Thursday, August 2, 2012

REGENCY RULES AND ETIQUETTE - Part I

Two strings to her bow, by John Pettie (1887)
There were many rules in Regency society which governed the behavior between the ranks of men and women, and between the ranks in the social hierarchy. These are but a few:

Dancing at Almacks
Nothing less than formal 'full dress' was acceptable at the prestigious Almack's Club, as the Duke of Wellington discovered to his chagrin when even he was turned away for wearing trousers in 1814. 

Morning calls.
Social connections began with morning calls to homes of those in fashionable society. Strangely, morning calls were paid in the afternoon and did not usually exceed half an hour.
A woman could not pay a morning call to her social superiors until they had called on her or left a card.

 
A person new to the city or country area waited for calls of ceremony to be made to them by those already established before they made a call of their own.
In the country it was acceptable for a man to make a call or leave a card with someone of higher social standing if they were new to the neighborhood.
A gentleman calling on a family for a social visit, asked for the mistress of the house. The master if it was a business call.

If the lady of the house was away or unable to receive callers, a card was left. If the daughter was a friend of long standing and well beyond marriageable age, it was acceptable for a male to call on her, in the absence of family.
A lady was never permitted to attend a man’s lodgings whether married or single.
  
Introductions
 Once two people were introduced they had to know each other for good by acknowledging each other's presence every time they met and accepting visits back and forth.
A bow or curtsy was executed according to the status and relationship of the person encountered and with regard to the particular circumstance.

Kissing
From Regency Etiquette, The Mirror of Graces (1811) by A Lady of Distinction: Advice to young women: (The) ‘indiscriminate facility which some young women have in permitting what they call a good-natured kiss. These good-natured kisses have often very bad effects, and can never be permitted without injuring the fine gloss of that exquisite modesty which is the fairest garb of virgin beauty.’ 

Dinner: 
The guests often walked into the dining room in couples with the rank of the ladies determining the order in which they entered. Where rank was equal, married women went before single women, and the older ladies took precedence over their juniors. Once seated inside the dining room, the hostess sat at the top of the table, the host at the bottom. The pre-eminent male guest was seated on the hostess' right hand, the chief female guest at the host's right. 
They were encouraged to make conversation with their neighbors, and men helped women to dishes before them on the table. After dinner, the ladies would drink a glass or two of wine with the men then retire to the drawing room, again in the order of precedence.

When the men returned from the dining room after their port and discussions of politics and weighty matters, all would take coffee and tea, signalling by a spoon left in the cup or across it that they were done drinking. A cup once poured, had to be drunk. A contemporary print makes fun of a Frenchman who, not knowing the spoon rule, has his cup refilled over a dozen times before he realizes his mistake.

Driving a carriage or riding.
A lady was permitted to drive around town if accompanied by a groom and alone on her country estate.  
It was acceptable to go riding or driving with a man, if a groom or chaperone was in attendance. And alone, if he was a friend of long standing or a relative.
As long as a lady was properly attired and rode side-saddle, she could ride a horse. But galloping in Hyde Park was not permitted. And never riding alone dressed like a man as Horatia Cavendish did in A Baron in her Bed.
iStock Image
During the Season it was essential to be seen in Hyde Park during the promenade hour between 5.00pm and 6.00pm.
Not everyone complied with the rules, however:

Research: Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester. Sourcebooks.
Maggi Andersen
A BARON IN HER BED Coming 6th September 2012. Available for preorder from Amazon UK: AMAZON UK Print & e-book
Resources: All Things Austen, An Encyclopedia of Austen's World Volume 1 by Kirstin Olsen.
Georgette Heyer's Regency World by Jennifer Kloester
Regency Etiquette The Mirror of Graces (1811) By a Lady of Distinction.
Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen by Sarah Jane Downing.




 

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