In Europe, duels were common from the Renaissance on among aristocrats and military men. While duels were usually fought with swords in the first part of the 18th century, pistols became popular in Britain from around the 1770ies, superseding swords as a weapon. Duelling was illegal, and killing a man in duel was considered murder. Nevertheless, duelling was commonly associated with notions of chivalry and a code of honour.
A code of honour defined rules for issuing a challenge as well as rules of engagement on the duelling ground. It regulated the conduct of seconds, and also specified which conduct would be considered dishonourable. Which rules guided duellist in the late 18th century and early 19th century? Continue reading
Captain Corbet James D’Auvergne could lay claim to knowing Jane Austen. The authoress mentions him in two letters to her sister Cassandra. Read more about Captain D’Auvergne connection to Jane Austen, and his achievements as Acting Governor of a tiny island in the North Sea called Heligoland.
After a ball at the Dolphin Hotel in Southampton in December 1808, Jane Austen – proficient as ever in summing up a gentleman’s potential as a spouse – noted that Corbet James D’Auvergne was both a captain in the Royal Navy and a ship owner. The remark might have been a joke about husband-hunting, but the Captain was indeed a good catch for a lady looking for hero-material in her husband. Besides, he was still single. Any lady furthering her acquaintance with him should know, however, that he had his hands in large-scale smuggling.
For persons interested in small arms, the 18th century has much to offer. Small arms were common in the army, but also in the everyday life of the rich, be it for sports, hunting or self-defence. Thus, gun-makers produced fascinating pieces for their clients. Find here three unusual small arms with interesting features. Continue reading
On 25th September 1799, shortly before 5 o’clock in the morning, the Wickhams woke up by the sound of guns. Were the French marching against Zurich again? William Wickham (1761 – 1840), England’s leading spy on the Continent, placed his wife Eleonore (1763-1836) under the care of his private secretary, the Count of St. George. He himself rode out reconnoitring the situation. Continue reading
Imagine it is 1793 and you are a member of the Board of Ordnance in London. Your country faces war with Revolutionary France. There is an army, of course, but the number of muskets in stock is deplorable. It is the task of the Board to equip both the army and the navy with small arms and ammunition. Are you up to the challenge? Continue reading
Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs (c. 1763—1827) lived an incredible life in an age when the world was dominated by men. Joanne Major and Sarah Murden, dedicated historians and authors of several non-fiction books about the Georgian Age, have written an amazing biography about an extraordinary lady. In A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, they uncover the bizarre but true story of Mrs. Biggs, who was a playwright and author, a political pamphleteer and a spy, working for the British Government. It’s a treat for me to present Sarah’s and Joanne’s post about Mrs. Biggs’ connection to the man who plotted to kill Napoleon.
The Plot of the Infernal Machine Continue reading
The uniform dress for the army became the norm in the mid-17th century. Styles and decoration depended on status and image of the troop, and the wearer of the uniform. In contrast to today’s camouflage, uniforms of the 18th and 19th centuries displayed bright and contrasting colours. The idea was to make it easier to distinguish units in battle, and to enable commanders to spot their troops on battlefields that often were obscured by smoke from cannons.
Uniforms for lower ranks
In the 18th century, uniforms for the lower ranks were often mass-produced. Uniforms usually had standard sizes and designs to make it easier to replace them on campaign. In Britain, troops were equipped with new uniforms once a year.
from left to right: infantry soldier (France, 1780); 95th rifles uniform (British, Peninsular Wars era)
It’s 1798. Admiral Horatio Nelson is on a mission to support the Neapolitan monarchy in Naples. He has already made a remarkable carreer, even if his greatest success is still to come. He is also marked by war: He has lost an arm and suffers from coughing spells. In Naples, he stays with the British Ambassador Sir William Hamilton, and his wife lovely Emma Hamilton.
A man on a mission falls in love
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a man in regimentals strongly appeals to the fair sex. When he is also famous, his favour with the ladies rises. However, it is his income that makes him a desirable husband, as the novels of Jane Austen point out.
How would national icon Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, have fared on the marriage market? Was he as sought after as Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy – or even more popular? Find out here – and don’t miss the video at the end of the post!
I am delighted to have Sue Wilkes, acclaimed author of several social history books and family history guides, as guest writer at Regency Explorer. In her newest book, Regency Spies, Sue explores the secret histories of Britain’s rebels, radicals and revolutionaries during the Regency period. It’s a treat for me to present Sue’s insightful post about spies and revolutionaries’ secret means of communication:
Shoe, Code & Coach: Spying Secrets
Republican cleric Dr. Richard Price spying on Marie Antoinette at Versailles as she is assailed by ruffians. Isaac Cruikshank, c.1790. Courtesy Library of Congress.
The Regency era was one of great paranoia and suspicion. Britain was at war with France, and Ireland was a hotbed of rebellion. So this was a busy time for the government’s spies on the domestic front as well as abroad.
Rebels knew that their mail was likely to be intercepted, so they went to great lengths to circumvent the authorities. Assuming an alias was an obvious trick. Messages between groups were conveyed face-to-face, or letters were sent by trusted couriers. In the late 1790s, it was reported that at least one dissident Irishman took secret messages from England to Ireland using a secret compartment in one of his shoes. The letter was placed in the cavity, and covered in strong paper to protect it. Then the sole of the shoe was sewn back on again. Continue reading