Being a lady during the Regency Era was a very special, very difficult and very demanding role. There were certain things expected from the girl’s side that affected her social status. Her deeds and behavior had an impact on her family—mostly on her father and her husband. 

A lady’s reputation was based on her behavior but also on her appearance. The classic phrase “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion” was a basic rule for ladies of the time. 

In this article I will talk about the most important five rules that a lady who lived in England during the Regency Era was obliged to follow.

DO Stand Straight and Walk Tall

During the era, the basic rule for the appearance of a lady was, as far as we know, a complicated and strange combination of female weakness, but also the dynamics of a mother. So every lady would have to look sweet, weak, in need of protection but—at the same time—strong, and someone who was capable of showing harsh affection and love.

This was first and foremost translated into correct posture: people of the era were obsessed with it. A lady would have to stand upright and, even when sitting, her shoulders would have to be straight back. Her movements ought to be more feminine, more tender, more elegant.

Of course, a lady‘s femininity and weakness were also used as a weapon, whenever needed. For example, if a lady was under pressure, she could easily use behaviors such as hysterical outbursts and fainting, as a way for her to avoid unpleasant circumstances.

DON’T Be Afraid to Faint

When a lady was confronted with foul language or bad manners, she was supposed to faint. Such shows of weakness were considered an appropriate reaction from women during the era.

In reality, however, Regency women were not so overly sensitive and subtle. But it was considered appropriate for them to pretend to be weak, to allow men to treat them as proper ladies.

DON’T Talk Like a Man

A lady’s reputation and social status required her to be the definition of femininity. She was obliged to look and be prudent. A lady was to behave with ‘courteous dignity’ at all times.

In an obscene comment or in the view of a scene of violence, proper ladies were expected to be shocked. A lady should never be seen standing and talking on the street. Or to be seen talking to a man without a chaperone. Or to gossip in public. As you can imagine, just walking down a busy street could be a social etiquette minefield!

DON’T Be Alone In The Company of a Gentleman

When it came to interacting with the opposite sex, the rules for the ladies were absolutely prohibited.

If a lady was unmarried and under the age of thirty (30), it was not allowed for her to be seen in the company of a man without having a chaperone. A chaperone would ensure that the lady’s reputation would not be tarnished, either by indiscreet eyes or by vulgar conversations with her companion.

A chaperone could be another lady, an appropriate man, or a servant. If the lady’s reputation was somewhat tarnished, it would indicate that the chaperone was unable to protect her and it would automatically ruin the reputation of the lady’s entire family. There were only two occasions where this unwritten rule could be overseen: a walk to the church or to a park, during the early morning hours.

DO Wait to Be Introduced to Someone

Every person who wanted to socialize with other people needed to be introduced and introduce someone back. As in every other aspect of everyday life, there were some rules that had to be followed. 

The need for formal introductions was another way for women’s reputations to be protected. A lady could not, for any reason, be introduced to someone arbitrarily and without a mediator. Usually, introductions were made by the ‘man of the house’ and once he made the appropriate introductions, the ladies in his household could socialize with their new acquaintances. 

As a rule for an introduction, both parties ought to give their permission. This was even more absolute when it was a matter of hierarchy. When a person was of higher social status than the other, then they had to give their consent to have strangers be introduced to them, otherwise it would be considered a scandal.

Even more, a lady was forbidden to speak to another person—especially to another man—with intimacy. At no point could a lady address a gentleman by his first name. Instead, she would call him by his surname, or his title. 

Finally, there was the act of bowing during the introduction between two people. The lady was expected to bow, slightly with her shoulders, while a gentleman was expected to greet a lady with a modest, not exaggerated, bow coming from the waist.

In my next article I will write about the other five rules of Etiquette that a girl had to follow in order for her to become a Lady during our favorite Regency period. 

Until then, please let me know your thoughts about this article!

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?

-Mr. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

Written by Scarlett Osborne

72 COMMENTS

  1. Very true all books of etiquette. Were the same , my grandma always was saying sit straight do not slouch, shoulders back. Young ladies do not talk to unknown young men. You never know their intentions. She was from the late 1800’s

  2. A lady never gossipps.
    Lets others assume but acts on her own.
    Money means nothing
    Unless you have none.
    She controls her future without being controlled.

  3. I have always been obsessed with the Regency era and so appreciate the extra efforts on behalf of we, the fans, to educate us as to traditions and guidelines of that era. Thank you for sharing and caring!

  4. I loved your article on Etiquette Rule in the Regency Era. Though I am familiar with a few (from reading historical romance books) it was interesting to learn of the others.

    Thank you!

  5. Very interesting information. I am thankful that I didn’t live during this period as I tend to be outgoing and would find it extremely difficult to live by these standards. I am intrigued to learn more.

  6. It is so much fun to read the rules society lived with in the regency era.
    I’m also so glad I didn’t live then..too much fuss for me!
    I’m also too spontaneous for that time and I don’t have the patience they needed to have daily. No wonder mail was a big event…it took forever
    To receive letters. I sometimes think my email is too slow. Every part of life was more difficult. And having to change dresses several times a day, and needing help to accomplish it certainly put life in perspective. We are so much more casual now. Of course if you weren’t upper class, life was just plain hard.
    All that said and it’s still interesting to read about, which is why Jane Austin is
    still a favorite. Thank you for providing this informative look back in time.

  7. I would have never made it in those days. I am too independent and mouthy to have survived under all those rules. I can see why many couples just eloped to Gretna Green. Then the choice was theirs to make and not their father’s or brother’s decision!

  8. This article brought back memories of walking with five books on my head. Tape was put across the back of your shoulder so that you could walk with your shoulders correct. Furniture directions we just bent our slightly.

  9. I am fully aware of most of these rules during this era as I have at least 100 books i love this style of romantic books. They are so good to relax me before bedtime. Also you can read them during the day relaxing in the British sunshine. Well some sun that we get

  10. Fascinating! I cannot imagine being so restrained. Wearing a corset. Arranged marriages to a man as old as your grandfather

    This info was wonderful. Keep it up! Cheers from Vancouver BC

  11. I loved the article on Regency behavior. I’ve been a fan of Regency novels since I read my first Georgette Heyer novel 40 years ago. Your books are a wonderful addition to my library.

  12. Great info! So how did all the illegitimate babies come about if rules for young women meeting men were so strict?

    • Thank you Chris! As Dalai Lama once said “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”

  13. I enjoyed reading this article. Very interesting. Hard to imagine living that way in today’s world.
    And their manner of dress was also done with care if u were a proper lady.
    They wouldn’t be wearing see through clothes.
    And certainly u wouldn’t tell at your wife or husband in public.
    Look forward to next article

  14. My mother taught me the first rule, the rest – I’d never have survived Regency times! Too opinionated, outspoken and not given to fainting! Headstrong would best describe me!

  15. Enjoy the interesting view of the period. Could certainly use a bit more in the way of rules for the current era. Thank you.

  16. Amazing how things have changed. After reading your article I’m surprised women of that time actually survived courtship. Imagine how it would have felt not being permitted to speak to someone without an introduction. Whilst I love reading about that era I’m glad I live in this one.

    I look forward to your next article.

  17. And I thought I wanted to live in that era and – kind of time-travel, mind you. Love the clothes, but not the corset. Too many rules and regulations – not sure I would have survived a season. I am not sure that I would have made it though. I love being me and not someone’s idea of who I should be.

  18. I am soooo happy I wasn’t around in that era. I love reading the stories from that era, thank you for this article.

  19. I failed ..lol
    The only thing i accomplished from this list is my posture…which even at 60, I still sit straight, shoulders back ..etc..
    BUT in fairness trying to compare the expectations for young ladies then, to today’s…we all would have failed …here’s a thought though, the Royal Family must adhere to some of these structures today , as witnessed by recent public ” affairs ” …

  20. I would have been overwhelmed if I had lived back then I probably never would have been married. Thanks for your articles they have opened my eyes to how things worked.

  21. Isn’t it amazing the rules and cues we use to follow in society? Now it seems we hardly have any rules. I love the article. I enjoy learning more about day to day life in that time period. I’m amazed any of us were ever born…lol.

  22. THANK YOU FOR YOUR *RULES FOR LADIES*. IT MUST HAVE BEEN HARD TO FOLLOW ALL THE RULES, BUT PERHAPS SOME OF THEM NEED TODAY!
    I FEEL THAT WE ARE TOO CASUAL IN THIS DAY AND AGE. I ENJOY YOUR BOOKS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR GOOD READS.

  23. I love reading about the Regency period. I think my father would have had a hard time with this era because he wanted his girls to stand on their own. Yes, you let the males open the door for you, but they should know that you can do it yourself if necessary! Thank you for this article!

  24. Thanks for the information. It explains a little more in detail of what goes on in Regency period books I have been reading.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here