Becoming King: Napoleon, Maximilian & The Coronation Ceremony that never was

In the early 19th century there was hardly a more experienced kingmaker than Napoleon Bonaparte: He had crowed himself as Emperor of France in 1804, became King of Italy in 1805, and made his relatives Kings of the Kingdom of Holland (1806), the Kingdom of Naples (1806 and 1808), the Kingdom of Westphalia (1807) and of Spain (1808). He also made his ally, Maximilian IV Joseph, prince-elector of Bavaria, a King in 1806. The coronation of the King of Bavaria was planned to be a splendid affair, and everyone invested large amounts of money, time and craftsmanship, but alas….

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A True Luxury Product: The Dress Pistol of the Napoleonic Era

Imagine you are a statesman of a country allied to Napoleonic France. Napoleon is visiting, and you are having a warm and welcoming chat. Your chances are very high that he will present you with a beautiful, ornate, expensive dress pistol to honour your loyalty. Napoleon liked gifting his allies as well as his best military men with such superb arms, and they were true luxury gifts. They were made by one of the most sought-after arms makers of the age at a specialised workshop at Versailles: Nicolas-Noël Boutet. Have a look at a beautiful example here:

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Your Challenge: Equip the Army with Small-Arms between 1793 and 1815

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

Attractive, Distinctive, One Size: The Military Uniform in the Late 18th Century

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)

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Burn after Reading: Spying Secrets of the Regency Period – Guest Post by Sue Wilkes

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.

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

The Battle & the Man: 10 Quirky Facts about Admiral Nelson and Trafalgar


On board the HMS Victory

On 21th October we commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar. On this day in 1805, the British fleet defeated the French and Spanish allies west of Cape Trafalgar. 50,000 men were involved in the fighting. 5,000 of them died, among them the commander of the British fleet, Admiral Horatio Nelson. The victory confirmed Britain’s role as “ruler of the waves” and put a stop to Napoleon’s plans to invade Britain.

Being a Regency Enthusiast, you certainly know a lot about Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar. But did you also know these 10 facts about the battle and the private life of its hero, Horatio Nelson? Continue reading

A Brief History of the Napoleonic Wars told … in 10 Hand-held Fans

Napoleon conquering the sea, French fan leaf, ca. 1800.

Napoleon conquering the sea, French fan leaf, ca. 1800.

A fan was a popular accessory in the Romantic Age. No lady would be seen without a fan at a ball or assembly. The design of the fans was as varied as was the fashion. Often political events were celebrated or commemorated with special designs for fans. The victories of the British Army during the Peninsular Wars and the Battle of Waterloo were such occasions. It is even possible to tell a brief history of the Napoleonic Wars in 10 beautiful fans made between 1800 – 1816.

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Writer’s Travel Guide: The Jersey Connection

Mont Orgueil Castle on the Isle of Jersey (photo by Lady Dorothy)

Mont Orgueil Castle on the Isle of Jersey (photo by Lady Dorothy)

In this post:
– Working as an agent in the 18th century: Tasks and Methods
– Deadly Dangers
– A Thorn in Napoleon’s Side

Angelique Le Tourneur was a spy. She looked like an ordinary fisherwoman, and her little boat sailing from village to village along the French coast was loaded with fish. But Angelique belonged to a network of spies that was operated from the Isle of Jersey for 18 years.

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