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The Regency era in the United Kingdommarker is the period between 1811 — when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son the Prince of Wales, later George IV, was instated to be his proxy as Prince Regent — and 1820 — when George IV became King on the death of his father.

The term "Regency era" is sometimes used to refer to a more extended timeframe than the decade of the formal Regency. The period between 1795 and 1837 — the latter part of the reign of George III and the reigns of his sons George IV, as Prince Regent and King, and William IV — was characterized by distinctive trends in British architecture, literature, fashions, politics, and culture. If "Regency era" is being used to describe the transition between "Georgian" and "Victorian" eras, the focus is on the "pre-Victorian" period from 1811, when the formal Regency began, through 1837 when Queen Victoria succeeded William IV. If, however, "Regency era" is being contrasted with the "Eighteenth century", then the period includes the later French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.

The era was a time of excess for the aristocracy: for example, it was during this time that the Prince Regent built the Brighton Pavilion. However, it was also an era of uncertainty caused by several factors including the Napoleonic wars, periodic riots, and the concern—threat to some, hope to others—that the British people might imitate the upheavals of the French Revolution.

Society during the Regency

The Regency was noted in history for its elegance and achievements in the fine arts and architecture. This era encompassed a time of great social, political, and even economic change. War was waged with Napoleon and on other fronts, affecting commerce both at home and internationally as well as politics. Despite the bloodshed and warfare the Regency was also a period of great refinement and cultural achievement, shaping and altering the societal structure of Britain as a whole.One of the greatest patrons of the arts and architecture was the Prince Regent himself (the future George IV). Upper class society flourished in a sort of “mini Renaissance” of culture and refinement. Headed by the widely popular Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, the nobility sought to outdo one another in extravagance, pomp, and circumstance, albeit of a “shallow” nature. As one of the greatest patrons of the arts, the Regent (the future George IV) ordered the costly building and refurbishing of the beautiful and exotic Brighton Pavilion, the ornate Carlton House, as well as many other public works and architecture (See John Nash). Naturally this required dipping into the treasury and the Regent, and later, King’s exuberance often outstripped his pocket, at the peoples’ expense. The famed poet of the time Shelley observed after a particularly ostentatious festivity held by the Regent that, this entertainment will cost 120,000 pounds. Nor will it be the last bauble which the nation must buy to amuse this overgrown bantling of Regency ”Not only was society marked by excessive spending on the part of the Prince Regent, it was also highly stratified, and in many ways there was a dark side to the beauty and fashion in England at this time. In the dingier, less affluent areas of Londonmarker thievery, womanizing, gambling, the existence of rookeries, and constant drinking ran rampant. This combined with the massive population boom, which had leapt from just under a million in 1801 to one and a quarter million by 1820 created a wild, roiling, volatile, and vibrant scene. Indeed so vast was the difference between the levels of society that they developed nearly wholly different existences, as characterized by Robert Southey who stated that, “The inhabitants of this great city seem to be divided into two distinct casts, - the Solar and the Lunar races…” Thus beneath the glamour and gloss of Regency society there existed levels of such squalor as to form an extreme contrast to that of the Prince Regent's social circle. Poverty was a major issue and one that was addressed only marginally. In many ways the retirement of George III and the formation of the Regency saw the “death” of a more pious and reserved society and the “birth” of a more frivolous, ostentatious one, largely due to the character of the Regent, himself. One can blame the profligate nature of the Prince Regent on the fact that the policy of the time was to keep the heir apparent entirely removed from the machinations of politics and military exploits, which did nothing to channel his energies in a more positive direction, thereby leaving him with the pursuit of “pleasure” as his only outlet, as well as his sole form of “rebellion” against what he saw as disapproval and censure in the form of his father.

It was not only money and rebellious noble youth that fueled these changes but also significant technological advancements. In 1814 The Times adopted steam printing thereby increasing production capabilities, along with demand tenfold (printing 1100 sheets per hour versus the previous 200 per hour). This development brought about the rise of the wildly popular “fashionable novels” in which publishers spread the stories, rumors, and flaunting of the rich and aristocratic, not so secretly hinting at the specific identity of these individuals. The gap in the hierarchy of society was so great that those of the upper classes could be viewed by those below as wondrous and fantastical fiction, something entirely out of reach yet tangibly there.

Timeline of the formal Regency

1811:George IV begins nine-year tenure as Prince Regent. This sub-period of the Georgian era begins the formal Regency. The Duke of Wellington holds off the French at Fuentes d'Onoro and Albuhera in the Peninsular War. The Prince Regent holds a fete at nine p.m. June 19, 1811 at Carlton House in celebration of his assumption of the Regency. Luddite uprisings. Glasgow weavers riot.

1812: Spencer Perceval assassinated in the House of Commons. Final shipment of the Elgin Marbles arrives in England. Sarah Siddons retires from the stage. Shipping and territory disputes start the War of 1812 between England and the United States. The British are victorious over Spain at the Battle of Salamancamarker. The waltz is introduced from Europe into England. Gas company (Gas Light and Coke Company) founded.

1813: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is published. William Hedley's Puffing Billy, the first steam locomotive, runs on smooth rails. Quaker prison reformer Elizabeth Fry starts her ministry at Newgate Prisonmarker. Robert Southey becomes Poet Laureate.

1814: Invasion of France by allies leads to the Treaty of Paris, ending the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon abdicates and is exiled to Elbamarker. The Duke of Wellington is honored at Burlington Housemarker in London. British soldiers burn the White Housemarker. Last River Thames Frost Fair is held, which was the last time the river froze. Gas lighting introduced in London streets.

1815:Napoleon I of France defeated by the Seventh Coalition at the Battle of Waterloomarker. Napoleon is exiled to St. Helena. The English Corn Laws restrict corn imports. Sir Humphry Davy patents the miners' safety lamp. John Macadam's road construction method adopted.

1816: Income tax abolished. A "year without a summer" follows a volcanic eruption in Indonesia. Mary Shelley writes Frankenstein. William Cobbett publishes his newspaper as a pamphlet. The British return Indonesiamarker to the Dutch. Regent's Canal, London, phase one of construction.

1817: Antonin Carême creates a spectacular feast for the Prince Regent at the Royal Pavilionmarker in Brighton. The death of Princess Charlotte from complications of childbirth changes obstetrical practices. Beau Brummell escapes his creditors by fleeing to France. Elgin Marbles shown at the British Museummarker. Captain Bligh dies.

1818: Queen Charlotte dies at Kewmarker. Manchester cotton spinners' strike. Riot in Stanhope between lead miners and the Bishop of Durham's men over Weardale gaming rights. Piccadilly Circusmarker constructed in London.

1819:Peterloo Massacremarker. Princess Victoria (Future Queen Victoria) is christened in Kensington Palacemarker. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott is published. Sir Stamford Raffles, a British administrator, founds Singaporemarker. First steam-propelled vessel (The Savannah) crosses the Atlantic and arrives in Liverpool from Savannah, Georgia.

1820: Death of George III. Accession of George IV. The House of Commonsmarker and House of Lordsmarker pass a bill to grant George IV a divorce from Queen Caroline, but due to public pressure the bill is dropped, John Constable begins work on The Hay Wain. Cato Street Conspiracy fails. Royal Astronomical Society founded. Venus de Milo discovered.


The following is a list of places associated with the Regency era:
(incomplete list)

Important people

(incomplete list)

Newspapers, pamphlets, and publications

The British Regency in popular culture

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait by her sister Cassandra, 1810

See also


Further reading

External links

Images from the British Regency

Image:Neckclothitania-1818.gif|Necklothitania,1818Image:Astley's Ampitheatre Microcosm edited.jpg|Astley's Ampitheatre, 1808-1811.Image:Brighton Pavilion from Views of the Royal Pavilion (1826) edited.jpg|Brighton Pavillion. 1826.Image:CarltonHouseFacade.jpg|Carlton House, Pall Mall London.Image:Vauxhall Garden edited.jpg|Vauxhall Gardens. 1808-1811.Image:Church of All Souls-2.jpg|Church of All Souls, architect John Nash. 1823.Image:Regent's Canal Limehouse1823.jpg|Regent's Canal, Limehouse. 1823.Image:Frost Fair of 1814 by Luke Clenell.jpg|Frost Fair, Thames River. 1814Image:Burlington_Arcade_by_Thomas_Hosmer_Shepherd_1827-28.JPG|The Piccadilly entrance to the Burlington Arcade. 1819.Image:Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales and Leopold I after George Dawe.jpg|Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales and Leopold I. 1817.Image:Morning-dress-Ackermanns-ca1820.png|Morning dress, Ackermann. 1820.Image:Humphry Repton01.jpg|Water at Wentworth, Humphry Repton. 1752-1818.Image:Hanover Square Horwood 1819.jpg|Hanover Square, Horwood Map, 1819.Image:BrummellDighton1805.jpg|Beau Brummell. 1805Image:Sadler, Battle of Waterloo.jpg|Battle of Waterloo. 1815.Image:Almack's Assembly Rooms inside.jpg|Almack's Assembly Room. 1805-1825.Image:Drury lane interior 1808.jpg|Drury Lane interior. 1808.Image:James Sadler - 12 Aug 1811 ascent.jpg|Balloon ascent, James Sadler, 1811.Image:Rowlandson - The Anatomist.JPG|The Anatomist, Thomas Rowlandson, 1811.Image:Regent's Park London from 1833 Schmollinger map.jpg|Regent's Park, Schmollinger map, 1833.Image:National Gallery at 100 Pall Mall.jpg|100 Pall Mall, former location of National Gallery, 1824-1834Image:Cognocenti-Antique-Gillray.jpeg|Cognocenti, Gillray Cartoon, 1801Image:Custom Office London Dock.jpg|Custom Office, London Docks, 1811-1843Image:London Dock Custom and Excise 1820.jpg|Custom and Excise, London Docks, 1820Image:Mailcoach.jpg|Mail coach, 1827Image:Assassination of Spencer Perceval.jpg|Assassination of Spencer Perceval, 1812Image:Pillory Charing Cross edited.jpg|The pillory at Charing Cross, Ackermann's Microcosm of London (1808-11)Image:Covent Garden Theatre 1827-28.jpg|Covent Garden Theatre, 1827-28Image:Covent Garden Theatre 1827-28.jpg|Covent Garden Theatre, 1827-28

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