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During Regency dancing was an extremely important skill to have. Everyone from the very poor to the very rich learned to dance. The only differences were the types of dances, the way they were preformed, and where they were held.

Boys began learning to dance at young children, about the age of five or six. The same time girls started. As the dances became more complicated—and they were during the Regency—young men had dancing instructors to teach them the steps and refine their skills. There were even children’s “balls” where they could practice.

Two resources are “The Complete System of English Country Dancing,” by Mr. Wilson, a dancing master of the time, and “A Dance with Jane Austen: How a Novelist and Her Characters Went to the Ball” by Susannah Fullerton

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Those of us who read and write Regencies know about Almack’s. But how much of what we know is fact or fiction? In the process of writing my next book, I wanted to know name of the gate-keeper (actually the owner who also acted as the majordomo). I had his name before, but couldn’t find it. During my research I found several contemporary articles that all claimed that the Patronesses selected the male dance partners for each of lady making her come out. Roughly 700 people received vouchers for Almack’s. I have no idea how many of those recipients were young ladies just out. The largest crowd present was 650, although the rooms could really only hold about 600. And one did not know who would be present on any given Wednesday. Therefore, I doubted that the Patronesses selected every dance partner. Therefore, I went researching and found this article that was writing in 1837. A bit after out time, but he does go over the history of Almack’s. There is a lot to interest one in the article, but focused on the one piece of information I wanted, I found one poem that answered my question. The poem is actually about ladies and gentlemen falling down while on the dance floor. Though it clearly states that young men ask ladies to dance.

An ALMACK’S GALLOPADE

Now Weippert’s harp each youthful breast inspires,

A space is clear’d, the dancers take their ground,

Each dancing beau claims her he most admires—

With pleasure here all youthful hearts rebound.

[-38-] But see the galoppe’s graceful, joyous strain,

Makes the red rose mount high in beauty’s cheeks,

Old damsels round for partners hunt in vain,

Th’ unrivall’d one his favour’d fair one seeks.

Enchanting dance !—the growth of German land—

At thy gay signal fairy feet are flying;

Soft vows are made, and broke, as hand in hand

The dancers rush in speed each other vying.

Let’s mark the num’rous vot’ries of the dance;—

L— first rushes like a headstrong filly,

Cranstoun and Walpole may be said to prance,

Smith’s so, so,—and ditto, Baron Billie.

E’-en envy now is mute at Erskine’s grace,

While Hillsborough a Hercules advances;

Who can cease gazing on Alicia’s face,

Till Blackwood smiles, or Fanny Brandling dances.

St. John,—sweet Maynard,—pretty Stanhope glide,

And lively Hill inciting gentle Karr,

Meade and Regina ambling side by side,

In dancing this, are all much on a par.

Oh! now observe, Maude, Littleton, and Brooke,

Flowers so pure, you’d deem from heav’n they fell,

While N,—t—n, queen-like in her very look,

Would make a desert bliss,—a heav’n of hell.

[-39-] Desperate rush a band of raw recruits,

With ardent minds, and no regard to time—

I beg their pardon, but they are such brutes,

They must excuse my writing such a line.

Hark! a sound as if from a percussion,

Follow’d by piercing shrieks, arouse our fears;

Chaperons rise alarm’d, and dread concussion—

A prostrate beauty is dissolv’d in tears.

Think not the prospects of the night are turned,

For a bright vision glances in the ring;

No sooner is he seen, than all are spurn’d,

They seem his subjects,—he appears their king,

* * * in whom the gift of dancing lies,

For graceful ease none can with him compare,

” Swift as an arrow from the shaft he flies”-—

Envied by men, and worshipp’d by the fair.

See him, like the forked lightning flashing,

No ear can catch the sound of his footfall,

Down the room the gallant * * * dashing,

The pride of Almack’s—darling of a ball.

All things at length must cease, and so must this;

I’ll end what bumpkins call the gallopade;

Sweet unmeant speeches pass from Miss to Miss,

All go to flirt, drink tea, and lemonade.

[-40-] The galoppe’s ended, so my lay must stop;

As a finale I propose to sing,

(While love—sick beaux, to belles the question pop,)

With loyal heart and voice—Long live the King!

Now whether or not at one time the Patronesses picked dance partners is another question. I do know from other research that the first time a young lady danced at Almack’s a Patroness had to recommend a gentleman as a partner.

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http://www.victorianlondon.org/publications/thegreatmetropolis1.htm

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There is a little known fact about Scottish marriages during the Regency. If a couple had a child(ren) before they married, marriage in Scotland would make the previously illegitimate children legitimate.

 

BabiesGretna Green 3

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Here are the words used for underwear during the Regency: Underclothing, under, underdress, and linen were all general terms used for what one wore close to one’s body.
 
Until the 1830s when waistlines began to drop to approximate the natural waist, petticoats were long and as depicted in the third picture. A chemise (also called a shift) could be either long or short. It was worn next to the body under the stays.
 
Unmentionables were actually breeches or trousers. interestingly, a man’s shirt was also considered underwear. It was considered scandalous for a man to not wear something over his shirt. Shirts did not open to the waist, but had either buttons or laces that went part way down. Men could opt to wear drawers (shown below) or merely tuck their shirts under crotch.
 
shiftchemise and stayspetticoat
men's drawersshirt
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This post is by Lynne Connolly.

Marriage settlements were not part of Parliamentary law. They were decided by private contract, drawn up by a solicitor (lawyer). Usually they aimed to use the money the woman brought into the marriage to pay for her jointure on widowhood and for the dowries of her daughters in the marriage. The idea was not to cause any encroachments on the main estate, which it was important to keep intact. Her jointure was usually invested in safe things, so that it would have grown to the required amount before the marriage. This would be laid down in the settlement, which was signed shortly before the marriage, by the couple concerned, and if they were underage, by their parents or trustees. There were no legal guardians in this period, but trustees would be appointed to the estate in the event of early death, and a person, usually a lawyer or professional, appointed to administer the legacy. No interested party, i.e. nobody who could benefit from the death of the minor, could be an administrator or a sole trustee, so that means wicked uncles were excluded!

The main estate, which included lands, houses, investments, things like mineral mines, shipping lines and insurance, was sacrosanct. Spending or mortgaging would inevitably diminish the power of the title holder, and the rest of his family. Much of the estate was not owned, it was in an entail – it belonged to the title, and could not be separated from it except under specific circumstances drawn up with the Letters Patent or Letters Writ when the title was created. Many aristocrats built personal fortunes, and they could dispose of them as they wished, but the strong imperative was to build on it and keep it intact. The estate was the power base.

An heiress could bring property and money that would enhance the estate, and that was the central idea behind marriage in this period.

marriage

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Marriage was a truly life changing event for a lady during the Regency. Here are at least some of the ways life changed.

When you went for a walk you could go with just a friend, or even a gentleman who was not your husband without benefit of a maid or footman. Although, going alone in London, even Mayfair, was not well advised.

You were allowed in a closed coach alone, with a coachman with a gentleman who was not your husband or close relative.

You could wear any color you wanted.

You did not have to dance with a man just because he asked you to dance.

You could have a gentleman escort you to a ball or other event, and he didn’t have to be your husband or a close relative.

You were privy to scandalous conversations the other matrons and widows were having.

You could take a lover (although, most husbands like discretion).

You could spend time in the card room.

You could speak with a gentleman without a “proper” introduction.

You were no longer asked to show your proficiency on a musical instrument.

Unless your husband was really unreasonable, no one read your correspondence.

You were in charge of your own household and household staff (except for the butler who always worked for the master if there was one)

You could hire your own lady’s maid if you didn’t like the one your mother selected for you.

Matrons 1matrons 2matrons 4

 

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When this question was asked I thought I’d addressed the subject previously, but apparently not. During the Regency, a child was a child of the marriage as long the child was born during the marriage, and the husband did not disclaim it. That is to say the child was the husband’s lawful and legitimate child—also known in the case of sons—as the heir of his body. It wasn’t until the late 1980’s that a man could dispute the legitimacy of a child born during the marriage, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that the biological father of the child could make a legal claim to be recognized as the child’s father when the mother was married to another man at the time of the child’s birth. All of this very helpfully came about as DNA started to be used in the courts to determine paternity. Although, DNA had been around since the 1960s, courts are notoriously slow to recognize new scientific methods.

Babiesfamily

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