Thursday, July 24, 2008

Regency Money Part 2

So we have it perfectly straight from our first post. Twenty shillings in a pound and twelve pennies in a shilling.

The smallest denomination of English money was the farthing. It was worth one quarter of a penny. Nowadays this would seem a ridiculously small amount of money, but in earlier times and even during the Regency a penny was worth something. I can recall buying four sweets for a penny and if you had a farthing, you could buy one.

Originally made of silver, for a while they were made of tin, but more importantly in our era, they were made of copper. I chose this picture because it has the worth farthing on the coin. Not all of them did. They went by the size.

The next highest denomination was the halfpence, commonly know as a ha'penny. You pronounce this haypny. The one struck in 1806 and before looks just like the penny we looked at last time. It was worth half a penny, obviously, or two farthings.

A coin which fascinates me is the twopence, pronounced tuppence. It is a half a groat, originally produced in silver in 1351, it is still used today as Maundy money (something we can look at another time if you wish). In George III's day and during the Regency it was copper and was a "cartwheel" coin. This is by far the largest base metal coin issued in the UK, weighing two ounces (56.7 g) and measuring 41 mm diameter and 5 mm thick. It was only struck the once and found too heavy for everyday use. You can imagine those weighting down your pockets can't you?

Next is my favorite coin, the three pence coin, known as thruppence. Sometimes "Thruppence" is used as a term of endearment for children. My sister-in-law had a cat called Thruppence.

In my childhood they had lots of corners and a portcullis and made of nickle and brass and it was my pocket money!

During the Regency prior to 1800 these coins were silver generally 1.5g and 17mm diameter. They were not in general circulation after 1817 until 1845 again.

Oh dear, once more there is so much to tell and only so much time and patience. Next week I will be in San Fransisco attending the Romance Writers of America conference. I may see if I can send pictures from there. I will resume this topic when I return, and will try to send some thoughts from San Fransisco in the meantime.

Oh, and we will be in August so I will have some fashions and flora and fauna as well.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Counting Down to The Lady Flees Her Lord

I know, it is still three months away. But I am sure it will be here before I know it and I wanted to tell you how you can win a copy of The Lady Flees Her Lord now, while it is still news.

The Toronto Romance Writers have banded together to offer a most amazing collection of book, mine included. You will find some really well-known names and a variety of genres.

To enter, go here. I promise it is not hard to enter, and the reward might well be a whole heap of reading.

We will be back to normal programming on Thursday. Until then Happy Rambles

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Regency Money

The money that was second nature to me growing up, is no more. How strange is that? Any one living in Britain prior to 1970 will of course remember pounds shillings and pence, or if you visited prior to that date you may recall the nomenclature and all of the idiosyncracies. But some of you spring chickens or recent Regency addicts may find the monetary system of the Regency Era a mystery. Hence this blog.

Pounds Sterling is still the official currency of Britain. The symbol for a pound is £ from the latin libra meaning pound.
In a bill of fare from an inn during the Regency one might have seen the following accounting for your meal.

Roast beef................. £1 5s. 3d.

The s. does not mean shilling as one might expect but soldas and the d. is dinaro. These terms stem all the way back to the time when Rome ruled Britain. We Brits do like to hang on to our history. lol. As far as I know no one used those terms to refer to the denominations as a general rule.

Well that seems fairly straightforward. Oh, but wait a minute, how many shillings were there in a pound and how many pence.

So what value did the various denominations have. There were twenty shillings in in pound, twelve pennies in a shilling. Not the easy decimal system we have to day. Hang on, this means there were two hundred and forty pennies in a pound. That is a lot of pennies. And they weren't the tiny little things we have in Canada and the US, they were honking cartwheels of pennies - (They even called them cartwheels in those days). A pound's worth in your pockets would have you walking on your knees. Or me anyway.

Pennies were both silver and copper during the Regency, the first copper (actually partly copper) pennies being introduced in 1797. They contained a penny's worth of copper and weighed an ounce. In other words, they were not token currency, they were worth the value printed on them.

So that is pretty straight forward isn't it? Oh, but wait a minute there are all kinds of other coins that we haven't talked bout yet, guineas and groats, ponies and farthings. We will look at those next time and we'll also try to work out some values in future posts.

In the meantime, if you love books, here is a chance to win some, my new one included. The Toronto Romance Writers are having a contest and there are some fabulous authors and their books. Go here to enter. It's easy and fun. I promise.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Regency Bathrooms

A rather intimate topic, you might say, but it is one of those things we occasionally wonder about as writers, particularly if we want to have our romantic couple bath together.

I can remember homes that had outside facilities while I was growing up, indeed there were special government grants to convert them to indoor facilities. I recall one row house we lived in for a time, where we bathed in a tin tub in front of the fire. And no, dear reader, I was not born in the Regency. lol. It also had its own air raid shelter on the other side of the road. I still have the scar on my forehead from falling into the stairwell of that abandoned shelter.

So what facilities could they possibly have had two hundred years ago.

More than you would expect, but less than you might hope if you were time traveling.

This picture shows the types of luxury bathing one might find in the very best homes in the Regency.

Around this time, the shower-bath was invented, bath-tubs replaced the elegant but much more expensive plunge baths of the eighteenth century. A shower bath would be a cistern which emptied over the bather's head into a tub or a plunge bath. My guess is you had to be quick.

and most important of all, really efficient water-closets, fitted with valves that worked, at last became available (often still supplemented by outside earth-closets for the servants)

As early as 1813 the Earl of Moira's Donington Park in Leicestershire had two bathrooms and at least six water-closets, on two floors."

People were more likely to install these new fangled items at their country estates than in London homes where space was at a premium.

There was no such thing as municipal water during the Regency. In London water was delivered by wagon and deposited in a cistern located across the area, under the street, next to the coal cellar. Access to both was via hatches in the street. Water was not delivered every day. Anyone with a flushing toilet required servants to hand-fill a smaller cistern located in the attics.

The first flushing toilet was actually invented back in the 1500s. One was installed at Hampton Court for Elizabeth. However, these were very smelly affairs since the U-trap had not yet been invented.

Not until 1780 did advances make flushing toilets practical. By the Regency, new houses built for the middle or higher classes included water closets that emptied into the waste cistern under the servants' privy, but as you can see from the diagram they were not what we think of as a toilet today.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Flora and Fauna of Regency Britain - July

Our naturist tells us this about July:

The scarlet lychnis is in bloom, and, with its rich coronet of flowers growing on a tall slender stem, adds greatly to the beauty of the garden.

Among the flowers of summer, we must not forget to mention the evening primrose (Aenothera biennis). This plant bears its primrose-coloured flowers on branches of three or four feet in height, and hence it is called the tree-primrose, or evening star, because the flowers regularly burst open and expand in the evening, between six and seven o’clock.

The yellow hammer (Emberiza citronella) forms its nest and lays its eggs very late in the year, it being quite the end of June, or the beginning of July, before any number of them are found: the eggs are to be distinguished from those of every other bird by their being figured with irregular hair-like scratches, as if marked with a pen; so much so, that, in the midland countries, this bird is called the ‘scribbling or writing lark.’

One last flower and I must emerge from my basement into the sunshine of summer.

The beautiful but evanescent flowers of the convolvulus are now open; they live but for a day, opening their cups in the morning, and at sunset closing them forever.

It is of course, morning glory, sometimes known as bind weed.

Until next time, Happy Rambles

Monday, July 7, 2008

Regency Fashion For July - A Royal Birthday

It is 1807 and Princess Charlotte's birthday (Princess of Wales).

ho would not have wanted to be there, even in one of those huge ball gowns?

Here are some descriptions of gowns you would have had to compete with as described in La Belle Assemblee.

Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.—The drapery and body of rich silver and lilac tissue most magnificently embroidered with emeralds, topaz and amethyst stones, to form vine leaves and grapes, entwined with wreaths of diamonds in stars and shells; at the bottom of the drapery a very rich silver fringe of quite a new pattern; the train and petticoat of silver tissue, with a border all round to correspond with that on the drapery; also a rich silver fringe all round the train and petticoat, with rich silver laurel to loop up the drapery and pocket-holes: the head-dress of diamonds and ostrich feathers.

Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte of Wales.—A pink and sliver slip, with a beautiful Brussels lace frock to wear over it, and a pink and silver girdle.

Her Royal Highness the Princess Augusta.—Yellow crape petticoat richly embroidered with silver; a sash across with a border of honey-suckles, and rich pointed embroidered draperies. Body and train to correspond.

There were many many more described. These ladies came at the bottom of the list.

Three Hon. Misses Irby.—Dresses of prim-rose crape, embroidered with steel bugles, and ornamented with beads and bows of ribbon; robes of primrose crape, trimmed to correspond with the dress.

Hon. Miss Drummond.—A superb rich silver gauze petticoat, ornamented with wreaths of grapes and rich lace; train lavender blue crape.

Miss Garth—Yellow crape dress, tastefully ornamented with silver.

Mrs. Every.—A white crape petticoat, richly embroidered with wreaths of silver grapes and vine-leaves; an elegant drapery covered with bunches of grapes, in dead and bright foil, the effect of which was beautiful and novel; round the bottom a wreath of silver grapes; this drapery terminated with a sash embroidered to correspond, and fastened with superb cord and tassels; train elegantly trimmed with silver and pearls. The head-dress, plume of ostrich feathers, magnificent pearls, and lace point.

Mrs. Macleod.—A dress of white crape, trimmed with satin ribbon.

Do we think Miss Garth or Mrs. Macleod were outshone, or might their simplicity of dress, or did it make them stand out? I wonder who they were? Something else to research.

Next time we will have our usual Flora and Fauna Article for July. Until then, Happy Rambles.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Regency Fashion for July

First sneaking in with some news. I will be blogging on Petticoats and Pistols this coming weekend. I know its not Regency, but it is historical. I'm giving away a couple of books, so drop in and comment, or ask a question.

All right, Fashion.

I thought I would pick out something from the beginning and something toward the end of the true Regency.

Opera Gown 1811. From La Belle Assemblee fashions for July

A blue satin robe, worn over a slip of white satin, let in at the bosom and sleeves (which are short) with silver Moravian net work.

A tunic of Egyptian brown sarsnet or crape, confined on the shoulders with diamond studs, and trimmed round the bottom with silver net, separated in small divisions by spangled open work balls.

A chaplet wreath of green foil, placed twice round the hair, which is disposed in long irregular ringlets. Earrings of silver open work, studded with brilliants, resembling in form the bell of a child’s coral.

Shoes of brown satin, bound and sandalled with silver braiding. Long gloves of white kid.

I love this gown, partly because of the way the description rolls off the tongue. If there is anything Egyptian about that tunic I'll eat my flail. But the design is gorgeous. Diamond studs on the shoulders. I should be so lucky. And Moravian net work--some of the netting we talked about a while ago. I like the way the slippers are described as sandaled. My guess is that they have criss-crossed braid which also went up the ankles. I drooled over this one.

Walking Dress 1818

Look how different this one is, much fuller, not so classic, all those rouleaus around the hem making it look bulky.

It is of course a walking dress, and she is at the beach. Summer holidays away from the city. The hat is certainly going to keep the sun off that pale English complexion. Also note the trusty sunshade/umberella.

There is no detailed description for this plate from Ackermans, but the general observations for walking dresses for July are as follows:

Muslin robes still continue in very great estimation in morning dress; but close round dresses begin also to be a good deal worn. The bodies of these dresses are made in a style very similar to the robes. The skirts are generally trimmed high, either with flounces of worked muslin, or rouleaus of clear muslin placed between rows of embroidery; some ladies, however, give a preference to ruches of soft muslin, placed at a considerable distance from each other; there are three or four of these ruches and they are always very full. Waists continue as short as usual, and long sleeves are worn fuller than last month.

Personally I'd sooner have my flip-flops and tee shirt and shorts. But this now and that was then.

Talking about then, I have some nice bits on the Princess of Wales birthday, which was July 1807. So I think we will look at that on Monday.

Until then Happy Rambles.