The Regency versus The Victorian
Every so often I get mail or reviews that comment on what my characters get up to in my Regency-set erotic romances. Usually the comments suggest that no one in the Regency period would know about any erotic sexual practices, that it just wasn’t done. Well, um, that just ain’t so. And I totally blame Queen Victoria.
During the Georgian and Regency period, poor, over-protected Princess Victoria grew up in a somewhat dysfunctional family. Because of the Royal Marriage Act of 1772 the descendants of King George II had to obtain the monarch’s consent to marry, or if they were above the age of 25, they had to notify the Privy Council. As you can imagine, family relationships being what they are, none of G II’s descendants were very happy about this. So most of them chose not to marry and had gazillions of mistresses, or chose to marry more than once, sometimes in secret (the Prince Regent, anyone?)
Basically Princess Victoria’s uncles were a roistering bunch of unapologetic drunkards, and womanizers, much pilloried in the press and in the print cartoons of the day, often pictured engaged in the grossest forms of entertainments. Take the monarch who proceeded Victoria, her uncle, King William IV. He had children. He actually had ten illegitimate children with the actress Dorothy Jordan, with whom he lived very happily for many years. But King William did not have a single legitimate heir. Hence Victoria’s accession to the throne.
Every generation is determined not to be like the one before them-look at what happened in the 50’s, the 60’s, the 80’s and the 90’s. Cause and reaction, moral to immoral, neon to grunge, excess to eco-friendly. It happens. That’s why I can almost forgive Queen Victoria-almost.
Obviously I can’t give this little, um, lecture to everyone who tells me I have it all wrong and that Regency folk were quiet well-mannered and meek, (but I feel so much better for getting it off my chest here LOL). They had access to the erotic tales of India, they were experiencing a huge revival of interest in Classical Rome and Greece and none of these cultures have the same Christian mindset about sex. Why wouldn’t they be experimenting? I would’ve been.
And guys, if you can bear the thought of untraditional, and quite frankly, naughty sexual practices in your historical romance novels, check mine out. They are definitely not Victorian.
I think you are right about there being a major misconception about what people were up to throughout history.
Even during the Victorian era, it’s not like the entire world was in the same moral straightjacket as upper echelon England (or,more accurately, upper echelon public personas of England). There was a lot of bawdy stuff going – this is the time period that produced the Pearl, after all.
In any case, I think you are right on the money about people writing Victoria’s morality onto time periods and places over which she had no influence.
I don’t think you can blame Victoria herself for the ‘backlash’ against her Wicked Uncles’ way of life. Symbolically I’m sure a pure young girl-queen, who then married happily and had lots of children in wedlock, was significant. But making out Victoria herself to be ‘A Victorian’ in the popular sense of the term – problematic.
Oursin-good point-I was being a little ‘tongue in cheek’ about blaming Victoria-it’s my subversive British sense of humour :)
I fixed the duplicate comments.
Well said, Kate. I’ve encountered the same assumptions. The Georgians were actually a very bawdy lot and not afraid of plain speaking.
Wonderful commentary Kate!
People make so many assumptions about history, discounting the fact that it has an ebb and flow from period to period and also discounting the fact that what is “advertised” and stereotypical doesn’t encompass everything that went on in the many different walks of life of every period.