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The Georgian Era
Both my Lady Anne Series and the Awaiting Series take place in the Georgian era, ‘Lady Anne’ in England in 1786, and ‘Awaiting’ in Germany and England in 1795. Though much of the following information refers specifically to England in this period, the histories of England and Germany were very much entangled, with the royal family of both countries coming from the House of Hanover. Thus, you cannot talk about the royal family of one country without referring to the other. Culture was another area where the two countries crossed back and forth, with English music being influenced heavily by German and Austrian composers and musicians.» The Georgian Period
The Georgian period in
English history is officially
rendered as the years between 1714 and 1830, a span that encompasses
of King George I, II, III, and of course, the notorious IV. ‘IV’ refers
man more commonly known as Prinny, the Prince Regent, who had the
the crown from 1811 to 1820. George the Third died in 1820, and Prinny
the throne, becoming George IV.
Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark takes place in April of 1786, while George III was still sane and in command of all of his faculties. This wouldn't last long, for in 1788, the king has a bout of 'madness'(typified by erratic behavior, frenzied speech, among other things) from the (reputed) illness, porphyria which was to plague him throughout his life, and though he recovered that time, when it recurred in 1811, he never recovered.
King George III's sovereignty is remarkable for a number of events. He reigned from 1760 – 1820, or almost sixty years, a remarkable span. Sure he was crazy for some of it, but heck, nine years Regency out of that time still leaves him a long period of influence. But there is so much more that makes the period amazing than just the longevity of the king. In those years England lost the American colonies, was instrumental in defeating Napoleon, saw the rise of great military leaders, (Nelson and Wellington, among them), and George III purchased Buckingham House (now Buckingham Palace, perhaps one of the most recognizable houses of royalty in the world). The king apparently never took a mistress and spawned 15 children… all with his wife. England would be a different place even today without his time on the throne.
What follows is a kind of ‘snapshot’ of England, and English culture in 1786. I’ll add more from time to time!
Many readers are familiar with the light, airy fashions of the Regency period; high-waisted, form-fitting gowns, reticules, and natural hair. I think we appreciate the look because it is certainly more accessible for us. We can imagine wearing those clothes every day.
But flash back twenty or thirty years to the last quarter of the 18th Century. The huge shift from the ornate wigs, wide panniers on gowns, face paint and hair powder of the early 1700s to the more natural look fashionable at the end of the century accelerated during the latter half of the century. By 1786, the year the Lady Anne series begins, many men had discarded wearing wigs, and even hair powder was not de rigeur. Ladies’ gowns still had full skirts and ‘bum rolls’, but not the enormous panniers, or side hoops, of years gone by. The movement toward a more natural silhouette for women had begun, but there were still signs of the times: jeweled stomachers, lots of heavy brocades and layers of petticoats, skirts, bodices, etc..
Here is a lovely portrait from about the right time period:
By: Sir Joshua Reynolds
In this painting, you can see the woman’s beautiful bronze silk (it looks to be, anyway) gown, pulled up and fastened to reveal her filmy petticoat. She appears to have a lace fichu and yellow gloves. Her hair is powdered, though powder would dwindle in popularity within a few years of this portrait. More information on Georgian Fashion:
For a wonderful Glossary of words used in styles of the Georgian era and many images, visit the Georgian Timeline of Fashion and Events, a part of Romance Reader at Heart website.
For an explanation of the shifts in fashion during the century, visit this page of We Make History. There are also many more portraits that give an exquisite visual guide to the look of the era.
For some amazing close-up views of 18th Century gowns, go to this page on Anne Bissonnette’s costume website.
More Georgian Fashion Pictures
If you'd like to see more beautiful Georgian fashions, check out this great site:
» We Make History - Georgian Ladies
Georgian Timeline of Fashion and Events, a part of Romance Reader at Heart website.
For an explanation of the shifts in fashion during the century, visit this page of We Make History. There are also many more portraits that give an exquisite visual guide to the look of the era. For some amazing close-up views of 18th Century gowns, go to this page on Anne Bissonnette’s costume website.
Depending upon who you listen to, the birth of the modern novel occurred during George III’s life, if not exactly during his reign. Though an argument could be made that Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726/1735) were the first ‘novels’, many prefer to name Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740) and Thomas Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749) as more properly the start of the English novel.
But in any event, by 1786 the novel was well-established and growing in popularity. In a couple of years the bored, childless wife of a Bath newspaper man would publish a gothic novel, The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne: A Highland Story. She would be better remembered for her novel The Mysteries of Udolpho. That female author was Mrs. Ann Radcliffe, and she was following the Gothic tradition of the novel The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (24 September 1717 – 2 March 1797)
Lady Anne, though very well-educated by her father, the Earl of Harecross, is no scholar. She enjoys reading fiction as much as more learned books, and her favorite novel is probably Evelina:Or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World (1778) or Cecilia: Memoirs of an Heiress (1782) by Mrs. Frances Burney (Fanny Burney). Endlessly fascinated by human beings, their variety, idiosyncrasies and interaction, Anne enjoys novels as a way of peering into human life on a personal level.
Frances Burney -- Madame d'Arblay,(1782)
By Edward Francisco Burney
(June 13, 1752 - January 6, 1840)
Frances Burney was born on June 13, 1752, in King's Lynn, Norfolk. From the time young Fanny learned her alphabet, she was a writer, composing odes, plays, songs, farces, and poems at an early age. She burned them all at age 15, most likely under the influence of her stepmother, who didn't think it appropriate for women to write. But Frances Burney's urge to write could not be stifled. At age 16, she began the diary that would chronicle personal and public events from the early reign of George III to the dawn of the Victorian age.
... (Excerpt from McGill University web site)...
» Click Here to find out more about Frances Burney.
Anyone who has studied the paintings
of the 18th
Century has seen them… the painted portraits of men in wigs that have a
of sausage curls in stiff order down the sides and a queue or bagged
the back, and the women in piled up gray-haired wigs of elaborate size
intricacy, all topped by a little bonnet or plume. But that is not the
total of portraiture in the 18th Century. There was a shift,
reflected in both art and fashion, beginning about the middle of the
and advancing more quickly toward the end, toward more natural
posing subjects outdoors, or with classical elements like columns and
This was the birth of Neoclassicism.
Excerpted from Humanities Web piece
“The 17th century examined physical reality, while the 18th century examined the mind. Fantasies, reveries, ideas, and ideals of all kinds are imbedded in the diverse images of this period. Guided by the intellect, art throughout most of the century is characterised by an artifice that marks it and its creators as urbane, sophisticated, and educated. But the journey into the human psyche eventually ferreted out darker, more uncontrollable emotions, which the revolutions affirmed were hidden beneath the thinnest veneer of civilisation. Even Neo-classicism, which revived the ordered and rational forms of antique art, can be viewed as embodying powerful emotions. As the age of Romanticism dawned, life, death, and human experience of all kinds became a matter of feelings, not logic.” Katya Gifford, Editor of Humanities Web. For more information, visit Humanities Web’s section on Neoclassicism.
A couple of notable English painters:
Notice: The images of these paintings are from the Web Gallery of Art, a glorious repository of both images and information on art and artists, I am using them in accordance with their legal warning from their website: Legal Questions: The Web Gallery of Art is copyrighted as a database. Images and documents downloaded from this database can only be used for educational and personal purposes. Distribution of the images in any form is prohibited without the authorization of their legal owner. I am using these images for educational purposes only, and the images of these paintings must not be copied or printed from here.
Important Highlights of the Late Georgian Period
Slavery & England in the Late Georgian Period
There never was a consensus in England about slavery or the slave trade. As shameful a period as it was, in a time when life was shorter, morality was more loosely interpreted. Many who were considered the leaders of morality did not completely disagree with slavery, and would simply have liked to make the trade more humane.
But… there were many English men and women who were stirred to action by the awful stories of slave ships, and the treatment of slaves, and this period saw the birth of the abolition movement in England. There are so many fascinating stories of this time related to slavery and the abolition movement, and I’d like to relate some of them beginning with…
The story of Dido Elizabeth Bell, and how she influenced laws about slavery in England. Many years ago (pre-internet) I caught a glimpse, while watching some History Channel show or a BBC documentary, of a portrait of two young women, one white and one black, from the Georgian era. I thought about the portrait on and off over the years, and it even influenced me to write my last Regency novel for Zebra, entitled Lady Savage (the ‘Lady Savage’ of the title was the young white woman, who had grown up in Jamaica). Though I didn’t know it at the time, the portrait I saw and remembered so vividly was of Lady Elizabeth Murray and her cousin, Dido Elizabeth Belle.
Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray
Dido Elizabeth Belle, born about 1761 (the same year as my fictional Lady Anne Addison) was the daughter of a Royal Navy captain and a woman who was likely a slave. Dido’s mother’s name, according to birth records, was Maria Belle.
Though her life as a kind of ward of the Earl of Mansfield is remarkable enough - she was educated with her cousin, Lady Elizabeth, and acted as a companion to the girl, and apparently as a kind of secretary to the earl – what may be surmised as her profound effect on the earl is more historically significant.
The earl became the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, and in that capacity ruled in a precedent-making case of a man who claimed (with the support of abolitionists) that he could not be taken in slavery from England. Somersett’s Case changed history. Mansfield agreed with those who argued that James Somersett (or Somerset… the spelling is given both ways, variously) was a free man, saying, "... The state of slavery is of such a nature, that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political; but only positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasion, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory: it's so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from a decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged." (This quote is taken from the Wikipedia article on Somersett
For a more thorough look at the Somersett case – and what Mansfield really meant by his sumation - » Click Here! (It will come up as a pdf document) that details Mansfield’s ruling.
For a fascinating look at England and the slave trade, check out this link!
© 2007-2009 Donna Lea Simpson | All Rights Reserved | Updated: March 19,