Experiencing the Regency at First Hand
Stella Tillyard identified eight moments in the nine-year Regency period that caused consternation and amazement, including the assassination of the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, in 1812, the Luddite riots of 1811-12 and the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. This prompted me to browse through a Regency timeline and think about those events and experiences I would have been interested to see at first hand:
The publication of Pride and Prejudice in 1813 and of Frankenstein in 1819 and the poetry of Keats and Byron and Shelley.
1812 The waltz is introduced into London ballrooms and gas lighting is introduced into main London streets.
1814 The Frost Fair when the River Thames froze over. 1816 was also a year of exceptional weather after volcanic dust blocked out the sun and the harvest failed. It was known as the “year without a summer.” (Actually I might give 1816 a miss - we seem to get our own "years without summer" every so often!)
1817 – The death of Princess Charlotte, the heir to the throne, not only threw the country into mass mourning but also threw the succession into turmoil as not one of the Regent’s brothers had a legitimate heir. Not a highlight, but a moment of profound significance for the country.
1817 – Crowds attend the opening of Waterloo Bridge, a new bridge across the River Thames named in commemoration of victory at the Battle of Waterloo and opened on the 2nd anniversary of the battle. It was a toll bridge with nine arches. It was designed by John Rennie and the Italian sculptor, Canova, described it as “the finest bridge in all Europe.”
If you could go back and experience some of the events of the Regency period, which would you choose?