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Posts Tagged ‘Ella Quinn’

The major distinction between employees and those in service seems to confuse a great number of people. Employees varied by the household and its needs. Employees included governesses, tutors, secretaries, companions, and estate managers.

We’ll start with governesses.

By the end of the 18th century, girls’ boarding schools were going out of fashion. Therefore, many girls of wealthy families were educated at home. Boys would be taught by a governess until they went to school. If a family did not have girls, it’s likely the local clergyman would teach the boys, or a tutor would be hired.

A governess was always a well educated lady. She was gently born. Her family either could not afford to support her, or she did not wish to be a burden to them. Many of them seem to have been daughters of clergymen. She was well educated and could teach reading, writing, arithmetic, history, geography, literature, watercolors, French, and maybe Italian, and music. She would also help teach comportment and needlework. She was also to be an example of good moral character. Unlike the Victorian era, Regency governesses were not morbidly religious.

Whether or not she had her meals with the family depended on her employers. She did not eat, socialize, or gossip with the servants. She used the front door. It was very important that she main her status as a lady.

I once read an employment contract for a governess. Unfortunately, I can’t find it now, but I remember that it required she be given a private parlor in addition to a bedchamber. It stated her holidays, time off, wages (obviously), and several other items. Because she was not a servant, she would have to be paid enough to save for her own pension.

For additional information, I recommend reading, A Governess in the Time of Jane Austen.

#RegencyTrivia #HistoricalRomance #ReadaRegency

 

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There are a lot of false notions about the Regency. Here are some of them.

The only female who might wear a silk chemise, petticoat or nightgown was in the demimonde, and she would expect to have it on for long. Fabric was very expensive. Almost everyone recycled fabric from older or outdated clothing. Chemises and petticoats were of muslin or cotton. The laundress was responsible for washing them and did it in very hot water with lye. Silk wouldn’t have lasted more than one or two washes.

For the same reason, sheets were not of silk. They were made of linen and could withstand the hot water and harsh soap.

As Lynne mentioned the other day, Regency stays had straps. Therefore, there were no strapless gowns.

Gentlemen did not ride around Town to their clubs, or on visits. First of all, it wasn’t the American west. There were no handy places to leave one’s horse. Secondly, one did not go visiting or two one’s club smelling of the stable. No matter how fastidious one was, riding a horse makes one smell of horse.

No matter if a lady learned to ride astride, she would not do so unless her life was in danger. Think for a moment about the narrow skirts popular during the Regency. Now, think about how much leg she’d be showing.

It was not easy to climb a tree, either up or down, in those selfsame gowns.

Regency ladies were kept busy. Almost all females took care of at least the household accounts. Many of them took care of estate accounts as well.

Ladies were well educated. Although, they didn’t normally learn Latin and Greek, in addition to arithmetic, reading, and writing, they did learn how to sketch and paint with water colors, play an instrument, sing, dance, sew, make conversation (a very important skill). Letter composing took up a good deal of time. We don’t really think of what it was like not to be able to pick up a phone, or email someone, but when you had friends and relatives with whom to keep in contact, you wrote letters. Most also learned French or Italian, or both. They’d also have to know who to manage their staff. As you know, even a town house could have a lot of servants. Some country houses had upwards of 300.

Calling someone of an inferior status by their first name was a sign of disrespect, or an indication that they did not yet merit the higher status. There are exceptions to every rule. Many footmen were called by their first name, young maids, and occasionally a lady’s maid who had been with the lady since a young age.

Ladies didn’t go around kissing gentlemen unless they planned to marry them. Gentlemen knew this.

Smoking cigars was not common, and it was not allowed in gentlemen’s clubs such as White’s until the 1880s. This makes a lot of sense as most of the wall coverings were silk, and it would have been impossible to get the smell out.

Next, employees (non-servants)

 

 

 

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There is a tendency to confuse these two completely different eras. The Regency followed immediately on the heels of the Georgian period, and was just about as freewheeling. The Victorian was, on the outside, buttoned up and prudish. Sex was, for all intents and purposes, pushed underground.

So here are just some of the difference between the times.

The garment a woman wore over her shift, or chemise was usually called stays, during the Regency. Although the term corset did exist. Yet there was huge difference in how they were made and what their purpose was. During the Regency stays were meant to smooth the lines for the high-waisted gown. They were not tight as there was no reason to accentuate the waist. There were two kinds, short and long. Many young ladies would have worn sort stays. Even when waists dropped between 1830 and 1830, the stays were not tightened as they were later on. Victorian corsets were made to make the waist smaller. They also made it much harder to breathe and many doctors considered them a health hazard. A whole movement grew up in protest of tight corsets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The phrase, lay back and think of England, was Victorian. That’s because, after Freud came out with his theory that women didn’t need help having an orgasm, men no longer felt it necessary to make sure a woman enjoyed herself. During the Regency, it was a point of pride that a woman came. They also believed that a woman had to reach completion in order to conceive.

During the Regency, several well-known philosophers supported and encouraged women’s rights. Even though the laws didn’t change, women became, in many ways, more independent. Women as well as men took lovers. No one thought twice about a bluestocking setting up her own household after she had reached the proper age. Women of all sorts held salons where artists, writers, politicians, and other interesting people would gather. The Victorian era slammed the door shut on those blossoming rights and philosophies. It was not unusual for an unmarried woman (older spinsters and widows) to come under the boot of a man. It was also not uncommon for a woman to be placed in an institution for the mentally incompetent for disagreeing with a male member of her family too often or too strenuously.

During the Regency a widow was in mourning for a year for her husband. The first six months was full-mourning. She wore black. Close friends and family could, and, hopefully did, visit her. But she did not go to parties, dinners, etc. The second six months was half-mourning. She was allowed to wear gray and other subdued colors. But not lavender. As a color, it had not yet been invented. She could go out to subdued gatherings. Once her year of mourning was over, she was expected to rejoin Polite Society. Mourning for a child, or sibling was generally much shorter. I’ve heard times of six weeks for a baby, and up to three months for a grown sibling. Parents were generally about six months. During the Victorian era, morning for one’s husband was expanded to two years. One year of full-mourning, the next year of half-mourning. Other periods of mourning were also lengthened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chaperoning of young unmarried ladies was significantly different as well. During the Regency, once a lady was betrothed, she and her soon-to-be husband were allowed to be alone for significant periods of time, anywhere, including closed carriages. In fact, it was expected they would anticipate their vows. Therefore, engagements were usually short and gentlemen could not cry off without ruining a lady’s reputation. If he decided he did not want to marry her after all, he had to find some way to make her jilt him. During the Victorian period, ladies were chaperoned up to the wedding day. They did not spend time alone with their betrothed until they were man and wife.

Only footmen and the coachman wore a uniform during the Regency. The wearing of uniforms by female servants was Victorian.

#RegencyTrivia #HistoricalRomance #ReadaRegency

 

 

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Not all Regency households could afford to set up a stable (more about that in a future post). However, for anyone who could, they did. It was important for transportation, pleasure, and a symbol of wealth. We’ll discuss all the stuff that goes into setting up a stable at a later date.

The most important person in a stable was the head groom. He was responsible for making sure the stable ran properly. The head groom worked directly for the master of the house. Many stables had under grooms (apparently, just called grooms). They assisted the head groom. They exercised the horses that weren’t being ridden regularly, cleaned and repaired the tack, and cleaned the stables.

Grooms would also teach the young children of the house how to ride and accompany them on rides. It was not uncommon for a groom to remain with a lady or gentleman when they set up their own households. In Town it was essential that a groom accompany a lady when she was riding.

Grooms lived in rooms above the stables. From what I could discover, they did not eat with the indoor servants, but had meals delivered to them.

Next Coachmen

 

#RegencyTrivia #HistoricalRomance #ReadaRegency

 

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The Nurse

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In the discussion about senior staff, I forgot to mention the nurse. If there were young children in the house, there would be a head nurse, and a few nursemaids to assist her. Because families were frequently large, a nurse could be with a family for a very long time and was frequently closer to the children than the parents were. It is not unusual to see writings of people grown to adulthood extolling the virtues of their childhood nurse.

Nurses were responsible for children up to about age five. They taught their charges manners, early numbers, and alphabet, took them out to play. Over saw clothing, toys, and anything else to do with the nursery.

#Regency Trivia #HistoricalRomance

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Maids were the workhorses of the Regency. In 1806 there were around  910,000 domestic servants in England. Only 110, 000 of them were men. Maids were responsible for all the cleaning, to include the servants’ areas, polishing, gathering linens to be washed, and putting them away, polishing, except for the silver, making sure the fires were lit in the mornings and kept going throughout the day, empty chamber pots, sewing and myriad other tasks.

The average town house was five stories, and there were no modern appliances. Rugs had to be removed and taken outside to be beaten, Curtains had to be taken down to be cleaned, all surfaces had to be dusted, and polished as well as cleaning any ornaments in the rooms. Windows and floors had to be swept and washed. Any stains on the silk wallpaper had to be cleaned. Well, you can see how big a task they had. They were also to be invisible.

Maids were answerable to the housekeeper. In medium to large households they had assigned tasks. Most maids started at a fairly young age usually 12 or 13. We hear a lot in romances about how the gentlemen of the house would take advantage of pretty maids, but I’m not sure how prevalent that was during the Regency. I would hazard a guess that the housekeeper would do her best to safeguard the female servants.

As with other servants, maids had contracts. They were granted a place to sleep, food, a measure of tea, an allowance or fabric for clothing. During the Regency, maids did not have uniforms. They could also have waged deducted for breakage or making a mistake. Most were expected to attend church services. Pregnancy was grounds for immediate dismissal without a reference.

#RegencyTrivia #HistoricalRomance

 

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Rounding out the senior servants are valets and lady’s maids (also called dressers and abigails). These personal servants took orders only from their master or mistress.

They were highly trained. They not only dressed the lady or gentleman, but they cared for all the expensive clothing, to include cleaning, mending, and altering the garments. The laundress only washed linens. Therefore, the remainder of the clothing was left to the lady’s maid and valet.

But that wasn’t their only duty. They were responsible to dressing and cutting hair, keeping jewels clean and in good order, sending messages, supervising the cleaning of the lady or gentleman’s bedchambers, packing, serving breakfast or other meals in the bedchamber, and ensuring that everything in the room was just so.

When traveling, the valet and lady’s maid would frequently travel ahead to ensure an inn room was made comfortable for their master or mistress. They would even bring sheets to change the beds. They were the first person a gentleman or lady would see in the morning and the last person at night.

The one thing a valet did not do was tie the gentleman’s cravat. Or if he did, the gentleman would never admit to it.

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Housekeepers are some of my favorite people. During the Regency, the housekeeper answered directly to the mistress of the house. Housekeepers, as did all Regency servants with the exception of footmen, wore her own clothing. Therefore it was very likely that she would receive cloth or an allowance in her contract.

She supervised all the female staff except the kitchen maids, nurse, and lady’s maid. Her duties included, but were not limited to, maintaining linens, china, stores of household items, having recipes for everything from cleaning products to medicinal items. Making sure the house was clean and well maintained. She also kept the household records. Like the butler, her room was in the cellar. She was the keeper of the keys for the household. If there is not house-steward, she would also be responsible for all domestic expenditures. In coordination with the cook, she was in charge of the purchasing of spices, and other food stores.

I found this list on Goodreads for books in which housekeepers play an important role https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/90885.Better_Homes_Housekeepers_in_Historical_Romance_

#RegencyTrivia #RegencyRomance #ReadaRegency #HistoricalRomance

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We’ll start with the upper staff. Any house that could afford one had a butler. They greatly added to ones status.

The butler worked directly for the master of the house. In old families, he might have risen from footman to his position. A butler never wore livery. His working grab consisted of a dark jacket, vest, and knee breeches. His linen white, and neckcloth immaculate and simply tied. His shoes would have a good shine.

His employment contract included items such as tea, possibly a suite of clothing a year, days off, and his salary which would be paid on quarter day.

The butler had the following minimum duties: Charge of all indoor male servants, the silver, to include cleaning it. he was responsible for the wine cellar stockage, stocking all other alcoholic beverages. Keeping the records, and pouring. He was in charge of everything to do with the dining room, including the cleaning of the room, and ensuring the linen was clean, and service at meals. Although, tea was not considered a meal during the Regency. Ladies did have tea and the butler served. He was also the gatekeeper to the house. If guests were expected he’d be at the door, but in the case of people obviously not of the gentry, he could deny them entry. He would, of course refuse entry to anyone the master ordered him to. He was also responsible for all of the mail coming into and out of the house.

The butler slept near the room where the silver was stored, usually below stairs. If he married, it would probably be to another servant. There is some evidence to suggest that is was not uncommon for the housekeeper and butler to be married in some households.

I think it was an unwritten rule that a butler never showed what he was feeling.

I don’t know of any books about butlers, but there are many books in which butler play bit parts. Most of Georgette Heyer’s books include a butler as so most of mine. I welcome any recommendations you have.

 

#RegencyTrivia #HistoricalRomance

 

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Today’s post is about guardians and trustees. Guardians had physical custody and responsibility for the children. Trustees had responsibility for the children’s funds. The guardian was responsible to provide reports to the trustee on funds spent on the child’s/children’s behalf.

When a child of the gentry’s father died guardians and trustees were normally appointed by the father’s will. This is especially true if there was extensive property or money involved. The mother was not automatically the guardian. The father could name anyone he wanted. Young children would usually be left in the care of the mother. If there were male children, normally, the guardian would not be a member of the husband’s family who could be in the line of succession. Who would be appointed a guardian? Usually a close friend or a member of the wife’s family. Because the guardian was responsible for the physical person of the child/children, it would have to be someone of the same social class. Ergo, a lawyer or institution would not be named as guardian.

Guardianship was specific to an individual and could not be inherited. Therefore, a primary guardian would be named, and if he could not serve, a second one would be listed.

Generally two trustees were appointed. Why two? To keep one from embezzling from the child’s/children’s funds. Trustees were responsible to send reports to the court regarding funds used for the child/children. They also had to approve expenditures on the child’s/children’s behalf. A trustee could be a friend or relative (on either side of the family), a lawyer, or a man of business who could be trusted not to waste the funds.

A child of twelve years old could refuse a guardian even if that person was appointed in the father’s will. The problem, of course, was that not many children knew that unless they’d been advised by a lawyer or someone else. How often that occurred is anyone’s guess.

Unless specified in the father’s will, although, the guardian could agree to the child/children’s marriage. It was the trustee who had to agree to pay the dowry. It was one way of preventing the guardian of marrying the child into his family for the purpose of enriching himself or his family.

#RegencyRomance #HistoricalRomance #ReadaRegency

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