Are we 22 years too late for this Regency Bicentennial? Well…
by Elaine Golden, debut Harlequin Historical Undone author of the Fortney Follies series
How exciting is it that the British Regency we love to read about began 200 years ago? Yep, on February 5, 1811, Parliament passed the Regency Act allowing the Prince of Wales to act on the monarch’s behalf and ushered in one of the most popular eras of historical romance.
But did you know that the Regency almost began 22 years earlier?
The act of creating a regency was not a light matter, and one the Parliament wrestled with for years. In fact, the first bout of mental illness for King George III was so severe that Parliament first convened in 1789 to consider creating a regency. Doing so required making appointments that normally only the reigning monarch could create, so taking the action upon itself was fraught with illegal consequences. But Parliament pressed forward, a Regency Bill was introduced, but before it could be passed the King recovered and all returned back to normal. The King resumed his reign while the Prince went on about his exploits.
Everything was fine until George’s youngest daughter passed away in 1810. The King was especially attached to his daughters and when his favored, Princess Amelia, died he completely succumbed to his mental illness. Parliament returned to their plans to establish a regency, and the bill was passed in 1811 placing George, Prince of Wales, as Prince Regent. He was 48 years old.
I love history. Or, rather, I am fascinated by the way that people lived and loved in different places and different eras across time. Marry my attraction of historical trivia with the insistence of a happy ending and you can imagine why I’ve become such an avid historical romance reader over the years.
So, when I took up pen (er, keyboard in my case. My husband swears I have the lackadaisical penmanship of a physician.) it was natural to go straight to historical romance. But what time period to write? Celtic druids? Norman conquerors? Yukon gold rush? Brash pirates?
The nineteenth century has always held a particular fascination for me. And the Regency has always attracted me because it represents a fresh breath of air, a broad sweeping change in fashion, architecture, politics, communications and travel. Towering powered wigs and heavy panniers disappeared in favor of the classical Greek silhouette and lightweight cotton textiles. Opulent, gilded furniture gave way to clean lines and the uniform terraces of look-alike town homes. While the aristocracy lived lavishly, the working man began to move, to speak out. And travel was beginning to be revolutionized with technological innovations in canal infrastructure and the first steps toward locomotive transport. A growing global dominion was even reflected by exotic influences in places like the Prince Regent’s seaside palace, Brighton Pavilion.
But ultimately, it was the story that chose the Regency era. In An Imprudent Lady, my debut romance, Charlotte Fortney’s destiny is shaped by the rigid strictures of society and her very powerful father. She’s the model aristocratic daughter, raised to do precisely as she’s told. But she’s also a child of her age, longing to cast off the confining strictures of her upbringing and claim the simple mister she’s always loved.