As an author, I’m always checking the weather in the year my book is set. One would not, for example want to write about a nice hot summer in 1816 which was known as the Year Without Summer. Ergo, when I started my latest book set in 1819, I researched the weather and was particularly looking at air quality. For various reasons, air quality in London has been an on and off issue since the 14th century. But it was not until the Victorian era that it came to the point that greasy black residue covered buildings and even the grass (turning it black) in Hyde Park. So, during the Regency, one could be appalled by the smell of the Thames if the wind was in the wrong quarter, and buildings became dingy from coal smoke, but there the greasy residue was not yet a problem.

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Al Fresco

Much to my dismay, picnics as we know them did not seem to exist until the middle part of the 19th century. In fact, a picnic during the Regency was what we would call a pot-luck, where everyone contributes food. That does not mean they didn’t go outside, sit on a blanket, and eat. But it was called al fresco dining which could mean anything from an elaborate table set up to a blanket on the ground.

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Biscuits and tea
In the UK, and many other countries, a biscuit is and has always been the equivalent of a US (may Canadian) cookie. Biscuits as we in the US know them, made with flour, milk, eggs, and a leavening were not around until the mid-19th century when baking powder and baking soda were invented.
Biscuits 1biscuits 2
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Despite the name, gentlemen farmers were not gentry and, thus, not gentlemen. The difference lies in how the land is used. Although, their holdings could be quite large, they were men who farmed their own land. Whereas, the gentry had tenants who, via leases, farmed the land for them. Gentlemen farmers had the same status as merchants, what we would call the middle-class no matter how wealthy they became.



This was not really as difficult as some might think. Any lady whose father is a viscount or lower is called “miss”. However, each lady is part of an order. Let’s take the case of Viscount Featherton and his three daughters. The first daughter, Meg, is properly called Miss Featherton. Now, what if Miss Featherton doesn’t take her first Season, or just doesn’t like any of her options, and her sister, Adeline, comes out. When they are introduced they are Miss Featherton and Miss Adeline Featherton. Adeline is properly called Miss Adeline, but never Miss Featherton. But once Meg is married Adeline becomes Miss Featherton. It’s the same when the third daughter, Miss Sarah Featherton comes out. If all three ladies are out at the same time they are Miss Featherton, Miss Adeline, and Miss Sarah.

sisters 2

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During the Regency, ladies were in charge of Polite Society. One of their prerogatives was to host entertainments. The only exceptions I can think of are a commander such as Wellington (Wellesley) during the war and the Prince Regent. Other gentlemen were required to have a reputable female act as hostess for a ball, theater party, dinner or any other entertainment that ladies and gentlemen attended. Those of you who read Georgette Heyer will remember in Frederica that the Marquis of Alverstoke had to convince his sister to host the ball he wanted to hold. In the same vein, it is always Lady So and So’s ball or dinner party etc., Never Lord So and So’s.

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The ability to serve tea gracefully was an important skill for young ladies to learn. Ladies were also encouraged to find their own blend of tea, and tea shops made it easy for a lady to try different blends. We can debate whether milk or cream was used. For whatever it’s worth, there are several accounts of gentlemen using cream. Jane Austen used milk. Most tea drinkers (like me) shudder at the mention of cream in tea. And there is still an ongoing debate over whether or not the milk goes in the cup first. Some recent discussion concluded that it depended on the quality of the porcelain of the tea cup. The better quality porcelains were able to take the heat of the tea.

If a house had male servants (butler or footmen) they would bring the tea tray to the lady of the house, not a regular maid or the housekeeper. This was especially true if the lady had guests. The lady, not the servant, would serve the tea to her guests.

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