Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Birth of England's Romantic Regency

The Prince of Wales became England's Prince Regent on 5 th January 1811 but was not sworn in by the Privy Council until February 6. 1811. As the eldest son of King George III, George IV the then Prince of Wales acted as Regent between 1811 and 1820 due to his father's insanity. An extravagant and dissolute man, the Prince Regent was also one of the greatest royal collectors and patrons of art and architecture.
John Singleton Copley

Our fat little Regent playing at what I can only assume is defender of the land and conqueror of France. Here is some of him in his own words.

"I have done extravagant things and I'm not ashamed of it; but I've always had my principles, and my principles have always been the same – gallant to every woman, but faithful to one!"

Prince George, as reported by Princess Dorothea Lieven, wife of the Russian ambassador to Britain. What a romantic thing it would have been if the woman was his long-suffering albeit unhygienic wife.

Painted here by Sir Thomas Lawrence
I have a soft spot for the Regent in the way one does for a rotten nephew or a silly cousin.

"He cried by the hour … he testified to the sincerity and violence of his passion and his despair by the most extravagant expressions and actions, rolling on the floor, striking his forehead, tearing his hair, falling into hysterics and swearing that he would abandon the country, forego the crown, sell his jewels and plate and scrape together a competence to fly with the object of his affections to America."

This from Lord Holland, Memoirs of the Whig Party, commenting on the prince's histrionic technique for wooing the Catholic widow Maria Fitzherbert, c 1785. They were secretly married on 21 December 1785, but the marriage was void according to the Royal Marriage Act.

Another by Lawrence

No one could accuse the silly little thing of being without passion, spite or of having very good judgment.

"[Maria Fitzherbert] the wife of my heart & soul etc etc … I wish to be buried with her picture round my neck, and so on … from my beloved parents, I ask forgiveness for any faults I may have ignorantly or unguardedly been guilty of … she who is called the Princess of Wales, the mother of my daughter, should in no way be concerned in the education or care of the child, or have possession of her person … to my daughter I leave my jewels, which are mine having been bought with my own money – and to her who is called the princess of Wales I leave one shilling …"
Prince George's 'will', written on 9 January 1796, two days after his wife gave birth to their daughter Charlotte.

And here by Sir David Wilkie

He was concerned by all the wrong things and was often unable to make up his mind but he was genuinely made ill with worry at the thought of being an inadequate Regent. I sympathize with the cross he had to bear but I do wish he had done some for those living in object poverty.

And again by Lawrence

Still, he would be king and for all is fault he did give us his Pavillion and the decadence that cultivated one the greatest romantic age. Under is frivolous reign Byron, Shelley, Austen, Blake, Turner, Scott, Nash, Keat, Brougham, Wordsworth, Coleridge and a hundred more brilliant artist prospered. For that he'll forever have my gratitude.

A lovely weekend to all,


  1. I love teaching "England in 1819" and "Ozymandias" when discussing this period with my students. This is one of the most fascinating periods in history for me and I love your way of telling the story! Fantastic post!

    Happy weekend to you too, dear Simone.

  2. Great post, you always enlighten me Simone, and being a history fan I do appreciate that.

  3. Hello
    Really a lovely post! I've learned a lot about the period from you and it'll help me very much to understand the political background when reading the novels of 19th century.
    And thank you so much for the award and the link!! I appreciate them a lot! Have a nice weekend!

  4. He actually strikes me as a very tragic person. Forced by his character (and birth) into probably being unhappy for most of his life...

  5. The pictures are incredible - so much to look at in each image :)

  6. The first photo is great - it would be an interesting one to hang in an office setting.

    The quotes you shared were very interesting too.

    Tom Bailey

  7. I am impressed about this post,really great!-)

    I love history and paintings and all paintings in you post are very intresting!
    I watched at them and enjoyed,
    Thank you,

    With love,


  8. Very interesting! You know I am a history freak.

  9. This is why I stop by to visit, for the romance and history.

    Off topic, but I have a blog award waiting for you. Enjoy.

  10. Great post and I adore those paintings. Thanks for sharing.

    Hope you having a lovely weekend, cheers: Evi

  11. this is such a beautiful post, you are very thoughtful Simone!
    wishing you a lovely day,


  12. Lovely post and great pictures !

    Have a beautiful and inspiring week :)

  13. Simone Spooks may be called MI5 in your country. For some reason, I do not know why, the series has a different title here.

  14. A lovely Sunday to all and my thank to all who came by to share in the birth of my Regency.
    Warm regards and all my love,

  15. Have you seen the film, 'The Madness of King George' Simone? The script is by Allen Bennet, and I think it's a really good introduction to the Regency Period. Tom.