Love and Courtship in Regency England

I admit I’ve been out of the dating scene for (ahem) a few years now. However, from what my single friends tell me, not much has changed since I was dated. In today’s world a man asks out a woman, (or if she’s braver than I ever was, she asks him out). They might meet online, or be introduced by a friend, but eventually they end up on that first date. It might be dinner or drinks or just coffee (in my case, hot cocoa). It might involve a movie or miniature golf or a museum. It might even occasionally include another couple but it never involves parents or chaperones, and no one thinks anything of an adult man and a woman being alone together in a car or a house.

Dating in Regency England was very different. For one thing, it was called courting or wooing. But most importantly, a young lady of good breeding who wished to keep her reputation pristine so she would be a candidate for marriage never, ever put herself alone with a man. (The double standard is, of course, that the man was expected to have “sown his wild oats” and could have a very sullied reputation and still be considered a good match if he were wealthy and well-connected enough.) Therefore, courting was a very public affair.

First, they needed an introduction by a mutual friend before conversing. They often met at balls which were THE places to meet those of similar social backgrounds, but they might also meet at a dinner party, soiree, musicale, or even the opera or the theater.

If the man wished to get better acquainted with the lady he’d met, he might send her flowers the next day (but never gifts or letters), and later pay a visit upon the family during their “at home” hours where her mother or aunt or other chaperone would be present. He might take her for a stroll in one of the walking parks, with a chaperone close at hand. He might even take her riding on horseback or in an open carriage—open being the operative word since riding in a closed carriage could ruin her reputation as quickly as being alone in a house with a man.

Courting could be short or take place over a long period of time. At a ball, if she refused to dance with any other man but him, she basically announced to the world that they were engaged. If she danced with him more than twice in one night, everyone assumed she was either engaged to him or was “fast,” a terrible label for a proper young lady. If he spent a lot of time with her to the point where people began to notice how much they were together, public opinion placed them as engaged. If he failed to make an offer of marriage for her, people said he had failed to come up to scratch and shook their heads and wondered if she were unsuitable or if he were. Either way, the couple’s reputations suffered. At that point, their only option would be to marry or live with tainted reputations. Depending on his status, his reputation would probably recover but hers would likely remain tainted.

Such courting practices may sound rigid and even sterile to the modern-day woman, but I think it leaves so much open. For one thing, they relied on witty conversation rather than getting physical to get to know each other. And since the courting practices were pretty predictable, a man had to use creativity to impress a lady.

Once he felt secure she returned his affections, the gentleman would make an appointment with the girl’s father and formally ask for her hand in marriage. His income would be scrutinized and they would draw up a prenuptial agreement called a marriage settlement which included her pin money, dress allowance, jointure, and other ways he’d provide for her, as well as what dowry would go to the man. With all that settled, the father would break the news to the girl and the wedding preparations would commence.

My goal as Regency romance author is to keep in mind these social customs known as ‘manners and mores’ and yet find unique ways for my hero and heroine to meet and fall in love. I enjoy creating a unique twist on acceptable courting, throwing lots of obstacles in the way of their happily ever after, and revealing the final, happy, triumphant ending.  That doesn’t make me a hopeless romantic, it makes me a hopeful romantic.

My tagline is ‘Believe in happily ever after’ because I do believe in it. Do you believe in happily ever after?

History of the British Flag

Union Jack

Union Jack

Today, the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is referred to as the “Union Jack” or “Union Flag.”

The Union Jack as we know it today was born from the union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801.  However, before 1603, the British flag was very different than today’s flag. England, Ireland, and Scotland were different countries, each having their own individual flags. England’s flag honored the patron saint of England, St. George with his emblem of a red cross on a white field and had been the official flag of England since the Medieval times.

Flag of England

Flag of England

King James’ flag did not become official until the reign of Queen Anne, when England and Scotland united their parliaments to give birth to the new nation of Great Britain.

Flag of Scotland

Flag of Scotland

In 1707, Queen Anne officially adopted King James I’s flag as the national flag. This new combined flag was used for 101 years.That changed when Queen Elizabeth I of England, who was unmarried and had no children, named, on her deathbed, that her cousin, King James VI of Scotland, succeed her. So King James ruled both nations. In Scotland, he was King James VI. In England, he was King James I. At that time, King James called his two countries the “Kingdom of Great Britaine.” To further show his desire that the countries be considered one, King James made a proclamation in 1606 that his countries’ flags, the red cross of Saint George, who was the patron saint of England, and the Saltire of Saint Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, be combined to reveal the joining of two countries. (Wales was not represented in the Union Flag by Wales’s patron saint, Saint David, because at that time, Wales was part of the Kingdom of England.

Flag of Ireland

Flag of Ireland

However, changes did not stop there. In 1800, Ireland became part of Great Britain in the Act of Union with Ireland, passed by both the Irish and British parliaments despite much opposition. It was signed by George III in August 1800 to become effective on 1 January 1801.

In 1801, the Union Flag was redesigned to include the Cross of St. Patrick (which has a red, diagonal crosss), the patron saint of Ireland. It is in this form that the British flag exists today.

There is some disagreement as to the origin of the the term ‘Union Jack.’ One source cites it evolving from the ‘jack-et’ of the English or Scottish soldiers. Another alternative is that it’s a shortening of Jacobus, the Latin version of “James.” It may also have been derived from the term  ‘Jack’ which once meant small as evidence by the nickname “Jack” which once meant “little John” or “John Jr”–a proclamation by Charles II required that the Union Flag be flown only by ships of the Royal Navy as a “jack,” which is a small flag at flown at the bowsprit. So really, it’s anyone’s guess.

If you are a Brit, you probably learned about the creation of the modern-day British Flag in school. But as an American history geek who loves  all things British, I find this history fascinating, and I hope you do, too.

BTW, I found a great figure of the four flags superimposed upon one another on Enchanted Learning:

http://www.enchantedlearning.com/europe/britain/flag.shtml

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Jack

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom

http://www.nps.gov/jame/learn/historyculture/history-of-the-british-flag.htm

http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/Symbols/UnionJack.aspx

http://www.britroyals.com/union.htm