Blackford is married, but I have never seen it in the papers, and one may as well be single if the wedding is not to be in print.”

“I suppose you have heard of it; indeed, you must have seen it in the papers. It was in the Times and the Courier, I know; though it was not put in as it ought to be. It was only said, ‘Lately, George Wickham Esq., to Miss Lydia Bennet,’ without there being a syllable said of her father, or the place where she lived, or anything. It was my brother Gardiner’s drawing up too, and I wonder how he came to make such an awkward business of it. Did you see it?”

 


 

Enjoyed this article on weddings in the Regency era? Browse our book shop .

Yvonne Forsling is a culitvator of exoctic Hibiscus and Regency Enthusiast. Visit her site, Yvonne’Space for a look into her passions and talents. Further discussion of Regency colour, as well as many other period plates can be found in the Regency Section of her website.

*Reminiscences by Caroline Austen
+ From Love to Know: Weddings

Posted on

The King of Clubs:


I expect my surveyor from Brockham with his report in the morning; and afterwards I cannot in decency fail attending the club.
General Tilney, Northanger Abbey


Every respectable Regency gentleman (and a few who weren’t exactly respectable) belonged to a gentleman’s club. Some of the more popular ones were White’s, Brooks’s, (yes that is the correct spelling and punctuation) and Boodle’s. All were very exclusive.

When a member was accepted into the club, it was known as an “election.” If a gentlemen had been a member for 3 years, others would say “three years after his election into so and so.” All exclusive gentlemen’s clubs in London used a method of voting for proposed new members whereby a system of back and white balls were deposited, in secret by each election committee member, into a special box. A single black ball was sufficient to deny membership. Hence the term “blackballed.”

By far the most revered (and oldest) of London’s gentlemen’s clubs during the Regency Era was White’s. It was founded as a chocolate shop in 1693 by an Italian, Francesco Bianco, who’d changed his name to Francis White. White’s was basically conservative, which means mostly Tory membership. It’s still considered the most prestigious club. Originally, White’s was mostly a gambling hub, with members who frequently played high-stakes card games. Whist, faro, quinze and hazard were some of the most popular games played. With all the clubs, obsessive betting occurred with some frequency. The smallest difference of opinion invariably resulted in a wager and was duly recorded in a book.

Brooks’s was basically liberal, which means a large Whig membership. For a while the Prince of Wales favoured it. He changed his preference to White’s when they blackballed his close friend, Jack Payne. As a gaming club in the eighteenth century, which is just before the Regency Era, it had been in Pall Mall where the stakes had been high. It had been customary for gamblers to play for 50 to 10,000 pounds on the table! Charles Fox and his brothers had been known to lose many thousands of pounds in a single night. Hazard was their customary game of choice.


With Boodle’s, I’ve seen so many different characterizations of this one that it’s hard to say, but it seems to have offered deeper gaming than the above two. Some sources say Boodles was the club for country squires and those who rode to hounds in the fox hunts. It wasn’t tied to any political party, at least not during the Regency.

Another was Watier’s which was a short-lived club started by the Prince of Wales’s (or Prinny’s) chef that specialized in fine food and very deep gaming.

There were many, many more clubs, but the above four were the ones with space in St. James’s Street and thus at the core of society. There was the Beaf-steak (or Beefsteak) club, which had precisely thirty members and met once a week for a fine dinner; their building was open to members for the usual purposes such as conversing with friends, reading the latest papers, gaming, etc. The Athenium Club focused on ancient Rome and Greece; I recall hearing that only Latin was spoken there which wouldn’t have been a problem for too many Regency gentlemen, since Latin was taught in school.

There were private gaming hells, which, since gaming was restricted to members and guests, qualify as clubs. Many clubs had bedrooms that members could use during a quick trip to town.

My favorite was also the Four-Horse Club, also called the Four-in-Hand Club which, though originally a wild club of young men, had, by the early 1800s, become a respectable club for superb drivers. Great fodder for heroes, isn’t it? It was a small group with only somewhere between 30-40 members at its peak. They didn’t meet in any specific place. It began to fade around 1815 and disbanded in 1820, was briefly revived in 1822 but finally ended. The members met at set intervals to drive coaches-and-four out to Chalk Hill and back. Hard-core Corinthians exercised with a very specific uniform, but they didn’t have a clubhouse. The rest of the time Corinthians used Jackson’s Salon or Manton’s as their daytime hangout and might spend an evening in Cribb’s Parlor, but all of these places were open to anyone so they hardly qualify as clubs. I have always heard that the Corinthians hung out at the gambling hells more than at the clubs.

There was also the Alfred Club at 23 Albermarle Street. It began in 1808 and attracted writers and other men of letters. If I remember correctly, Byron was a member. It was a great success, and in 1855 it joined with the Oriental Club which was established in 1824 (just after the Regency Era) as a club for men who’d been “out East” in India and other areas.


Donna Hatch has been writing since the age of 8. In between caring for six children, she indulges in her obsesssion, often writing late into the night. All of her heroes are patterned after her husband of 20 years, who continues to prove that there really is a happily ever after.

Her latest book, The Stranger She Married is a Desert Rose Golden Quill Finalist.

Enjoyed this article? Browse our Jane Austen Giftshop!