The first thing people ask me when I tell them I write historical romance novels is, “What time period?”
“The English Regency!” I exclaim.
This is often followed by a furrowed brow (on their part) and a quick reply (on my part).
“Think Jane Austen,” I clarify.
“Ah, yes. Jane Austen.” A smile and a nod.
They get it.
Those of us who are lovers of the Regency know exactly what the time period is all about, but I’ve found it can be a bit of a mystery to those who are unfamiliar. This post is an effort to clear up the confusion. Send your head-scratching friends and family a link. : )
So, what the heck is the Regency?
The Regency is the time period between February 1811 and January 1820 when George IV (then the Prince of Wales) served as the Prince Regent.
Ok, then, what’s a Prince Regent and why was George IV serving as one?
A regent is a person who serves as head of state in the stead of a still-living monarch. In this case, George III (he of American Revolutionary War fame) was incapacitated due to his madness (in truth it was porphyria, a rare blood disorder) and Parliament appointed his son as the regent or interim ruler.
How long did the Regency last and how/why did it end?
The Regency ended upon the death of poor old king (George III) whereupon George IV was coroneted as king.
What is the Regency best known for?
In addition to Miss Austen, there was Lord Byron, Mary Wollstonecraft, Beau Brummel, Lady Caroline Lamb, Hannah More, Mary Shelley and the Brownings. The Regent himself (aka Prinny) was famous not only for his weight and profligate behavior, but also his dedication to the arts and sciences including establishing the National Gallery in London, redecorating Carlton House (his primary residence) in an ostentatious manner, and, of course, building the famous Pavilion at Brighton which he pretty much single-handedly turned into a beach party town. Woot. Woot.
During the Regency there was also that little matter known as the Napoleonic wars. Admiral Nelson and his Trafalgar and the Duke of Wellington and his Waterloo. Sound familiar?
In addition, the Regency brought about daring fashions, including tight breeches, unpowdered hair, and high collars.
What’s the difference between the Regency period and the Victorian period? Or is there one?
Baby Victoria was born when the Prince Regent was nearly 60 years old. She was the daughter of Prinny’s third brother (Prince Edward). Why, you may ask, was she the next in line? Well, George IV only ever had the one daughter, Princess Charlotte, who died while giving birth to her first (and stillborn) child. After her death, George’s brothers scrambled to find wives and produce an heir. You see, George desperately hated his own wife, Princess Caroline, so much he tried to divorce her. Let’s just say another (legitimate, cough cough) child was not an option for him.
As for the difference between King George IV and Queen Victoria, well, the two were simply very different people. The Prince Regent loved drinking, eating, spending money, sleeping around, and generally having fun. Queen Victoria was devoutly religious, gave birth to nine children, and was madly in love with her husband, Albert. She ruled for over 60 years and all the while influenced fashion and society to be much more prim and proper. Vickie generally stopped the party.
So, why is the Regency period such a popular one to write about?
Well, dear readers, you tell me. Why do you think Regency stories are still so popular?
One lucky commenter will receive a copy of The Prince of Pleasure, a fascinating book about the Prince Regent himself. And as for more tidbits on the Regency, stay tuned for my next post on my favorite time period: How the Deuce was King George IV Married to Two Woman At Once?
Duchess Valerie Bowman writes Regency-set historical romance novels with a focus on sharp dialogue, engaging story lines, and heroines who take matters into their own hands!
Valerie’s debut novel, Secrets of a Wedding Night, is a racy Regency romp, coming from St. Martin’s Press 9/25/12.