The Regency Period – a great artistic era or a bad royal joke?
The Regency Period went for nine years, starting in 1811 when a bill passed declaring that King George III was too unfit to rule, naming his 48-year-old son, the future King George IV, as Prince Regent. While the actual regency only lasted until the King’s death in 1820, the entire Regency Era is generally thought to be from the 1780’s until George IV’s death in 1830. However, the bill was made with reluctance as the Prince Regent was extremely unpopular. He was discouraged from making decisions regarding official governing business and war, so he instead spent all the money from the treasury on things such as balls, fashion, food, and pageants! People did not view him as the ‘Great King’ they originally had hoped he would be, and by his official coronation in 1821, he had become a symbol for senseless extravagance and a national joke.
Regency, an era of change
But although the Prince Regent was disliked himself, the actual regency was a great period for literature, art and music. George IV had become a patron for many new movements including painting, sculpture, decoration, literature, music, and science, which resulted in a much-needed expansion in the areas of architecture, literature and music. The Regency Period was also during the Romantic Era, which produced many famous composers, novelists, poets and artists, such as Mozart (who died in 1791), Beethoven, Jane Austen, and Rossini. In fact, all six of Jane Austen’s novels were published while George IV was Regent.
During the Regency Era, great change was happening in the world around Britain, which seemed to culminate around this time. The Industrial Revolution had begun decades earlier (1760’s) and would continue until around the time of King George IV’s death. The French Revolution had taken place while Prince George was in his mid-thirties. The Botany Bay Penal Colony was established at what is now Sydney Harbour. The Brothers Grimm published their collection of fairy tales in Germany, and Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor of France.
Regency Era and Dance
Dancing was considered an important skill during the Regency Era and a necessary skill for both women and men. In fact, households hired dancing Masters to teach their children the latest patterns and steps. They even held informal parties just for the children to practice. For families not wealthy enough to hire a private tutor, dance studios were opened. They taught many types of dances with different styles, including the Cotillion and the Quadrillion, which the Ladies of Almack introduced. The Cotillion, originating in France, had a square formation, consisting of a ‘chorus’ figure, and nine of ten ‘changes’. The dance included five distinct parts or figures and was lively and graceful. Longways dances, country dancing, performed with couples in two long lines facing each other, were also popular.
At the Abbey Museum’s first Regency Ball, Dance Kaleidoscope will demonstrate and lead guests in varied slow and energetic dances.
Although this period was, to some, a dark period where the acting leader of the country wasted money and increased the gap between the rich and the poor, to others it resulted in wonderful creations in the arts, marked by talented lives whose works change and influence our lives even today.
How would you like an evening in the regency period!
The Abbey Museum’s Regency Ball is an authentic re-creation of an excessive and luxurious evening in the regency period. So if your inner ‘Regent’ would like to have an evening of frivolity, complete with eating and drinking, laughing and dancing, you simply must experience the Abbey Museum’s Regency Ball.
Tickets are available now. Book here!