I mentioned earlier this week that I’m doing some research into Regency England. What started me on this path? I picked up a copy of The Amorous Antics of Old England by Nigel Cawthorne when I last visited the library. Reading it sparked a story idea.
I give you thirteen tidbits from The Amorous Antics of Old England.
1. Dating agencies are not a new thing. Matrimonial clubs were set up as early as 1700 where members aided each other to make a good match.
2. Bundling was practiced widely until the 19th century. During the colder months when a household retired early, a young lover would go to bed with his intended. The young couple were expected to keep on their clothes. Sometimes the girl was sewn into a bundling sack so that things wouldn’t progress too far. Of course this bundling procedure didn’t always go according to plan!
3. In old Scotland a couple could get engaged by going to a nearby stream at night, washing their hands in its waters and then joining hands across it. Poet Robert Burns was betrothed to Mary Campbell this way.
4. Originally an engagement ring was three rings held together by a small rivet. Together they were called a gimmal. At the engagement, one part was given to the man, one to the woman and the third to a close friend who witnessed the betrothal. They would wear the three parts until the wedding, where the gimmal was recombined to make the bride’s wedding ring.
5. During Anglo-Saxon times, if a man had many daughters he was deemed rich because there were many women in his household to do the cooking and cleaning, raise crops and tend livestock. When he lost a daughter to marriage, he needed compensation in the form of a mund or purchase price.
6. In the north of England, young men who attended a wedding vied to pluck the garter from the leg of the bride as soon as the ceremony was over. The bride wore special ribbon garters, which were easily detached. She also wore them low on her leg to discourage over familiar hands. As part of the deal the bride was meant to scream and run away. Sometimes the young men knocked the bride over in the melee.
7. In old England, women wore charms around their necks to preserve their virtue. This meant both charm and virtue could be dispensed with easily!
8. If an Englishman was cuckolded, he advertised the fact. A ship’s captain found his wife in a compromising situation with one of his sailors. He had her stripped naked and put astride a mast with her lover on the other side. They were them bedecked with streamers and carried around East London. A band and a crowd of onlookers followed.
9. Wife selling was another way to deal with an adulterous or unsatisfactory wife. They were sold through small ads in newspapers. Sometimes a husband was disposed of in the same manner, although this was rarer.
10. Prostitution was big in London. It wasn’t necessary to pick up a girl on the street. A book called Harris’ List of Convent Garden Ladies was published with around 80 women appearing in each edition. The listings included their name, physical attributes, specialties and charges. Around 8000 copies of the book were sold of each edition.
11. In the 18th Century there were brothels catering to women as well. The owners would often cater to women of a better class who wished to amuse themselves with young male clients.
12. In the late 18th century, it was widely believed that the cure for venereal disease was to have sex with someone unaffected. This led to the rape of a large number of underage girls.
13. When James I came to the throne, he introduced sumptuous new fashions. He also passed an act requiring young women to be seen in public with their breasts exposed to the nipple. This was seen as a sign of their virginity. In the court of Charles II, women who weren’t virgins exposed their necks, shoulders, arms and breasts. This was condemned.
So, who wants to time travel?