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Showing posts from July, 2013

The Royal Birth of 1817

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, painted by George Dawe, 1817 (Wikimedia Commons). 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 Le

Pistols for Two, Breakfast for One – Part 2

"Eugene Onegin and Vladimir Lensky's duel", illustration by Ilya  Repin (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).  No discussion of early 19 th 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 fir

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 18 th 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. Regency bucks who aspired to duel with swords could profit by taking lessons at Henry Angelo's fencing academy on Carlisle Street in London. This watercolor depiction of a lesson at Angelo’s was painted by Thomas Rowlandson in 1787, and is ti

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.   1799 Caricature by Isaac Cruikshank, satirizing the fashions worn by high-society Parisian women.  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

Regency Superhero: Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson

Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson, 1758–1805 , by Lemuel Francis Abbott., dated 1800. Note the empty sleeve pinned to his chest. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.) 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.   Cartoon satirizing Napoleon's plans to invade Britain, from the early 19th century. Originally scanned from  Vaisseau de Ligne , Time Life, 1979.  (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)  In the autumn of 1805 Napoleon teamed his French Navy with the Spanish Navy, with the goal of clearing the English Channel of a