Eat, Read, and Live Like Jane Austen 

                   Castle Comb, photo by Olivier Collet

by Guest blogger Jane Sandwood

Tea time is an important English tradition. It was a big part of life during the Regency period and is still valued today. If you love Jane Austen, you might be curious as to what her typical dining habits were – as the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” Combine your love of tea time and sweet treats with your love of Jane Austen books, and immerse yourself into the traditions of the time. You’ll make your next book club meeting a sweet affair. 

The Regency period was focused on enjoying a range of sugary treats, but this wasn’t just because people in the era had a sweet tooth – it was because sugar played an important part in the country’s development so it was available to everyone. Sugar even featured in Austen’s novel “Mansfield Park” in which one of the characters, Sir Thomas Bertram, is a sugar baron. 

Here are some treats that Jane Austen and others would have loved during the Regency period. 

Honey Cake 
Breakfast during the Regency era would have been based around cakes, which sounds wonderful. A favourite choice was honey cake, perhaps because of its simplicity. You can make a delicious honey cake with just three ingredients: eggs, honey, and spelt flour. You could even add spices to the cake, which were quite popular during the period, such as saffron and ground ginger. Be sure to serve the cake with tea and hot chocolate, which were both typical beverages to be enjoyed with breakfast during the era.

Famous Bath Buns. My friend’s hand is nearby to show how big the buns are.

Bath Buns 
If you want to feel closer to Jane Austen while reading her works, eat bath buns. These were one of her preferred treats. Bath buns are sweet rolls made from dough with sugar sprinkled on top. There are different varieties, such as buns with candied fruit peel or raisins inside them, which makes them sound a bit like hot cross buns. You can make delicious bath buns with milk, flour, dried yeast, sugar, butter, and caraway seeds which were also popular during the Regency era. In fact, these seeds that taste like anise were also used in recipes for breath fresheners.

Bakewell Tarts

Tarts photo by Hisu Lee

These tarts are said to have been invented at The Rutland Arms in Bakewell, a hotel in which Jane Austen stayed in 1811 and where she wrote “Pride and Prejudice.” These tarts were a custom during the Regency period – and are still delicious today. Made with shortbread pastry, and layers of jam, flaked almonds, and frangipane, they’re sure to be loved by your guests. You can make an easy Bakewell tart recipe in half an hour.

Try to imagine Jane Austen penning her most famous novel while baking and feasting on these tarts. Who knows? They might inspire you to write a cookbook or work of fiction set during the period…
You know that reading Jane Austen’s novels is a treat itself, but adding the pleasure of eating Regency desserts which the novelist enjoyed during her life is even more enjoyable. Escape modern life with some Regency treats and your beloved copy of “Pride and Prejudice.” It’s a double pleasure to savour.

 

Excerpt from Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

Christmas Secrets

Announcing a new release! My newest novel, Christmas Secrets, is coming November 9, 2017. You can pre-order your copy of this clean and wholesome short novel today and have it instantly delivered to your ebook device.

Here is the back cover blurb of my new short Regency Christmas novel:

A stolen Christmas kiss leaves them bewildered and breathless…

Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; finally earn her mother’s approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss…even if that stranger is the resident Christmas ghost.

A charming rogue-turned-vicar, Will wants to prove that he left his rakish days behind him, but an accidental kiss changes all his plans. His secret could bring them together…or divide them forever.

Here is an excerpt from Christmas Secrets. This scene takes place on Christmas Day when the everyone takes turn a kissing their spouse or sweetheart underneath the mistletoe ball. Now the group is coaxing Will and Holly, who have only known each other a few days, into sharing a mistletoe kiss.

“Come now, don’t be shy,” her sister called. “It’s tradition.”

The others called out encouragements.

Apology edged into Will’s uncertain expression. “Do you mind?”

Holly’s palms grew sweaty inside her gloves, and her smile probably came out wobbly. “Who are we to go against tradition?” Did she sound desperate in her desire to kiss him?

Will held out a hand. She placed hers in it and walked at his side to the kissing ball. They stood, hand in hand, facing each other. His neck cloth shifted as he swallowed. He leaned in. Her heart stumbled and her knees shook. She closed her eyes. Aching, she lifted her face. His cinnamon-spiced breath warmed her mouth.

He kissed her cheek.

Stunned, she opened her eyes. The watching guests groaned and some chuckled.

“No, no, that won’t do at all,” Joseph’s voice rang out. “Give her a proper kiss.”

Will froze. That intensity she occasionally saw in him returned. “Holly.” He swallowed again but instead of nervousness, a hunger that sent a flurry of shivers through her overtook his expression. “May I?”

She nodded. It didn’t matter if he saw how much she wanted this, wanted him. Let him know. Let the whole world know.

 He touched her chin, lifted it, and leaned in. Again, she closed her eyes. This time his lips touched hers, pliant and unbelievably gentle. Heat exploded at the contact and shot through her all the way down to her tingling toes. Different from her mystery kiss, this one sang of affection and respect and a deep longing to be accepted. Sweeter, more chaste, more filled with caring, Will’s kiss brought her a level of joy she’d never known. All the world faded away leaving Will and the power of his affection, his touch, his kiss. Every moment of her life seemed to have been designed to bring her to this single, perfect moment of bliss and wholeness.

“Ahem.” Father cleared his throat conspicuously.

Will pulled away all too quickly. A tiny sound of distress caught in Holly’s throat. It was over too soon. But oh, what a glorious kiss!

 

Pre-order your copy of Christmas Secrets today!

If the above link doesn’t work, try copying and pasting this into your search bar: https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Secrets-Donna-Hatch-ebook/dp/B076B6Z7GZ/

Gunter’s Tea Shop

Negri’s business card

One of the fashionable places to visit in Regency England was Gunter’s Tea Shop in Berkley Square. Gunter’s was originally a sweet shop called The Pot and Pineapple, so named because the Pineapple was a symbol of confectioners, something only the rich could afford.

William Gunther. Note the fashionable pose.

The proprietor, an Italian pastry cook named Domenico Negri had a successful business making wet and dry sweetmeats. His shop also offered candied fruits, cakes, syrups, biscuits, delicate sugar spun creations, and most notably, ices. The Pot and Pineapple flourished, and Negri eventually took on a partner, James Gunter. Eventually, Gunter became the sole owner and changed the name to Gunter’s Tea Shop in 1799.

Ices were frozen in pewter or led molds in whimsical shapes such as fruit, vegetables, animals, a wedge of cheese, and even cuts of meat! These treats came in flavors the modern palate would find odd—parmesan and Gruyere cheeses, artichoke ice cream, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. Flower flavors also graced these fine dishes in violet, orange flower, jasmine rose, and elder flowers.

                        Berkley Square, 1813

By the Regency Era, Gunter’s had become so fashionable that those lucky few in the Beau Monde, many of whom resided at Mayfair, frequented the establishment. After going for a carriage ride at the park during the fashionable hour, many gentlemen took the ladies they were courting to Berkley Square to visit Gunter’s. They eventually formed the tradition of enjoying their sweets outside the confectionary in the Square. It seems that Gunter’s Tea Shop was the only establishment where a lady mindful of her reputation could be seen eating alone with a gentleman not related to her without calling into question her reputation. Waiters took orders from customers in their carriages, ran across the street to fetch the sweets, then raced back, dodging traffic, while carrying cold dishes filled with molded ices already beginning to melt.

Berkley Square, 2017, the site where Gunter’s is believed to have been located

Gunter’s was also known for its catering business and was a coveted wedding cake maker. In 1811, the Duchess of Bedford’s and Mrs. Calvert’s ball suppers featured the shop’s confectionary, and in 1889, Gunter’s made the bride cake for Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Louise of Wales.

Sadly, Gunter’s closed their doors in 1956, but continued to have a catering business in a new location for another twenty years.

Here is a photo I took of Berkley Square. The store, Sexy Fish, now sits in the location where it is believed Gunter’s once delighted those with a sweet tooth.

My heroes and heroines often frequent Gunter’s and I sometimes wish I could taste the ice right along with them!

 

Sources:

http://www.historicfood.com/Georgian%20Ices.htm

http://www.regrom.com/2008/09/27/regency-hot-spots-gunters/

https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/gunters-tea-shop/

http://www.georgianindex.net/Gunters/gunters.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunter%27s_Tea_Shop

 

5 Fun Facts about Regency England that May Surprise You

by Donna Hatch

1.       It was not scandalous for ladies to show their ankles during the Regency Era. A number of Regency fashion plates and caricatures depict ladies revealing silk stocking-clad ankles and low-cut slippers, which were much like todays ballerina flat, while dancing, sitting, and walking. During the Victorian Era, shoe fashions changed from slippers to the Victorian boot. This happened about the same time that hemlines lowered and skirts widened. In addition to the Victorians following their monarch’s example of becoming exceedingly prudish, it eventually became scandalous for ladies to show ankles. However, during the Regency, it really was no big deal for ladies to hold up their narrow skirts to avoid a mud puddle or to allow greater freedom of movement to walk quickly, thus exposing ankles. Fun fact: It was, however, scandalous to say “legs.” Apparently “limbs” was the more accepted word in polite company.

2.       A dance set at the ball included two dances, not just one. When a gentleman asked a lady to “stand up with him” they were committed to 20 to 30 minutes together. Of course, country dances were all the rage which allowed couples to change partners frequently during the course of the dance, so they weren’t truly “stuck” together much. This practice of dancing sets of two is partly why a gentleman seldom asked a lady for two dances, meaning two dance sets, and never three unless they were engaged, because it basically tied them up together for most of the evening, giving little opportunity for other partnering.

Drury Lane Theatre

3.       An evening at the theatre lasted most of the night. The main production was the play. However, after the main event, the theatre performed a light “afterpiece” – usually a comedy in the form of a pantomime or one-act play. A few theaters performed one short production prior to the main performance as well so there might be as many as three performances. With all these performances and intermissions, one expected to be at a London theater half of the night. Some patrons came and went, but many stayed all night, I suspect to people-watch rather than to enjoy the arts.

                      Evening Gown 1819

4.        A fashionable lady’s unmentionables did not include drawers or pantalettes. With the narrow, slender gowns fashionable during the Regency resembling statues dating back to ancient Rome, bulky drawers with drawstring waists would have messed up the silhouettes of ladies’ gowns. Also, I have not found evidence that ladies wore pantalettes during previous eras either. The only women who wore drawers or pantalettes during Georgian and Regency England were prostitutes who wore them underneath their slitted skirts. Ahem. And that’s all I care to say regarding the matter. During the Victorian Era, ladies began wearing drawers or pantalettes underneath their wide bell-shape skirts, possibly to preserve modesty should the skirt accidentally tip upwards too far. Oh my! Later, this garment was also known as “pantaloons,” however Georgian and Regency pantaloons were men’s knee-length breeches.

Yours truly modeling my shift and stays.

5.       It is a common myth that Regency ladies often fainted because their corsets were too tight. First of all, ladies during the Regency wore stays, not corsets. The difference is the shape and boning. Previous era corsets were made to cinch the waist. Regency stays, much more flexible and comfortable, were made to smooth and support. I’ve worn a corset and it is possible to feel truly uncomfortable if it is cinched up way too tightly. I even got a small bruise on my lowest rib on one side from having it laced tighter than it should have. What can I say? It was steam punk party and I wore it tighter than I would have it I’d planned to wear it all day. But I digress. I have also worn authentic Regency stays and they are so comfortable and well fitting that if they were easier to get into and out of (where’s my maid when I need her?), I would wear them every day.

My stays are a little too big as you can see since there is supposed to be a two or three-inch gap between the two sides, but one cannot fault my seamstress; I lost weight between my first and final fittings. I cannot, therefore, be unhappy about it.

I hope you enjoyed my fun facts. Comments and questions are welcome!

London Townhouse, the Mews

London Mews, June 2017

As any proper Regency lady or gentleman would tell you, the quintessential London home of the upper classes was the townhouse. Each home, attached at both sides to its neighbors, were as unique as its owners. Built in central London, these exclusive dwellings provided easy access to many beautiful city parks, as well as being within walking distance of shopping and all the iconic Regency areas such as Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Gunther’s Tea House, and the famous (or infamous) Almack’s assembly rooms.

As London grew and townhouses sprang up to house the rich and beautiful, the need for stables also grew because the only way to get around in London was by foot or horseback or carriage. The plentiful cabs were good enough for the working class, but the elite preferred using their private conveyances. Those rich enough to afford horses needed a place to keep their animals, tack, carriages, as well as drivers, grooms, and stable workers. But space was limited.  

Mews houses with garage doors where once horses and carriages dwelled

The solution was ingenious; build stables behind each townhouse with a road that leads to it. In London, these stables were known as mews. The mews were (and still are) tucked behind grand, mansion-style townhouses in London’s most exclusive neighborhoods.

Mews cobbled lane

A mews had many advantages. It kept the horses and staff nearby when the lord or lady of the house needed them, although it took considerable time to hitch the team to the carriage. Having the mews around back kept the sounds and smells of the animals away from the house’s residents and guests. The cobbled lane kept the area clean and provided good drainage of waste. 

Opposite the mews and cobbled lane is another row of stables behind another row of townhouses facing the next street. Often one end of this is yet another mews, or sometimes a pub, so it makes a sort of three-sided courtyard. Reportedly, many London mews had a tunnel under the garden connecting with the ground floor or basement of the house. This would have provided an easy way for servants to access the stable without disturbing their employers.

Entrance to a London mews

A cobbled back street, a narrow lane not much bigger than a bike lane, leads to the stables. From what I have been able to determine, the term mews mews refers to both the London stables and the lane that leads to them. Most of these lanes are named after the street nearby with the word mews tacked on. For example, Colville Road has the nearby Colville Mews. 

The only stables that are called mews are those in London attached to the back of a London townhouse. Anywhere else, and associated with any other type of dwelling, the term stables is used. 

Anciently, the mews is where the royals housed their falcons. Falcons, like most birds, moult or mew (from the French verb ‘muer’), which became the name of the place where they lived and therefore did this moulting or mewing. The word mews, oddly, is singular. Anyway, later they moved the falcons out and moved in the horses. The name mews stuck, despite the change in resident animals.

Horse names are still found on some doors that lead to today’s mews houses

Horses lived on the ground floor of the mews for obvious reasons. Many of the doors had the names of the horses who lived there. Some still do. A larger area provided room for the carriages and tack. The first floor (up one level) provided rustic accommodations for the driver and ostlers (groom or stablemen a.k.a. stable lads). Above this floor, many London homes had other floors where their house servants’ quarters were located but a lot of these were added during the Victorian Era. Some London townhouses also had gardens, but since I didn’t see any set up this way, I’m not certain exactly how they were laid out.

Lovely London mews homes

Today, most mews houses are beautifully restored homes which open onto a safe, quiet, cobbled lane with virtually no traffic. It has become a coveted, and therefore expensive, place to live partly because they have what are now garages, which are difficult to come by in London.

Mews houses and neighborhoods really are so lovely now that one can hardly believe their humble beginnings. I found a lot more photos on this blog called A Lady in London showing today’s exclusive London mews home. A few other photos are here on Mother Lindas blog

Sources:

Most of my sources are my years of study, as well as what I observed and learned during my trip to London. However, in addition to the above references sources, I also read this source: http://www.lurotbrand.co.uk/mews-gems/what-is-a-mews

 

 

 

 

 

 

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle June 2017

Windsor Castle is a worldwide icon for England. Built in the eleventh century, it has been in continuous use as a royal residence since William the Conqueror–the only structure that fits that description. To date, thirty nine royal generations have called this home. In recent times, Windsor Castle became more of a weekend retreat for the royal family, although formal events also occur here.

      Donna Hatch in front of Windsor Castle

William the Conqueror founded the castle and is credited for its original design, however, Edward III, Charles II and George IV all left their marks creating new sections and improving the exterior. Today it is as sumptuous as any stately home and befitting a royal family. As a visitor, I was not allowed to photograph the interior, unfortunately, so all my pictures are of the exterior.

another view of Windsor Castle June 2017

The castle was originally meant as a fortress from which to defend from enemies but quickly became a place for the royal family to live and to entertain state guests. Though its first carnation, began in 1070 and completed in 1086, had outer walls built out of timber, Henry II had it re-walled with stone. Many monarchs left their mark in this impressive castle, however, it was King George IV’s vision who remade it into the lavish palace it is today. Never one to hesitate to spend staggering amounts of money on his own pleasures, King George IV (formerly the Prince Regent for which is named the Regency Era) created an almost fairy-tale-like quality that is today’s Windsor Castle.  Queen Victoria spent much time here, using Windsor Castle as her country retreat as well as a place to entertain state and foreign visitors, much as it is used today. During her reign, it also became a favored location for family gatherings, weddings, and celebrations.

Another major player in today’s castle décor was the fire of 1992.  It is ironic that the castle survived World War II bombings when so much of London was destroyed, only for such devastation to come from a fire. During a major rewiring project–at which time someone inspired soul had the wisdom to have most of the art and furnishings removed–a fire began in Queen Victoria’s Private chapel in the northeast corner of the castle. Investigators believe a curtain blew too closely to a spotlight, which caused an ignition over the altar. The fire spread with astonishing speed.

  A Romeo and Juliet worthy window in Windsor castle

While the world watched with breathless horror, 200 firefighters battled the blaze for 15 hours. In the typical indomitable spirit which defines the British, they began restoration immediately. During my visit, a kind tour guide standing inside Queen Victoria’s chapel showed me photos of the castle before, during, and after the fire and explained the tragic events that transpired there. I drank it all in, equally horrified and fascinated. Heart-rending video, as well as photos of just after the fire, and of how it looks now after the restoration can be viewed here. I wish I could have gotten copies of the before and after photos that I saw, but for some reason those were not available for the asking.

Today, most of the restored areas are even more beautiful than before the fire. St. George’s hall, a breathtaking medieval hall honoring knights, looks even better now than it did before the fire, with much lighter wood details on the ceiling than its twelfth century version. The workmanship was identical to medieval techniques, which satisfied the history nerd in me. According to the Official Souvenir Guide, “the castle is now in better condition than at any time for the last 200 years.”

I lingered in delight over the queen’s doll house filled with miniatures. I also basked in the beauty of the Queen’s drawing room where so many of my heroines from my novels would have taken their bows to the queen. The state rooms also invite one to linger and bask in the beauty and history, not only of the castle, but of the people whose heritage is so rich with tradition and honor.

                       Windsor Castle Moat Gardens

The gardens are lovely! Built in what was originally intended to be the moat but never served in that capacity, the gardens are a lovely refuge where I would loved to have lingered.

Fun crown detail on top of all the light posts at Windsor Castle

Now that I’ve seen it, I want to write at least one scene in a future book that takes place in Windsor Castle. Perhaps my hero or heroine are invited to Windsor Castle for some state function. Or perhaps for a secret mission. Hmmm. The possibilities are endless.

But for now, my hero and heroine have their hands full in my upcoming release,  Courting the Country Miss, coming soon. I’m very excited because this features characters from one of my previous books called Courting the Countess.

Here is the back cover blurb for my newest Regency Romance, Courting the Country Miss:

Cynical and broken-hearted, Leticia banishes dreams of marriage. When her childhood friend, Tristan, wagers he can find her the perfect husband, she hopes the challenge will coax him to forgo his devil-may-care lifestyle. Meanwhile, Leticia throws herself into forming her charity school but meets opposition—even from the people she’s helping.

Guilt-ridden that his past mistakes robbed Leticia of true love, Tristan vows to set it right, but match-making has its pitfalls for a repentant scoundrel. When he finds two ‘perfect’ gentlemen to court her, he discovers his own deep feelings for the lady.

Though Tristan seems to reform, Leticia doesn’t dare risk heartbreak with a notorious rake. When opposition for the school takes a deadly turn, can Tristan protect her from a madman bent on destroying their dreams and their lives?

Courting the Country Miss is available now from Amazon or directly from my publisher as well as other retail book stores.

Sources:

Most of this information came from the walking tour of London I took during my Regency Tour with Number One London Tours, plus my own observation during my visit.

 

Regency England through the Eyes of Romance Author Donna Hatch

Donna at Buckingham Palace Gate

                                             Tower Bridge

As many of you know, I recently spent three weeks in England. I walked all over a part of London known as Mayfair, studied buildings and architecture, and visited parks and locations of historical interest during the Georgian and Regency Era. I have such a better idea of Regency Mayfair, and how my characters would live, work, play, and travel. I also visited a bit more modern sites such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the famous Town Bridge. Okay, those aren’t truly modern–they are Victorian–but they came after the Regency so they are modern in my eyes. The Regency Tour offered by Number One London Tours, with Kristine Patrone was fantastic and I really benefitted from Kristine’s knowledge of England in general and English history in particular.

                                   Windsor Castle moat gardens

During the Regency Tour, we left London to tour the extraordinary Windsor Castle. I could live there. Yep, I totally could 😉 Words are inadequate for how beautiful that castle is and how fitting it is to house a royal family when they are able to go there. I saw a cluster of guards marching in perfect formation but didn’t get a photograph of them. I just love the rich traditions the English have! Photographs are not allowed inside Windsor Castle so I put away my camera and just enjoyed the beauty. A tour guide (?) inside one of the rooms that got burned down in 1992 gave me detailed information about the fire and showed me photos of rooms before the fire, just after the fire, and the restoration process. You can read more about the fire here. Great before and after photos of one of the restored rooms are here. I also enjoyed the queen’s dollhouse–it was so cute and I love miniatures. The castle is absolutely magnificent! The garden in the moat is especially charming.

                                            St. George’s Chapel

St. George’s Chapel inside Windsor left me almost speechless. I felt such a reverence and respect for those who built it and for the generations who worshiped there. An organ performance added to the overall beauty. I saw the beautiful and poignant tomb of Princess Charlotte, who died in 1817 during childbirth. I teared up looking at the statue of her grief-stricken ladies in waiting while her body lay lifeless. Overhead,  her spirit ascended with angels–one of them carrying her baby. The tomb beautifully retold  pain, loss, and yet hope of death and the life after. Photos weren’t allowed in the church but you can see images of the tomb here. The church itself was intricately crafted and exquisite!

We had lunch in Eaton on the river. I enjoyed the beautiful weather and watching the queen’s swans swim in the river. Yes, they are hers and yes, they are all accounted for annually in the “swan upping” when they gather, tag, and count the swans. The swan upping would be fun to watch, wouldn’t it?

                                  Prince George’s Brighton Pavilion

Later in the week during the Regency Tour, we took a train to Brighton to view the impressive but ostentatious Brighton Pavilion that Prince George (sometimes referred to unkindly as “Prinny” and who later became King George IV) had built. It was known as his Pleasure Palace. He had wild parties there in his early rakish days and kinda hid out there later on as his weight and behavior made him an object of social scorn.

I’ll blog more about the rest of my trip in snippets for probably months (years?) to come. But what did I learn on this Regency Tour? Regency London is smaller than I thought. Members of the aristocracy could have walked most places on a nice day. They probably all knew each other, too–at least, those who were lucky enough to be included in the beau monde and who frequented London. The architecture was fantastic. I was constantly amazed at the detailed craftsmanship done all by hand. I also learned in an even more profound way how different the lives were for people depending on their social status. We think it’s that way now, but the differences were so huge two hundred year ago that they hardly lived in the same world. Also, Englanders have a profound pride in their country, their culture, their traditions and history, and their monarchy. They have problems too, but that doesn’t seem to sway their love of king and country. The English truly are lovely and brilliant, aren’t they? 😀

I was fascinated–okay, obsessed–about Regency England before, but this trip has flamed that even more. If I didn’t miss my family so much, I would have had a much harder time leaving ancient and beautiful England and returning to the US.  Good thing I live in the Pacific Northwest now and am no longer in the Arizona desert! At least it’s green where I live. Now, if only I can put a formal garden in my backyard…

Summertime Pleasures in Regency England

A song I learned as a child summed up summer activities beautifully:

Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you fish in a stream, or lazily dream on the banks as the clouds go by?
Is that what you do? So do I!

Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you swim in a pool, to keep yourself cool, or swing in a tree up high?
Is that what you do? So do I!

Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you march in parades, or drink lemonades, or count all the stars in the sky?
Is that what you do? So do I! *

Even though children in the 21st century are more likely to while away their summer days on something electronic, this song has a timeless quality to it that also applies to Regency England.

When the whirl of the London Season wound down because Parliament’s session ended, the gentry and aristocracy went back to their country homes. Those lucky upper class who did not have responsibilities of government, an estate, or a career, could spend time doing whatever they liked, and summer offered a host of possibilities.

Those who were of athletic bent liked to swim, fence, wrestle, ride, go fox hunting, shooting, hawking, archery, and fishing.  They also loved the water and went boating and fishing. Some even rode bicycles they called velocipedes. (see picture above)

Parties were a popular pastime to keep up their image as well as pass time with friends. They had parties, balls, and soirees with local gentry. House parties, where guests came and stayed for a week or more were also common.

The beau monde prized wit and intellect. Riddling, where someone made up riddles for others to solve, entertained them. Talking, theorizing, philosophizing, discussing current events, and debating could fill entire evenings.

Literature played a big part of their lives. They read quietly or aloud. They wrote poetry, stories, and long letters. They often recited memorized poems and stories.

Art, including painting, water color, drawing, and sculpting were popular among men and women. Gluing flowers to hats, or shells to household objects were a popular craft among ladies. Ladies also sewed, knitted, crocheted, and embroidered.

Music played a major role in their lives. Many of them played multiple instruments, sang, and danced. Others simply listened and enjoyed the music. Most quiet evenings were spent with one or more members of the family playing music and singing. Often, they gathered with neighbors for musical performances where guest took turns entertaining each other.

Some enjoyed gardening both flowers and herbs. They went on fruit or berry picking parties and had picnics, also known as dining al fresco. Going on long walks, alone or with friends, also gave them a chance to enjoy the beautiful summer weather and the lovely countryside.

There are frequent references to the gentry putting on plays or puppet shows. They enjoyed artistic games such as charades, which usually took a large group, a great deal of planning, and even costumes.

The Regency nobility enjoyed games. Card games such as whist, piquet, vingt-et-un filled many an evening. Board games, too–chess, checkers, draughts, dice, backgammon, and tabula were common as were putting together puzzles.

Outdoor games included bocce, bowling often called nine pins, blind man’s bluff, cricket, and even tennis.

Also, since summer presented nicer weather than winter, many of them traveled and visited relatives, as well as went-sight-seeing. Remember when Elizabeth Bennett, with her aunt and uncle, visited a number of country mansions including Mr. Darcy’s Pemberly? That was quite a popular thing to do, and many of the stately mansions and castles opened to visitors.

I plan to do that this summer. In fact, I will spend three weeks in England visiting castles, big houses, churches, and all the best sites of Regency England. When I return, I will be armed with lots of new pictures and information to share.

So, for the Regency lady or gentleman, summertime could be as lazy or diverting as one chose, as long as one had the means and imagination to do it. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

What do you love best about summertime?

*LDS Primary Children’s Songbook pg 245

Summer in Regency England

By Ozzie Diaz Duque (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ah, summer! It conjures up images of lazy summer days sipping lemonade and swimming. In mid June to early July, when the whirl of the London Season wound down because parliament ended, the gentry and aristocracy went back to their country homes. Which begs the question, since they were so rich and didn’t have to work for a living, what did they do all day–especially in the summer? The answer to this may surprise you.

By Neil Gallagher – Own work, Copyrighted free use, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1359639

The British nobility did not traditionally divide their wealth among their children; they left all of it to their heirs–usually their firstborn son. If they had no son, their entailed estate went to the next closest living heir and that was all pre-determined; there was no choosing an heir. (Certain things could be willed to those who are not the heir but that’s a topic for another time) A younger son may inherit a lump sum when he reached adulthood, or he may receive an annual or month allowance. Sometimes that was enough for him to live off of, thus freeing him to enjoy hedonistic pleasures. However, most younger sons needed an occupation unless they inherited an in-entailed estate or money. They often became officers in the Royal Navy or army because they were educated. This was crucial when needing to read orders and write correspondence. Many became involved in the law as barristers, attorneys, and magistrates. Occasionally I hear of a younger son becoming a physician, but that seems to be rare. But for now, I will focus on those who don’t have to work in an occupation for a living and who have a large estate for which they are responsible.

Wealthy landowners such as Mr. Darcy spent a great deal of time managing their lands. Think of it as being the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation. Yes, he has upper- and mid-management, in the form of solicitors, land stewards, and workers, but he had the responsibility to care for a huge estate which usually included many different locations, houses, lands, and tenants. Think of it as owning a whole bunch of rental properties with tenants who constantly needed repairs and help with all sorts of things which affected the overall prosperity of the estate. He might also be involved in investing and buying or selling properties which might involve travel. How he managed the family estate would affect generations to come, a heavy responsibility to shoulder with much at stake, so most took this seriously.

In addition to caring for their estate, most landowners were involved in politics. If they were titled, they were expected to serve in the House of Lords. If not, many served in the House of Commons. Parliament met for months at a time, which took them away from their lands in the country. Those who served in the House of Lords could be called into serve as jury if a peer went to trial. 

So even though a number of them did enjoy hedonistic pleasures, an honorable landowner’s life was not all fun and games, not even in the summer.

Breeching Boys

Cornelis de Vos with his wife Suzanne Cock and their children oil on canvas circa 1630

When looking at old photos and portraits of families with very young children, one almost immediately notices that the boys and girls are dressed alike–in dresses. This custom existed well before the Regency Era, and possibly for hundreds of years prior. Throughout history in Europe and America, all children of both sexes wore dresses and petticoats which were simply considered children’s clothing and not gender-specific attire. Dresses were easier than pantaloons or breeches when a caregiver needed to change the child’s diapers or nappies.

Another reason all children wore dresses is because a potty-training child didn’t have to worry about buttons or other fasteners which can be a difficult task for little fingers. Dresses were also easier to launder as there was less mess. And honestly, no one seemed to think anything about dressing boys and girls alike–that was simply how it was done. Some families put boys in plainer dresses as a way of announcing their gender, but many seemed to have dressed boys in the same frilly frocks as girls.

Once a child started walking, they were “short-coated.” This meant the child started wearing shorter dresses. Hemlines went from several inches below the feet which they wore as infants, to ankle or calf-length or even shorter, so the child could walk. At that time in England, all children still dressed pretty much alike. This practice of dressing boys and girls the same lasted until boys were “breeched.”

Portrait of William Ellis Gosling, 1800, Sir William Beechey, R.A. Image @Wikimedia Commons

Getting breeched or “breeching” was the term for when a boy was dressed in breeches or pantaloons, or in later eras, in trousers. Boys were breeched anywhere from the time they were fully potty trained to the age of eight–or even older, in some cases. Between the ages of four and seven seemed to be most common. 

Some boys were breeched all at once, with all their frocks replaced with breeches in one fell swoop, which must have created a flurry of sewing, unless the family were wealthy enough to purchase all new clothes for their son. Breeching was often a ceremonial event, including cutting a boy’s hair. However, some mothers then, as now, could not bear to cut off her son’s pretty curls. Some family traditions included a big celebration around the breeching ceremony, much like today’s birthday parties, which included visits and gifts from relatives. 

The breeching rite of passage was a sign of a boy’s maturing, of his readiness to join more masculine pursuits. His mother and nursemaid seemed to have less influence on a boy after his breeching, and his father often got much more involved in overseeing his training and education.  Many boys went away to school after the breeching ceremony, so it makes sense to me that some mothers might have been tempted to hold off breeching their sons as a way of keeping them close as long as possible.

Other boys seemed to have been breeched a little at a time, without ceremony, as breeches took the place of dresses gradually, perhaps as the mother could bear to admit her little darling was growing up, or perhaps as the family could afford to buy or make big boys’ clothes.

Occasionally, I find images of toddlers in breeches with leading strings. They were surely too young to have been potty trained because they seem to be relying upon the leading strings to keep them from falling, or at least from falling very hard. This particular image to the right is from a French publication, and since the French didn’t have all the same traditions as the English, it’s possible the difference is cultural by this time. 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

The Breeching Ceremony of a Young Boy and His Rite of Passage: Regency Fashion

Boy to Man:   The Breeching Ceremony

https://pediaview.com/openpedia/Breeching_(boys)