Happy birthday, your Majesty

Yes, today is Queen Victoria’s birthday. She was born in 1819, the daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent, and Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield. Apparently the Prince Regent threw a hissy fit about her christening because he didn’t like his brother and was upset, since the death of Princess Charlotte, that one of the Duke’s children might succeed him. So she wasn’t given one of the “traditional” family names–Charlotte, Elizabeth, Georgina or Augusta–and the Prince Regent decided she should be called Alexandrina Victoria (the Alexandrina in deference to her godfather by proxy, Russian Tsar Alexander). Victoria came to the throne in 1837 and ruled until her death in 1901.

Now the history lecture is over, I want you to take out your notebooks and…

Sometimes it seems that the Victorian and Regency ages overlap and sometimes they seem poles apart. Fashions changed radically. So did attitudes–or did they? The Regency era had the great infrastructure of the Royal Mail, and then a few decades later the railway changed the countryside and people’s perceptions of time and distance. The Victorians were prudes but Bowdler was busy cleaning up Shakespeare in the Regency.

What comes to your mind when you think of the Victorian Age? What do you like about the Victorian era that wasn’t around during the Regency?


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15 years ago

The plumbing improvements that happened during Vicky’s reign are my favorite part. The invention of the S-curve in the pipe to prevent the swamp gasses coming back through the pipe and into the house in addition to porcelain “thrones” made it possible to have a flushable loo in every home, and Thomas A. Crapper, purveyor of same, made a bundle. The concept of the flush toilet goes back very far, but that S-curve made it oh so much more pleasant.

Diane Perkins
15 years ago

I think it is all the repressed sexuality that bugs me the most. At least Regency ladies were allowed to enjoy their marital relations-or at least I imagine they were. Perhaps not as much as Georgians, though.

Anyway, I always think of Victorian ladies as totally repressed and wearing black and stuck in stuffy rooms with heavy draperies and lots of nicknacks, while their husbands went to brothels and wore those horrible plaid suits and sported muttonchops. Ewwwww.

Keira Soleore
15 years ago

Janet, please don’t throw me away. I wrote “newsletter” in the subject line when I e-mailed the Riskies.

The Victorian Richard Armitage wasn’t around in the Regency, but Matthew MacFadyen was, so both eras were just as good, I’d have to say.

Dirty dangerous coal mines, extremely polluted industrial towns, and cage crinolines come to mind when I think of the Victorian era. The oppression of the world under the Empire also took place largly during this period.

At the same time, innovation and science really took off in terms of original research and application.

Georg: Thanks for the S-pipe info. Nicer smelling flush toilets, now that one doesn’t find in the Regency.

Despite it all, I love the Regency !!!!

15 years ago

I liked most of the art movements in Victorian times — Rre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Impressionism, Symbolism, Art Noveau.

Liked the establishment of the Marquess of Queensbury rules in boxing.

Also, technology like the telephone.

15 years ago

For me, the Victorian period is when life began to resemble Modern Times. Middle class people going off to the office, taking holidays by the seashore, etc., etc. This is good and bad. It was in many ways a more familiar and comfortable lifestyle than the Regency (for normal people, that is, not aristocrats), but by virtue of its familiarity it does seem less romantic.


Michelle Styles
15 years ago

As I am currently reading Decency and Disorder –The Age of Cant 1789 -1837 by Ben Wilson (2007), can I say that the sections of the Regency era were very repressed and there was a definite movement from about 1789 to save British values. It is not very clear cut as to when and why things took hold. The repression was a reaction in many ways to things like the French Revolution and the Napoleon Wars. The big shift against nudity for example occurs in and around 1803 -1815. in 1813 Sarah Lennox is complaining that she can’t say a thigh of a chicken. 1822 sees the publication of the wonderfu lcartoon of William Wilberforce holding his hat over the naked Achilles genitals. The change was not overnight or confined to the years of William IV reign.
Yes, fashions changed , they did so gradually,but again you have to look at the driving force behind fashion. WOuld anyone have predicted the current obession with size zero back in the 1980s?
Is a coreset more or less constraining than spending hours at the gym? If you examine the actual size of corsets from the era rather than the literature — you will notice they generally range from 20 -26 inches with only 6% less than 20 inches.
Equally when you look at Victorian women, yes some were repressed but many were pioneers. It is during the Victorian era that you get the first women doctors, first women university graduates, Florence Nightengale and a whole host of women who changed the world.
It is far too simplistic to say good v bad.Repressed v not repressed as it very much depended on which population you were looking

Elena Greene
15 years ago

I have problems with some of the prevailing attitudes towards women: the repression, the tight corseting, chloroform and forceps births.

OTOH there were a lot of interesting counter movements towards women’s rights and social reforms. Also a lot of my favorite art and music comes from that era. Late classical, romantic, impressionist, etc…

If I ever wrote a romance set in Victorian times my characters would probably be reformers or artists or both.

Amanda McCabe
15 years ago

I definitely have problems with the muttonchops and plaid suits (and dumb hats!). But I do like some of the art and music. I like your idea of characters who were reformers and artists, Elena.

Last week on Masterpiece Theater, I watched a who whose title I can’t quite remember, but it was about Mrs. Beeton. ๐Ÿ™‚ The actress had some lovely costumes and hairstyles.

Diane Perkins
15 years ago

It is during the Victorian era that you get the first women doctors, first women university graduates, Florence Nightengale and a whole host of women who changed the world.
It is far too simplistic to say good v bad.Repressed v not repressed as it very much depended on which population you were looking

Okay, Michelle (and thank you for stopping by!!!! How nice to have another Harlequin Historical author here. See more about Michelle’s terrific and innovative historicals at http://www.michellestyles.co.uk/ )

I’ve heard it said that the scientific and artistic achievements of the Victorian age were the result of the sexual repression – all that pent up energy had to come out somehow.

I can concede that there were women who changed the world during that time, but, with romance, the relationships between men and women were so colored by the sexual attitudes that I can’t imagine writing romance set in that time. Luckily there are other wonderful authors who can find the romance in that era, even if I can’t.

15 years ago

Well, the funny thing with a Regency vs Victorian thing for me, is that I never heard of Regency related anything until I started reading historical romances. And it’s really funny how I just took to Regencies and not a lot of Victorians because I had plenty of exposure to the Victorian period in my childhood. . . Mom really likes Christmas Carol and there was Sherlock Holmes, although there were just two (I believe) Victorian set Basil Rathbone movies, but still. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I don’t read romances for the full, 100% real feel and every detail of the period, but still, I prefer Regencies because I perfer imagining the clothes the way they are, I like seeing “His Majesty” more than “Her Majesty,” and we might be closing in to the 20th century, but you don’t see trains, photography and the other things that start getting invented that we know of. I like that it’s away from our modern time. ๐Ÿ™‚

Besides, Jane Austen was on to something there. . . ๐Ÿ™‚


Janet Mullany
15 years ago

While writing I sometimes find myself longing for infrastructure beyond the Royal Mail–telegrams and shorter journeys with the railroads.

I love the London portrayed by Dickens and in Sherlock Holmes, although it must have been fairly similar to Regency London (which, while smaller, was still big enough, with all those coal fires to be equally badly polluted). I also love the early Suffragette movement, an era I’d like to write about someday.

Deb Marlowe
15 years ago

Oh, Janet, I would love to do a suffragette book too!

I’m working now on a book dealing with reformers and Evangelicals and I think these groups are some of the true bridges between the two eras.

Cara King
15 years ago

I think in some ways, the Victorian age gets a bad rap. Because there were reformers then fighting against poor factory and mining conditions, and arguing that women should have the vote (and education and right to enter professions), we remember it as a time of bad conditions and no rights.

Which is not to say that, in many ways, this wasn’t true — but women were worse off during the Regency! (Though I’m not so sure about factories. Mines, though, I imagine were worse. Or, at least, no better. And I think servants were worse off during the Regency.)

I think, too, that during the Regency, we’re used to seeing the view of the gentlemen (and ladies), but Dickens et al during the Victorian Age brought our view down to the middle and working classes and the impoverished, so we associate them more with the Victorian Age.

Okay. Sorry. Getting long-winded here.

I could actually see myself happily writing romances set during the Victorian age. I grew up on Alcott, Wilder, Dickens, Nesbit, and Frances Hodgeson Burnett, and my imagination has no trouble going there — either in a more fantasy form, or with all the nitty-gritty details.


Michelle Styles
15 years ago

Waves back at Diane

Maybe now is the time to confess that my first Victorian comes out in Dec 07 –A Christmas Wedding Wager (1846 self made man civil engineer hero andformer society beauty turned bluestocking heroine set in Newcastle) and I am hard at work on my second linked Victorian. I am doing early Victorian prior to the Crimean War as then I don’t have to worry as much about annoying facial hair.
It came about slightly because Christmas as it is now celebrated in the UK was primarily a Victorian invention.
Oh and if you have not yet discovered Judith Flanders Consuming Passions — it is brilliant, all about the growth of consumerism in the 18th -19th centuries.

Pam Rosenthal
15 years ago

The repressed sexuality of the Victorian era makes the Regency seem a little bit dull and matter-of-fact to me sometimes. The fascination with the unconscious, concepts like animal magnetism… Dickens’ dark alleys and the dark alleys of the psyche.

And let me recommend Sarah Waters’ astonishingly hot and smart Victorian lesbian romances, Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith. I haven’t read Affinity yet, but I’ve heard it’s terrific.

Diane Perkins
15 years ago

I am with Lois 100% and just the opposite from Janet (ho ho not for the first time either!!). I do not like the trains, telegrams, photography, etc.

I do appreciate that there are lots of stories to tell set in Victorian times. Not for me, though.