Two hundred years ago today, the English Regency began. George, Prince of Wales, swore his allegiance to King George III followed by oaths of office as Regent according to Parliamentary Acts, and as protector of the Protestant religion. The solemn ceremonies at the Prince’s residence, Carlton House, were attended by the Royal Dukes, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Parliamentary ministers led by the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval.
At right, a highly flattering picture of George, Prince of Wales, by John Singleton Copley, displayed at the Royal Academy in 1810. George always yearned to be a military leader but, sadly for Copley, he did not purchase this picture. It now hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Its official nme is Portrait of HRH The Prince of Wales at a Review, attended by Lord Heathfield, General Turner, Col. Bloomfield, and Baron Eben; Col. Quinton in the Distance. The Prince never took the battlefield, however much he tried to convince the Duke of Wellington that he’d been at the Duke’s side at Waterloo.
Up to the time of his Regency, the Prince’s closest friends were associated with the Whigs, a political group of prominent aristocrats and their associates, who favored some “liberal” ideas, though one would never say they were radical reformers. The differences between the Tories and the Whigs in the early 19th century today seem rather minor. The Whigs wanted reform but just a little bit! Gradually, the Whigs came to stand for extension of the voting franchise, Catholic emancipation, abolition of slavery, and other forward-thinking policies. But, unexpectedly, the new Prince Regent did not dismiss the Tory government and appoint his old friends. Needless to say, the old buddies were not pleased.
|Jane Austen, NPG
Is it just my bias, caused by my admiration of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, or were there really an unusually brilliant collection of characters in the Regency? Here are a few of the personages who capture my fancy.
Jane Austen (1775-1817), brilliant author. Nuff said.
|The Duke of Wellington, Waterloo victor
|Lord Byron, mad, bad and dangerous to know
|George “Beau” Brummell, fashion arbiter
Princess Lieven, by Lawrence, c. 1813
sees all, tells all?
Earl Grey, led the Whig opposition
Sir John Soane, brilliant architect
Sir Thomas Lawrence, self-portrait; he painted them all
Above is just a sliver of the fascinating characters of the Regency Era. Who is your favorite? Let us know…