Monday, January 23, 2012

Regency vs Victorian

When I first started reading romance novels (1987), I was pulled…um actually I was tugged and glued to the historical genre.  Perhaps it’s because the first book I read and fell in love with was “A Rose In Winter” by Kathleen E Woodiwiss.  But after reading and loving all of her books, I found other historical authors: Judith McNaught, LaVryle Spencer, Jude Deveraux, Johanna Lindsey, Julia Quinn, and many others.  I loved the Victorian era…until I watched “Pride & Prejudice” for the first time (with Colin Firth, of course!) and now I love Regency.  Now I love both eras for different reasons.

For those of you who wonder what the difference is - here is what I've found that might be helpful:
REGENCY (1795-1837) - The era was a time of excess for the aristocracy: for example, it was during this time that the Prince Regent built the Brighton Pavilion. However, it was also an era of uncertainty caused by several factors including the Napoleonic wars, periodic riots, and the concern (threat to some, hope to others) that the British people might imitate the upheavals of the French Revolution.

VICTORIAN (1837-1901) - When 18 year old Princess Victoria pictured in the header above, became Queen in 1837 no one dreamed she would reign for the rest of the century for another 64 years. The name Victorian to describe the whole period is a misnomer as for some years at the beginning of the era, Regency attitudes prevailed. After 1840 when Victoria married Albert we see the heyday of Victorian attitudes of prudery and a strict outwardly moral code that lasted until about 1890 when Prince Edward the Prince Of Wales and his more spirited lifestyle was echoed in society.

I love Regency because of their manners, their language, and their courtesy.  I asked a few historical author friends of mine which era they liked and why. Here are some answers I received:

** Melissa Lynne Blue said: I definitely like the Regency Era the best.  It is hard to explain why, but I adore early 19th century history.  The Regency Era is that point in British History on the brink of a lot of governmental changes and social changes.  One thing I enjoy while reading a Regency novel is the formality of British society--all the stiff decorum and silly gossip--I love the glimpse behind the curtain we get when the people in this rigid time set "let their hair down".

**Ella Quinn said: I love the Regency period. The clothes, politics, it was like a renaissance. The Victorian period I could care less about. I blame if for our prudish and false morality.

**Lauren Smith said: What I love most about the Regency period are perhaps the emphasis on social rules and yet the period still retained delicious scandals and tales.  What I love about the Victorian period is the later part of the eras fashions and primarily the dawning age of industry and discovery, as well as the birth of a more romantic and adventuresome growth in the type of literature written and published.

**Olivia Kelly said: I love both periods! I love the Regency for it's "joie de vivre" (joy for life), with the house parties, balls, horse races and general carefree decadence. But the Victorian period was the Industrial Revolution, and it's fascinating to me. I love the innovative, ambitious spirit that permeated that time. The most interesting and amazing things came out of the Victorian period, like the light bulb, the sewing machine, steam engine and telephone. Imagine what our life would be like today without these amazing Victorian inventions!

**Christi Caldwell said: I love writing and reading about the Regency era because the times were driven by propriety and Social dictates...which makes stories of passion and love at the time so unique and grande. You know, the whole defying the norm for something special!

**Lily George said: The Regency era has the appearance of being freer than other eras--maybe it's the loose clothing women wore--but there is a feeling about this era of rules changing and roles changing and nothing being the same, which is exciting. On the other hand, the Victorian era made things move faster--you could travel further, move faster, go farther. Both eras are, to me, about exciting change and romances set in these eras explore how women and men both dealt with and enjoyed those changes.

**Julie Johnstone said: I don't know much about the Victoria period.  But I love the Regency period for the way the women and the men of the period so industriously worked to get around all the rules imposed on them by society.  I also love the clothes and the architecture.

**Louisa Cornell said: For me the Regency era is the perfect setting for romance. The rule of the landed aristocracy was at its height. Sprawling stately homes and glittering London mansions vie with windswept moors and mysterious gothic castles for the perfect location to spin a tale of love, anguish and redemption. Women in elegant flowing gowns and men in buckskins, boots and greatcoats argue and love on a stage set by strict societal rules and hawkeyed gossips who could give today’s paparazzi a lesson in snooping and scandal. And all those rules give an author so many delicious possibilities to break them. It was an era on the cusp between the rowdy Georgians and the suffocating Victorians. Society was moving from the slow grace of an agrarian society to the hustle and bustle of a modern industrial society. I love the manners, the grace, the passion, the civility and the ceremony. I love the soft romantic light of candles and oil lamps before the false glare of electric lighting. I love the power and beauty of horse travel before the ugly iron and smoke of the train and the automobile. For me the Regency has everything a woman with a head full of romantic notions could ever need. It is the perfect escape from the crass, hard, ill-mannered, money-grubbing technology- worshiping world in which we live.

I have written stories in both eras, but my favorite has to be Victorian.  I’ve had people ask why the Victorian era fascinates me so much (some consider this a darker time than Regency) and because of the strict moral code Queen Victoria expected.  But the REAL reason I adore this era is because of their….CLOTHES!  Yeah, I’m a fashion gal.

I adore the Victorian fashion!! The gowns were so much prettier--and the men...well, I think they looked better in long trousers rather than the breeches. lol

Now it's your turn. Leave a comment and tell me what era you like and why...
Marie Higgins is a multi-published author of romance; from refined bad-boy heroes who makes your heart melt to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. Visit her website / blog to discover more about her –


  1. I am with you on the clothes, Marie. I love Victorian clothing! I wish it would all come back in style except for the corsets... Gorgeous stuff. At the same time, I'll take the quieter and slower world of pre-industrial times, and the Regency was far quieter than the Victorian era, and slower. Thanks!

  2. Hi Marie, what a fantastic post. I love both periods, but being an author in the Victorian period, I love that the most. I think the Victorian period has so much more going on in terms of new industry, growth of towns etc. Middle classes and growth of travel. I think if people think Victorian is "darker" than Regency they've been reading too much Dickens!
    I have read many historical romances, and very often it's hard to tell if they are Regency or Victorian if the book is based around the aristocracy or upper classes. In fact the last book I read I thought was Regency but half way through the book the author mentioned Queen Victoria! There was nothing else which set the book in this time which was a shame. Lots of publishers can't tell the difference either (or choose to ignore) as I often see Victorian clothes on front covers only to find out it's a Regency!
    Anyway, my first novel "Love Engineered" is firmly in the Victorian period - the hero is a Civil Engineer. My second book Sprig of Thyme has lots of steam train travel!

  3. I fell in love with the Regency era as a young girl when I read Jane Austen and enjoyed escaping into that vastly different world of gentle manners and agricultural society away from London. I also thrilled to tales set during the Napoleonic Wars.
    I have since come to appreciate many things about the Victorian Era through reading authors from the time like Elizabeth Gaskell who you referenced above and many modern authors like Anne Perry. I enjoy her descriptions of the dregs of London all the way up the ladder to the cream of society wearing those wonderful fashions you speak of.

    Thanks for the post! I enjoyed thinking about the comparisons.

  4. I'm really sorry to disagree with Wikipedia's definition of the Regency as quoted above, but it's just plain wrong. In order to have a 'Regency' a country needs a Regent. In order for Great Britain to have a Regent, an Act of Parliament had to be passed by both Houses, creating the position and designating the Regent.

    George III was king from 1760-1820, during which time he suffered from the hereditary disease, porphyria. (If you've seen the film, The Madness of King George you'll be familiar with some of his symptoms.) His first bout with the disease was in the summer of 1762, shortly before the birth of the Prince of Wales, and he suffered bouts again in 1765 and 1766.

    During the summer of 1788 and into the autumn, the king suffered his worst bout ever, with symptoms of mental derangement. By early November, the Prince of Wales had taken the government into his own hands as it were. By December, however, physicians were telling Parliament that they did not believe the king's 'derangement' permanent, there was a huge rout in Parliament between the Prime Minister (Pitt) and Charles James Fox speaking for the Whigs (who desperately wanted the Prince of Wales to be Regent as he was a drinking partner and guaranteed to give them power).

    By the new year, it was clear the king would recover and although a Bill for a restricted Regency was brought before the House in early February, Pitt spun out the debate to give the king time to recover. Which he did. When the House of Lords met to hear the third and final reading of the Regency Bill, it was announced that with the king's health on the mend, 'it would be indecent and improper to go ahead with the proceedings.'

    The country rejoiced.

    It wasn't until late 1810, when the the 72-year old king was blind, and his youngest daughter dying, that the bouts of madness returned. Still, Parliament being what it is, the Bill creating the Regency was not passed until 5 February 1811.

    And curiously, though he had always made promises of political position to his drinking and gaming companions, the Whigs, giving them positions of power is exactly what the Prince Regent did not do. He retained the Tory government, with Sir Spencer Perceval as Prime Minister.

    Moreover, the British during the first decade of the 19th century, were profoundly loyal to the old, blind king to whom they referred as Farmer George. He was their talisman against the ungodly forces of Napoleon.

    Although there are certainly some if not many examples of excessive behaviour during the early 19th century, the Prince Regent and his friend Beau Brummell spring to mind, for the most part, the wild behaviour which forms the backdrop of Regency romances was extremely rare and was for the most part associated with the Whig families. The Tories, who were in Government, are profoundly, well...I shouldn't say boring...but let's just say assiduously hard workers in government, and devoted to their wives, families and their lands. (Very good and progressive farmers, if you must know the truth.)

    It's also important, I think, to understand that there is no delineation in their minds as to Regency and Victorian. Many of the most powerful men of the Victorian era, like the Duke of Wellington, Lord Melbourne, and Lord Palmerston had come to prominence during the Regency, so they would have seen their lives as continuums, not as broken into eras, I think, with themselves as Victorian.

  5. I love the Regency era because it is a time of such sharp contrast: the dawn of the industrial age, shifts in society, the glitter and amorality of a select set in the TON and the conservative morality of the evangelicals. In many ways, it seems very similar to our own time. (Much of what is associated with Victorianism actually has its roots in the Georgian/Regency/Hanoverian era (which is the 4 George's and William), including the rise of industry, growth of the middle class, even advances in travel: witness the steam engine!) The Victorian era is also fascinating because of the continuous and accelerated evolution in society that we see. While I do love the Regency era fashions, I must confess to a weakness for the Victorian gowns, if only because they were kinder to feminine curves! A most enjoyable article!

  6. Oh my, those Victorian dress are gorgeous! I want one. ;D I enjoyed being part of the blog post- thanks for asking my opinion, Marie.

  7. Marie,

    Wonderful post.

  8. Great job, Marie! Loved seeing the clothes, my favorite part.

  9. Awesome post. I really never thought about it, but I am so glad you did. Now I will be stray. I love Regency too. So beautiful and so sad at the same time. For the part of marrying for position, specially when your heart belong to someone else. (sight)
    Anna del C.
    Author of "The Silent Warrior Trilogy"

  10. Great blog, Marie. I love them both but then again I love all eras. I think they're all special in their own way.

  11. Crinolines must have been a huge challenge though - especially with the paucity of underclothes...and dont even think about when you needed to go to the toilet!
    Grace x

  12. Enjoyed the post, Marie. I love the clothing, too, and it was my focus on your blog. :)

  13. Great post! My vote is for Regency! :-)

  14. Beautiful post, Marie. Wonderful pictures too. All my favorites.

  15. Thanks everyone for your great comments! This has been fun to read what everyone likes - and why! You are all awesome!

  16. I am a huge Regency fan. I read about it and I write about it. I learned something today though--I didn't realize the date went into the 1830's for it. Interesting. I think my favorite is the dress and manners of that age. Never been a huge Victorian era fan but with Downton Abby it's growing on me.

  17. Ah, I read this and loved it. My favourite period is 17th C though I am writing in The Middle Ages right now. Good post.

  18. I love the Victorian period because I love the gowns and the full skirts! What were the specific fashions before the Regency Era? Early 1700s, late/mid 1600s?

  19. To see fashions from any particular year, I go to Wikimedia and type in "Portrait 1730" for example. Or other search words. The pictures tell the story. :) Or contact Jann England on FB or Twitter- she knows her stuff!

  20. As someone working my way into ghostwriting, this post was exceptionally helpful as a starting point for learning about the regency time period. Thank you!


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