Thursday, December 25, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

The London of the Ton - Part I

This is my very first post as Ann Lethbridge on the Regency Ramble Blog, so first let me say good day and I hope you find my rambles as interesting as my bff.

I did promise some posts on the military scene, but I also want to share some interesting parts of London during the Regency. This first picture is of Charing Cross in June 1807 located at the junction of the Stand, Whitehall and Cockspur Street.

The statue is of of King Charles 1, which replaced the original Elleanor cross and was subsequently replaced by the current Elleanor Cross replica built in Victorian times..

To the north of Charing Cross in regency times was the King's Mews, a royal stable.

A famous inn called the "Golden Cross" - first mentioned in 1643 - was situated in the former village of Charing. From here, now called the Golden-cross Coffee House and Hotel in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, coaches departed by various routes to Dover, Brighton, Bath Bristol, Cambridge, Holyhead and York.

To me what is interesting is the amount of detail of daily life to be garnered from this picture.

There are several vehicles, carriages, coaches and carters. As well as a man on horseback and another on a donkey. I expecially like the way the coach is emerging from the hotel courtyard. Look how tight a fit that is.

The foot path with its curb is very clear. And there are ladies and gentlemen walking along.


Here is the same location during the same time period on quite a different sort of a day and from a quite different angle.

Here we have two men being pilloried. Pillories were apparently in use until 1816, the last being put to use in Yarmouth.

It is certainly a spectator sport. People crowd the streets, stand in the windows and upon the roof too.

This angle gives us a lot more information about the buildings in the era. What is interesting is the openness of this area, because of the several roads coming together at one junction.



This next picture caught my eye because of the woman and child coming from the side of the building. Their clothing is clearly regency.


I was also interested in the way the shop juts out from the building and the people peering out of the windows above. In this era shop-keepers tended to live above their establishments.











This last sketch reminds us, in additon to the pillory above, that it was not a golden age for all.

This is a sketch by Cruikshank, which i beleive to be the Fleet and which reminds those who pass by that debtors need help. Since once they were in prison, they were unable to support themselves.

The boy with the hoop reminds us of simpler days and simpler amusements for children, and look at the man with the bird in a cage. And the fruit or vegetables piled up for sale.


That is it for my ramble through the Regency. Looking forward to sharing more sights and sounds of London another time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Weddings in Regency England

by Michele Ann Young


Writing romance, as I do, the end goal is of course a wedding. We have all seen that wonderful scene in the Colin Firth Pride and Predjudice of the villagers throwing petals and the groom throwing coins, so I thought I would talk a little bit about weddings during the period.

Weddings did not tend to be the huge affairs that we think of today, or that became more prevalent during the Victorian era. St Georges was the fashionable church for the ton during this time pictured here. What a magnificent venue. St George's celebrated approximately a thousand weddings a year during the regency era. That would have kept the pastor on his toes, I am sure.

Of course the big question is, did they wear white?

In the various groups I belong to we hear over and over again that brides did not wear white. But I think what we really mean is that white was not considered "the right thing" or mandatory. A colored dress did not signify lack of chasteness, it was simply a personal preference. That said, it seems that white tended to be the color of choice for many.

This is a picture of Princess Charlotte returning from her marriage to Prince Leopold in 1816 -- the wedding of the regency era, For her wedding she chose to wear a silver lamé dress over white silk, trimmed with silver lace.

And this is a picture of the wedding dress itself from the London Museum. Rather different from the artists impression. he got the drapery at the front completely wrong. And it is definitely not white.


We know that Jane Austen's niece Anna who married Benjamin Lefroy on November 8, 1814 wore "a dress of fine white muslin, and over it a soft silk shawl, white shot with primrose, with embossed white-satin flowers, and very handsome fringe, and on her head a small cap to match, trimmed with lace.

When Jerome Bonaparte (Napoleon's brother) wed the fashionable American beauty Elizabeth Patterson on Christmas Eve 1803 the bride wore a dress of thin white muslin and lace

The English fashion journals are rather silent on wedding dresses during the Regency era, which likely means you wore a dress you owned or purchased for the occasion and probably wore again. There is a rare print in 'Ackermann's Repository'o for June 1816 of a wedding dress in white satin with an overdress in striped gauze and trimmed with Brussels lace. It was to be worn with pearl jewelry, white satin slippers and white kid gloves but notice, there is not veil. it wasn't until the 1820's that we begin to see all the hoopla about specially designed wedding dresses.

Well that is all I have room for today. Until next time Happy Rambles

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ch a a a nges



First, in case you haven't noticed what's happening on the sidebar, I want to introduce a new contributor to Regency Ramble Blog. Ann Lethbridge.

Ann and I have coffee every morning and I have invited her to add her thoughts to the blog. Ann writes regencies for Harlequin Historicals. Pull a bit closer to the screen Ann and let's get started.

Ann: Ta Mich. I calls 'er Mich. And she always bashes me arm. (grin) My first story with Harlequin is out in January. It'll make you a bit 'ot under the collar, but it's a quick read. An e-book and a sneak peak for the book coming out April 2009. Don'cha just looove that cover. 'Course the old gown looks more Vicky than Prinny (in-crowd code for George IV and Queen Victoria in case you was wondering) but the bloke wielding the brush certainly the mood of the story and came pretty close to getting the geyser and his lady--

Michele: Yes, yes, that's all very well and I wish you luck with the book and all, but while you get the chance to toot your horn now and again, this blog is all about research. We talked about that and you agreed.

Ann: I don't see why I shouldn't start off with a bit of horn tooting, mate.

Michele: Consider it tooted. Now what are you going to bring to this blog.

Ann: (grumbling under breath about bossy bff's) Well, you've been doing a top 'ole job with this blog, I was wrackin' me brains to think wot I could put in, mate. So I comes up wi' this. You likes to write about all those nobs and fancy folks up at the big 'ouse, as it were. I thought I might pick up on the common folks and the army. I really like those military gents. It must be the tight pants. And the boots. This is a picture of the Duke of Wellington. Especially I like the swords. (sees a glaze look in bff's eyes and does a quick recovery) And also a word of the month, or something.

Michele: A word of the month. That sounds educational.

Ann: Right. They'll be old words from the Regency. Ones don't see much any more.

Michele: We could start with that today.

Ann: All right. Wot about this one:

BAT. A low whore: so called from moving out like bats in the dusk of the evening.

Some people in England still say "the old bat", but I'm not sure they know what it means any more.

Michele: Sigh. I don't suppose it possible for you to get your mind out of the gutter?

Ann: 'Course it is. (wink) Wait till you see what's lined up on the military stuff.

Michele: Next week. Thursday. (mutter: I hope this is going to work)

Until next week - Happy rambles.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hackney Carriages


We are always reading about people driving around London in a Hackney carriage so I thought it might be interesting to look at them a little more closely.

Of course we are all aware of the licences in taxis or cabs as we call them today. In the Regency they were hackney carriages or coaches. And they were equally rule-bound, believe it or not.

An Ordinance for the Regulation of Hackney-Coachmen in London and the places adjacent" was approved by Parliament in 1654, to remedy what it described as the "many Inconveniences [that] do daily arise by reason of the late increase and great irregularity of Hackney Coaches and Hackney Coachmen in London, Westminster and the places thereabouts". The first hackney-carriage licences date from 1662.

Over the years rules and regulations were added as were the number of licences. By my count there were 1000 licenced Hackney coaches and another 500 chariots supplemented by an unknown number of one-horse chaises. However I'm not known for my math, so if this number is important to you I suggest you go to original sources.

By the way, a London Hackney or Cab licence is a highly sought after item, even today.


Now where was I. Yes rules and Regs. They covered such things as the number of passengers according the the size of the hackney (always with the allowance of one servant riding outside), the size of the horses (not below 14 hands. There were fines for abusive language (I wouldn't mind seeing some of those dished out in shopping malls) and fines for extortion - as in extortionate fares.

I thought this rules rather interesting!

Obligation to go.
And they shall be compellable on every day, and at any hour of the night, although they may have been out twelve hours, to go with any person or persons desirous of hiring them, and no more than the regular fare allowed on such occasions.



It appears that our forefathers were just as careless with their umbrellas and other property as we are on trains today, for this following rule also appears.

How Property Left in Coaches or Chariots is to be disposed of.
The drivers of hackney coaches, wherein any property is left, shalt carry each property, in the state in which it was found, within four days, to the Hackney-coach office, and deposit the same with one of the clerks, under a penalty not exceeding 20l.


I have not included all of the detail but you can find it in New Picture of London, Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand; by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819 along with a list of major Hackney Stands throughout London.

Until next time, Happy Rambles

Monday, December 8, 2008

Out and About

I hope you don't mind if share my book-signing experience this past weekend. I signed at Zellers, in Whitby on Saturday. Zellers is chain store here in Canada and this one is particularly nice, because it is brand new and because it has lovely friendly staff. I met lots of charming readers, sold lots of books and found a hero.



Joanne, is a manager at the store where I signed and what a welcome she gave me.

Here she is at my table. As you can see they decorated with a poinsettia and a cute little Chrismas ornament. I was set right near the front door, and boy did I have lots of people come by and talk to me.

If any of you have dropped in to the blog today, I just want to say how pleasant it was to meet you. And thank you for buying my book!




I think you can see from this picture just how much fun I had, despite the snow whipping past the glass doors and making wonder just how bad driving might turn out to be. As you can tell I made it home safe and sound.


That's all from me today, I will be back on Thursday with more snippets of information. Until then, Happy Rambles.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Flora and Fauna of Regency Britain - December

December already. Christmas just around the corner. I'm hoping to find some interesting Christmassy things to post for you later in the month, but here is our usual article.

Here is what our naturist says about December

And yet Winter has its pleasures;--the frosty morning’s walk, with its invigorating breezes—the long nights, devoted alternately to study and to society, with the enlivening blaze of a sea-coal fire—and the ‘glass that cheers, but not inebriates’—are no small attractions, and peculiarly endear to us this festive season of the year.

Now, too, the fascinating, rosy-cheeked, little son of Venus, not unfrequently seeks the warm shelter of a Christmas parlour; and his wings ‘with napkins dried,’ and ‘from wet and cold at ease,’ he soon tries

If the wet hath not damaged the string of his bow;

And many a swain, and many a fair, will find, to their cost, ‘they have trouble enough with their heart.’ The laughing month of May, and the frigid and cheerless December, are equally favourable to the attacks of the sly, little urchin.


Methinks this gentleman is a bit of a romantic.




Towards the end of the month, woodcocks and snipes become the prey of the fowler.

The jack-snipe (Scolopax galinula) which visits us at this period, is a decided species, with marked and singular habits.


Hunting was of course a major source of food for the table during this period and this is a picture of a Jack Snipe.


And with the leaves off the trees it would be far easier to spot this red fellow slinking around in the hedgerows. No doubt he is on the look out for gentlemen in hunting pink.

That is all for now. Until next time. Happy rambles.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Regency Fashion ~ December

I always love the beginning of the month, when I can indulge myself in Fashion!

First, a couple of bits of information. Starting in January, I will be having a regular new contributor to my Regency Ramble Blog. Her name is Ann Lethbridge and she writes Regencies for Harlequin Historicals and is as mad about the regency as I am. It probably won't take you very long to figure out why.

Secondly, if you are a newsletter subscriber, expect a newsletter to pop into your box during the month of December, where I will be letting you in on the secret.

La Belle Assemblee 1818, Satin evening dress with feathered hat.

Invented by Mrs. Bell: A Ceres frock with a very broad border of wheat ears in straw worked on tulle and worn over a white satis slip. Toque turban of tulle, elegantly worked with straw to correspond with Turkish foldings in front and crape and straw interspersed. Henrietta ruff of fine lace, fixed low and terminating at the shoulders. White stain shoes and white kid gloves.


Isn't it gorgeous. The Henrietta ruff which frames the face is lovely. Not very practical, but to me it seems rather romantic. December would be a time for country house parties, and I think appearing in a gown like this would certainly make the wearer a hit, if rather intimidating.

This plate is from the Ladies Monthly Museum for December 1799.

These are afternoon dresses.
The first one is a Dress of pink silk, the body and sleeves trimmed with black lace; black muslin train; round cap of white crape, with a small wreath of flowers, and ostrich feather. Light blue gloves and yellow shoes.

Now what do you think of blue gloves and yellow shoes with a pink dress. Come on now, be honest. lol I notice in the picture the lace is not looking black at all, though the gloves are definitely blue.

In the description for the second dress, I am assuming the term corset is used rather than bodice because this dress is laced up at the back. And the robe is all about the skirts, which is very plain. This one I like, even with the pink shoes. It is very different from the ornamented 1818 outfit.

Corset of white satin, the body and sleeves trimmed with chenille; lace round the neck and shoulders. Muslin robe, cap of white and yellow muslin intermixed.—Pale yellow gloves, and pink shoes.


As a bonus, our fashionista gives us a hint for the Season:

Note: Black velvet cloaks and scarlet kerseymere handkerchiefs and cloaks, trimmed with fur, begin to be worn much.


Now, you would just have to rush out and buy all of those items or feel thoroughly outmoded, wouldn't you?

That's it for fashions. Until next month, Happy Rambles.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

And looking forward to the holidays.

As you know, I am an author and once in a while I like to do authorly things here on my blog. Today is such a day. Today I would like to introduce you to my fellow authors from Casablanca and their books, just in case you are going shopping over the next couple of days and you realize what a great reasonably-priced gift a book can be. Whoever your favorite author is, why not buy a book for you or someone else to enjoy over the holidays? Of course, me, being me, I am going to start with my favorite.



The Lady Flees Her Lord
By: Michele Anne Young
She’s desperate for peace and safety… Unfashionably plump Lucinda, Lady Denbigh, is running from a husband who physically and emotionally abused her because she has failed to produce an heir. Posing as a widow, she seeks refuge in the quiet countryside…
He’s returned from the wars, wounded and tormented… Lord Hugo Wanstead, with a wound that won’t heal, finds his estate impoverished, his sleep torn by nightmares, and brandy his only solace. When he meets Lucinda, he finds her beautiful, body and soul, and thinks she just might give him something to live for… Together they can begin to heal, but not until she is free of her violent past…

"This is a wonderful book. Beautiful historical background with two characters who just are not perfect. It makes the story so much more real when you can relate to them. I look forward to reading more from this author. Armchair Interviews says: Highly recommended for those who love historical romance." —Arm Chair Interviews

BUY IT


Line of Scrimmage
By: Marie Force
The Hail Mary play of a lifetime . . . An NFL quarterback has just 10 days to convince his soon-to-be ex-wife to give him another chance, and he has to act fast—she’s already engaged to her ex-boyfriend. Readers will laugh and cry and hope—that at the end of the day, these two lovers, who clearly belong together, will somehow find their way back to one another.

“With its humor and endearing characters, Force's charming novel will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers, reaching far beyond sports fans.” —Booklist

BUY IT


Dating da Vinci
By: Malena Lott
A gorgeous young Italian, with nowhere to go . . .His name just happens to be Leonardo da Vinci. When he walks into Ramona Elise's English class, he's a twenty-five-year-old immigrant, struggling to forge a new life in America - but he's lonely, has nowhere to live, and barely speaks English . . .She knows she shouldn't take him home . . .Picking up the pieces of her life after the death of her beloved husband, linguist and teacher Ramona Elise can't help but be charmed by her gorgeous new student. And when he calls her "Mona Lisa" she just about loses her heart . . .

"Delightfully affirming romance!" —Booklist

BUY IT


Romeo Romeo
By: Robin Kaye
Rosalie Ronaldi is a woman focused on her career. She has no intention of ever getting married nor is she a domestic goddess—both major points of contention with her traditional Italian Catholic family. However, when she gets a flat tire and is stranded on the side of the road, a mechanic with a tow truck pulls over, and gives her a hand.
Turns out that “mechanic” is actually Nick Romeo, “Brooklyn’s Donald Trump,” a self-made millionaire and serial dater. He’s instantly attracted to Rosalie, even though she’s far from his usual type of girlfriends who are fortune-hunting sticks with breasts. He quickly realizes, though, that he would have no chance with her if she knew who he was—the multi-millionaire playboy who, back in his misspent youth, got her older brother arrested. So he neglects to mention that detail. Somewhat inexplicably to both of them, they click instantly (helped along by Nick’s protective instincts when Rosalie gets pneumonia), and Nick suddenly becomes her live-in caretaker, cook, housekeeper, and lover, all rolled into one. Looming over his head, though, is his hidden identity and the fact that his company is at odds with Rosalie’s.

“Wonderful Laugh Out Loud Humor, a sexy and precious love story with twists and turns until the very end. Do Not Miss This Treasure!!” —Single Title Reviews

BUY IT


The Wild Sight
By: Loucinda McGary
Cursed with the Irish clairvoyance known as "The Sight," Donovan O'Shea fled to America to escape his "gift." Fifteen years later, his father's illness has forced him to return to the family homestead where years earlier, Donovan's mother disappeared into the fens and was never seen again. Now the same fens are offering up secrets, both ancient and recent, and restoring a terrible legacy that just may drive him mad. And if this were not trouble enough, a beautiful woman walks into his life, claiming to be his half-sister.

Rylie Powell never knew her real father. Her mother would only say he was a charming Irishman who seduced her, married her, and then abandoned her and his baby daughter. But after her mother's death, Rylie finds tantalizing clues about her father that send her off to Northern Ireland and an archeological site on Dermot O'Shea's property, the man listed on her birth certificate as her father.

Did Dermot O'Shea father both Donovan and Rylie? What is Donovan's connection to the Celtic High King Niall of the Nine Hostages? And what secrets do the fens hold that invites murder?

"...brings elements of the supernatural into this smashing romantic suspense novel. ...McGary never shortchanges the sizzling romance... as she weaves in ancient legend and recent murders, building to a dramatic, memorable conclusion." —Publisher’s Weekly Starred review

BUY IT


Slave
By: Cheryl Brooks
Looking for something different? If you'd like a strong heroine, plenty of adventure, steamy romance, and hot, erotic sex with an irresistible alien lover who can purr, then this first book in The Cat Star Chronicles series is for you! Join Captain Jacinth "Jack" Rutland and Carkdakund "Cat" Tshevnoe on their rescue mission on a planet with facscinating world customs, danger, and a surprising secret!

"A hugely remarkable first foray into the written word, SLAVE will enthrall and entice. The sexual tension and compatibility of the two main characters are hot enough to start a fire. Add in a thrilling new world and my reading experience was complete." —Romance Junkies

BUY IT


Warrior
By: Cheryl Brooks
Action, adventure, sizzling romance, and another irresistible Zetithian lover are the hallmarks of this second book in The Cat Star Chronicles series. Join the powerful witch, Tisana, and Leccarian "Leo" Banadansk, a golden-haired Zetithian warrior, in their race to find two kidnapped boys and earn Leo's freedom from a lifetime of slavery! Plenty of laughs are provided by the local animals with whom Tisana can communicate telepathically, but watch out: This witch can set you on fire!

"Ms. Brooks masterfully combined Sci-Fi fantasy, paranormal elements, hot and sensual alien attributes and hilarity with characters that wiggled their way into my heart and dreams. My advice is to rush out and grab a Warrior of your own." —Whipped Cream Erotic Romance Reviewers

BUY IT


50 Ways to Hex Your Lover
By: Linda Wisdom
What’s a witch to do? 700 year young Jazz Tremaine lives the good life as a curse eliminator and driver for All Creatures Car Service even if ghostly Irma haunts her precious 1956 T-Bird convertible and magick bunny slippers Fluff and Puff make life crazy for her. Now her PI ex vampire Nick Gregory is back in town and needs her help with a serial killer of vampires that’s using dark magick. Can Jazz work with the sexy vampire without reliving the past? What do you think?

“With clever writing, a high sensuality factor and an unfettered imagination, Wisdom makes a sparkling entry into lite urban paranormals.” —Publisher’s Weekly

BUY IT


Hex Appeal
By: Linda Wisdom
Jazz’s life is never boring. Now she’s having disturbing nightmares that involve Nick and he’s having them too. Someone doesn’t want them together and to make matters worse, Jazz’s beloved magick bunny slippers, Fluff and Puff are accused of eating a carny were-weasel! Once again Jazz is doing her hexy stuff to find out who’s messing up her usually blissful dreams and who dared to frame Fluff and Puff when everyone knows were-weasels taste nasty.

“Bless Jazz Tremaine’s witchy, Prada-loving heart – she’s captured mine! I can’t get enough of Jazz and her vamp lover Nick. Kudos to Linda Wisdom for a series that's pure magic!” —Vicki Lewis Thompson, NYT bestselling author of Wild & Hexy

BUY IT

SEALed With a Kiss
By: Mary Margaret Daughtridge
Even a hero needs help sometimes… Navy SEAL Lt. Jax Graham is as at home in the water as…well, a seal, but he’s completely out of his depth when his ex-wife dies and he must find a caregiver for the son he hardly knows. He intends to let
Tyler live with his grandmother—until he spends the weekend from hell with the two of them, that is. One look at bright, bossy, and sweetly sexy Pickett Sessoms and Jax knows she’ll expect more than he has to give. But right now, he needs help with his sad and silent son, and she knows a lot about kids. What about Tyler? Well, Tyler is only four years old. He doesn’t know a lot about anything. But he's sure he needs a mommy who isn’t dead, a daddy he can trust, a dog, and a bed of his very own.

"With a hero who's not only a tough Navy SEAL but also an insecure, vulnerable father and a pretty but unsure heroine with a big heart and a huge amount of love to give, how can this story miss? It doesn't; it delivers in a huge way. Throw in a lost little boy and some great dogs and you get a heart-touching story that will keep you smiling and cheering for the characters clear through to the happy ending." —Romantic Times, four and a half out of five.

BUY IT

Books to Look Forward to in 2009

Monday, November 24, 2008

Regency Food - Part II


I thought, during this time of Thanksgiving, it might be fun to do another post on food.

Special Celebrations deserve special things to eat and in the Regency era sculptured sugar will often be mentioned as the piece de resistance. Pictured above is a desert from the 1820's all made from sugar, known as pastillage. Can you imagine the work that went into it? And then to eat it!



Here is a mould and then the final result.



It was common to serve bonbonniere at the table in pastillage baskets. Here we see a pastillage basket containing 'jewell fruit', which are in fact vegetables, cauliflowers and cucumbers.




I was particularly enchanted by the following design. A sculpture where the ornaments hung from a central column and would have trembled as the guests touched the table.



I think we can see where the ideas of our fancy wedding cakes came from, don't you think.

I used to love helping make my mother ice our Christmas cake each year, and it was always my job to pipe on the royal icing decoration. Of course what I liked was getting to snack on the little silver balls when she wasn't looking and eating the left over icing in the metal tip that goes on the end of the icing bag. I always did have a sweet tooth.

In those days I had no idea about pastillage, and the designs of two hundred years ago. If you would like more detail on this check out this link.

Have a sweet week, and until next time, Happy Rambles

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Revolution in Regency Britain


While the course of English political History is such that there was no revolution of the sort which took place in France, or indeed in America, all was not a sweet and light in Britain for the laboring poor. The feudal system still in place in France had long gone, the power of the monarchy being severely limited by Parliament after Cromwell's time and that followed on from the Magna Carta.

There were several periods of general unrest and small uprisings. One such was the Pentrich Rebellion in 1817.

The men of the Derbyshire village of Pentrich formed themselves into a small army and on the night of June 9th 1817 and marched towards Nottingham led by Jeremiah Brandreth, a stocking maker (pictured here). They expected to meet up with many thousands coming from the North of England and join with them in a great march towards London, where they expected to see the overthrow of the government and the establishment of a republic.

Unfortunately, no one else showed up and the men were either executed or exported to Australia. I decided not to used the pictures of the hanging, and beheading of which there are several. Suffice it to say, it was brutal and it was public.

The reasons for this uprising were many and would take a whole history book to outline, but in summary, there were laws introduced by Parliament which made bread, a staple food, very expensive, soldiers returned from the war to find themselves with no work, except badly paid factory work in the cities, and the lack of representational government. On this latter for example: Of the 558 members of parliament, most of them represented electorates of under 500 people. Major industrial towns such as Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds had no MPs at all. The government argued that an MP was not “the agent of the place that chose him, but of the whole community.” The unpopularity of the Prince Regent and his extravagant lifestyle was also a factor in disgruntlement.

There is also evidence that the actual march was incited by the Government agent William Oliver.

On that cheerful note, I will wish you Happy Rambles until next time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What Did the Aristocracy Do for A Living?

This topic came up because of a question posted by a reader. I will attempt to answer it briefly - though I may find I am doing Ryan's homework, it is too much fun to resist.

When you think about the 1800's remember that a peer would have one male heir. That heir would inherit most of the wealth, the estate, and most of the income, depending on what previous generations had arranged. So, indeed, in each generation, there would be a small number of rich landowners, who were peers. As Ryan suggested in his question on my last post.

This is the coat of arms of an earl.Peers, did have a lot of responsibilities to their tenants. Making sure they implemented modern farming knowledge, and this was an age of enlightenment in terms of advances for both industry and agriculture. They were also like the millionaire playboys of today. Fast horses (instead of cars), gambling, and flashy women. They also employed a great many servants, which in itself was an obligation. Men of rank weren't expected to put on their own clothes etc.. If they did, they were doing someone out of a job.

Also, there were always more than one offspring to each noble couple. These were the days when contraception was sketchy at best. And while infant mortality was also high, families tended to be large. Which meant there were lots of other ladies and gentlemen of the aristocracy who were not major landowners or peers of the realm.

They had to work. So what did they do.

Now there is a great deal of information about this, and I am going to give you only a smidgen of it here. You will find examples of some of this in Jane Austen's various works and lots of detail in social history books.

This is the House of Lords in 1808-1811.The heir, if he was titled, was expected to take his seat in the House of Lords. He was expected to make speeches and be a lawmaker. The relationship between the House of Lords and the House of Commons started to change around this time, but the Lords, (Dukes, Marquises, Earls, Viscounts, and Archbishops) had more of a role to play then than they do now.

The second, third and fourth... sons might receive some money set aside from their mother's marriage settlements, or even some funds she might have brought to the marriage. These funds they would be expected to manage through investments, in "the Funds" or perhaps they might bey property, but because they were gentlemen, they would not be farmers - not if they wanted to be taken seriously.



This is an officer in the fourteenth dragoons. There were careers that were considered suitable for a gentlemen, or a member of the aristocracy - the younger son of an earl for example. They might buy a commission in the military, starting with a cornetcy and working their way up. They could start higher. The higher the rank you bought the more it cost, and the greater the responsibility. In those days officers led from the front, and up close and persona, so they risked their lives for their country.


Similarly they might join the navy and rise from midshipman to Admiral, but they would never go as a common sailor.

I should mention that Britain was at war with France and Napoleon for a very long time during this period.

They might become ordained, so a vicar, or a parson. Church position, or livings as they were called, were often given out by the local Lord. So he might give one to a brother or a cousin. These men were still gentlemen, and they went to all the right parties, but tended to live in the country.

They might, if they had money, occupy there time dabbling in Science, inventing things. There were no research companies doing R & D, it was simply well educated men and those were usually the sons of noble houses or gentry, who had a thirst for discovery, natural history, archeology, science. If you look up inventions in this period you will start to see the beginnings of electricity, the steam engine, and of course the inventions that took us into the industrial revolutions.

Business was an acceptable occupation for a gentleman, provided he didn't talk about it. Poetry was also accepted, though they mostly did it for love not money. Look up Byron for example.

Here are the House of Commons in 1808. Still looking very gentlemanly, I would say.
Politics in the House of Commons was also very acceptable, another way of governing the country and again, elections and voting were very different than today.

What wasn't acceptable was anything that smacked of the "shop" or "trade". So no gentleman would sell produce or product, or make saddles, for example. This would make him unacceptable to his equals. It would be considered scandalous.

In Jane Austen's P & P we have soldiers who are gentlemen, we have a parson, we have a great landowner, we see that Lizzie's uncle is a man in business and not quite so acceptable, to Mr. Darcy who looks down on Lizzie's family for their low connections.

Look for books like these:

THE BRITISH ARISTOCRACY
Mark Bence-Jones and Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd
Constable, 1979, ISBN: 0-09-461780-5.

THE AGE OF ARISTOCRACY, 1688-1830 ( Buy a new copy or Search for a used copy)
AUTHOR: William B. Willcox and Walter L. Arnstein
PUBLISHING DATA:

1. DC Heath and Company, 1992, ISBN: 0669397180.
2. Houghton Mifflin Company College Division, textbook paperback, 2000, ISBN: 0618001034.

You will find lots of information here for your Jane Austen reenactment Ryan.

The Jane Austen Centre In Bath

Well, this skims the surface and I could spend ages recommending books and posting links to great sites, but there are some on my website and lots more to be found surfing.

Ryan, I love the sound of what you are doing with your class. I would dearly love to hear all about it, and pictures too.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.