Cara King, Author

What is the English Regency?

Do you ever wonder why so many things are “Regency”?  Regency romance, Regency china, Regency furniture, Regency dance, Regency architecture -- so what is the Regency, and why is it so special?

There was a French Regency, but the Regency most people mean is the English Regency -- the period from 1811 to 1820 when King George III went permanently mad, and his son (the Prince of Wales, also named George) became Regent in his place.  In other words, King George III was still king, but he didn’t do anything anymore.  Okay, I hear he talked to trees, and things like that, but politically he was no longer in power.  The Prince Regent, also known simply as the Regent, was the one who ruled (for most intents and purposes.) 

Yeah, I can hear you muttering, “So?  Why the china?  Why the romances?”  Well, let’s put it like this: the Prince Regent, nicknamed Prinny (also spelled Prinney), knew how to have a good time.  He ate (a lot), he drank (a lot), he had two wives at the same time, and he drove the nation into debt by buying way too much stuff (like an astounding art collection, and a plethora of palaces).  Prinny was a huge man in more ways than one.   He made Beau Brummell famous, and Brummell made bathing fashionable.  Prinny and Brummell set the tone for the Regency: extreme elegance, plus vast self-indulgence.

Basically, the Regency was party time.  The rich people hadn’t yet figured out they were supposed to feel guilty about being rich, so they got to enjoy it all with clear consciences.  Even better -- they were no longer wearing silly wigs!  They had servants to do the dirty work, their clothes were often comfortable, they had newspapers and silk and novels and oranges and plays and a thousand types of alcoholic beverages, and they even had the beginnings of indoor plumbing.  England wasn’t yet overrun by factories and reformers, so there was nothing to mar the fun had by Lord EverythingIsMine.

So is that it?  Well, no.  The extended Regency period (approximately 1780 to 1830) brought us the romantic movement, and along with it a literary renaissance that included wicked Lord Byron, dreamy Shelley, hallucinating Coleridge, haunted Blake, witty Jane Austen, and epic Sir Walter Scott.  The Regency was also the time of the Napoleonic Wars, which created heroes like the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson.  But during the Regency, war didn’t mean you had to sit at home and watch CNN all day.  Nope -- still party time.  To the music of Mozart and Beethoven, the aristocracy flirted and schemed and learned the licentious waltz.

There are also a lot of famous fictional people who lived during the extended Regency period.  These include the Scarlet Pimpernel, who was first invented in fiction by Baroness Orczy, and popularized by many film and television adaptations.  Horatio Hornblower, Aubrey and Maturin, and Richard Sharpe are all famous fictional Regency denizens.  And Georgette Heyer set most of her ever-popular historical romances during the Regency.

The Regency still holds the imagination nowadays.  There are Regency mysteries, Regency fantasies, and many kinds of Regency romances -- not to mention plenty of movies and television shows set during the Regency!  (For more information on them, go to my Regency Movie page.)  There are also Regency dance groups throughout several countries.  The Regency is alive and well, and likely to stay that way!

Home     Books     What's the Regency?    Regency Info     Movies     Bio     Links

Last updated 18 August 2005.

All text and images copyright 2005 by Cara King