Back to Top

Category: History

Did you know that January 1 wasn’t always January 1? The grandparents and parents of our Regency heroes and heroines would have known a year when January 1 followed March 24. What’s more, that year they would lose a whole eleven days that September.

Until 1752 Britain and the British Empire, including the American colonies, still followed the Julian Calendar, established in the time of Julius Caesar, which made the year 365 days long and used leap years, but the calendar had an error that made the Spring equinox drift from its date of March 21. Two hundred years earlier, though, astronomers convinced Pope Gregory to change to a calendar based on the  solar calendar that kept the equinox on March 21, important, because that was how they calculated when Easter would be.

Most of the Catholic countries adopted this Gregorian calendar in the 1500s, but Britain refused to switch to that “papist” system. You can imagine how confusing using two different calendars could be to travelers and traders.

And how disruptive changing the calendar would be to birthdays, festival days, paydays, dated contracts–any number of things.

In 1752 in Britain, March 25 became January 1, the start of a new year. But more adjustment was necessary to bring things in line with the Gregorian calendar, so Wednesday September 2, 1752, was followed by Thursday September 14, 1752, “losing” eleven days.

In 1752 William Willett of Endon bet that he could dance non-stop for twelve days. He started dancing on September 2, danced all night and stopped the next day–Sept 14. Twelve days! He won the bet.

The Whigs, who were more progressive and were convinced by the science of why the change was needed, supported the change. The conservative Tories were opposed and protested under the slogan, “Give Us Our Eleven Days.”

In 1755 Hogarth released a satirical print called An Election Entertainment depicting a tavern scene with some bawdy Whigs celebrating while Tories outside protested, “Give us our eleven days.” Apparently, though, citizens did not really riot in the streets believing they’d lost eleven days, as many believe. Hogarth’s print is thought to have contributed to this idea. 

If you’d like to learn more about the differences in the Gregorian and Julian calendars, here’s the Wikipedia link.

comfort 1815 no drawers

Comfort, 1815

 

I’ve been mulling over ideas for my first “official” post as a Risky, and in the end, I’m falling back on clothing (shocking, I know, LOL!). I thought I’d do a post about “risky” clothing, or drawers. After all, what’s more risky than a risqué garment that we now think of as a necessity!

Knee-length drawers are reported to have been worn by women as early as the turn of the 19th century, but they were considered fast and unladylike, and were not commonly adopted from what I can tell. I’ve consulted with a lot of costume historians and museum curators over the years, and none of them see them as a common garment in the records, household accounts, or as extant garments before the Victorian period, really.

1810 2nd verision gilray drawers

Gilray,1810

They had a split crotch, usually being made up of two entirely separate legs on a drawstring waistband. An illustration from 1810 (included below) shows a lady wearing them, so it can be construed that they were somewhat accepted by then, but I do wonder as other images in the series seem to concentrate on highlighting the more deceptive aspects of a woman’s toilette (such as wigs).

 

1820lawndrawers

Woven linen drawers, c. 1820

 

The extant pairs we DO have from the Regency all seem to date from the 1820s. They have a split crotch, usually being made up of two entirely separate legs on a drawstring waistband.

An illustration from 1810 shows a lady wearing them, so it can be construed that they were becoming more accepted by then, but I would still hazard that they were not a universal.

stare case

Exhibition Stare Case, 1811 Click for a larger image!

And I would make that guess because of other images that clearly show them as not being worn (such as Comfort at the top of the post and Exhibition Stare Case, left).

So it’s always worth remembering that the daring, fast, risky move in the Regency period was to put on a pair of drawers. I’d love to see a book where the hero is scandalized by discovering his lady love’s undies, and I fully expect that if anyone can write that book, it’s one of the marvelous women I now share this blog with.

I look forward to seeing what everyone comes up with to talk about in 2015!

 

Recently, an article about whether or not Mr. Darcy’s fortune was based on slavery set my Twitter feed alight. And I thought, well of course it was (in one form or another). This is the dark side of our wealthy, aristocratic characters that romance sweeps under the rug. It is certainly possible that the Darcy family fortune was based entirely on the profits of the mines in Derbyshire (harsh as those conditions might have been, they were NOT akin to slavery), but it’s much more likely that those profits were then put to use in ways that almost certainly have ties to slavery.hip0210043WHH%20v2

How so, let us tally up the ways …

1) Directly. Many families owned plantations in the West Indies (see this fascinating account of how the Earls of Harewood built their fortune on slavery, the products there of, and the overseeing of same).

2) Being paid off. When slavery was abolished in 1833, the British government spent a staggering amount of money to compensate the owners of slaves for their losses (good article about that here). Some families got the equivalent of millions of dollars. There were over three thousand claims, which lets you know how widespread slavery was and what its impact must have been on the fortunes of the top families.

3) Via investments. People invested in specific ships and ventures (sometimes called consortiums or syndicates). Many of those would have been involved in producing or importing some kind of product that was produced by slaves in either America, the West Indies, or India (sugar, rum, cotton, opium, tea, rice, etc.).

4) The East India Company. It’s worth noting that when Britain abolished slavery, supposedly throughout its empire, it made an exception for slavery in India. So all those fortunes made in India by younger sons, all those tea plantations, and cotton farms, and military careers, existed because of slavery (good summation on Wikipedia).

I’m sure Janet would have even more insightful things to say on this topic, but I wanted to bring it up for discussion given the timeliness of the article. I know romance is generally seen as escapist, and I don’t want to ruin that for anyone, but I do think it does history a disservice to gloss over these sorts of things to the point where they no longer seem to exist.

So what do you all think? Do you want to topics like this addressed in romances, or do you think it makes it too hard to enjoy the HEA and heavy topics are best left to those writing straight historical fiction?

 

Follow
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com