INFO Etiquette Lessons

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firejay1

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Etiquette Lessons

This thread is meant to be a compendium of information on the historical practices, titles, terminology, and aesthetics from the Regency era that we'll be using in this realm. While this is primarily meant to be a guideline for people unfamiliar with the time period who still want to try their hand at it, I do recommend everyone give the thread at least a brief read-through, as there are a few ways we'll be differing from historical reality, and in group threads there are some things it'll be helpful for everyone to have the same baseline for (such as etiquette surrounding introductions).

Table of Contents
  1. The Peerage+ and Their Address
  2. Common Courtesy
  3. The Social Season
  4. Courtship and Marriage
  5. Fashion (and Other Intentional Blatant Historical Inaccuracies)
  6. Locations
  7. Transportation and Communications
  8. Larger Sociopolitical Environment
  9. A Glossary of Terms
 
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firejay1

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The Peerage+ and Their Address


Most Regency media focuses on the upper classes, so I decided to start with an overview of the various titles in upper class society and how they are meant to be addressed. I will also be including a note at the bottom about courtesy titles and a link to a more comprehensive list from Wikipedia, as this is an overview with our specific focuses in mind. I will be leaving the royal titles out, because other than the typical king/queen = his/her majesty, and prince/ss = his/her royal highness, I don't expect there to be much need for further specifics.

PositionStatusAddress+WivesEldest SonsYounger SonsDaughters (-Husbands)
Duke/DuchessPeerYour GraceMy Lord/LadyMy Lord/LadyMy Lady
Marquess/MarchionessPeerMy Lord/LadyMy Lord/LadyMy Lord/LadyMy Lady
Earl/CountessPeerMy Lord/LadyMy Lord/LadySir/Madam or Mr/s.My Lady
Viscount/essPeerMy Lord/LadyMy Lord/LadySir/Madam or Mr/s.Madam or Miss/Mrs.
Baron/essPeerMy Lord/LadyMy Lord/LadySir/Madam or Mr/s.Madam or Miss/Mrs.
BaronetMinor NobilitySir/My LadyMr/s.Mr/s.Miss
Baronetess (own right)Minor NobilityMadam or DameMr/s.Mr/s.Miss
KnightLanded GentrySir/My LadyMr/s.Mr/s.Miss
GentlemanLanded GentryMr/s.Mr/s.Mr/s.Miss
*Peers were able to sit in the upper house of Parliament known as the House of Lords. Knights were the only rank here whose titles were not inherited, but they are considered a part of the landed gentry (had land, renters worked off the land, did no work of their own), so presumably their land could be passed to their sons. Your lord/ladyship can also replace any "my lord/ladies."

As is probably easy to tell from the term "courtesy title" or "courtesy style" are not really indicative of an actual personal status. There are a few primary ones we are concerned with. Many higher nobles have lower titles known as a subsidiary title. So a Duke of iono, BLUNDERBUTTS might also have the subsidiary title Marquess of Putterfools or Baron of Makinmecross. Some even have multiple subsidiary titles. Their eldest sons/ostensible heirs take their highest subsidiary title before they inherit the primary title, simply without the initial "the." So the Duke of Blunderbutts' eldest son would be styled Marquess of Putterfools until he inherits the title the Duke of Blunderbutts from his father. Courtesy STYLES, on the other hand, are the forms of address afforded to the children of the nobility, which are maintained even if they marry a commoner. The second son of an earl and his wife, for instance, will be addressed as "Lord and Lady," but their children will be Mr. and Miss, while the daughter of the earl would be addressed as "Lady" even if she marries a commoner (though her husband would NOT be styled as Lord). While I don't think this counts as a courtesy title, the widow of a member of nobility keeps her title (Duchess of Blunderbutts) if the heir is unmarried. If the heir IS married, or gets married, she puts Dowager before the title (Dowager Duchess of Blunderbutts). I'd also like to note that first names were often not considered entirely necessary when referring to eldest sons and daughters.

Extra note, most positions earl and above are styled "of" in reference to the area associated, such as "Earl of Strafford," while Viscounts and below regardless of in reference to place or family name don't have the of, such as "Viscount Falmouth." Earl positions are usually only styled "Earl Howe" or the like in reference to a family name and often when elevated from a previous lower title such as a baron.

Various sources: Forms of address in the United Kingdom - Wikipedia ; Courtesy titles in the United Kingdom - Wikipedia ; Being a “Gentleman” in Regency England ; Gentlemen, Gentry and Regency Era Social Class - Random Bits of Fascination ; Gentlemen in the Regency Era - Random Bits of Fascination.
 
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Common Courtesy


I'll go into a lot more details about social customs in later sections, but for more general social rules, the Regency era was a time where politeness and discretion were held in high regard for the upper classes. Not only women, but also men were all meant to be modest, intelligent conversationalists, not prone to fits of passion one way or another. Men were almost all university-educated, while women were taught to dance, sing, play instruments, sew, write beautifully, paint, decorate screens, and run a household. They were also expected to learn French, German, and Italian, though not Latin or Greek, which men would learn in university. All this said, "refinement" was deeply important in upper class society.

This more rigid societal structure meant people were not supposed to be loud or rowdy, were meant to have taste in classical art forms and moderate forms of exercise, and treat one another courteously. Almost in amusing contrast to this is the baseline extravagance of the wealthy at the time, but that aside, I did want to highlight a few small things in this section - how introductions worked, calling cards, what a "rake" actually was, and how inheritance worked.

There were a couple basic rules with introductions. The first was that one was not supposed to introduce themselves to a stranger without a "proper introduction." In fact, without a formal introduction, people were basically supposed to act like the other didn't exist. An introduction in this society was a recommendation, basically, so accepting an introduction meant accepting a relationship, so people could refuse to allow someone to be introduced to them, but essentially an introduction almost always had to be done with a third party mutual acquaintance, though sometimes the host of an event would conduct introductions that night. Who was introduced to whom was also a matter of status. Instead of doing what we do, where we introduce both parties to each other, one person would usually be introduced to the person of higher rank, such as "This is my acquaintance Sarah Baxter, Mrs. Harper." Title and status was actually less important than age and gender. Younger people were introduced to the elders, while gentlemen were introduced to ladies, regardless of rank, though everyone was introduced to royalty (taken almost verbatim from one of my sources below). With any introduction or meeting of two people, ladies would curtsey, men would bow. Kissing the back of a lady's hand was a polite way for a gentleman to greet a lady, but generally not on their first acquaintance, and they had to be careful not to do it too long or passionately, lest it be considered a sign of intimate affection.

Visiting (or calling upon) friends, acquaintances, or to-be-spouses at their home was not at all an uncommon, but in the event of that happening, one was required to hand over a calling card when they arrived before they could be received. A calling card was a business-card-like piece of paper with one's name on it and (for men only) address, and this both announced one's presence and allowed the family to keep track of who they'd received and when.

If you have any familiarity with the term "rake," you might have a vague idea that it was about a guy people didn't like very much, or even a womanizer. Really, a rake meant a person who was overly indulgent (again, harking back to the importance of modesty), particularly with drinking and gambling. While it was true that men were allowed to "sow their wild oats" sexually to some extent (technically rake doesn't refer to womanizers specifically, there were other words for that), this could really only be done with girls of no consequence to high society - widows, prostitutes, actresses, and other lower class or "inherently" morally loose women. Even then, an indication that a man was indulgent, overly passionate, and wasteful reflected poorly on him to high society, and the term "rake" was really not a positive thing. This wasn't considered a biker gang leather jacket "bad boy," so much as a Karen in reputation.

As you'd probably expect, inheritance was based on male primogeniture, meaning the eldest son would inherit all titles and properties of his father, and if the person with title or land had no sons, the closest living male relative would inherit. Landholders were pretty much not meant to have any other work, but the younger sons were often supposed to find some sort of reputable work, mostly in the military, the clergy, or as some form of lawyers. Women, meanwhile, had no real prospects unless they got married or had relatives willing to provide for them, which was why it was so essential for them to make a decent match, not just for their family ties, but for their own future and the future of their sisters and daughters. This was especially difficult for an upper class family who had daughters, but no sons, because if the heir of the estate didn't like them or care for them, they had every right to throw all the women out of the house they'd lived in their whole lives the second the current holder died, especially if they were already married and had a wife to take care of the household affairs so that the widow wasn't necessary.

Various sources: To be an Accomplished Lady - Random Bits of Fascination ; Younger Sons in Jane Austen’s England ; Male Education in Regency England ; Regency introductions - a Regency History guide ; Introductions, Regency-Style - Donna Hatch ; The Etiquette of Using Calling Cards
 
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firejay1

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The Social Season


I have, at this point, brought up the "season" a few times. What I've primarily been referring to has been the social season of London. The social season as it's kind of thought of, is pretty strongly associated with the Regency era in large part because that was kind of its heyday. Essentially, most of the upper class/landed gentry had their own estates in various places in the country, but from about the late winter months to the mid-summer months, families would travel to rented mansions in London to participate in government (which is why these months coincided with Parliament gathering (or sitting or whatever)), as well as to throw a number of balls, parties, and charity events. It was also common to attend the opera (for which most noble families who regularly attended had their own box), go on walks or boating events, and attend (and bet on) horse races, cricket games, and boxing matches (though the final item on the list was technically illegal, that was not really enforced).

However, one of the most prominent functions of the season is to get the young people together to find potential marriage partners. Young women entering adulthood (which was referred to as being "out") were presented at court, which was somewhat up to the discretion of their parents, but typically happened between the ages of 15 and 18. The word "debutante" is often kind of rolled around to refer to these young women coming out to society, but that term did not actually come into usage for these girls until about halfway through this time period, it seems by etymological records. At any rate, presenting these young upper class daughters of the landed gentry as available adults did at some point around this era happen at "debutante balls" with most people referencing Queen Charlotte's ball (which was instated literally towards the beginning of the Regency period) as the major debutante ball despite having been initially a birthday celebration and charity event for the queen established by the king. Most places suggest that "presentation at court" happened during the Queen Charlotte's ball, but I find that somewhat unlikely (or at least something I have no interest in using for this setting), considering Queen Charlotte's birthday (and the few records I can find about when the ball was held) was in May... which would mean young ladies would miss an entire season's opportunity to schmooze and be all marriage ready, considering the season typically ended in June or July. So for our purposes, suffice to say, "presentation at court" happened in January, and was immediately followed by a debut at a high profile ball - which specific one does not matter. Also in case you're wondering, while "a diamond of the first water" was indeed a phrase to indicate perfection in general, I can't find ANY records to suggest that Bridgerton's obsession with "the queen declaring a diamond" had any historical basis, so no, we are not using that nonsense.

I'd also like to note that while there were public events held, many balls and the like were hosted by wealthy and prominent families at their private residences in the city, usually organized by the main lady of the house. Actual title aside, the social status of any given house was in part cemented by the family's wealth and reputation, which heavily affected the invitations they received, the parties they held, how they were regarded by others, and how their children were considered in the marriage mart. The beauty and education of a girl in question also played a part, and how "accomplished" (her musical talents, knowledge of French, German, and Italian, penmanship, and ability to run a household) a girl was would help her in the marriage market.

Despite the advantages of attending the social season, it's also important to remember that not all landed gentry families attended. Presentation at court was not NECESSARY for a young lady to be considered "out," and particularly poorer families wouldn't be able to afford the fancy trips to London, the costs associated with presentation at court, and the extravagant parties. Being "out" was a prerequisite for essentially attending any social events and activities, not just finding a match. For poorer families, sometimes a wealthy aunt or distant family friend would agree to "sponsor" usually only one of the ladies getting ready to debut. This sponsorship would allow the girl to debut and fund her during the expensive London season, usually in the hopes that she would find a suitable match within a year, though it was still already an advantage if she didn't to know that she had that sort of connection. Men were also presented at court, though it seems more upon entering into government, the military, the church, or the law.

Various sources: Our History ; Inside ‘The Season’: Regency London’s most glamorous time of the year as depicted in Bridgerton ; https://anhistorianabouttown.com/the-ins-and-outs-of-being-a-regency-debutante/ ; 5 Fun Facts About Coming Out in Regency England (not most accurate source, but got me to look into the etymology of debutante) ; Drawing room presentations - a Regency History guide ; To be an Accomplished Lady - Random Bits of Fascination ; presentation at court – Jane Austen's World
 
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firejay1

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Courtship and Marriage


While practical considerations like title, social status, and wealth were extremely important in finding a husband or wife, love was not an uncommon or frowned upon reason for getting married, either, and a part of the reason why the social season was kind of important in finding a partner was that most people wanted to get to know potential partners so that they could marry someone that they, y'know, could kinda like as their spouse, or at least get along with alright. Women were generally considered extra successful if they managed to find a marriage partner within their first season, but it wasn't uncommon for it to be at least a couple years out from their debut before they found a good match, and they were not really considered concerningly old spinsters until at least 24.

Eligibility on the marriage mart were very different for men and women. While men were poorly regarded if they were known to sleep around a lot, drink too much, get into brawls, or hang out with other disreputable folks, that wasn't enough to completely take them off the market, as most assumed they'd settle down once "domesticated." The main major social sins that would get, as they say, "marriage-minded mamas" to keep their daughters away from them were ruining a decent girl's reputation without taking responsibility, and being known for having a gambling problem. For women, on the other hand, the slightest hint that her chastity had been threatened could be enough to ruin her reputation altogether. As such, rules for courtship were careful and conducted largely in public or in the presence of chaperones - usually older female relatives or companions with respectable reputations. Most couples got their first moment of privacy during the actual proposal.

In the meantime, a courtship consisted of dances, mutual social events, walks (which surprisingly comprised a really essential part of courtship, just walking and talking), open-carriage rides, flowers, and visits to (the woman's) home during visiting hours, when at least one chaperone would typically be present. Men were typically meant to be the pursuers, and women were supposed to remain reserved even in their return affection, mostly passively accepting the attention as proof that they welcomed it. The couple usually couldn't send each other gifts or letters, other than the aforementioned flowers, call each other by their first names, or really be open about their feelings towards one another until a proposal happened. If they even spent too much time together or danced together more than twice at the same ball, it was generally thought they were interested in each other, and a proposal should be on the way. If they were caught in any situation that could be thought compromising (one undressed, or hands in inappropriate places), the man would typically be called on to do his duty, protect the woman's honor and ask her for marriage as quickly as possible. Even upon getting engaged, turning out pregnant before the marriage took place would be a huge scandal, and a wedding rushed. A lot of these standards were a little relaxed for less upper-class families (and very much relaxed for men and women considered to be family or close family friends), but the same basic principles applied.

A lot of permissions were required for a couple to actually get married. While accepting affection was meant to be fairly passive, women were meant to be quite firm (though of course not loud or rude) in rejecting suits they had no interest in. Then a man had to tell the woman's parents about his intentions to propose before a proposal could ever happen, and she could again turn him down then (though it was considered bad form to do so if there was any sign she'd encouraged him during the courtship phase). If she did say yes, the man would then have to go to her father to ask him formal permission, then a formal engagement contract would be drawn up, which a man could not do without his own father's permission until he was at the "age of majority" which was 21 (for both men and women, parental permission for the marriage had to be achieved if either party was less than 21). This contract would essentially be a mix of basic pre-nup and will, all at once, provisions made for the woman and any children they might have if the man died, and how much the dowry would be, and how the wealth would be distributed upon marriage. Once a formal contract had been made, it was then pretty much set in stone that the two would get married. Both divorce and breaking an engagement were huge deals, and especially for men, breaking an engagement on his end would be a massive breach of etiquette and very much frowned upon socially (though women sometimes could, I'm assuming because wedding cold feet were expected here and there in the blushing brides of high society). Some men waited until their financial situation was good, at least, to be attractive as prospects, so it wasn't unusual for them to be older.

All that achieved, they had to obtain a marriage license (hopefully not a special license, because this usually meant an engagement was in a rush for one reason or another *coughcough a pregnancy, or needed to happen outside a church), and then something called "banns" read over three Sundays at church. Weddings were usually private, engagement rings were not really a thing, and it wasn't necessary for a bride to wear white. If permission from parents was denied and the couple lied about it, or the wedding was not consummated, the marriage could be considered void or get annulled. And of course, let's not forget, "Gretna Green" referred to an area in Scotland, which is where couples would go to elope, as no special license or parental consent was required for the marriage to take place.

Various sources: History Of Debutantes & The Social Season: From Balls to Bridgerton | HistoryExtra ; Spinsterhood: Circumstance or Choice? by A.S. Fenichel - Kensington Books Publishing ; The Spinster’s Numeration Table: A Guide for Nineteenth Century Men | Mimi Matthews ; Love and Courtship in Regency England - Donna Hatch ; Courtship and Marriage in the Regency Period ; Courtship and Marriage | Merryn Allingham ; Courtship During the Regency Period ; Rules of a Regency Romance - Jane Austen Variations ; Marriage of minors in Regency England ; Rules of a Regency Courtship - Random Bits of Fascination ; What Courting In Regency England Was Actually Like (the last two sources I'm not very fond of, they seem a bit off, but lol, that note on pregnant women being forced to name the father, man...)
 
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firejay1

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Fashion... and Other Intentional Blatant Historical Inaccuracies


Basically, the general female aesthetic in the Regency era is something that looks like this:
07228a97f45737e82884c43cd3a534af.png

This is not the prettiest picture, but this is what's generally known as the empire silhouette. Somewhat low neckline, with the waist line directly under the breasts. Sleeves were of variable length, but decorative gloves and fancy hair pieces were also not uncommon. Also shoes were still more "slippers" back then. Hair was generally curled and secured up with carefully arranged loose strands to frame the face.

The picture above makes it really easy for me to point out something I'd really like to make a note of, which was that corsets WERE NOT MEANT TO BE PATRIARCHAL INSTRUMENTS OF TORTURE. Much like bras today, they primarily existed as support, not only to help a girl fit her body to a style when styles were stiffer, but also because my bet is that saggy breasts hurt whether you live now or lived in the early 1800s. While I can't speak to all times in history, restrictive corsets meant to confine the waist and be outrageously tight would be pointless to the nth degree (me trying to limit my swearing right now) in a silhouette that DOESN'T EVEN ACCENTUATE YOUR ACTUAL WAISTLINE, so let's banish that preconception from our minds.

But setting that aside, I wanted to make it clear that this is one area where I'm really happy to encourage blatant historical inaccuracy. Upper class women changed clothes frequently for differing occasions (there's a reason I've been including a bunch of sources for most of these posts if you want to see all the various types of clothing there were and how many layers they entailed), but considering the cost of good cloth, and the fact that clothes were made to fit and "commercially available" clothing really didn't exist the way it does nowadays, I'm guessing it was quite unlikely for women to be concerned about constantly buying new dresses and never being seen in the same thing twice. Lower class women or those that weren't insanely wealthy almost certainly had to make or mend their own clothing constantly as it was, and sewing was one of many "accomplishments" refined young ladies were expected to know. That said, if y'all wanna include fashion plot points with girls showing up each other with the latest design, and going for ballgowns and embroidered-to-death shawls, and haranguing the newest milliner for more daring dresses, I honestly don't mind. This is one of those elements that it's fun to play with, and I'm honestly there for all of that.

The same general concept applies to the men, though their style is much less variable in general, and here's a picture, just for reference. I also have several reference links for more details on men's clothing.
description_image_manwdaughter.jpg


Another major note of historical inaccuracy that I'm just going for (to give y'all history nerds the WORST heart attack) is I'm going ahead and legalizing gay marriage in this setting. Specifically, I'm saying in this setting that gay marriage is legal between men, but illegal for women, and frowned upon for eldest sons who have a greater duty to inherit and have children of their own. There are actually more reasons for this than just me harassing the history nerds. I know a lot of our community likes to RP mxm, and I want there to be an avenue for that in this setting, so part of my motivation is that I kind of hate it when people feel like they have to make their historical gay romances all angstplays. If you want to have an angsty mxm about a love that will never be because of SOCIETY, well I've left avenues for that too (with the eldest sons stuff, not to mention no one said anything about family feuds not being a thing), but I also want some people to be able to play wholesome cute mxms if they wanna. This is to some extent a wish fulfillment realm (why I don't mind the whole clothing thing either), and gay marriage being legal does not at all seem difficult for me to include without breaking the historical setting entirely (for instance, I can't figure out how to include codified physical transitioning without breaking the vibe of the type of science they had access to at the time, even if that were something someone would want, sorry). I know this might be a tad controversial of a choice, but my mind is made up on it.

Various sources: Regency Hairstyle – Jane Austen's World ; What 'Bridgerton' Gets Wrong About Corsets ; A Primer on Regency Era Women's Fashion – Kristen Koster ; Gowns, Gowns, and More Gowns, and how often Regency Ladies Changed Clothes - Donna Hatch ; A Tour of Regency Fashion: Day and Evening Dress ; Women’s Fashion During the Regency Era (1810s to 1830s) ; A Brief Overview of Men's Regency Fashion ; A Primer on Regency Era Men's Fashion - Kristen Koster
 
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firejay1

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Locations


In this section, I will be briefly listing and explaining a few key locations that could be useful in some stories here, as well as adding a note on some terms for certain locations. (Some things are c/ped verbatim from sources listed below.)

  • Almack's Assembly Rooms - A private social club, which one had to be approved by a set of Lady Patronesses to be allowed entry into. This was one of THE premier places for people to search for the best marriage partners, as everyone approved had been carefully vetted, and rejection could mean social ruin. Breeding, manners, and rank were key elements leading to approval, though fortune was not. Nouveau riche did not enter easily (if at all). No alcohol was served and you had to get permission to waltz from the Patronesses. The Patronesses in question were chosen by the founder, and were a select committee of the most influential and exclusive ladies of London's high society.
  • Astley's Amphitheatre - Basically a circus, initially started to show off equestrian tricks, though other classics of modern circuses were also hired, and a number of historical, military, and equestrian dramas were shown there, since the space was large enough to host giant military extravaganzas.
  • Bath - A city about 100 miles west of London, named for its fancy baths, and generally considered a place of peace and quiet, where people (especially distressed women and the elderly) could go for leisurely rest and repose. Not a place young people usually wanted to spend extended amounts of time in, though.
  • Covent Garden Theatre and Drury Lane Theatre - Theatres where ballets, operas, and plays were hosted. Covent Garden was also, in this time, a red-light district, with even a guide published at one point for where to find specific prostitutes.
  • Gretna Green - An area in Scotland where people would go to elope, since Scotland didn't have restrictions on parental permission for kids younger than 21 to get married.
  • Hyde Park (and Rotten Row) - A large park, which in the afternoon, was the place to see and be seen. Rotten Row (a corrupted misinterpretation of the French for the King's Road, which was the original name), in particular was a popular promenade where people would take a walk, or ride horses, or drive their fashionable little personal carriages.
  • St. James's Palace - The main palace where the king and queen lived in this time period. It was also the place where court presentations would occur.
  • Tattersall's - Main auctioneer for horses (and things related to horses, such as carriages, harnesses, hounds, etc), as well as the headquarters for the Jockey Club where bets were placed and settled, and a kind of sports lounge for gentlemen to hang out in and show off their cool carriages.
  • White's Club - The premier, and exclusive, gentleman's club of the time (only gentlemen allowed), founded as a hot chocolate shop (who ever said hot chocolate wasn't high class?). It was associated with a specific political party at this time (the rival party was hosted at a club called Brooks's right down the street), but also known for having a famous betting book, where men would place bets on the dumbest random shit, as well as on sports, social happenings, and political events.
  • Vauxhall Gardens - One of the most important pleasure gardens at the time, a large space with many walks, fountains, and pavilions, where events like fireworks, acrobatics, and hot air balloon ascents were held all throughout the spring and summer. It was lit up with a lot of lanterns at night, and was one of the primary places where nighttime walks could turn into romantic "meetings." You did have to pay a small fee for admission.

Extra notes on locations: Anyone involved in the London season would usually have both a country house and a townhouse. The country house was the primary residence they owned, a mansion or manor in the countryside on the estate of the land they'd had in the family usually for generations, while the townhouse was a smaller, but usually more fashionable often rented house in London where they would primarily stay during the season. While a certain amount of gambling was not unusual for high-society men, a "gaming hell" or just "hell" as it was sometimes called, referred specifically to a gambling house, especially the disreputable kind that was operating secretly, and where loan sharks were constantly on the lookout for their next easy mark. Keeping a brothel was technically illegal, but prostitution itself was not in this time period, and the practice was thriving and quite open even in some of the nicer areas of London.

Various sources: Regency Places Archives - CandiceHern.com ; A Regency London Landmark Primer - Kristen Koster ; Regency era - Wikipedia ; The sex workers of Regency England
 
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firejay1

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Transportation and Communications


So it probably won't surprise anyone that horse-drawn carriages were the primary mode of transportation and written letters were the primary mode of communication back in the day, but I chose to include a section on these two topics, because those two things have a bit more nuance than just that.

To get the communications thing out of the way, I had two brief things I wanted to note, the first being penmanship, and the second being the printing press. Handwritten letters were indeed pretty much the only way to communicate with someone not in the same room. As noted above, sending a letter to a man or woman you weren't engaged to was pretty no-no, but otherwise, sending letters to friends, acquaintances, family of someone you were interested in, etc was quite normal. But this made it especially simple for penmanship to be constantly on display, and as having good penmanship was a sign of good breeding and education, letters to new people were, in a way, an assessment, or proof, if you will, of your respectability. Also I love to think about how many invitation letters women had to write to guests for balls and whatever, BY HAND, good glob, that would've been painful to do for my wedding.

But also, at the time the printing press was becoming a lot more widespread, cheaper and easier to use. If you have watched Bridgerton, the "Lady Whistledown" type gossip rag or scandal sheet (or sections for it in a magazine) was actually not an uncommon historical occurrence. The main difference, I'd say, was that these sheets often made a sort of nominal effort to hide the identities of the people they were referring to (in a way that included no names, but still made it perfectly clear who was being referenced), my guess would be to avoid serious investigations or court cases for libel being made against them. Generally speaking, I don't think they were considered very classy things to read, but it's undeniable they had a sort of mass appeal to their high class readers, especially since the upper class were the main topics of interest for these publications. Ironically, it is very likely that, much like with the fashion magazine La Belle Assemblee, most of the actual information was gathered by regular people being sold stories by servants or managing to infiltrate high class parties, rather than any of the writers being high class themselves. That would most likely be a very big scandal, and not a reputable business for one to run or be a part of.

Transportation I mostly include because for all our thoughts about carriages, there were a LOT of different types. I am legit not crazy enough to write out a list of all of them, because that would take me forever or require very dumb literal just copypasting, so I'm going to include two links that basically say the same things at the bottom with a full list, but as a brief overview, differences in carriages usually boiled down to the number of wheels they had, how big they were, and how they were driven. The first two being self explanatory, some carriages were closed, which is what we classically think of as a carriage, and driven by a man sitting on the outside, at the top on a little platform. However, others were more like an open convertible, and meant to be driven by those sitting inside (which meant a number of men did drive their own little open hood carriages recreationally). While others still were like actual convertibles, which could open the roof, and thus had an outside platform for a driver (usually a little lower down on the vehicle for some reason, don't ask me), but could be enjoyed open-air. I'd also like to note that while most landed gentry had some sort of carriage or so, to travel large distances, there was sort of a public transit system, where one could pay a fee to board a "mail coach" which had a fixed route to take both mail and passengers quite significant distances (like if it was common to hop on your local delivery truck to take you several towns over), or little carriages could be rented for a short term, or you could take a stage coach, which was like the mail coaches, but larger and more passenger-oriented, operating not unlike a train.

Various sources: Bridgerton, Lady Whistledown, and the Secret History of High-Society Gossip ; A Regency Era Carriage Primer - Kristen Koster ; Carriages in Regency & Victorian Times : All About Romance
 
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firejay1

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Larger Sociopolitical Environment


This section, I'll keep relatively short, because I don't want to go into a research doomspiral to last the ages.

Long story short, with the king extremely mentally ill, and the Prince Regent generally considered to be extravagant, wasteful, lecherous, and running from his father's disapproval with hedonistic pleasures, the country was not exactly doing great, despite the classy impressions we have of it now. It's true that the wealthy were... well, wealthy and managed to maintain the fancy lifestyles we now think of that era for, but a majority of the population was living in slums and struggling with quite severe poverty. Unemployment rates and crime rates were ridiculously high, in part exacerbated by a recent a population boom, and poverty was addressed pretty nominally in actual politics, while actual attempts to address the situation were largely in favor of the rich and exacerbated not only the problem of poverty itself, but also led to no small amount of discontent and unrest among the rest of the populace. This is why I say this era is actually a great time to host other types of stories in than just "upper class romances." It's also why a lot of Regency romance novels feature at least once scene of someone going, "be careful, this is a bad part of town" or going somewhere and getting robbed. Pretty much anywhere outside of the cushy, carefully curated spaces reserved for the nobility and their servants were bad parts of town, especially close to London (though further out to the countryside is portrayed as a bit more idyllic and peaceful).

Internationally, the only relations I'm going to mention are with the US and France. The Regency period nominally started between 10 and 30 years (depending on who you ask) after the end of the Revolutionary war in the US, and all things considered, Britain developed a pretty decent relationship with the US rather quickly. There WAS a war with the US during the Regency era that spanned a little over two years, but for a lot of reasons looks a lot more like the two countries cock-fighting than real major international conflict (you can disagree with me on this, and don't get me wrong, people died, just...... yeah.... I have my reasons). Generally speaking, spending time in the Americas doesn't seem to have been a major source of stigma, and one might even argue was considered a thing most people didn't do because it was far and a pain, but a potentially interesting fact about a person rather than a source of concern.

France, on the other hand, was having HUUUGE beef with Britain at the time. While one could argue this only really lasted until 1815, basically France and Britain started mad fighting since the 1790s (which considering the Regency era is sort of considered aesthetically to have gone from 1795 to 1837, despite the actual regency only lasting 1811 to 1820, comprises a not insubstantial part of that time period, no matter how you slice it), and British opinions of France were... well kinda dumb. French was still considered the language of refinement, expected for well-bred folks to know, and French fashion was greatly admired, if considered more daring (the fashion magazine of the time was called La Belle Assemblee, for goodness sakes), but there was also a great deal of suspicion directed towards anyone who came from, or was too heavily affiliated with France at the time (outside of dressmakers). A number of Regency romance novels that involve spies are mainly focused around Britain's conflict with France, and for good reason. The French Revolution lasted until 1799, and Queen Charlotte (the Prince Regent's mother) had been a friend of Marie Antoinette's, so y'all can guess how well all that went down.

I ain't fuckin digging for better sources on this yo: Regency era - Wikipedia ; Timeline of British diplomatic history - Wikipedia
 
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firejay1

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A Glossary of Terms


I'm going to be honest and admit I don't feel like transcribing the definitions of every Regency term I could find, so instead I'm going to list a few of the most common and important ones to note, and link a couple glossaries for extra terms (including some fashion and transportation terms again). (I have directly c/ped or summarized most of these)

  • Accoutrement - an additional item of equipment or dress; accessories, paraphernalia, trimmings, etc. that are not the main part of the garment
  • Annuity - a yearly salary that would continue for the rest of the receiver's lifetime
  • Apoplexy - a fit of rage (or a fit in general)
  • Assembly - a gathering for dances, conversation, card games, and to be "seen"
  • Bow Street Runners - the regarded first ever British police force, mostly an investigative body with the power to arrest, paid from the central government by a magistrate
  • Chit - a saucy, forward girl
  • Clergy - formal leaders in the Anglican church (for this time period anyways)
  • Come to call - came to visit
  • Coming out - a lady's first entry into society
  • Cotillion - a type of very complicated group dance
  • Cribbage - a card game
  • Cut direct - an intentional public snubbing
  • Dandy - a man overly concerned with his appearance
  • Drawing Room - a formal room for receiving visitors, and the chamber to which the ladies would withdraw to have tea after dinner while the men stayed at the table socializing or retired to the game room
  • Endowment - funds structured in such a way as to consistently provide an income to a given individual, family or organization
  • Entail - the inheritance of property to the next closest male
  • Fashionable Hour - the three hours between 4:30 and 7:30 pm were for the ton to walk and ride through Hyde Park to be seen and socialize
  • Footman - a male servant who worked in the home and waited on the family, often also functioning to deliver messages, accompany her and carry her packages as she shopped, and functioned as eye candy
  • Foxed - drunk
  • Governess - a woman hired to educate the children of a household, usually a gentlewoman that had to resort to working due to lack of financial support (from a husband or family). Though educated herself, she was considered lower in rank to the family she worked for, but higher in rank compared to the rest of the house servants
  • Groom - servants who cared for horses
  • Grouse - a common game bird
  • Haberdashery - a shop that carried dressmaking, ribbon, buttons, and things for sewing, as well as accessories for men
  • Harridan - a bad tempered, disreputable old lady
  • Lady's Maid - the woman who cared for the mistress's clothes, grooming, dressing, mending, and so on; considered an upper servant answerable only to her mistress; usually well-educated, aka an abigail
  • Laudanum - a mixture of brandy and opium used to treat pain or to aid sleep
  • Livery Stable - a stable where one could rent carriage horses
  • Mantuamaker - a clothes maker
  • Millinery - a shop that makes ladies' hats and bonnets, and may also sell fabric, spencers, pelisses, various hats, ribbons, handkerchiefs, and aprons
  • Minuet - a type of slow, but stately dance
  • Missish - an adjective for a girl who is naive and inexperienced in society and tends to be silly or easily cowed
  • Modiste - a fashionable and expensive lady's dressmaker, often French (or pretending to be).
  • On the Shelf - a term referring to a spinster getting too old to be considered a likely candidate for marriage
  • Parsonage - a house for clergymen
  • Patronage - the act of giving financial backing to a person or place
  • Pianoforte - issa fucking piano, man
  • Promenade - to take a walk, or a place where walks took place
  • Quadrille - a type of square dance
  • Reticule - a little cloth handbag
  • Soused - drunk
  • Tiger - a liveried groom who managed the horses when his master ascended to or descended from the seat, and sometimes took the reins to exercise the horses when the vehicle was empty
  • Ton - high society
  • Tumble - a fall, or a sexual encounter
  • Valet - a gentleman's personal manservant, who took care of all their personal grooming and clothing
  • Valise - a small piece of luggage that can be carried by hand; a traveling bag
  • Vex - to bother or annoy; (to be) suffering from something or in distress
  • Waltz - a dance considered somewhat shocking because of the contact maintained between the partners
  • Whist - a team card game
  • Workhouse - a building where poor people were given food and shelter, but able-bodied people had to work in return

More detailed glossaries: https://www.janeausten.org/regency-period-glossary.php ; Regency Terminology/Glossary - Donna Hatch ; https://sharonlathanauthor.com/regency-glossary/ ; Georgette-Heyer.com - Regency Cant and Expressions ; How to Talk Like the Ton: A Guide to Regency Lingo ; Regency Lingo ; Riding St. George: Regency Sex Terms You Won't Find in Austen ; Glossary Terms Archive - CandiceHern.com
 
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firejay1

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So I Didn't Put This in the Table of Contents


Because I just for a moment wanted to scream my personal opinions on one of my favorite authors ever - Jane Austen.

I am a massive Austen fan, so it might surprise y'all that I haven't mentioned Austen or any of her work so much as once throughout this whole process and the entire forum. This is because while Austen's work was written in and set in the Regency era, I don't consider it... a Regency romance work. Don't get me wrong, I will argue till time ends that her works are primarily romances, because... they are. But most of the stuff we typically think of as "Regency" were written by people outside of that time period and to some extent fetishizes the time, and the romance of the more pristine high society life. This realm is really more that than Austen. In fact, I'd argue the realm in particular has nothing to do with Austen other than being set in the same time period, which I would argue for Bridgerton and every other thing I put in the library, as much as I love those works. Austen's works are, for their time, modern works dissecting and criticizing the customs and prejudices of the society she found herself in, more similar to 1984 in purpose than anything I find typically labeled "Regency."

Again, this is a bit of a wish fulfillment realm, and I'm not ashamed of that, but there IS a reason I cringe very very much whenever someone brings up "Austen" and "Regency" in the same breath or website or sentence. Not that it's technically incorrect she did indeed write books SET in the Regency era, just as many people are writing books SET in the 21st century, but we don't CALL those 21st century America books, and in the same way, I think generally when you say "Regency" to reference works, what you're talking about has relatively little to do with Austen's writings (Wikipedia calls these modern vs classical Regency fiction, which I think highlights how different the two are). Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was written and published in the Regency era, just so y'all know how I feel about the Austen-Regency thing. xD

Final rando sources on Regency hobbies bc I had nowhere else to put em: The Opera in Jane Austen’s London ; To the Regency Races! ; I'd do a section on hobbies and sports like pall-mall and croquet, but I'm reaching my limit, lol, and don't know how practical it would be anyways. If you would like an extra section on hobbies on sports, pls request, I will consider it.
My list of random references grows: Nancy Regency Researcher ; When the World Came to Southeast Asia: Malacca and the Global Economy - Association for Asian Studies ; Show Me the Money: Marriage Settlements in the Regency Era ; Providing for young ladies’ future in Jane Austen's World - Random Bits of Fascination ; A Widow’s Stipend, Jointures, Dower, Settlements, and Dowry. Which is Which in the Regency? ; A Regency Title: by Writ ; Being Catholic in Regency England ; Kathleen’s Regency Glossary ; Regency Words: Swear Words ; https://www.janeausten.org/british-military-ranks.php ; Clergy in the Regency - LLWiki ; What Does It Mean to “Be Knighted”? ; Widows in Regency England by Jenna Jaxon ; Expansion to Regency Names. ; How to behave in a Regency ballroom ; Regency House Parties - Donna Hatch ; Mealtimes | The Regency Town House ; Snowed In, Regency-Style ; Gentlemen, Gentry and Regency Era Social Class - Random Bits of Fascination ; Baronetcy for Sale ; Regency Servants – Jane Austen's World ; Regency Era Servants: A Primer by Kristen Koster ; Nancy Regency Researcher ; The Regency Way of Death: Ladies at Funerals? ; Mourning and Burial Practices during the Regency - Sharon Lathan, Novelist ; Regency Trivia – Concepts That Didn’t Exist During the Regency ; Reading the Regency - Gentlemen's occupations - The Law and Medicine - Wattpad ; Illegitimacy in Regency England ; You Bastard! Illegitimacy During the Regency ; The History of the Chandelier | Hankering for History ; lighting in the Regency Era – Jane Austen's World ; Lighting the Regency Night (Things We Take for Granted) « Risky Regencies ; Lighting the House in the Regency Period ; Sealing … Wax? ; Highland Clearances | Scottish history ; Georgian Era Occupations | Occupations of Middle Class, Upper Class ; Regency shopping Fashion & Fabric ; Regency Era Letter Folding Tutorial - Jane Austen Style
 
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