The Regency Era: A Time of Peculiarity

Ah, the Regency Era!

A time of luxury, elegant balls, and proper manners!

A period of extravagant dresses, hearty dinners…

…and murder scenes that served as entertainment!

Oh, you heard that right!

For all its glamour and obsession with decorum, the Regency Era became the birthplace of a few very strange, and dome downright inexplicable things!

Let’s take a look at a few of them!

A Walk In The Park...Or Not!

Regency society decreed that a lady must not walk or ride along St. James Street in London where a number of the famous men’s clubs such as “White’s”, “Boodle’s” and “Brook’s” were situated. A lady risked her reputation and being impertinently ogled if she dared venture into this male precinct. 

St. James was the gentlemen’s preserve. For a woman to simply walk down St. James’ Street was considered a social solecism. Even more so, for a woman of quality to be seen entering a gentleman’s lodgings or area of entertainment, alone, would mean swift and certain ruin.

Celebrity Chefs

A celebrity chef is a kitchen chef who has become a celebrity. Today, chefs often become celebrities by presenting cookery advice and demonstrations, usually through the mediums of television and radio, or in printed publications. While television is ultimately the primary way for a chef to become a celebrity, some have achieved this through success in the kitchen, cookbook publications, and achieving awards such as Michelin stars, while others are home cooks that won competitions.

The idea of the “celebrity” chef emerged during the Regency with the most famous being Marie-Antoine Carême who charged astronomical amounts of money for his services, wrote bestselling cookbooks and was employed by both Napoleon and the Prince Regent.


How Many Candles Does It Take To Light A Ballroom?

It cost at least £15 – an average working man’s yearly wage – to light a ballroom with wax candles for one night. Candles were sold in four-hour or six-hour burn lengths, and they dictated the length of the ball. One can imagine the delight of walking into a ballroom and finding the room ablaze with six-hour candles, and the disappointment of finding only the four-hour kind in the candelabra.

I can’t imagine how high the electricity bill would have been…


Pineapples Were Symbols Of Wealth

Pineapples were very exotic and so expensive that hostesses used them as centerpieces on their dinner tables to show their wealth. They were hardly ever eaten as they were too precious and were often passed from hostess to hostess to use as decoration until they rotted.


Reusable Tea Leaves

I do love tea, and I simply can’t imagine re-using the tea leaves, but that is precisely what happened during this era, when tea was an expensive import. 

The common scenario went like this – the first use was made by the householder. After they had enjoyed their tea, the housekeeper would collect the leaves and dry them out, whereupon she would enjoy the second steeping of the leaves. She may then pass them onto some lucky individual among the members of staff who had fallen into her favor, blessed to enjoy the third use of the tea.

You Could Flash Your Ankles Without Ruining Your Life

It was not scandalous for ladies to show their ankles. In fact, several drawings and engravings of the era show ladies with skirts barely reaching their ankles. Since their dancing slippers were similar to today’s ballerina flats, the ankles were clearly visible. As shoe styles changed from slippers into the boots of the Victorian Era, it also became a sign of modesty to keep one’s ankles covered.  Hence, showing ankles was scandalous during the Victorian Era, but not the Regency Era.

The Stale Bread Law

Due to the Napoleonic Wars and subsequent blockages, wheat was hard to come by. This meant that bread, a main staple in the Englishman’s diet, became scarce. In an attempt to prevent a massive shortage, Parliament passed the Stale Bread Act. This outlawed the sale and/or consumption of fresh bread, and only allowed stale bread, or bread baked more than 24 hours ago, to be sold. Apparently stale bread filled bellies faster than fresh bread. Penalties for the offense were severe, but as you can imagine, it was very hard to enforce due to the poverty rates. The government repealed it about a year later, but the shortage persisted until after the war ended.

Romantic Dinners…Not So Much!

Austen wrote that "to be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love", and country balls were seen as an excellent way for Regency women to hook a husband. The food on offer was "fancy" finger food that could be eaten without too much mess. Like…

…er…

…chicken stuffed with hogs' tongues.

So romantic!

And While We’re On The Matter Of Romance…

The upper classes liked to swan around at balls, but rural communities had more practical methods of helping people find a match. If a girl's parents approved of a boy, he'd be invited to stay the night in her bed. To prevent premarital hanky-panky, they'd be sewn into a bag with a seam down the middle to keep them on their own side.

Ah, what a time to be alive! 😉

Written by Emma Linfield 

  • jacquie says:

    I love these articles

  • ann says:

    Thanks for this interesting article. Looks like stale bread could be moldy & therefore deadly.

  • carol says:

    Glad I was’nt born in that era.!!!!

  • I absolutely loved the article! It was quite a time to be alive, how ever unbelievable some of the logic is‼️It is a little wonderful to imagine some of the areas The Regency Era took on and the justifications for them @ the time!

  • Joyce says:

    That they would sew down the middle is so funny, these days that would happen, and I love pineapple I would sneak it outside and eat it, that had strange rules back then.

  • Linda says:

    Love the information. So many rules.

  • Sherrie says:

    I knew a lot of that but sharing a bed in basically two sleeping bags is new and chicken stuffed with hogs tongue is downright stomach turning

    • Cobalt Fairy says:

      How interesting! 😀

    • Ejrena says:

      Tongue is a very good meat, because that muscle is most frequently used. We eat beef tongue and pork tongue, so why not hog?
      As to the sewing in, I personally believe that to be a myth, but I would be happily convinced otherwise by evidence, since it really sounds quite funny.

  • dita says:

    Find it very intresting as I enjoy everything related to the Regency times.
    thank you

  • Shelby says:

    Glad I don’t live it those times! Glad to be able to go anywhere without having to have a chaperone or can’t wear my jeans and sneakers. Love to read about them but rather live now!

  • Irene Gray says:

    Very interesting but some of the customs of the time were to say the least a tad difficult to stomach eg those romantic dinners ugh!! Showing an ankle not so much.

  • Norah says:

    great not to live in that era stale bread pineapples that must have gone rotten. how did any one ever had romance .

  • Kay Langer says:

    Oh my Emma! These were some mighty strange ideas , at least according to the standards of America in my day. Today is a “freefall” as far as what America had been in my growing up years. There were standards here in the 50s and 60s and then young folks became far from caring about any standards. Thank you so very much for these new insights into the Regency and Victorian Eras. I certainly do appreciate these looks into that time and place.
    ~~kay~~

  • Nancy says:

    I really enjoyed reading these articles. They were full of interesting things that I never heard of. Thanks for the information.

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