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Showing posts from July, 2013

The Royal Birth of 1817

Last week’s birth of George Alexander Louis to Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, made headlines around the globe. Though the future can be anyone’s guess, baby Prince George seems destined to become the King of England one day. He is the third in the line of succession to the current monarch Queen Elizabeth II, following his grandfather Prince Charles and his father Prince William.
There was also a royal birth during the Regency era. But that birth, which occurred almost 200 years ago, was a cause for mourning instead of celebration. It also also concerned the birth of an heir, and what happened had far-reaching consequences.

Before we get to the birth, though, we have to start with a royal wedding. In May of 1816, Princess Charlotte, daughter and only child of the Prince Regent, cajoled her father into allowing her to marry the man of her own choosing, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.It was a happy occasion that led to what was by all accounts a happy marri…

Pistols for Two, Breakfast for One – Part 2

No discussion of early 19th century duels would be complete without a mention of the Burr-Hamilton duel, even though it took place across the pond in the newly-liberated American colonies. Alexander Hamilton was a close friend of George Washington and a leader among the Federalist party; Aaron Burr was the Vice President of the United States and leader of the Democrats.
The enmity between the two men went back many years, but the immediate cause of the quarrel was a letter Hamilton wrote in which he described Burr as a “dangerous man” who “ought not to be trusted with the reins of government.” Burr demanded a retraction, and when that didn't happen he challenged Hamilton to a duel.  They met at Weehawken, New Jersey, on July 11, 1804.
According to contemporary accounts, Hamilton took the first shot and fired into the air above Burr’s head. Burr fired back at Hamilton, hitting him in the stomach.  Mortally wounded, Hamilton died the next day. Though Burr was charged with murder in b…

Pistols for Two, Breakfast for One – Part 1

If you read Regency romances chances are you will sooner or later be drawn into a duel, or at least an account of one. Though it was illegal, dueling was a popular way for Regency males to display their athletic prowess, respond to an insult or settle a debt of honor.
In the 18th century, duels were often fought in London’s Hyde Park. But as the city grew, Primrose Hill (and nearby Chalk Farm) to the north of London became a popular spot for these sometimes deadly encounters. Primrose Hill was a wooded area, remote from the city but still easy to reach by carriage. According to the Camden History Society, at least seven duelists died on or in the vicinity of Primrose Hill from 1790 to 1837, with 25 exchanges of gunfire recorded.
Duels were fought for the slimmest of reasons. In 1803 one man died and another was severely wounded in a duel that was apparently the result of a disagreement between two dogs. Apparently Lieutenant-Colonel Montgomery and Captain Macnamara were walking their d…

Fascinated by Fascinators

Have you ever worn a fascinator? It’s similar to a hat, minus the traditional crown or brim. It's usually worn at a rakish angle, and it can feature a small attached veil and/or feathers, ribbons, jewels or other types of trim. I think of it as a hat's less-inhibited, cheeky cousin - lighter and more fun. 
Although currently popular, fascinators in some form have existed for centuries. During the Regency and even earlier, women often wore jeweled headbands in their coiffures and added ornaments such as ostrich plumes or flowers.  

Similar hat-alternatives are worn today, and they are nowhere more in evidence than at the annual Royal Ascot races in Berkshire, England. In fact, hats for women are part of the dress code for this event, which dates back to 1711. The tradition of wearing flamboyant hats to the Ascot races was highlighted in the Ascot Gavotte scene in the 1964 movie My Fair Lady. The hats designed by Cecil Beaton were so large it was hard to see who was under them!

Regency Superhero: Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson

You may not think that a one-armed, one-eyed man born the son of a poor country parson could be a hero, but to the English populace in 1805 Admiral Lord Nelson was nothing less than a superhero.
From the last years of the 18th century well into the 19th, England was locked in a titanic struggle with Napoleon. During these war years, especially 1803 to 1805, the French Emperor planned to invade England. All of Britain was on high alert, especially those who lived in the coastal areas.  

In the autumn of 1805 Napoleon teamed his French Navy with the Spanish Navy, with the goal of clearing the English Channel of any Royal Navy ships so an invasion could take place. In what came to be known as the Battle of Trafalgar, a Franco-Spanish flotilla of 33 ships sailed north around Cape Trafalgar, at the southwest tip of Spain, on October 21. They were met and soundly defeated by 27 British vessels under Nelson's command. While 23 ships in the French and Spanish fleets were lost in the battle…