Posts Tagged ‘#lovehistoricalromance’

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 Almost everyone recycled fabric from older or outdated clothing.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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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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Because of all the discussion about this topic, I thought it would be a good idea to put everything in one place.

The Betrothal

The proper gentleman (especially one who wished his suit to be accepted) had a conversation with the lady’s father or guardian and got permission to address her before popping the question. The proposal could be on one knee if the gentleman wished. There could be a betrothal ring, but the ring would be worn on the right hand and also be used as the wedding ring.

Unless there was a good reason, the betrothal period was not long at all, especially, if it took place during the Season. One reason for not waiting was that it was expected that couples would anticipate their marriage vows, and the families wanted them safely wed.

St. George’s church in Hanover Square was the prime location for weddings, and it stayed busy. During 1816, there were 1063 weddings at St. George’s.

To the best of our knowledge, there was no announcement in the paper of the betrothal.

Aristocrats usually married by special license. They cost around 20 guineas. A great deal of money at the time. The license was obtained at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office in Doctor’s Commons. One could only marry a minor by special license if one had the permission of the father or guardian. With a special license, the wedding ceremony could take place anywhere and anytime. Banns were called for three Sundays in a row, that by the way, was two weeks, as long as the couple was a member of the parish. It wasn’t usual for people to be members of a home parish in the country and St. George’s when in London. If banns were called, the ceremony had to take place between 8am and noon. One could also marry by regular license. The only advantage of a regular license is the waiting time was five days instead of two weeks.

At some point, there might be a betrothal ball. The settlement agreements would be drafted and signed.

Ladies who could afford a new gown, had one made. White did not become the color of choice until the Victorian period. However, if a lady looked good in white, she might wear it. If the wedding took place in a hurry, she’d wear her best dress. Regardless, the gown would be worn on other occasions. She’d wear a bonnet, not a veil.

The Ceremony and After

Although, anyone passing by could enter the church, and many did, generally only immediate family was present. There was no walking down the aisle to music. Indeed, if the couple wished, they could enter through a side door. The bride and groom would usually arrive separately. By tradition, the bridesmaid was single. The groom would have a gentleman supporting him. The attendants also acted as witnesses and signed the church register. I have a copy of the Book of Common Prayer used at the time, and there was no place in the ceremony for the groom to kiss the bride.

A wedding breakfast was held sometime after noon. The cake was a dense fruit cake. Champagne and wine would be served. Other than that, I haven’t heard of any rules for the event. The type of food served would be up to the people holding the wedding breakfast.

Generally, the couple left for a wedding trip within hours of the ceremony. In fact, they were expected to go away for at least a month.

There would be an announcement of the wedding.

Below are examples of a parish register and a special license.


#RegencyTrivia #HistoricalRomance


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The Nurse


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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Footmen were, in some ways, the Regency’s splurge. Not that they weren’t necessary. They were in fact extremely necessary to one’s status. However, all male servants were taxed. Therefore, the more male servants one had, the greater the tax. The reason they were a splurge is that they were also the Regency version of eye candy. Men hired for the position of footmen were tall, handsome, fit, and known for a well-turned leg.

Footmen were the only servants, aside from possibly the coachman and outriders, who wore uniforms called livery.

Footmen worked for the butler. Many houses had a 1st footman whose job it was to man the door and attend the master and mistress if the butler was not available and the household had no under-butler. Footmen were used to run errands (running footmen), clean silver, serve at the table, and if a lady wanted tea a footman would bring it. They also assisted maids in moving heavy furniture to clean, carrying tubs or buckets, and opened and closed doors. They were used to carry packages, and follow ladies around shopping or on a stroll in the park. Regency slang for a footman was a fart-catcher, because they walked behind the mistress or master.

#RegencyTrivia #HistoricalRomance #ReadaRegency

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