Fashion Meets Scientific Progress: The “Spy Fan”

Fans are so much more than fashionable accessories: They are useful for flirting, can cool heated cheeks or hide an unladylike emotion. In the wake of the Napoleonic War, their usefulness was boosted beyond the known limit when fans were made for spying, i.e. discretely observing the surrounding or other persons. I found some examples of these extraordinary devices when I visited the exhibition “Waterloo: Life & Times” of the Fan Museum in Greenwich, UK.

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The year Napoleon shot the goat that ate his plants and other events of 1820

A secret submarine plot, death in the Royal family, and a method to signal extra-terrestrials are events of a year marked by political unrest and economic depression.

After the Napoleonic Wars the economy was still down, and important reforms had been delayed over the wars. The fear of Napoleon’s influence was still tangible, with rumours about his possible escape from St. Helena becoming stronger by the end of the year. Additionally, the monarchy was in a crisis, shaken by death and scandal.

Which political, scientific, social, and literary events and anniversaries are of interest to Regency Enthusiasts in 2020? Have a look at my list of 20 events of 1820 here: Continue reading

Look forward to 2020 with these new books about the Georgian Age

The year 2020 brings anniversaries of iconic persons of the Regency period. We will, e.g., remember the 200th anniversary of the death of the scientist Jospeh Banks and the 250th anniversary of the birth of the poet William Wordsworth. Accordingly, publishers will regale us with new biographies. But there is more to look forward to in 2020. Have a look at the non-fictions books about the Georgian Age already scheduled for 2020:

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Smuggling Moonshine

Brandy, tea, salt – these products are famed-famous as objects of smuggling in the 18th century. Did you know that Scottish whisky was an object of the illegal trade, especially between 1780 – 1823? Whisky was called ‘moonshine’ then, as it was illicitly produced at night in small cottages in the Highlands, and secretly transported by smugglers to harbours for further distribution.

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Fashion for a Fashionable Item

Hand-held fans, previously reserved for royalty and aristocrats, become a must-have accessory for every lady in high society at the end of the 17th century. The trend to carry a fan spreads rapidly through society. With this, the decoration of the fan leave becomes light-hearted: The religious and classical motifs give way to pastoral scenes, al fresco parties, and themes of love-and-courtship. Interestingly, fashion itself also features on the fashionable accessories, serving as a fashion plate and fashion statement.

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Jane Austen, the Captain and the Smugglers of a Tiny Island

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.
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Lord Stanhope and the Mysterious Death of Kasper Hauser

Lord Stanhope (left) and Kaspar Hauser (right)

On 14 December 1833 in Ansbach, a small town in Bavaria, a young man staggers home with a deep wound in his left breast. He states that he was lured to the Court Garden where a stranger stabbed him while giving him a small bag. The young man is known as Kasper Hauser, a local celebrity of his time, and also a mysterious youth of unknown origin.

A policeman searches the Court Garden. He finds a purse containing a note in mirror writing indicating in riddled form the attacker’s identity. He finds neither the weapon involved nor any other helpful evidence. Kasper Hauser dies of his wound three days later.

The death of Kasper Hauser in 1833 is a one of the most famed-famous unsolved cases of criminology. Until today, we don’t know for sure whether the young man was murdered or died by inflicting himself a wound with a knife that penetrated much deeper than he had intended. Until today, we don’t even know who Kasper Hauser was: an imposter, a hereditary prince, an innocent boy?

The story of Kaspar Hauser, a ‘feral child’, who claimed to have lived in isolation and captivity, has all ingredients of a novel of Mrs. Radcliffe: political intrigue, espionage, and conspiracy theories. But what has the English aristocrat, Philip Henry Lord Stanhope, 4. Earl Stanhope (1781-1855), to do with the young man, his secret and his death? Continue reading