Fun Regency Facts
I'm often asked "Jen, why did you chose the Regency time period
to set your book Notorious Angel?" Or even, when is the Regency
time? The short answer is of all the times and places outside my own, I
just happen to like Regency England. Here's a few reasons why:
1. When was Regency England?
Officially the Regency was 1811 - 1820 when Prince George (called
"Prinny") was named Head of State for his presumed insane
father King George III - the very same Mad King George our brash
American Colonies had the audacity to rebel against. Unofficially,
Regency times in books are between 1800 - 1830.
2. So what's so special about Regency England?
Jane Austen invented the romance genre with books such as Pride
And Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Sense And Sensibility.
Napoleon Bonaparte had conquered half of Europe and threatened to take
over the world much as Hitler did in the earlier part of the 20th
century. Sir Walter Raleigh gave us medieval fantasy in Ivanhoe.
Mary Shelley brought us horror with the infamous Frankenstein.
America's Star Spangled Banner was born on the deck of a ship in
the middle of the Baltimore Harbor overlooking Fort McHenry as the
feared English Navy burned Washington D.C. to the ground. Buckingham
Palace and Brighton Pavilion were designed and built by architect John
Nash to please the Prince Regent. In short, most of what we think of
today as traditional was all created back then.
3. Ok, name some new traditional things, Jen.
Did you know the watercloset (British for bathroom with a toilet)
was invented in Regency England? The first watercloset appeared in
London aristocratic houses in 1812. Typical locations were under the
staircases or behind the master's study, locations often found in
Victorian houses and bed & breakfasts in historic homes. Having a
watercloset back then was a sign of wealth and progressiveness.
How about the railroad? The very first steam engine pulley debuted in
1816. The first railroad line ran in 1821. Before then the only method
of travel was good old fashioned horse and carriage.
4. Today the lambada is the "forbidden dance". I bet
you'll never guess what it was in the Spring of 1813.
The waltz. Yes, before London's social season of 1813 the only dancing
was done in group line form called a quadrille, somewhat similar to a
modern country square dance. Having a man and woman embrace for an
entire 4 minutes in the middle of a crowded dance floor was beyond
scandalous. Where did this decadent dance come from? Good old Vienna,
Austria along with that notoriously emotional composer of the day
5. The War. In the modern era we think of World War II as the
infamous "War". But from 1800 - 1815, the world was battling
another egomaniacal warmonger.
Napoleon Bonaparte had started out a young, enterprising soldier in
an age of great political and economic turmoil for his country France.
Much like Hitler captivated the Germans with his grand plans for their
homeland, Napoleon charmed the French into reclaiming the legendary
kingdom of King Charlemagne. To do it, he marched across the borders of
his neighbors and claimed everything in sight. Spain, Germany, the
Netherlands, all fell to the might of Old Boney's army. In 1802, he set
his sights on England as the jewel of the crown. Only the skilled sea
defense by Lord Admiral Nelson at Trafalgar (where Trafalgar Square gets
its meaning from) saved the British Isles. And like Hitler's Nazi
Germany, only a union of allies defeated Napoleon at long lost. In June
1815, the infamous Battle of Waterloo saw the end of Napoleon's campaign
at the hands of the English, Prussians and Austrians led by the Duke of
Wellington himself. I bet you also didn't know the 1812 Overture played
on virtually every 4th of July was written to commemorate Napoleon's
bold invasion of Russia in the same year. It was this failed invasion
that led to Napoleon's eventual downfall. There is one major difference
between Napoleon and Hitler. Despite his warmongering, Napoleon was a
skilled social architect who founded the basis for civil government in
Europe and long after his death the French still revered Bonaparte as a
6. But why should an American care about Regency England?
As I mentioned before it was during 1812 that Francis Scott Key
penned the poem The Star Spangled Banner. The story of how it was
written was one of the first history lessons I learned as a child in
Maryland. It turns out a lot of interesting things were happening in my
home town in Regency times. Our legendary Clipper ships were being
designed and built for fast Atlantic travel to England and back. A
Clipper ship could haul cargo across the sea in a mere 4 weeks while it
took the old frigates (usually what we think of as pirate ships), 6-8
weeks to do the same. Baltimore's shipyards and harbor were prime
outlets for these speedy ships. Enterprising captains employed a fleet
of Clipper ships to build shipping empires during the day.
7. Highway robbery was an art form.
In the beginning of my novel Notorious Angel I use the phrase
"Stand and deliver." While centuries old by the start of the
book, this was a common phrase used to strike fear in the hearts of
travelers. It meant you'd just been plucked by a roadside thief called a
highwayman. Either you stopped, dismounted your horse or carriage to
stand and deliver your valuables to the thief or risked a bullet in the
heart. While most highwaymen did their business and left their victims
in one piece, a few seedy fellows risked life and limb to violently do
away with all witnesses. The punishment for highway robbery was summary
execution with your body hung at the crossroads to town and left to rot
as a warning to all other would-be highwayman. An equal fate awaited
those caught for piracy.
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