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Friday, April 24, 2015

A New Book on Regency-Era Fashions

©Cheryl Bolen

As an author of historcial books, I have found Jody Gayle's first book, Fashions in the Era of Jane Austen, an invaluable research resource. I have it both in print and ebook. Now I am delighted to have her newest release, Fashions in the Era after Jane Austen. Discerning readers won't find dramatic differences in the two eras since they are separated by just a few years. The first book covers 1809-1820; the second, 1821-1828.

Ms. Gayle has given us another gem. She goes directly to the source: Ackermann's Repository of the Arts, a popular woman's magazine in Georgian England. Moreover, each of these stunning fashion prints is accompanied by its original text, carefully presented with sometimes-archaic spellings that lend (if possible) even more authenticity.

"The illustrations need to be described in the language of their time," Ms. Gayle writes in her preface. "The words add a whole new depth to the illustrations and, most importantly, a glimpse into the culture."

I concur. One particularly vital reason for including these rather comprehensive written descriptions is that they describe what types of fabrics were used in each facet of the dress. This is of immense importance to historical writers.

In addition, each hairstyle depicted is described. Here's an example: "The hind hair is arranged in braids and bows, which do not rise much above the crown of the head. The front hair is brought very low at the sides of the face in light curls: the forehead is left bare, with the exception of a single ringlet in the middle. A coral wreath is placed rather far back."

Fabrics of gloves and shoes are also given, as well as explanations of jewelry worn.

An added bonus for us historical writers is little plugs—with locations—of various tradespersons associated with the dress.
The above is an illustration of Ms. Gayle's first book next to my last mass-market paperback, used to illustrate the size of Ms. Gayle's books.

The oversized paper-bound book features just about one hundred fashion plates, and these include morning dress, promenade dress, wedding dress, evening dress, ball dress, carriage dress, head dress (which features multiple prints of head wear), full dress, walking dress, and garden costume. The prints in this new book are of considerably higher quality than the ones in the first.

I am indebted to Ms. Gayle and to my fellow author of historical romance, Candice Hern, for making this book possible: Ms. Gayle, for dedicating herself to unearthing publications from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and bringing them to life; Candice, whose wonderful website inspired Ms. Gayle's passion for early nineteenth-century fashion.—Cheryl Bolen, whose newest release is Duchess by Mistake, a House of Haverstock book

Friday, April 17, 2015

History of the British Flag, the Union Jack

The flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is referred to as the "Union Jack or “Union Flag.”

The Union Jack as we know it was born from the union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801.  However, before 1603, the British flag was very different than today’s flag. England, Ireland, and Scotland were different countries, each having their own individual flags. England’s flag honored the patron saint of England, St. George with his emblem of a red cross on a white field and had been the official flag of England since the Medieval times.
Flag of England

That changed when Queen Elizabeth I of England, who was unmarried, named, on her deathbed, expressed her desire that her cousin, King James VI of Scotland, succeed her. So King James ruled both nations. In Scotland, he was King James VI. In England, he was King James I. At that time, King James called his two countries the "Kingdom of Great Britaine." To further show his desire that the countries be considered one, King James made a proclamation in 1606 that his countries’ flags, the red cross of Saint George, who was the patron saint of England, and the Saltire of Saint Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, be combined to represent the joining of these two countries. (Wales was not represented in the Union Flag by Wales's patron saint, Saint David, because at that time, Wales was part of the Kingdom of England.

Flag of Scotland
King James’ flag did not become official until the reign of Queen Anne, when England and Scotland united their parliaments to give birth to the new nation of Great Britain. In 1707, Queen Anne officially adopted King James I’s flag as the national flag. This new combined flag was used for 101 years.

However, changes did not stop there. In 1800, Ireland became part of Great Britain in the Act of Union with Ireland, passed by both the Irish and British parliaments despite much opposition. It was signed by George III in August 1800 to become effective on 1 January 1801.

Flag of Ireland
In 1801, the Union Flag was redesigned to include the Cross of St. Patrick (which has a red, diagonal crosss), the patron saint of Ireland. It is in this form that the British flag exists today. 

There is some disagreement as to the origin of the the term 'Union Jack.' One source cites it evolving from the 'jack-et' of the English or Scottish soldiers. Another alternative is that it’s a shortening of Jacobus, the Latin version of “James." It may also have been derived from the term  'Jack' which once meant "small" as evidence by the nickname “Jack” which once meant “little John” or “John Jr.” A proclamation by Charles II required that the Union Flag be flown only by ships of the Royal Navy as a “jack,” which is a small flag at flown at the bowsprit. 

If you are a Brit, you probably learned this in school. But as an American, I found this history fascinating, and I hope you do, too. 

BTW, I found a great figure of the four flags superimposed upon one another on Enchanted Learning: 


Friday, April 10, 2015

Riding in Style in the Regency

By the start of the 1800's one of the biggest innovations in horse fashion had arrived--the Thoroughbred.  Three founding stallions--the Darley Arabian "Manak," the Godolphin Barb, and the Byerley Turk--had been brought to England in the early 1700's.  When these light, fast Arabians were bred with the larger, cold-blooded English mares, the cross produced a horse with size, speed and stamina.

With the Thoroughbred established as a breed, horse racing also became a more popular, and a better regulated, sport.  In 1711, Queen Anne had established regular race meetings at her park at Ascot.  Gentlemen also organized races for themselves, often "matching" particular horses against each other, and by 1727 a Racing Almanac began to be printed.

Around 1750, the gentlemen who regularly met at the Red Lion Inn at Newmarket started the Jockey Club.  By 1791, the Jockey Club had issued the "General Stud Book", and by the early 1800's Jockey Club stewards attended every racing meet and race, including the Derby, first held in May of 1779, the first Derby was held.  Racing now became a fashionable and expensive sports.

Assize-week was the time for races, for that was when the gentry came into the chief town of the shire for trials and selling harvest.  Meets sprang up, and still run, at Newmarket in April and October, York in May, Epsom, Ascot in June, Goodwood, Doncaster, Warick, Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Cheltenham, Bath, Worcester, and Newcastle.

Flat and jumping races were also held for women only.  Mrs. Bateman wrote in 1723, "Last week, Mrs. Aslibie arranged a flat race for women, and nine of that sex, mounted astride and dressed in short pants, jackets and jockey caps participated. They were striking to see, and there was a great crowd to watch them.  The race was a very lively one; but I hold it indecent entertainment."  Some women--such as the infamous Letty Lade, who reportedly swore like a coachman--rode and drove to please themselves, and made their own fashion statement by bucking the trends for demure ladies.

But racing could be a ruinous expensive sport, as stud fees increased in price for the most successful sires.  Before the Prince Regent quit the racing scene in 1807, his racing stud farm cost him an estimated 30,000 pounds a year.

The less wealthy, however, could still enjoy equine sport through presence fox hunting.  For while expensive Thoroughbreds hunters might also be seen in the hunt field, farmers also rode their heavier draft horses, such as the Suffolk Punch, and children might well be mounted upon handy Welsh Cobs or Welsh Ponies.  The hunt field was where skill mattered more than social position, and even a man in trade, such as Gunter, the confectioner who ran the famous London shop which sold ices, could ride next to lords--and a few ladies, too.

By the 1780's, fox hunting had replaced the more ancient sport of stag hunting.  The Enclosure Acts of the 1700's had also changed the sport from its early form of gallops across open land into races over fences, ditches and field.

November to March was, and remains, fox hunting season, starting after the fall of the leaf, when the fields lie fallow, and ending after the last frost, just before the first planting.Hunt territories varied widely.  The fifth Earl of Berkely hunted an area from Berkley Castle to Berkley Square, stretching 120 miles. There were two methods for being able to hunt with a pack.  One could hunt by invitation of the hunt master, or one could pay a fee to hunt with a subscription pack.  By 1810 there were 24 subscription packs.  However, this would double, so that by the mid-1800's hunting had become more a matter of subscribing in exchange for the right to hunt with the pack.

The golden age for hunting in Leichesterchire is considered to be 1810 to 1830.  During this time, there were as many as 300 hunters stabled in Melton Mowbray--with some gentlemen keeping up to 12 hunters.  A gentleman could hunt six days a week with the Quorn, the Cottesmore, the Belvoir, and the Pytchley, and to do so would need at least two mounts every day to keep pace with the master and the pack of hounds.

Ladies, while not generally found in the hunt, also rode to hounds.  Mrs. Tuner Farley hunted for 50 years.  Lady Salisbury was master of the Hatfield Hunt from 1775 to 1819.  She hunted old and blind, in her sky blue habit, with a groom leading her horse and yelling at her to, "Jump, damn you, my lady."  From 1788 to 1840, Lord Darlington hunted his own hounds four days a week in Yorkshire and Durham, with his three daughters and his second wife, all in their scarlet habits.

However, between late 1700's to about mid 1800's, when the jumping pommel was invented for the side saddle, ladies were more likely to be advised to "ride to the meet and home again to work up an appetite."
It should be noted that a few ladies chose to ride astride. This was not common, but it was done, particularly by those who didn't really give a fig about what anyone thought of them.
Prior to 1835, a side saddle had only one or two pommels.  One turned up to support the right leg, and some had a second pommel which turned down over the left leg.  The 'jumping' pommel did not exist in Regency times.
A lady's riding habit also had to be cut so that it draped down over the horse's side, covering ankle and boot in a lovely flow.  This drape required that a loop be attached to the hem, so that, when dismounted, a lady could gather up the extra length of skirt.  The fabric for a habit was usually a heavy cotton, twill or wool.  Due to its cut, a habit provided any woman as much freedom as breeches did for a man.
Riding habit styles often copied military fashion, with close cut coats, cravats, and military shakos.  Ladies always wore gloves, both to preserve their hands, and to improve their grip upon the reins. The side saddle requires the rider to sit with a straight back and with hips and shoulders absolutely even.  Slightly more weight should be carried on the right hip to compensate for the weight of both legs on the left.  Any tilting to one side, leaning or twisting eventually results in a horse with a sore back.
Side saddles have a broad, flat and comfortably padded seat.  The right leg goes over a padded leather branch which turns up (the top pommel).  The left leg is in a stirrup that is short enough to bring it firmly up against a second pommel which turns down.  If the horse plays up at all, the rider must clamp both legs together, gripping these pommels.
On a comfortable horse, riding side saddle soon begins to feel a bit like riding a padded rocking chair.  It's far less tiring than riding astride for the only effort is to sit straight and still. The important factor in riding side saddle is the horse.  A comfortable stride and good manners are essential.  This does not have to be a placid horse, but should not be a horse with a rough or bumpy stride.

Betty Skelton, author of Side Saddle Riding, found that...."As a teenager in the 1920's, side saddle riding was second nature to me.  I found it comfortable and I did not fall off as often as I had done from a cross saddle."  In teaching side saddle, Ms. Skelton has found that a beginner rider can often be comfortably cantering during her first lesson, which is far more progress than most can manage when riding astride.