Top Ten Things That Make A Regency A Regency

The Regency historical romance. What could be grander? But would it be a Regency if it didn’t contain at least one of the following?

1818 Guide to Cravat Styles

10. Cravats

Can anyone think of the Regency period without imagining all those handsome men in cravats? Perhaps I’ve watched one too many Jane Austen movies (not that such a thing is possible), but for me, those crisp, white folds signal early 19th century like nothing else. Or, in the case of The Demon Duke, a carefully crafted black masterpiece, complete with skull pin. Ah, a fine Regency gentleman, clothed in boots, breeches, waistcoat, and cravat. Sign me up, please!

9. Titles, titles, everywhere…

Speaking of gentlemen, when we crack open a Regency romance, we find dukes and earls and viscounts and marquesses. We find dowager duchesses and countesses and baronesses and more. And we love it. Sure, there are misters and misses mixed in, and those of no title at all. But for many of us, the title somehow gives that magical, fairytale essence we love. Who cares if there were really fewer than two dozen dukes in all of England? I, for one, can never get enough. Hence my new Put Up Your Dukes series.

By Unknown 1823 artist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
1823 Ballgown
8. Those empire gowns

Who doesn’t dream of strolling through gardens while clad in a muslin gown, complete with a jaunty spencer? Or of twirling around the ballroom in the finest silk, with a high waist but low neckline, capturing the attention of every rogue in the room with delicately gloved hands, ringlets surrounding one’s face, and an admirable figure? Yeah, okay, so larger ladies like me might have struggled in such styles, but we can fancy ourselves a Regency-era Cinderella, can’t we?

7. A grand ball

Speaking of ballrooms, if you’re dancing in one, it must be at a ball, right? Is there anything more romantic than waltzing about in the arms of the object of your affections? Of spying him or her across the room and exchanging a quick but meaningful glance? Of perhaps escaping to the gardens or the library for a not-so-innocent interlude? There isn’t for me. In my mind, in my reading, I can dance like I’m on one of those dancing competitions – and winning. We won’t talk about real life skills.

Hyde Park and west Mayfair

6. Mayfair

Ah, Mayfair. That most delightful (read: rich) West End of London. Grosvenor Square, Berkeley Square, Hanover Square… Squares-O-Rama, all featuring the finest townhouses and perhaps the opportunity to bump into a beaux at Gunther’s Ices, Bullock’s Egyptian hall, or even Hatchard’s bookshop.

5. Hyde Park

Right next to Mayfair, of course, is Hyde Park – the place to see and be seen in the late afternoon, at least for London’s elite, especially along Rotten Row. Can’t you just picture handsome lords riding along on fine horses, horses perhaps procured from Tattersall’s, tipping their hats to ladies strolling or riding by? Could there be anything sexier? (Don’t answer that; I’m lost in my Regency fantasy here.)

1816 Phaeton

4. Phaetons or barouches

And speaking of riding, one simply must have the finest carriage to show off one’s wealth and status – much like owning an expensive luxury car today. The most luxurious barouche was a good, solid, Mercedes-level vehicle, while the elegantly outfitted phaeton more a hot sports car – perhaps a Lamborghini (or Lambo, as my son calls them). Not all would have been at those levels, of course – but let’s just go with it. It’s all about the fantasy.

3. The ton

Even fantasies have to face reality sometimes, though, right? And for many a couple wanting a moment alone, that reality would have come in the form of the ton, the top echelon of society eager to judge the behaviors and actions of others, to determine who should move in the finest circles, and who should not. Were you unlucky enough to be caught in a compromising position, you might find yourself in need of #2.

 By T. Malton (British Library [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Many a Regency couple married at St. James’ in Hanover Square
2. A special wedding license

Ah, nothing sounds more Regency that a gentleman procuring a special license in order to wed. Special licenses were rare, hard to come by, and expensive, so what better way to emphasize the hero’s status than by his ability to acquire such a license? Normal people had to wait for the banns to be called, a process which took weeks and during which people could raise objections to the union. And who’s got time for that if #1 is involved?

1. A scandal

Ah, yes. A scandal! What could make a Regency romance juicier than an event of scandalizing proportions? Not much, which is why they’re so common, I’m betting. There are few things that truly cause romantic scandals in our 21st century day and age, so how mesmerizing is it to ponder an era in which being caught alone with a gentleman could lose you your reputation, in which slights of honor could mean being called out to a duel, in which breaking any of the many social rules and regulations could have effects nearly unfathomable now? It’s what makes such tales exciting – the scandal itself, and then the ways our hero, heroine, or both, work to overcome them.

A Regency wedding proposal – or perhaps a tete-a-tete in a garden?

What would the Regency be without the Regent himself? Prince George, soon to be George IV.

Now of course many a fine Regency romance deviates from this list, either in part or in whole. It’s become much more common to feature locales other than London, heroes other than titled gentlemen, and heroines more likely to serve as spies than sip tea. We’ve got Regencies in Scotland, Ireland, and India. We’ve got thieves and vicars and merchants as heroes; governesses and actresses and seamstresses as heroines.

The expansion of the Regency romance is exciting and inspiring.

Still, for those of us who love the Regency era romance, these Top Ten are those little symbols, those specific ideas, that make us both smile and sigh and feel right at home among those dukes and debutantes, and make me want to always #ReadARegency.

At least me.

How about you? What would you add or delete from this list?  


2 Replies to “Top Ten Things That Make A Regency A Regency”

  1. Couldn’t have put it better! I’m a country and horse/carriage riding/driving dame at that, so London and the usual high-spots tend toward short soirees in the city and more sporting, daring, scary murders abound along with heroic and rakish dukes and earls in my books. But that’s where the majority of the aristocracy whiled their days in escaping the dreaded marriage seeking mamas! 😉

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