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Showing posts from August, 2013

Tea for Two - Or More

The afternoon tea party seems as British as crumpets and the Union Jack. But the custom didn't really start to develop in England until the 19th century.
Tea drinking itself was popular in Britain long before the Regency. Charles II’s Portuguese wife, Catherine of Braganza, enjoyed a good cup of tea. She even brought a casket of tea leaves with her when she came to England to be married in 1662. She is considered England’s first tea-drinking Queen.

Legend has it that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, came up with the idea of serving afternoon tea in the early 1800s. It was a bit of a stretch in those days between meals, so Anna asked for tea and a bite to eat in the late afternoon to keep her hunger at bay. Reportedly, she also took advantage of the Earl of Sandwich’s invention – two slices of bread with a filling in-between.

It wasn't long before this afternoon tea break became a good excuse for inviting some friends over for socializing. How early this custom began is unclear, …

The Whole Tooth and Nothing But the Tooth

Last week as I was sitting in my least favorite piece of furniture – a dentist’s chair – I couldn't help but reflect that if you (like me) are not a fan of going to the dentist now, you would've absolutely dreaded it during the Regency. 

Reporting pain in any tooth to a Regency-era dentist would most likely result in having the offending tooth pulled. And you needn't have worried about a dental hygienist scolding you for not flossing regularly, because there were no hygienists to coach you on preventative care. 

Dentists in the early 19th century dentists were often termed “tooth-pullers” or “tooth-drawers” because they yanked a lot of teeth. Once your decayed teeth were removed you could, if you had the money, get yourself a nice set of false teeth. Realistic-looking false teeth could be made from ivory or whalebone. (George Washington had several sets of false teeth and despite the myths, none of them were wooden.)
A more durable and expensive option was a denture made from…

A Stitch in Time

If you are like me and many of my friends, you just can’t relax for long without a colorful strand of yarn threaded through your fingers and a project to knit or crochet.
Hand knitting and crocheting, used to make sweaters, blankets and other protective clothing, were once necessary skills. It was economical to be able to weave strands of wool or yarn into fabric without a loom. The difference between the two crafts is slight – knitters typically use two needles to make their projects while crocheters use a single hook. Today knitting and crocheting are regarded as hobbies - still practical but also satisfying, with a social element thrown in. You can find knitting and crocheting circles in almost every city or region, proof that the practitioners of these crafts like to chat as they work.
Both knitting and crocheting existed during the Regency, though depictions of fashionable ladies enjoying these pastimes are rare. Accomplished young ladies were expected to learn fine needlework ski…

There Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime Blues: The Summer of 1811 and King George III’s Final Decline

The 1950s rockabilly song “Summertime Blues” is the lament of a teenage boy who has to sacrifice his freedom for a job one summer. As long as he has to work, he knows that there “ain’t no cure” for his blues.
But during the summer of 1811 King George III was suffering from another type of blues, for which there really was no cure. During that first year of the Regency, August marked the Court’s final acceptance of the King’s mental incapacity and the certainty that he’d never be a functional king again. That month the old King’s apartments at Windsor Castle were padded, signifying that no one expected him to ever regain his sanity or resume his duties as the ruling monarch of Great Britain. And indeed, he never did.




That August renovation of the King’s quarters marked a melancholy milestone; prior to 1811 King George had weathered several bouts of what appeared to be madness, but he’d always recovered his wits. However, in November of 1810 King George had a particularly bad spell from…