Thank you for taking us up on our invitation, and welcome to the online home of the Beau Monde. We are the Regency special interest chapter of Romance Writers of America.® Our community of writers, both published and unpublished, craft stories set in the Regency period of England — think Napoleon, the Industrial Revolution, and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. By joining our chapter, you’ll have access to in-depth historical research, information on the latest releases, and some of the finest writers in the romance genre. Here’s a sneak peak.
Get Answers to Your Questions
From our general discussion forums, where you can ask questions and get tips on history, craft, industry, and promotion:
Diane Spigonardo: If the bride lives in the country during the winter and decides to marry and the weather is snowy, how would she go about planning a winter wedding?
Ella Quinn: I don’t think it would be much different than a wedding at any other time of year. Assuming she’s having banns read, they would get married in church in the morning and repair to someone’s house for a wedding breakfast. She would have to take into account any guests that must travel for the wedding and make sure that she has arranged their accommodations, but she’d do that for a wedding at anytime. Due to snow she might not have as many guests as she would have in the summer, say.
Learn More About the Regency Period to Enrich Your Writing
From our members-only blog, where we share information we’ve gleaned:
Regency Medicine: Where Are the Women, and Implications for Writers by Alicia Rasley
Women practiced medicine too, but generally not as physicians until the middle of the 19th Century. Before that, women were confined mostly to allied health roles, acting as midwives and nurses as well as herbal healers. None of these women (until Florence Nightingale in the 1840s) achieved the prestige and fame of physicians. But then, as now, the survival of sick patients often depended much more on the nursing than the doctoring.
Until after the Regency, most British babies were delivered by midwives, women who might or might not have had nursing training, but were usually educated as apprentices to older midwives. Midwives were often blamed for obstetrical problems and maternal deaths, but in fact, until antisepsis and c-sections, most doctors didn’t always have successful deliveries either. Midwives were also suspect because they had knowledge of herbs and practices that could cause abortions.
In fact, for centuries herbal knowledge had been acquired and passed on by women herbalists and healers. In fact, we should never forget that physicians had the benefit of a couple thousands of years worth of herbal knowledge. In fact, many of the most effective medications had long been derived from plants. Peruvian bark, for example (“powdered and mixed with wine”), was known to cure malaria; it wasn’t until the advance of modern chemistry later in the 19th Century that the bark was discovered to contain quinine (still used as a treatment). Similarly, “Jesuit’s or willow bark” was used as a painkiller and fever-break. We now know the synthetic counterpart of this as “aspirin”.
You won’t be surprised to hear that women performed important medical work but were generally denied the prestige and title of “doctor.” There was, however, at least one woman who was called “Doctor” and achieved some measure of renown: James Miranda Barry. Yes, she had to masquerade as a man through medical school and her entire career as a military doctor. Interestingly, her most lasting legacy might have been her work improving the obstetrical surgery of the c-section, and was known as the first doctor to perform this surgery and attain the result of both mother and child surviving. It wasn’t till she died that her “perfect femaleness” was noted by the charwoman who prepared the body for burial.
She might have been the first woman doctor in Britain, but she wasn’t the last. Like so many other medical miracles, the first women’s medical school in London came in the latter half of the 19th Century, later graduating many of the most prominent early women physicians.
But in the time of the Regency, there was only Doctor (Miss) James Barry, and thousands of unstoried women who practiced openly as nurses, midwives, and herbalists.
While of course Regency writers want to be historically accurate, there’s enough play here that our doctor characters can truly be healers and not killers. Just remember what Harvey said, “Don’t think, try.” Long before medical science proved that clean hands meant better outcomes, some doctors and nurses and midwives had already observed that and changed their practice to allow for frequent handwashing.
And you writers can definitely have your 1815 doctor observe the battlefield at Waterloo and notice that some of those fallen had friends there to bundle them up and get them out of the rain. A priest might attribute their greater survival rate to the friends’ prayers, but your doctor doesn’t have to know about “shock” to suspect that getting a patient warm and out of the mud helps the outcome.
From the time of Hippocrates, doctors have been trained to observe and record, take careful notes and make judgements based on their experience. And from ancient times, and particularly in the Regency, British doctors shared that experience formally and informally, contributing incalculably to the great bulk of medical knowledge.
After all, the “Age of Miracles” of the mid- and late 19th Century happened because of the close observation and sharing of experience of doctors during and before the Regency. Our Regency doctor characters might not have lived to see anaesthesia, antisepsis, and antibiotics, but their more meticulous practices certainly made the Three A’s more likely.
Find Exactly the Resources You Need to Bring Your Characters to Life
From our Regency Realm, a compendium of references on Regency England, with annotated information on over 900 references, including books, magazines, videos, and websites which contain information on many subjects of interest to writers and readers of Regency-era fiction:
Titles and Forms of Address: A Guide to Their Correct Use
AUTHOR: A & C Black Ltd.
PUBLISHING DATA: A & C Black Ltd., London © 1918. Reprinted 1936, 1966.
“I found this one to be very useful. It’s a slim volume, full of information, and helped me when I first started wading through the quagmire of titles. It still does. The chapters are Royalty, The Peerage, Dukes and Duchesses, Marquesses and Marchionesses, Earls and Countesses, Viscounts and Viscountesses, Barons and Baronesses, Baronets, Knights, chiefs of Scottish Clans, Irish Chieftains, and also has Esquires, Double Names, Maids of Honour, Presidents of Societies, Privy Councillors (and yes, the double “l” is correct), Ecclesiastical, Army, Navy, Air Force, The Law, Decorations and Honours, the Universities, Government Services, and an Index. Within in each section it gives a rundown on everyone involved. For example: Earls and Countesses includes dowager countesses, eldest sons, widows of eldest sons, younger sons, wives of younger sons, widows of younger sons, daughters, married daughters, children of sons and children of daughters. It’s pretty complete. The book can be found in most academic libraries and large public libraries, and ordered through interlibrary loan.” *- Marjorie Allen*
The Honours System
AUTHOR: Michael De-la-Noy
PUBLISHING DATA: Allison & Busby, New York, 1985, ISBN 0-85031-6146, LC#: 85235285.
“This small book is an interesting comment about the honour system in England. Honours include the peerage and the knighthoods (Knight of Bath, etc.) Some history of the honours with commentary current for 1984. There is enough of interest to the Regency period for us to find this both enjoyable and useful.” *- Nancy Mayer*