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A Primer on the Regency Era Royal Family

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Nov 222011
Portrait of King George III of England, Queen Charlotte and their family

In last week’s post about Regency Peerage and Precedence, and indeed the rest of the Regency Primer Series, we have glossed over the what “The Regency” was in the first place.

Formally, “The Regency” refers to the period of British history from 1811 until 1820. After King George III slipped into permanent madness when his favorite daughter, Princess Amelia died on November 2, 1810, he was deemed unfit to rule and his son, George, Prince of Wales, was installed as the king’s proxy as Regent until his own coronation after his father’s death in 1820.

The “Regency Era” is usually used to describe a wider time period characterized by distinct trends in architecture, fashion, literature, political relations and culture that spans from 1795 until 1837 (the latter part of the reign of George III and the reigns of his sons George IV, as Prince Regent and King, and William IV) when Queen Victoria was crowned.

The Regency Era Royal Family

Regency Era Royal Family: Portrait of King George III of England, Queen Charlotte and their family

King George III of England, Queen Charlotte and their family

The Sovereigns, King George III and Queen Charlotte (George III slipped into permanent madness after his favorite daughter, Princess Amelia died Nov 2, 1810.)

Regency Era Royal Family: Portrait of George, Prince of Wales, Prince Regent and later King George IV

George, Prince of Wales, Prince Regent and later King George IV

George, Prince of Wales, Prince Regent from Feb 1811 until his coronation as King George IV Jan 1820 and reigned until 1830

Wife: Caroline, Princess of Wales (married 1795)
Children: Charlotte (born 1796, married 1816, died 1817 in childbirth)

Frederick, Duke of York (married 1791)

Wife: Frederica, Duchess of York

William, Duke of Clarence (King William IV 1830-1837)

Regency Era Royal Family: Portrait of William IV of England

William IV of England

Wife: Adelaide, Duchess of Clarence (married 1818)
Children: (10 bastards by Mrs. Jordan)
Charlotte (born & died 1819)
Elizabeth (born 1820, died 1821)

Charlotte, Princess Royal

Edward, Duke of Kent (married 1818)

Wife: Victoire, Duchess of Kent
Children: Victoria (born 1819, Queen Victoria of England 1837)

Princess Augusta

Regency Era Royal Family: Portrait of Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria of England

Princess Elizabeth

Ernest, Duke of Cumberland (married 1815, King Ernest of Hanover 1837)

Wife: Frederica, Duchess of Cumberland
Children: George (born 1819, King of Hanover 1851)

Augustus, Duke of Sussex (married 1793, but the marriage was never approved by the king, so it violated the Royal Marriage Act, which removed his children from the royal succession; received the title Duke of Sussex in 1801
after parting with his wife)

Wife: Lady Augusta DeAmeland (she was awarded use of this surname in 1801)
Children: Mister Frederick DeAmeland (born 1794)
Miss Emma DeAmeland (born 1801)

Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge (married 1818)

Wife: Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge
Children: George (born 1819)
Augusta (born 1822)
Mary (born 1833)

Princess Mary

Princess Sophia

Octavius (died age 3)

Alfred (died age 2)

Princess Amelia (died Nov 2, 1810)

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.

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.


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.


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

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
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

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
Attorneys at Law, Etc.
Burgesses, etc.

Precedency of Women in England

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
Wives of the Eldest Sons of Dukes
Daughters of Dukes
Wives of the Eldest Sons of Marquesses
Daughters of Marquesses
Wives of the Younger Sons of Dukes
Wives of the Eldest Sons of Earls
Daughters of Earls
Wives of the Younger Sons of Marquesses
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.

Nov 082011

This week and last, we’re looking at how people dressed in the Regency Era. This week we’re going to focus on Regency Era Men’s Fashion. These lists aren’t exhaustive by any means but intended to represent clothing of the upper classes rather than the working classes. They should give a good foundation in recognizing what an author is talking about and why they’re so focused on their characters being fashion conscious.

A couple showing off typical Regency Era Fashions.Last week in the post on Regency Era Women’s Fashions, we covered the terms “Undress”, “Half Dress” and “Full Dress”. These also applied for men as well. For men, “Undress” included having his jacket and cravat removed, something that was not done in polite or mixed company if the gentleman could avoid it. Dressing gowns and robes also fit this bill for gentlemen lounging at home. “Half Dress” for men would be less elaborate knots in their neck cloths, and much simpler and more casual styles of clothing. “Full Dress” and “Evening Dress” are the equivalent of today’s black tie affairs. Almack’s was a special case, where gentlemen of the ton were expected to wear breeches instead of trousers.

Regency Era Men’s Fashions

If you haven’t seen the movie, Beau Brummell – This Charming Man (affiliate link)Amazon tracking pixelwith James Purefoy and Hugh Bonneville, let me whet your appetite with this clip of the opening. It tells the story of Beau Brummel and his influence on all matters sartorial.

Ahh, those visuals are something else, aren’t they?

I’ll wait if you want to replay it in full screen mode.

Ok, back now? Good. Did you notice the anachronism? There’s a big, glaring one, but it’s much more dramatic looking when the shirt opens all the way down the front instead of only partway down from the neck. So…good cinematic choice, bad historical detail.

The clip reminds me that author Kalen Hughes has a great post over at Word Wenches where she goes through the steps of dressing your Regency hero from the skin out. If you visit that post, you’ll get better idea of how long it took to dress and the order everything goes on or off in. Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion has a fabulous page that describes and details a number of men’s Regency Era fashions.


Small Clothes/Smalls/Drawers
short drawers (more like modern boxers) or long drawers (basically what we think of as long johns)
Stockings and Garters
Calf-high, usually cotton or silk.

Basic Garments

Regency Era Men's Fashion: tailcoat with squared cut away in front, circa 1812

Tailcoat with squared cut away in front, circa 1812.

Typically made from white muslin, shirts pulled on and off over the head and did not buttoned all the way up the front like modern dress shirts. Collars would have been high enough to reach the chin when starched and standing up. The neck and sleeves might have ruffles or not.
Waist Coat
What we’d think of today as a vest, these had a high collar and could be double breasted but were usually single breasted. Properly pronounced as “wes-kit”.
Likewise, they could be double or single breasted, with a distinctive “M” shape to the tails.
Men enjoyed a variety of pants of different lengths and snugness. Rather than a modern zipper, Regency breeches opened with a flap called a “fall” that opened in the front and fastened with an elaborate series of buttons. The width of the front panel determined if one was wearing “broad fall” or “narrow fall” breeches. The Historical Hussies have a great post on Regency Men’s Pants that includes a great illustration of this construction.
Knee length pants worn with stockings during this period. Considered old-fashioned, breeches were de rigueur at Almack’s.
Trousers/braces (suspenders)
Originally worn by the working class, trousers became an option for the upper classes around 1807. Regency men did not wear belts due to the construction of their pants and the cut of their coats. Instead, suspenders or braces kept their pants in place.
Cut on the bias to achieve a much closer fit and typically worn with highly polished tall boots, pantaloons extended to mid calf or below.
Scandalously tight leggings that left little to the imagination.
Made from deerskin and considered the equivalent of denim jeans in their day, comfortable and practical.

Gentlemen, like ladies, possessed a variety of outfits considered appropriate to a specific activity. So for example, one required specific jackets more suited to riding, but overall the emphasis and time spent on dressing for the next activity was not as time-consuming for men as it was for women. Isn’t that always the case?

Regency Era Men's Fashion: Great coat with capes, circa 1811

Great coat with capes, circa 1811.


Great Coat
Think of a great coat as the flamboyant and dashing trenchcoat of its day, not all were as fancy as to have capes attached, but many were simple coats to keep one warm.


Worn for informal occasions and evening events, usually made of leather.
Typically Hessians were acceptable during the day but not at night. Top boots were another choice.


Regency Era Men's Fashion: a simpler overcoat

A simpler overcoat for a stroll in the park or night at Vauxhall Gardens.

Elevated by George “Beau” Brummel, this long rectangular piece of cloth became quite the showpiece. Depending on the man’s rank and skill of his valet, the cravat was starched and folded, and then tied in one of numerous ways, ranging from simple to complicated knots. Get more information at Regency Reproductions and also a free pattern to make a cravat.
Gloves, Canes, Pocket Watches, Watch Fobs, Quizzing Glasses
All indicators of wealth and status as well as functional and practical.
Wallets or Purses
made of leather or fabric to hold notes and coins
Several styles to choose from: topper (what we call a top hat), beaver hat

In the Bedchamber

Basically a loose, ankle-length nightgown with a floppy open collar — all those heroes must be freezing in their birthday suits!
A knitted silk hat with a tassel on the end
Banyan/Dressing Gown
A dressing gown was a loose, wraparound, floor-length bathrobe sort of garment. Banyans reached knee-length and fitted more closely to the body. Most preferred rich-colored, luxurious fabrics, such as satin, velvet, or silk damask.

Another source of entertainment are these digital Regency Paper Dolls for your Hero and Heroine. You may want to check out my post on The Art of the Cravat as well for examples of the different knots that were fashionable. Visit my post on Women’s Regency Fashions 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 section below.

Nov 012011

This week and next, we’re going to take a look at how people dressed in the Regency Era. This week we’re going to focus on Regency Era Women’s Fashion and all the different pieces of apparel they were changing in and out of multiple times per day. This list isn’t exhaustive by any means and is rather representative of the upper classes rather than the working classes, but should give a good foundation in recognizing what an author is talking about and why they’re so focused on their characters being fashion conscious.

Before we get into the individual items of clothing, it’s important to realize some phrases we use today didn’t mean quite the same thing 200 years ago. For example, unlike when we say “She was in a state of undress.” or “She was caught en dishabille.”, the folks of the Regency era wouldn’t have batted an eye. It was quite common for ladies to entertain guests in their boudoirs while dressed in comfortable, but concealing gowns and robes. Therefore, the terms “undress”, “half-dress” and “full-dress” were degrees of formality, not coverage.

“Undress” meant simply casual, informal dress in the Regency period. This would be the type of dress worn from early morning to noon or perhaps as late as four or five, depending on one’s engagements for the day. Undress was usually more comfortable, more warm, more casual, and much cheaper in cost than half dress or full dress.

“Half Dress” is perhaps one of the most difficult concepts to grasp about Regency Fashion. Basically it is any dress halfway between Undress and Full Dress. In modern terms it might be thought of as dressy casual or casual business attire in terms of formality, if not style.

“Full dress” was the most formal kind of dress in a Regency Lady’s wardrobe. Full dress was worn for the most formal occasions — evening concerts and card parties, soirees, balls, and court occasions. “Evening dress” referred to outfits suitable only at evening events, but was a specific subset of “full dress”.

Regency Era Women's Fashion: A variety of Shawls in Early 19th Century France

Variety of Shawls in Early 19th Century France – Wikimedia Commons

Regency Era Women’s Fashion

There’s a great post over at Word Wenches where author Kalen Hughes goes through the steps of dressing your Regency heroine from the skin out. If you visit that post, you’ll get better idea of how long it took to dress and the order everything goes on or off in.


The forerunner of the slip, the basic white linen garment underneath everything, often short-sleeved or sleeveless. Easy to wash compared to stays.
Less uncomfortable than those of Georgian or Victorian Eras and typically stays were worn instead of full corsets though the term corset was being applied to both. The ones we think of when someone mentions “corset” today are the Victorian ones.
Usually only one was required and not a lot of volume was required for the high-waisted fashions.
stockings/garters, pantaloons
No panty hose for these ladies, but rather cotton or silk stockings, held up by garters.
Basically a white lawn dickey with a high collar.
Proper ladies didn’t wear drawers, since they were considered to be quite “fast” and racy.
Regency Era Women's Fashion: Riding Habit

Riding Habit

Gowns & Dresses

Author Candice Hern also has a great page that details the various styles of dresses a woman would wear throughout the day named and appropriate for specific activities. These included:

morning gowns
visiting gowns
walking gowns
promenade dresses
carriage dresses
riding habits
dinner dresses/gowns
ball gowns

Regency Era Women's Fashion: Spencer jacket over a white muslin gown, 1798

Spencer jacket over a white muslin gown, 1798 – Wikimedia Commons


Regency Era Women's Fashion: Pelisse coat, October 1820, Ackermann's Repository

Pelisse coat, October 1820, Ackermann

wraps & shawls
A wide variety of wraps and shawls were worn for warmth during this time period.
A close-fitting, tight sleeved, waist length jacket modeled on a gentleman’s riding coat, but without tails.
An overdress or coat dress. The pelisse fit relatively close to the figure (though not tight) and had the same high-waisted lines as the dress of the day. Pelisses were also heavily and variously trimmed with fur, swansdown, contrasting fabric, frog fastenings, etc. practically from their beginning. In fashionable circles, pelisses more or less replaced the fur-lined cloaks of the earlier periods.
From the French corruption of “riding coat”, a long, fitted woman’s coat, belted and open to reveal the skirt of the dress beneath.
cloak or mantles (a short hip- or thigh-length cape) or Mantelets
Worn in the evening, often as part of an ensemble for the opera. Short cloaks with upstanding collars would also be worn to the theatre.
These were fading out of fashion for women during the Regency, but some still present


slippers/simple pumps
The basic shoe pattern resembled a ballet slipper (without points, of course) and might be made from kid leather, satin, or velvet.
Backless slip-on shoes with a slight heel.
An ankle boot made of sturdy leather for outdoors or velvet/satin for evening.
A metal contraption strapped onto the lady’s shoes in inclement weather, to lift her above the mud, snow, or rainwater in the street.


A standard accessory for any modest miss who felt too much cleavage was showing. Also called a “tucker” as you tucked it into the bodice of your gown.
tippets (boa), pelerines (a broad collar-like cape which covers the shoulders.) & muffs
Warming aids, but also fashionable.
One mustn’t get spots! Freckles were quite unfashionable during the Regency.
reticule or ridicule
Some people argue that ‘ridicule’ is the only proper Regency term for a ladies purse, but you’ll see ‘reticule’ used almost exclusively.
For propriety’s sake and during the day, to limit sun exposure.
hats, bonnets
Again, propriety insisted that one’s hair be covered and the bonnets helped keep that porcelain complexion spot-free!
turbans, bandeaux
Favored more by older women, these were quite fashionable.
Mostly in conjunction with widows and mourning.

In the Boudoir or Bedchamber

nightrail or night dress
Practical and high-necked, probably cotton.
dressing gown
A long, comfortable house garment that covered the night dress
A thin gown or robe worn for modesty

Next week, we’ll take a look at Regency Era Men’s Fashions.

Another source of entertainment are these digital Regency Paper Dolls for your Hero and Heroine.

Visit my post on Men’s Regency Fashions 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 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


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


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


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.


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


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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 182011
A cariacture of a wife being "sold" in a public, lower-class "divorce" that was not recognized by church or state.

Last week’s post on Regency Marriages & Elopements, outlined the different ways one could get married during the Regency Era. So this week, we’re going to take a closer look at what happens when there wasn’t a Happily Ever After (HEA). The topic of Regency Divorce and Annulments is a much romanticized one in Regency Romances.

The Lower Classes

The satirical engraving on the right depicts the quaint English custom of “wife-selling”, which wasn’t quite what it sounds like, but was more a ritual among the non-genteel classes (who couldn’t possibly obtain a full parliamentary divorce, allowing remarriage, according to the pre-1857 laws), to publicly proclaim a dissolution of marriage (though not generally recognized by the Church and State authorities). Notice how artist arranged the horns of the cattle horns behind the cuckholded husband’s head.

An 1815 newspaper carried this notice:

Regency Divorce: A cariacture of a wife being "sold" in a public, lower-class "divorce" that was not recognized by church or state.

A satirical engraving of the quaint English custom of “wife-selling”. 1820 English caricature, despite French on the sign.

On Friday last [September 15th 1815] the common bell-man gave notice in Staines Market that the wife of —- Issey was then at the King’s Head Inn to be sold, with the consent of her husband, to any person inclined to buy her. There was a very numerous attendance to witness this singular sale, notwithstanding which only three shillings and fourpence were offered for the lot, no one choosing to contend with the bidder, for the fair object, whose merits could only be appreciated by those who knew them. This the purchaser could boast, from a long and intimate acquaintance. This degrading custom seems to be generally received by the lower classes, as of equal obligation with the most serious legal forms.

High Society

So, let’s examine what was involved to dissolve a marriage in a way that would be recognized by the authorities of Church and State.

There are generally two ways to go about dissolving a marriage: annulment (to make it as it if never existed at all) and divorce (a legal separation in every sense of the word: all obligations of the husband toward the wife are removed and vice versa. Divorce was a long, expensive process—and rarely used outside the aristocracy. Only a handful of cases came before Parliament each year as few could afford the cost. Additionally, the woman became a social outcast and so did the man, though not to the same extent.


In many Regency Historical novels, someone frequently threatens to get an annulment. Despite their handiness as a plot device, annulments were difficult to obtain in reality. Marriages must be dissolve through an annulment suit in an ecclesiastical court which is tried by the bishop of the see in which the couple’s parish is located.

Annulments could only be granted in three circumstances, any of which could leave either the man, the woman, or both as social pariahs. Also, any children of an annulled marriage become bastards (who cannot inherit or be declared legitimate at the whim of the peer) and likewise outcasts of society.


The first form of fraud related to identity. Marriages could be annulled for use of fictitious names. This could be blatant or subtle by forgetting to list out the entire name or title. In the interest of preserving the marriage, bishops could decide an inadvertent mistake occurred, correct the registration and refuse the annulment. This was especially true if the name on the register was how the person was commonly known.

Fraud also involved promises in the marriage contract that were unable to be kept. More common in fiction than real life, these cases might included vanishing doweries or promises of housing that’s already been sold. One has to assume that due to the rarity of such breach of contract cases, the scandal involved with those that were brought was immense. In even rarer cases, fraud could also be charged if the officiating clergyman allowed irregularities (such as an non-consenting bride).


One is incompetent under law and cannot be held to a contract if the person is underage or insane.

Contracts were null and void if either party had not reached their 21st birthday and did not have their father or guardian’s consent. Many fathers were forced to accept the marriage of underage brides who eloped because otherwise her reputation would prevent anyone else from marrying her and taking her off his hands.

Once proven legally insane, the person is locked away for life and loses control of all possessions. Titles could not be stripped and given away, but guardian were appointed to handle their affairs. Women declared insane became nonentities, locked away and forgotten. Few families brought an annulment suit claiming insanity, as it would taint the entire family. A charge of insanity against a husband was social suicide for a woman as her reputation would be ruined when the marriage ended. The few cases tried on these grounds were brought by men wanting to discard unwanted wives or by family members seeking to control the man’s assets.


Non-consummation was NOT grounds for annulment as is conveniently if erroneously used in many novels. The proof is burdensome and difficult to acquire at best and leaves the man an outcast. To prove impotence, the man must share his wife’s bed exclusively for three years, then prove she remains virgin. He must also be proven to be unable to reach an erection with anyone, such as the two accomplished courtesans employed by the court. Only then, would impotence be ruled.


Divorce and legal separation were rare occurrences and a divorce was not granted to a wife until after the Regency Era. Only 276 divorces occurred between 1765 and 1857. Between the passage of the first British divorce bill in 1697 and 1857, only four divorces were granted to women, the first in 1801.

Canon law allowed for separation, called the divortium a mensa et thoro (separation from bed and board), in cases of lethal cruelty and adultery on the part of the husband, or adultery committed by the wife. A divortium a mensa et thoro allowed the husband and wife to reside apart, marked the end of the husband’s financial responsibility for his wife and prevented both parties from remarrying.

3 Steps of the Divorce Procedure

First, the husband brought a suit against his wife’s lover in a civil trial, called a criminal conversation or a CrimCon trial. The offense of criminal conversation was a euphemism for adultery and since a wife was considered the property of her husband, it was tried as a form of trespass or property damage. Successful CrimCon suits found the wife’s lover guilty and carried a hefty fine for alienation of affection. The wife could neither attend nor testify as she was not considered a principal in these cases, despite her reputation being the central issue, because a wife had no legal identity separate from her husband.

After obtaining the CrimCon conviction, the husband then charged his wife with adultery and requested a legal separation (divortium a mensa et thoro) to sever all responsibility for his former wife. The bishop of the see in which the couple had been married, presided over this second ecclesiastical trial, the divorce trial itself.

Unless Parliament passed a Private Act (or Bill) of Divorcement granting permission, a divorced man could not remarry. The third hearing on this bill was as extensive as the other trials and concerned the reversion of the settlements made at the time of the marriage. Passage of such bills resulted in a divorce a vinculo matrimonii, which allowed both parties to remarry unlike the ecclesiastical divortium a mensa et thoro.

This article would have been impossible without Allison Lane’s invaluable collection of Common Regency Errors and The Regency Wrangles Blog’s wealth of information and details of specific cases in its Divorce category of posts.

The Regency Collection has a Calendar of Milestones in women’s rights that starts in 1832 and is fascinating reading when you realize how far we’ve come in 200 years.

Visit my post on Regency Marriages & Elopements 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 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.