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The Regency Era

England’s upper ten thousand were known as The Ton, from the French phrase “le bon ton,” meaning in the fashionable mode.
England’s upper ten thousand were known as The Ton, from the French phrase “le bon ton,” meaning in the fashionable mode.

1811 – 1820: A Short but Memorable Time

For all the stir it caused, the actual Regency lasted only nine years: From Feb. 5, 1811, when George, Prince of Wales, was sworn in as regent, to Jan. 31, 1820, when he was proclaimed king of England. So why do you hear “Regency Era” used to describe the years 1780 to 1830 in English history?

The answer is simple: Those years are marked by the influence of the man who became King George IV. Some would say the decades took on the character and personality of the Prince Regent himself—a Royal known for his flamboyance, passion for the arts and fondness of earthly pleasures. Fittingly, the Regency of “Prinny,” as he was known to his peers, is forever linked with the high living class that was the ton. And Sabrina’s novels offer readers a sexy, behind-the-scenes peek into that era. Visit often for the latest offerings!


The Gentle Sex

Upper-class women in the Regency were expected to turn a blind eye to husbands who dallied outside marriage. Once a wife produced an heir however, she, too, could take a lover.
Upper-class women in the Regency were expected to turn a blind eye to husbands who dallied outside marriage. Once a wife produced an heir however, she, too, could take a lover.
Wanted: Vice- and Opinion-free Women

For all its excesses, the Regency upper-class lived and died by rules. (You could call them the first “Rules” girls.) So, of course, one of the great contradictions was how men and women were expected to behave.

As the gentle sex, women were to be without vices and opinion. They were to be modest, dutiful and the prettier the better (reputation, breeding and fortune also came into play when calculating their worth). Spirited girls who spoke their minds, showed too much temper or wit or appeared too familiar with manly interests—gambling, boxing, profanity—were quickly labeled: hoydens. (This was not a good thing.)

Meanwhile, society happily embraced young women prone to hysterics, fainting fits and swooning, according to Georgette Heyer’s Regency World. Bottomline: The wise young Regency woman learned just enough math to be able to safeguard the household budget. Ironically, it would be during the Regency, as arranged marriages gave way to unions of love, that women with good conversational skills finally came into favor. After all, who wants a dull companion for life?


A Man’s World

During the Regency, rules about what was proper for women to do in the city vs the country could make one’s head spin. Permissible waltzing in London. Not permissible: waltzing before your debut—or worse, waltzing at a country gathering.
During the Regency, rules about what was proper for women to do in the city vs the country could make one’s head spin. Permissible waltzing in London. Not permissible: waltzing before your debut—or worse, waltzing at a country gathering.
The Age of Rakes, Rogues & Scoundrels

If you were a man, especially a man who lusted and drank, the Regency rocked. Men could marry for love, convenience, money or power—and were not expected to be faithful. Discreet, yes.

But manly indiscretion need not bar one from the ton. The Prince Regent was this generation’s Pied Piper, leading the way in almost every form of vice. The end result was textbook: When no one finds anything too extreme or opulent or expensive, how can you criticize anyone? And so excesses flourished.

The typical day for a London bachelor? Rise after noon, have a leisurely breakfast, dress, go to the club at 3, practice boxing at 4, promenade in Hyde Park at 5, and spend an evening with friends at the theater or opera, fashionable parties or masquerade balls, men’s club or gaming hall.

So what was expected of upper-class men during the Regency? According to Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, the responsibilities were few but universal: Enhance the family’s wealth, power and prestige. Keep the family name respectable. Be elegant in dress and manner in public. If you were the oldest, marry and produce an heir. And, oh yes: Keep those extramarital affairs on the down low.


Regency Tidbits

High-flying Gadflys of the Ton

England’s first manned balloon took to the skies in 1784, and in 1785 the first Englishwoman took a ride in a hot air balloon, according to Georgette Heyer’s Regency World.

By the Regency, manned hot air balloons were a common sight—with balloonists taking off from Hyde Park and other London green spaces before huge crowds.


A Regency Glossary

bamming: fooling or lying or pulling one’s leg
cattle: horses
cropsick: hung over
foxed: drunk
havey-cavey: suspicious
lightskirt: prostitute
milk-and-water miss: an insipid young female
parure: a set of matching jewelry
rake: man of big sexual appetite, few morals
rig: coach and horse together
Stubble it!: Be quiet!

The Regency Social Ladder

The social ladder in the Regency was fixed and inflexible—and the poor enforced it with almost as much vigor as the nobility. Defined by birth, title, wealth, property and occupation, it went something like this, with the aristocracy and gentry comprising the ruling class:

Monarch
Royalty
Aristocracy
Gentry
Middle Classes
Artisans, Tradespeople
Servants
Laboring Poor
Paupers