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Female Markswomen

Annie Oakley wasn’t the earliest female markswoman. Long before she came along, there was Alice Ferree, a gunmaker’s wife in Pennsylvania, who tested all her husband’s rifles and was apparently a crack shot. And I suspect there were plenty of others we just don’t know about. The Regency was an interesting time for shooters, though. The cartridge had just been invented, so guns were in transition from flintlock to percussion. Though it took a while for percussion guns to catch on, after that there was no more muzzle-loading.

Speaking of Annie Oakley (who lived in the Victorian age, not the Regency), most people don’t know that the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show toured Europe four times between 1887 and 1892. It was even part of the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and was wildly successful, with 300 performances and ticket sales of two and half million (according to Wikipedia). Annie Oakley actually inspired me to write Celia Sharpe.

Rotten Row

Rotten Row, where Jeremy Keane first meets Tristan in How the Scoundrel Seduces, was the favorite place for members of high society to ride, to see and be seen. I’d heard about it for years, so I was surprised when I visited Hyde Park a few years ago to find it nothing more than a dirt track stretching down the south end. It now serves as a place where horseback riders can exercise their mounts, but apparently isn’t used much even for that. According to the plaque on the site, it’s “the first lamp-lit road in the Kingdom,” which isn’t surprising, considering its connection to royalty. And speaking of royalty, that’s why it’s called “Rotten Row.” It’s a corruption of the French words for King’s Road—Rue de Roi.

Carriage Racing

Carriage racing was also a popular pastime in Regency England. Think of it as being sort of like drag racing today—young men vying for who could drive the fastest rig. There were even a few famous female “whips” (as they called people who were mad about carriage racing): Lady Leticia Lade, Lady Archer, and Lady Stewart. With all the private races and the wagering that led to more and more dangerous ones, it’s a wonder any of them lived to a ripe old age.


As you might imagine, everyone had horses in the Regency, especially the rich. And there was a whole group of people who wanted to race Thoroughbreds for fame and fortune (as Gabe wants to do). There were also people like Virginia Waverly and her grandfather, who ran stud farms to provide racing enthusiasts with new Thoroughbreds. It’s not much different from today—you could pay someone like the Waverly’s to have your mare “covered” by a famous race horse, and voila, you were on your way to success!


A love of boxing was pretty standard for young lords in the Regency. Since it was illegal to have pugilist matches, organizers had to resort to a great deal of subterfuge to arrange “mills,” as the events were called then, so he would have found that an enticing profession, since he’d been disinherited. A hundred years earlier, there were even matches for ladies, who fought bare-breasted. Though it sounds like the Georgian equivalent of the wet T-shirt contest, women boxers had supporters like any of the men and fought in major arenas. A woman named Elizabeth Wilkinson-Stokes even became quite famous for her abilities.

Gentlemen’s Clubs

Most people who are Regency era lovers know about the usual gentlemen’s clubs—White’s and Brooks. But there were far more than that, including some odd ones. Gentlemen’s clubs were for more than just gaming. Plenty of men also liked to hang out with other gentlemen who enjoyed similar interests. For example, the Beefsteak Club and Watier’s were founded for men who enjoyed a really good meal away from home. There was the Oriental Club for those who had traveled or resided in Asia. The Royal Society brimmed with scientists, philosophers, physicians, and other intellectual types. The Yacht Club served men who were interested in salt-water yachting. So St. George’s, a club for men concerned about protecting their women, isn’t too farfetched, I should think.

Raree Shows

Peep show boxes, otherwise known as Raree Shows, were a Regency form of entertainment typically meant for children. So I cheated a bit in Married to the Viscount by creating naughty ones. Or did I? I figured that since erotic material and images have been around since humans began recording such things, surely someone had created a naughty one. But in general, they were meant as amusements for people at fairs and such. A showman would use patter to describe the scenes as the viewers of all ages watched a progression of images go past on the “screen,” usually a painted backdrop that was moved or otherwise manipulated. I came up with the idea for including peep show boxes in my book when I saw two examples at a New York Public Library exhibit while I was on vacation. Yes, I am always looking out for stuff to use in my fiction.

Party Games

The Regency folks loved to party, too. And play party games. There was Bullet Pudding, which was essentially the same as Bobbing for Apples, except that players bobbed in a bowl of flour for a bullet. Yes, a real bullet. Those crazy kids! The fun was in seeing people end up covered in flour. And let’s not forget Blind Man’s Buff, in one version of which the blindfolded person tried to guess the identity of another by “feeling” their face. THAT one almost sounds scandalous!

They also played snapdragon, a crazy game where partygoers fished raisins out of a bowl of burning brandy. It actually dates back to Shakespeare’s time. It’s not as dangerous as it sounds, though. They used shallow bowls to make it easy to snatch the raisins and although the low blue flame seemed to put off lots of heat, the fire wasn’t deep and the brandy wasn’t that hot (I know because I’ve tried it). Our ancestors found it so entertaining that they even had a song to go with it.

Masquerade Balls

Masquerade balls were every bit as popular in the Regency as our romances lead us to believe. Just take a look at R. Ackermann’s Repository of Fashions for 1829. He includes several different costumes for “masquerade or fancy ball dress,” most of which are demure historical costumes for various centuries and one for a lavishly gowned “Sultana” (but sadly, no scantily clad houris). Although there are no masks in his pictures, there are plenty of mentions of masks in other period literature, so clearly they were sometimes worn. That’s a good thing, because it makes for great fun to have a hero unmask a heroine in our books.

The Season

The “season” in London generally began officially after Easter, although some people were already in town for when Parliament opened in January. Imagine starting your day somewhere between mid-morning and noon, then going to pay calls, then riding on Rotten Row, then home to change and off to dinner somewhere, then perhaps to the theater, and then to a ball around ten p.m., where you danced until 3 a.m. or so. While that is exactly the kind of schedule I’m used to at conference, I can’t imagine doing it every day for a couple of months.