I love many eras in history, but my favorite is the Regency. There are many reasons for this favorite. It was such a unique–and short–time in history. The Regency came amidst much social and economic change, filled with turmoil and trouble. What draws me to is are the customs and people who lived in that time. This may be a skewed and romanticized vision, but British gentlemen who live long ago as seemed more honorable than we are today. In Regency England, duty and honor were everything. With few exception, if a gentleman said he’d do something, especially if he gave his word, he meant it; others could count him to follow through, even if it came a great personal cost.
By the Georgian and Regency Eras, gentlemen and ladies alike were educated and could read, compute complex mathematics, speak multiple languages—French and German seemed to be particular favorites and boys were taught Latin in school. They loved philosophical debates.
They were also very cultured. From a young age they were taught to dance, play musical instruments, sing, paint, and recite poetry. Even many of those of the working classes were receiving an education at that time, an unprecedented movement in England.
I love the way people in Regency England spoke so eloquently. The upper classes didn’t maul the language—they used correct grammar and had an enormous vocabulary. They prized wit and excelled in using the famous British understatement. I love their dry humor. They also spoke and wrote beautifully and spent a great deal of time writing stories, poems, letters, and journaling. Jane Austen’s novels are almost like poetry. She carefully chose each word for its wording, imagery, and rhythm to deliver the exact nuance she wanted.
Gentlemen were civilized and treated ladies with courtesy in a hundred little ways. They stood when a lady entered the room, doffed their hats, bowed, curtailed their language, offered an arm, and more. They were also athletic; they hunted, raced, fenced, boxed, rode horses. They were manly. Strong. Noble. Resolute. Honorable. I love that about them! All of this is what makes them perfect heroes for both historical fiction and Regency romance novels.
By the Regency Era, ladies and gentlemen had gotten rid of those powdered wigs of the past few centuries, toned down previously excessive manner of dress which once included excessive ruffles and lace, and even–my personal favorite–bathed daily. Men’s three-piece suits worn today are patterned after Regency gentlemen’s clothing.
Another aspect of the Regency that draws me is that it landed in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars, which creates a natural backdrop for tension and conflict. Men and boys went off to war. Some didn’t come home; others came home but were forever changed. This darkness in history creates what’s known as the tortured hero, and I love helping my fictional tortured heroes find peace and healing, and matching them up with ladies who understand and love them.
The Regency is a charming, unforgettable era thanks to literary masters such as Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. I only hope to do their legacy justice.
Do you have a favorite era in history? What is it and why does it fascinate you?