I love the Regency Era. Jane Austen, and all of those wonderful stories of hers only fan the romance of the period. But what do we really know about the times? Was it all romance and roses or did they have the same hardships we face today?
The Prince Regent took over for King William while he was locked in a turret in his mad state. The prince enjoyed a lavish lifestyle and spent tons of the commoners money during these eight years. He threw expensive elaborate parties for the elite of society as well as hosting an opera dancer in his palace.
As crazy as King William was, the majority of the people wanted the old king back on the throne. As the ton partied with the prince, the commoners became more incensed with the extravagance.
Meanwhile in London, the cream of society went about their daily summer business of courting and getting married. Most of the elite would introduce their daughters to society when they turned eighteen, the term they used was ‘to make a come out’. As a result of the come outs there would be parties, balls, routs and outings given in their honor. One of the things that ‘made’ a girl was an invitation to the exclusive ‘Almack’s’ club. Every mama aspired to have her daughter accepted into this circle of elite Elite. The thing about Almack’s that is funny to us today is that they served stale refreshments and the men and women were highly chaperoned.
Hopeful mamas set about making their daughters popular and attractive by purchasing clothes from the fashionable shops and haberdasheries, in order that they would ‘take’ or be engaged by the end of the Season. As expensive as the process of launching a daughter into society was, it became imperative that they find a mate to be a ‘success’. Mothers were disappointed if their daughter wasn’t snapped up in the first month of the Season by a suitable bachelor. If a daughter spent more than one Season looking for a mate she would be considered a failure by society and ‘on the shelf’ or ‘an old maid’. These titles made it nearly impossible for a young lady to ever get married. If that happened, the poor young lady was generally sent to be a chaperon or nanny to other relations outside of London to avoid the shame and embarrassment they had brought to the family.
I would say those aspects of the marriage mart would have caused anxiety and even depression among the young ladies. The pressure of being a ‘perfect young lady’ must have been nearly unbearable for those young and often isolated girls. If she was unfortunate enough to have the wrong figure or coloring then she would not be looked upon with favor, making it even more difficult for her to find a mate. These poor young ladies would often have to marry someone lower in ranking without ever setting their sights on the handsome dukes or earls of the day.
Of course securing an earl or duke meant that you were of the prettiest most sought after girls and this automatically ‘made’ the young woman of the popular set. When the parlor was filled with flowers from admirers and the tray full of invitations to balls, routs, parties and breakfasts the mamas would begin to relax a little that they would soon be well rid of their daughter and her expenses. Getting engaged to a suitable mate was a business and had nothing to do with love or romance. The elite looked for one of close rank and who would be best suited to fulfill the roles that were required; be it wife, hostess, mother or all of these. Emotions were considered a silly consideration and once the wifely duties were fulfilled it was a well accepted practice that the couple would live in separate domiciles in different parts of the country.
Is today’s way of looking at marriage better or worse? What do you think?
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