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    K I D S
    P A G E

    Made with Notepad

    Not Just For Kids

    The English Regency

    The Regency Era is the name of that period in history following the American and French Revolutions of the Georgian period, and occurring before the Victorian period. Officially spanning the years from 1811 to 1820 (but often extended to the years 1795-1830), the Regency Era gets its name from the Regent Prince (George IV) who took control of England after his father, the king, went insane. The English Regency coincided with the Empire period in France and the Federalist period in the United States.

    The Regency period evokes thoughts of empire-waist dresses, poke bonnets, "poet shirts," tailcoats and top hats. It was a time of powerful Navies and Naval heroes. It was also a time of culture, prosperity, elegance, and neoclassical aesthetics. Some of the most beautiful music in history was composed during the Regency period. Beethoven, Haydn, Rossini, Liszt, Schubert, and Mendelssohn all wrote classical music during this time. English country dances were a popular pastime, as were games like charades and cards. Outdoor activities included horseback riding and cricket.

    London became the center of fashion and culture. The years of the Regency were a time of lavish social display and indulgence by the upper classes in London, and by the aristocratic families living in their great country houses in the provinces. They seemed to pay little attention to the hardships of the working class, or to the political upheavals that were taking place elsewhere in the world. Social connections were considered very important, everyone dressed in the best of taste, and strict codes of etiquette and conduct were followed. The Grand Ball - a lavish formal dance - was considered to be the "black tie affair" of the era.

    In art and literature, it was the Romantic Age. Painters sought out the spectacular aspects of Nature. William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats wrote lyrical poetry. Lord Byron became a literary and social celebrity in Regency London. The Regency marked the advent of the novel as we know it today. Jane Austen's works in particular - Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Mansfield Park - are wonderfully accurate views into the life and times of the Regency era, richly written with wit and humor. Later, in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, Charlotte and Emily Bronte wrote about the wild, windswept moor country of northern England in the early 19th century.

    Regency Timeline

  • 1799: Napoleon seized control of France.
  • 1801-1809: Thomas Jefferson is President of the U.S.
  • 1803: Louisiana Purchase.
  • 1804-1805: Lewis and Clark Expedition.
  • 1805-1812: Napoleon conquers most of Western Europe except Britain.
  • 1809-1817: James Madison is President of the U.S.
  • 1812-1814: The War of 1812 between America and Great Britain.
  • 1815: Napoleon is defeated and imprisoned on the tiny island of St. Helena.
  • 1825: The first passenger trains start running in Britain.
  • 1830: The Industrial Revolution is in full swing.

    Regency Fashion

    The Regency dress is both light-weight and light-colored. The full skirt has a high waist attached just under the bustline, frequently covered with a band of trim. The skirt can be gathered, flared, or straight, often with a small train. The bodice, which can be gathered or snug, has a deep neckline. The sleeves are usually short and puffy, but can be long and tiered. These gowns were often worn with a short Spencer jacket (daytime), a shawl (evening wear), and long white gloves. Ladies had ringlets showing beneath poke bonnets and turbans. Shoes were flat-heeled and often resembled slippers, made of soft silk or satin with a bit of embroidery on the toes. A typical man's outfit for both day and evening was a waistcoat and cutaway jacket with tails at the back. Cloth trousers instead of satin knee breeches were introduced for evening wear. The two-cornered cocked hat and top hat of brushed beaver were popular, as were neckcloths and side whiskers. This "poet shirt" with billowy sleeves dates from the 1820s, when Romantic poets wore their collars open in defiance of conventional fashion.

    Beau Brummel

    George Bryan "Beau" Brummel (1778-1840) was the most famous of the dashing young men in the Regency era. He was not of aristocratic birth, but was drawn to the upper class lifestyle. Brummel became acquainted with aristocratic gentlemen, who were impressed with his wit and dress. Brummel was a fashion trend setter. It was he who first wore black cloth pantaloons or trousers in evening dress instead of satin knee breeches. He also introduced an evening coat of dark blue cloth with white waistcoat. Brummel gave great attention to neckwear, especially how to tie them. He knew probably hundreds of ways to tie his neckcloth. Brummel eventually depleted his funds due to his lavish lifestyle and reckless gambling, and lost his high-placed friends. He insulted the Prince Regent with his biting wit and was forced to leave England for France in 1816. Brummel lost his interest in clothes and became slovenly, despite the fact that he had once been so meticulous about personal appearance. Brummel died a pauper in 1840.


    It was not compulsory, either legally or socially, for children to attend school in Regency England. They could easily be educated at home. Upper class children were taught by a governess or tutor.

    For boys, boarding schools and universities (such as Eton, Oxford or Cambridge) were the staging grounds where they made friends and developed connections that would aid them later in life. Their curriculum was heavily weighted towards the classics - the languages and literature of Ancient Greece and Rome. They also studied mathematics, law, philosophy, and modern history.

    There were few boarding schools for girls, so a girl's education was taken almost entirely at home. Ladies did not attend University, and their studies were very different. They learned French, drawing, dancing, music, and the use of globes. They were also taught practical skills, such as sewing, embroidery, and accounts.

    The following quote is from Chapter 29 of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen:

    "No governess! How was that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without a governess! I never heard of such a thing. Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education."

    Elizabeth could hardly help smiling as she assured her that had not been the case.

    "Then, who taught you? who attended to you? Without a governess, you must have been neglected."

    "Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us as wished to learn never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary."


    If you have an interest in Regency history and fashion, English society, or Jane Austen novels, be sure to check these out:

    The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England: From 1811-1901, by Kristine Hughes. (While it is not an authoritative reference, this book is good for browsing. It has interesting chapters on food, clothing, family life, work, education, religion, leisure, social and political history, etc. It is slanted more towards the Victorian era but does contain some Regency info. However, there isn't a lot of specific detail, and some facts weren't dated so it was difficult to determine if they pertained to the Regency or Victorian era.)

    What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, by Daniel Pool. (This is a better resource than the writer's guide above, but it still concentrates more on the Victorian rather than the Regency era. Chapters cover such topics as "Currency," "The Governess," "Society," "Schools," "Tea," "Servants," "Women's Clothing," "Men's Clothing," and "Occupations." Over one-third of the book is devoted to an extensive glossary, bibliography, and index.)

    English Society in the Eighteenth Century (Penguin Social History of Britain), by Roy Porter. (If What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew left you wishing for more specialized information about this age, I recommend this book. It is a more serious study of English life in the 18th century. You will find more enjoyment in reading 18th century works after being educated by this book. And if you are a fan of period films, this book will make you take off the rose-colored glasses and open up your eyes to what life back then was really like!)

    An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England, by Venetia Murray. (An entertaining book with lots of interesting little anecdotes about the lives of the richest and noblest members of British society during the Regency period. It's a gossipy account rather than a historically accurate reference, but general readers will find it interesting and entertaining.)

    Regency Etiquette: The Mirror of Graces, 1811, by Lady of Distinction. (A reprint of a book that offered advice for the well bred miss in Regency Times. It gives a very revealing look into washing, exercise, diet, dancing, dress, and general deportment of the Regency period. If you are a Jane Austen fan, this guide will help you understand the motivations of her female characters.)

    Empire Fashions, by Tom Tierney, Dover Publications. (This coloring book panorama offers a fascinating survey of the clothing styles worn during and after the Revolution and in the Napoleonic era. 45 detailed illustrations with captions include claw-hammer frock coats and vests for the well-dressed man, loose pantaloons and shorter skirts for the working classes, high-waisted promenade gowns for fashionable ladies, and dozens of period accessories.)

    Fashions of the Regency Period Paper Dolls, by Tom Tierney, Dover Publications. (Two dolls with 30 costumes, all carefully researched and accurately rendered. Wardrobes include chemises, Empire-style gowns, spencer jackets, frock coats, trousers, hats, boots, shawls, etc.)

    Empire Costumes Paper Dolls, by Tom Tierney, Dover Publications. (Elegant costumes for a wealthy couple of the French Empire (1804-1814) featuring 16 costumes: high-waisted gowns, shawls, hats, bonnets, gloves and accessories for the lady; and pantaloons, coats, knee breeches, and black slippers for the man. Fashionable samples of day wear, court attire and wardrobe accessories will delight fashion lovers, costume historians, and paper doll devotees of all ages.)


    Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma are excellent film adaptations of Jane Austen's books, which provide entertaining insight into daily life during the Regency period. Other good Regency-era movies include: Jane Eyre, the Hornblower series, and the new Master and Commander movie.

    (Scott Hinkle's Regency Era Primer with period illustrations and articles on Ladies' and Gentlemen's Clothing of the Regency Era.)
    (The premier Internet resource for Regency enthusiasts: Politics & World Events, Science & Technology, Religion, Art, Literature, Music, Famous Personalities, Daily Life, Fashions, Hairstyles, Recipes, and more, including a Regency Dictionary, Movies, and Special Events.)
    (A Regency Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashion, Personalities, Inventions, Learning, the Domestic Arts, Matters Military and Political.)
    (Regency Definitions, Era, People, Publications and Letters, Transportation, Organizations, Dance, and Fashions.)
    (A lovely website featuring vintage images and Regency gown patterns, from homeschool mom Jennie Chancey.)
    (Patterns for Regency dresses, gowns, spencer jacket, accessories, reticule, riding coat, cape, tailcoat, waistcoat, Dragoon uniform - all based on original garments, patterns, paintings and books.)
    (Austentation Regency Accessories, including information regarding manners and etiquette of the regency period.)
    (La Mode Bagatelle's Regency Wardrobe.)
    (Jessamyn's Regency Costume Companion.)
    (Catherine Decker's Regency Fashion Page.)
    (Regency and Empire Fashion Costume Links.)
    (Friends of the English Regency.)
    (The Arizona Regency Society is comprised of like-minded souls of various walks of life who all have one common obsession; the Regency period.)

    See Also:

    Pride and Prejudice
    A Regency Ball
    History of Costume: Part 1
    History of Costume: Part 2


    These pages are a continuous work in progress.
    Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
    All rights reserved.


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