header('Cache-Control: max-age=259200'); historical places Archives – Kristen Koster
Nov 152011
 
A copy of Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage

I had trouble narrowing down today’s post. On one hand, Allison Lane covers everything related to the peerage so wonderfully and succinctly in her page COMMON REGENCY ERRORS, that trying to summarize it or embellish it seems a waste of effort. But if you’ve ever wondered who outranked whom in the Regency Peerage or just why some characters get to go in to dinner first or why someone has to wait until everyone else has gone in, keep reading. If you want to know more details, please, visit Ms Lane’s page, it truly is an amazing resource on its own. Laura A. Wallace also provides a good bit of information on the peerage on her British Titles of Nobility pages but are much easier to follow after reading through Ms Lane’s.

Peers

A peer of the realm is one who holds one (or more of five possible) title(s) of nobility and the estate(s) bestowed upon him or his direct ancestor by the monarch.

A copy of Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage

A veritable Who’s Who of Society.

Duke and Duchess

The title of Duke was given to the highest ranking peers below the Royal Family. Compared to the number of hot, eligible but fictional Dukes, the actual number of non-royal dukes in existence in 1818 was 25 and included English, Scottish and Irish titles. The number of hot and eligible ones was much lower. The title of Duke is a territorial title and the English title never includes the surname. Dukes and Duchesses are always referred to as “Your Grace” and never as as “Lord or Lady ____”.

Marquess/Marquis and Marchioness

The next highest rank is marquess (or to use the Scottish and French spelling, marquis) which is pronounced as “mar-kwess” in English. In 1818, there were 31 marquesses. The title of Marquess is typically territorial (all but 3) and all but 5 of the titles use the form “Marquess of ______”.

Earl and Countess

The title of Earl sits smack dab in the middle in both terms of power and had 212 titles in 1818. Likewise, Earldoms are typically territorial, but a few of the titles do not use the form “Earl of ____” and instead use “Earl _____” using the surname.

Viscount and Viscountess

In 1818, there were 69 viscounts. The title Viscount never uses the form “Viscount of _____” although a territorial addition is often made to the title. Viscount _____ of ______.

Baron and Baroness

Typically the largest number of titles, but in 1818, there were only 193 barons. The title of Baron never uses the form “Baron of _____” although often a territorial addition is made to the title. Baron _____ of ______.

Baronet and Dame

Baronets are not peers, but rather the highest rank of the gentry class. They do not sit in the House of Lords and if they commit a crime they are tried in the regular courts. Baronets are hereditary knights and are thus use “Sir” with their given names.

Knights and Dames

Also not peers, nor are they hereditary titles. Knights and Dames are recognized for outstanding achievement and does not affect one’s standing unless it is one of the ancient orders of knighthood listed in the precedence tables. A Dame’s title has no bearing on her husband’s standing either.

Precedence

Charles Lamb's Book on Precedence

A primer for young children to learn their place in society.

Precedence determines relative power. Every member of the ton knew exactly where he or she ranked in relation to every other member. Even within categories, precedence is determined by the date the related title was created. If two were created the same day, then the one the king signed first has precedence. If two people are related in the same way to the same title (younger sons, for example), then their own birthdates determined precedence. No two people could ever have the exact same precedence.

Precedence was of vital importance to every member of society and was something taught from birth. It was used in many ways – seating at formal dinners, processions at court, importance in Parliament, even the order in which people were allowed to enter Almack’s, etc. It indicated the degree of deference a person must show to those above them or expect from those below, including the depth of a bow or curtsy. Part of the reason behind this order of precedence is so everyone could see at a glance, where they stood in relation to everyone else in a room. In the tables below from Charles Lamb’s The Book of the Ranks and Dignities of British Society: Chiefly Intended for the Instruction of Young Persons, the ranks most often found in novels are in bold type.

Precendency of Men in England

King
Prince of Wales
King’s Younger Sons
King’s Brothers
King’s Uncles
King’s Grandsons
King’s Nephews
Vice Regent, when any such officer exists
Archbishop of Canterbury
Lord High Chancellor or Lord Keeper
Archbishop of York Lord High Treasurer
Lord President of Privy Council
Lord Privy Seal
Lord High Constable in Commission
Hereditary Earl Marshall
Lord High Admiral
Lord Steward of His Majesty’s Household
Dukes, according to patents of creation
Marquesses, according to their patents
Duke’s Eldest Sons
Earls, according to their patents
Marquesses’ Eldest Sons
Dukes’ Younger Sons
Viscounts, 
according to their patents
Earl’s Eldest Sons
Marquesses’ Younger Sons

Bishop of London
Bishop of Durham
Bishop of Winchester
Other Bishops, according to seniority of consecration
Barons, according to their patents of creation, but if any baron be Principal Secretary of State, he shall be placed above all barons unless they hold any of the great offices before mentioned
Speaker of the House of Commons
Viscounts’ Eldest Sons
Earls’ Younger Sons
Barons’ Eldest Sons

Knights of the Most Noble Order of the Garter
Privy Counselors
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench
Master of the Rolls
Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas
Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer
Judges, according to the degree of coif of the said courts, according to seniority
Bannerets, made under the king’s own royal standard, displayed in an army royal, in open war,by the king himself in person, for the term of their lives only and no longer
Viscounts’ Younger Sons
Barons’ Younger Sons
Baronets

Knights of the Most Noble Order of the Bath
Knights Bachelors
Baronets’ Eldest Sons
Knights’ of the Garter Eldest Sons
Knights’ of the Bath Eldest Sons
Knights Bachelors’ Eldest Sons
Doctors of Divinity, Laws, and Medicine, of the English Universities
Sergeant at Law
Baronets’ Younger Sons
Esquires of the King’s creation by the imposition of a collar of SS
Esquires attending Knights of the Bath
Esquires by office, as Justices of the Peace, etc.
Captains, and Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, etc.
Knights’ of the Garter Youngest Sons
Knights’ of the Bath Younger Sons
Knights Bachelors’ Younger Sons
Gentlemen entitled to bear arms
Gentlemen by office, function, or profession
Clergymen
Attorneys at Law, Etc.
Citizens
Burgesses, etc.

Precedency of Women in England

Queen
Princess of Wales
Princess Royal
Younger Daughters of the King
Duchess of York
Wives of the King’s Younger Sons
Wives of the King’s Brothers
Wives of the King’s Uncles
Wives of the Eldest Sons of Dukes of the Royal Blood
Daughters of Dukes of the Royal Blood
Wives of the King’s Brothers’ or Sister’s Sons
Duchesses
Marchionesses
Wives of the Eldest Sons of Dukes
Daughters of Dukes
Countesses
Wives of the Eldest Sons of Marquesses
Daughters of Marquesses
Wives of the Younger Sons of Dukes
Viscountesses
Wives of the Eldest Sons of Earls
Daughters of Earls
Wives of the Younger Sons of Marquesses
Baronesses
Wives of the Eldest Sons of Viscounts
Daughters of Viscounts
Wives of the Younger Sons of Earls
Wives of the Eldest Sons of Barons
Daughters of Barons
Wives of the Youngest Sons of Barons
Dames, Wives of Baronets

Wives of Knights of the Garter
Wives of Bannerets of each kind
Wives of Knights of the Bath
Wives of Knights Bachelors
Wives of the Eldest Sons of Baronets
Daughters of Baronets

Wives of the Eldest Sons of the Knights of the Garter
Daughters of Knights of the Garter
Wives of the Eldest Sons of Bannerets of each kind
Daughters of Bannerets of each kind
Wives of the Eldest Sons of Knights of the Bath
Daughters of Knights of the Bath
Wives of the Eldest Sons of Knights Bachelors
Wives of Sergeants at Law, and Doctors of Divinity, Law, and Medicine of the English Universities
Wives of the Younger Sons of Baronets
Daughters of Knights Bachelors
Wives of Esquires, attendant on Knights of the Bath
Wives of Esquires by office, as Justices of the Peace
Wives of Captains, Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, etc.
Wives of the Younger Sons of Knights of the Garter
Wives of the Younger Sons of Knights of the Bath
Wives of the Younger Sons of Knights Bachelors
Wives of Gentlemen, lawfully bearing Coat Armor
Daughters of Esquires, lawfully bearing Coat Armor, who are Gentlewomen by birth
Wives of Gentlemen by office, function, or profession, as Clergymen, Attorney’s at Law, etc.
Wives of Citizens
Wives of Burgesses, etc.


More information regarding a variety of other Regency-themed topics can be found on my Regency Resource page. If you’d like more information on a specific place or topic, please let me know in the comments section below.

Oct 252011
 

This week’s post examines how people traveled between all those places in London and also all those other destinations outside of London. That’s right, we’re looking at the wide variety of conveyances from the Regency Era carriage, to different types of coaches and other types of vehicles. After all, just like in contemporaries, what the hero of that historical novel drives says a lot about him and the research that the author has done.

Regency Era Carriage Types

Buggy

Buggies– light, un-hooded, one-horsed vehicles with two wheels– carried a single passenger.

Carriage

A carriage usually refers to any private, four-wheeled passenger vehicle drawn by two or more horses.

Cart

Typically a two-wheeled wagon with no suspension, a cart was maneuverable and drawn by a single horse. It was a general-purpose trade or farm vehicle.

Chaise

A chaise was a pleasure or traveling carriage that was usually open and low with four wheels and drawn by one or two ponies. Often referred to as “a yellow bounder”, a hired Post Chaise were always painted bright yellow and a postillion riding one of the rented horses controlled the vehicle.

Regency Era Carriage: coach

Coach

Coaches were stately carriages with four wheels and windows on all sides. The curved underbody and seating for four passengers were also characteristic. A Town Coach was massive and often drawn by up to six horses and usually sported a coat of arms painted on the doors.

Regency Era Carriage: curricle

Curricle

Curricles were light, two-wheeled vehicles pulled by a pair of horses that were used for short trips. This was the only two-wheeled vehicle to be drawn by a pair of horses and a steel bar, attached with pads to the horses’ backs, supported the weight of the pole.

Four-in-hand

This referred to a vehicle drawn by four horses and driven by one person on the box.
Regency Era Carriage: gig

Gig

Gigs were light, two-wheeled, one-horsed vehicles for two passengers. This was the most common vehicle on the road.

Specific Vehicles by Name

Regency Era Carriage: barouche

Barouche

The barouche had a collapsible hood over the back and was considered a summer vehicle used for driving in the great parks. It was drawn by a pair of high quality horses to complement the expensive and fashionable vehicle.

Break (Brake)

The break was an open country vehicle with four wheels. The Shooting Break was large enough to carry six sportsmen, their dogs, their guns and game in the slatted side boot (trunk). This type of vehicle occasionally had a hood, but is generally characterized by a rear entry and the seats running the length of the vehicle with the passengers facing one another.

Dog-Cart

Derived from a gig and originally used to carry four sportsmen sitting back to back with their dogs beneath in a deep boot with Venetian slatted sides, the dog-cart was a light two-wheeled vehicle for driving in. This is often confused for the Pony Cart.

Hackney

These were coaches or carriages for hire. The name comes from the French term haquenée meaning horse for hire. Often these coaches had been discarded by the nobility and were looked down upon because of their shabby, dirty interiors.

Landau

A landau was a four-wheeled carriage with a folding two-part hood. The front and rear halves could be raised and lowered independently.

Regency Era Carriage: mailcoach

Mail Coach

The official mail coaches, which followed fixed routes, carried mail and passengers to specific coaching inns and followed a strict schedule. Usually pulled by six horses changed out at regular post stops, these coaches could therefore run all the way.

Regency Era Carriage: phaeton

Phaeton

A phaeton refers to a light and usually low-slung, four-wheeled open carriage drawn by a pair of horses. One variation, the sportier “high perch” phaeton often stars in novels because of its romantic, adventurous reputation.  More aptly named after Phaetõn, the son of the Greek sun-god Helios, known for his poor driving of the sun chariot, the precariousness of this model lends an air of danger and excitement to the characters who drive them.

Pony Cart

Drawn by a pony, this small, light, two-wheeled vehicle held 2 passengers. This type of vehicle is almost always what is meant by “dog-cart” when used improperly.

Sleigh

A winter vehicle, the sleigh possessed high dash boards to help protect passengers from clods of snow thrown up by the horses. Although driven from the front seat, a groom often sat in the rear rumble seat as the weight helped to lift up the front of the runners.

Stage Coach

Stage coaches were large, four-wheeled carriages with enclosed seats inside and on the roof. Typically drawn by four horses, these coaches carried passengers at fixed rates and times with stops for meals and to change the horses as they completed each segment or “stage” of their route. After mail coaches replaced post riders, stage coaches continued their less regulated business while offering alternate routes and varying departure times.

Later Vehicles – Victorian Era

Brougham

An enclosed carriage drawn by a single horse, the brougham had fewer windows than a coach. Designed by Lord Brougham in 1839, it became popular in the Victorian age with both the middle and upper classes.

Cabriolet

Drawn by a single horse, the cabriolet was a light, two-wheeled, hooded chaise. This vehicle eventually replaced the curricle for men in society early in Queen Victoria’s reign.

Hansom Cab

Patented in 1834, the hansom cab was a two-wheeled cabriolet. The driver sat behind the two passengers with the reins going over the roof. Although typically public vehicles for hire, many Hansom Cabs were privately owned. Because of their rather dashing and fast reputation, no true lady would consider venturing out in one alone.

Omnibus

An omnibus, a large, wheeled public vehicle, followed a fixed route. In 1829, Shillibeer’s first omnibus had bench seats for 18 passengers.


You may want to check out my posts on Transportation in the Regency Era and Regency Era Horse Sense as well. Visit my Regency Resource page for more information regarding a variety of other Regency-themed topics. If you’d like more information on a specific place or topic, please let me know in the comments section below.

Oct 112011
 
"St George’s Church in Hanover Square, London." Engraved by J. Le Keux. Published July 1st 1810

Last week’s post about Regency Landmarks Beyond London, glossed over the question of “Why are they always running off to Gretna Green?” So this week, I decided we’d take a closer look at some of the customs and circumstances that might surround a Regency marriage or elopement.

Regency Marriage: St George's Church in Hanover Square, London

St George’s Church in Hanover Square, London

The Marriage Act of 1753

Once Hardwicke‘s Marriage Act of 1753 was passed in England and Wales, parental consent was required for anyone to marry under the age of 21. The Act also put a stop to Fleet Marriages, legally binding marriages (under both Common and Ecclesiastical Law), that took advantage of a Common Law loophole which allowed couples to marry by a simple exchange of vows. Fleet Prison, a debtor’s prison in London, was the best known place where these marriages could be performed, hence the name. Jewish and Quaker ceremonies were exempt. Clergymen conducting clandestine marriages risked transportation.

After 1753, in order to get married, a couple needed to have a license or the reading of the Banns to be legally married in England or Wales.

The Reading of the Banns

“I publish the Banns of marriage between [Groom’s Name] of [his local parish] and [Bride’s Name] of [her local parish]. If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons should not be joined together in Holy matrimony, ye are to declare it. This is the first [second, third] time of asking.”

The Marriage Banns, as worded above, were read on 3 consecutive Sundays or Holy Days during Divine Service, immediately before the Offertory. Any minor was required to provide proof of parental or a guardian’s consent. At least one of the marrying couple had to be resident in the parish in which they wished to be married in. If the persons marrying came from separate parishes, the Banns were read in both and the curate of one parish could not solemnize Matrimony without a certificate from the curate of the other stating the Banns had been “thrice asked”. Banns were good for 3 months or would be required to be read again. Also weddings had to take place in the church between 8 in the morning and noon before witnesses.

Common/Ordinary License

A Common or Ordinary Marriage License could be obtained from any bishop or archbishop. This meant the Banns need not be read – thus reduced the two to three week delay to a seven day waiting period. These types of licenses were also called Bishop’s Licenses. Proof of parental or a guardian’s consent must be provided for minors under 21 years of age as well as a sworn statement was given that there was no impediment. This meant that the parties were not related to one another in the prohibited degrees, or that proof of a deceased spouse was given. The marriage was required to take place before witnesses in the parish church named on the license where one party had already lived for 4 weeks. It was also good for 3 months from date of issue. The cost of a common or ordinary license was 10 shillings to one pound.

Special License

Obtained from Doctors Commons in London, from the Archbishop of Canterbury or his representative. The difference between this and an Ordinary license was that it granted the right of the couple to be married by a member of the clergy before witnesses at any convenient time or place. All other requirements were the same (something that is frequently left out of the details in Romance Novels) and the names of both parties were given at the time of the application, you couldn’t fill them in later. You also couldn’t transfer them and there was no provision for marriage by proxy in England at the time. They were only available to peers and their children, baronets, knights, members of Parliament, Privy Councillors and Westminster Court Judges. Special licenses cost at least 20 guineas. In 1808, a Stamp Duty was imposed on the actual paper, vellum or parchment the license was printed upon, of £4 which increased to £5 in 1815.

Gretna Green & Other Elopements

Regency Marriage: Gretna GreenThe Marriage Act of 1753, made it much more difficult to marry without parental consent or if the couple was in a hurry to marry. It also did not apply in Scotland (or the American Colonies). Some couples evaded the Act by traveling to various Scottish “Border Villages” such as Coldstream Bridge, Lamberton, Mordington and Paxton Toll. In the 1770s, the construction of a toll road passing through the unremarkable village of Graitney led to Gretna Green which became synonymous with romantic elopements.
Many couples eloped without parental consent and were married “over the anvil” at the popular blacksmith’s shop in Gretna Green. After 1856, Scottish law changed to require 21 days’ residence for marriage, yet Gretna Green remained a center for romantic and irregular weddings until 1940. In 1977, the residency requirement was replaced by a two week notice of intention.

Other Customs

Engagement Rings

Engagement rings in the Regency Era were not diamond solitaires. Sometimes a ring might be given as a token of affection in a long engagement, but it wasn’t expected. Edward in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility wears such a ring made from his fiancee’s hair (a common token in the 19th century).

Wedding Invitations

Invitations were handwritten personal letters inviting friends and relatives to attend the ceremony or letters to announcing the marriage to those who could not be expected to attend.

St. George’s in Hanover Square

In the heart of Mayfair, St George’s Parish Church was the home parish of the majority of the ton. St George’s has been considered a fashionable church almost from its beginning in 1725 and it’s popularity kept rising until about 1,000 weddings a year were performed there in the Regency Era. In 1816, St Georges was the location of 1,063 weddings, or about three a day, making it the Regency equivalent to a Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, with a much higher social appeal. Often you’ll see the difficulty in securing a reasonable date for a wedding to be held there as an excuse for the couple to acquire a license.

Regency Wedding Gowns

The notion of a white wedding gown wasn’t widespread during the Regency but gained popularity during Queen Victoria’s reign. Most women during the early 19th century were married in their Sunday best. Brides were much more practical in those days, especially if they did not rank high on the social scale. They might have a new gown made for the occasion, but often that became their new “best” gown.

Wedding Rings

The following appeared in Appleton’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Artin 1869:

Although a ring is absolutely necessary in a Church-of-England marriage, it may be of any metal, and of any size. Some years since, a ring of brass was used at Worcester at a wedding before the registrar, who was threatened with proceedings for not compelling a gold one to be employed…. The church-key was used in lieu of a wedding-ring at a church near Colchester, early in the present century; and that was not a solitary instance within the past one hundred years in England. The Duke of Hamilton was married at May Fair with a bed-curtain ring.

Wedding Breakfast

Today we just call the party after a wedding ceremony “the reception” and are done with it. During the Regency, members of the ton would be expected to fast and then take communion after the ceremony, so the meal served after the ceremony would have broken their fasting. Add to that, the majority of weddings were held between 8 am and noon, and there’s our modern interpretation creeping in. Remember at the time, Venetian Breakfasts were very popular and were essentially afternoon parties that could last into the evening.

If you’re looking for information on how to have a Regency wedding ceremony, check out Vanessa Riley’s post which includes the full text as well as some commentary. Vanessa’s Christian Regency Blog even has a whole category of posts about vows.


Visit my post on Regency Divorce & Annulments or my Regency Resource page for more information regarding a variety of other Regency-themed topics. If you’d like more information on a specific place or topic, please let me know in the comments below.

Oct 042011
 
Bath seen in the distance, circa 1802

After last week’s post about Regency London Landmarks, I realized there are a ton of places beyond Town that also get mentioned or visited all the time in historical romances.

So, let’s look at a few of the top spots to see and be seen around the British Isles during the Regency Era.
 

  • Richmond – The hero is often seen offering to drive the heroine down to Richmond for a picnic or they travel to some ball being held there. Richmond is now part of London, proper, but it used to be a posh destination several miles southeast of Town.
  • Bath – Located in Somerset, this spa destination was established by the Romans in A.D. 43 by the name of Aquae Sulis. Early 19th century references to Bath include taking the waters at The Pump Room or visiting the mineral baths next door. Other places to see and be seen were The Royal Crescent, The Circus, and Pulteney Bridge (across which Jane Austen would have looked from her lodgings on the other side of the river). And of course, the hub of fashionable Bath, the assembly rooms would have been a required visit. For a full list of landmarks there, see Wikipedia’s full list of places of interest in Bath. Of course, Sally Lunn Buns were a treat to be had there.
    Bath seen in the distance, circa 1802

    Bath seen in the distance, circa 1802

  • Brighton – This quaint seaside town is located in East Sussex on the southern coast. The Royal Pavilion is a former royal palace expanded and renovated as a home for the Prince Regent during the early 19th century, under the direction of the architect John Nash. The Pavillion is notable for its exotic Oriental exterior and interior and at the time, a source of tension between the Prince Regent and Parliament as it was an enormous drain on funds.
  • Cornwall – The rugged and fierce Cornish coast is the perfect spot to find pirates and smugglers.
  • Dover – The white cliffs, check. Close enough to minimize crossing time and danger when the hero or heroine must cross the English Channel into France, check! The packets (smaller, quicker ships generally used to transport mail) sailed between Dover on the English side of the Channel and Calais on the French.
  • Portsmouth – Another busy port on the southern shores of England. This was much more of a merchant’s port with a deeper harbor. If your hero or the heroine’s family is involved in shipping, you can bet they have offices in Portsmouth.
  • Educational Centers, or where aristocratic sons were shipped off to school — women were not educated at public schools and the bluestockings who were educated had private tutors and extraordinary situations
    • Eton – Young boys of the ton began their education here, across the river from Windsor, home of Windsor Castle.
    • Cambridge – Applied mathematics was the name of the game at Cambridge from the late 17th century and well into the 19th century. Mathematics was required for graduation and sending your hero here, means he’s quite intelligent and versed in mathematics.
    • Oxford – A bastion of classical studies which saw a growth in science during the 19th century. The academic year is divided into three terms. Michaelmas Term lasts from October to December; Hilary Term from January to March; and Trinity Term from April to June. Young men were “sent down” which was akin to suspension or expulsion depending on the nature of their transgressions. Student were expected to dress in full academic regalia until the 1960s.
  • Scotland – North of Hadrian’s Wall, home of sheep, Reavers and manly men in kilts. Only not so much by the Regency Era.
    • Gretna Green – Once the Marriage Act of 1753 was passed and required parental consent for anyone under the age of 21 to marry. The Act did not apply in Scotland. Gretna Green lies just over the line in Scotland. Many couples eloped without parental consent and were married “over the anvil” at the popular blacksmith’s shop in Gretna Green. After 1856, Scottish law changed to require 21 days’ residence for marriage.
    • Edinburgh – The capital city of Scotland with its own booming university and social scene. All those Scottish earls would be flocking there.
  • Wales – If there’s mining, quarrying or iron manufacturing involved, it likely occurred in Wales. Cardiff and Swansea were important industrial ports during the Regency.

To explore further, the Wikipedia entry covers a number of places of interest and importance during the British Regency.

If you’re lucky enough to travel to the UK, you might want to visit some of these historic places:


More information regarding a variety of other Regency-themed topics can be found on my Regency Resource page. If you’d like more information on a specific place or topic, please let me know in the comments section below.

Sep 272011
 

Alexia Reed has been on a major reading jag lately. She’s also been reading a lot of historicals. Since she knows this is what I write and mostly read, she asked,

“Something I’ve noticed lately, a lot of historicals have the same ‘places’. Like White’s club. Hyde Park. Why is that?”

I’d also noticed this over the years of reading historical romances and can only say that they were social hot spots during the Regency Period (1811-1820) and similar to how an author of a contemporary novel set in a particular city names famous landmarks to establish the setting and provide local color. Basically, regardless of genre, these well-known landmarks are a type of shorthand between the author and reader.

Regency London Landmark: Hyde Park
Those who’ve read a few Regencies will be familiar with the ton‘s visits to Almack’s, White’s, Tattersalls, Vauxhall Gardens with their fireworks, the Drury Lane Theatre and, of course, shopping on Bond Street calls to mind modern day excursions to Rodeo Drive in L.A. or 5th Avenue in N.Y.C. Although, I like it much better when the landmarks serve the plot as more than just cardboard cut-outs propped up in the background scenery. What was so special about these places that the cream of society, the haute ton, couldn’t find elsewhere? What does it say about the characters that frequent these landmarks?

So, let’s look at a few of the top spots to see and be seen around Regency London.

Regency London Landmarks

  • Hyde Park, Rotten Row, The Serpentine, The Fashionable Hour — Giant expanse of parkland with a bridle path to show off equestrian skills. A lake to take the kiddies, or fall into should need arise to embarrass a hero or heroine, and a set time for everyone to gather and gawk at each other.
  • Almack’s Assembly Rooms – a very private social club where vouchers for entry were carefully guarded by the Patronesses. No alcohol was served and you had to get permission to waltz from the Patronesses as well. Nouveau riche need not apply.
  • White’s, Boodle’s & Brooks’s Gentlemen’s Clubs — You can tell a lot about a hero’s politics just by the club(s) he belongs to — White’s (Tory) and Brooks’s (Whig).
  • Astley’s Amphitheatre — Think of it like a trip to the circus.
  • Vauxhall Gardens – Pleasure gardens, but seems more like an amusement park with their frequent fireworks displays. Also lots of dark paths for heroines to be compromised or at least tested.
  • Covent Garden, Royal Opera House Theatre and Drury Lane Theatre – Historically known as “the garden of the Abbot and Convent of Westminster”, during the 18th and early 19th centuries, Convent Garden area was considered something of a red-light district attracting many notable prostitutes. The area also has a long history of retail and entertainment. Many a famous actor of the day tread the boards of these two theaters. Also many a famous actress caught the eye of her rich protector.
  • Tattersall’s — The premier place to bid upon horseflesh.
  • Bond Street and The Western Exchange — where any well-dressed hero or heroine will shop. If they have the money or just want to keep up the appearance of having money.

To explore further, the Wikipedia entry covers a number of places of interest and importance during the British Regency.

If you’re lucky enough to travel to London, you might want to visit some of these historic places. However, keep in mind while many places still exist, others have been replaced by more modern buildings. Some of the ones still standing include:

  • St. George’s in Hanover Square: The Anglican Church still holds services where all the best high-society weddings were once held.
  • Rotten Row in Hyde Park: Along with neighboring Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park remains one of London’s largest parks where visitors may still ride horses along what was once London’s most fashionable bridle path.
  • Hatchards: Established in 1797, the bookstore on Piccadilly hosts signings by high-profile writers.
  • Theatre Royal on Drury Lane: This four-tiered theater has seen numerous renovations but remains mostly unchanged since 1812, its last major rebuild.
  • Bond Street: Since the 18th century, Bond Street has remained London’s fashionable shopping district. From Piccadilly to Oxford Street, one can find many high-end shops such as Tiffany & Company, Cartier, and Gucci.
  • Seven Dials: During the Regency era, this West End neighborhood near Covent Garden was rough and impoverished. It surrounds a junction of seven streets, where a pillar featuring six sundials stands in the center.
  • White’s and Brook’s: The famous gentlemen’s clubs continue to operate as private fraternities on James Street. And women still aren’t permitted as members.

More information regarding a variety of other Regency-themed topics can be found on my Regency Resource page. If you’d like more information on a specific place or topic, please let me know in the comments section below. Next week’s post will cover frequently seen locations outside of London, like Bath, Brighton, and the like.