The concept of my series may seem farfetched: a woman marrying (and burying) three dukes in rapid succession (really, two dukes and a duke’s second son who becomes the duke) and having an assortment of children by them. But real-life debutante Elizabeth Gunning proved that it really was possible to marry well more than once. After taking society by storm as an actress, Elizabeth wowed London’s gentlemen with her beauty and talent. As a result, she ended up married to the Duke of Hamilton and bore him three children. After he died, she was briefly engaged to the Duke of Bridgwater before the engagement fell through. Then she married the Marquess of Lorne, who later inherited his father’s title of Duke of Argyll, and bore him five children. Eventually George III made her Baroness Hamilton of Hameldon in her own right. That’s quite a string of marital (and otherwise) successes for an actress!
Do you know where we get the term “Regency” for the period? (If you do, you can hum “God Save the Queen” while I explain.) It covers the time when the Prince of Wales, George Augustus Frederick (aka Prinny), stepped in as Regent for his father, King George III (aka the King George Americans fought against because of his taxation policies aka Mad King George), because he was, well, unable to run the country. So technically the Regency Period began in 1811 and ended in 1820, 200 years ago this month, when George III died and George IV became king. But for purposes of looking at periods in terms of their culture, fashions, ideas, etc., many people consider the Regency period to stretch from either 1783 or 1795 to 1830 or 1837 (when Victoria came to the throne). That’s why there’s such a wide range of dates in our books!
There’s a scene in The Bachelor where Joshua, Gwyn, and Gwyn’s mother Lydia eat ice cream at Gunter’s. The wealthy did actually eat ice cream in summer during our period, using ice either shipped in from Norway or cut and placed in their own ice houses. Gunter’s was only the most famous purveyor of ices and ice creams. But the flavors were unusual by our standards. Muscadine ice was a lemon water or white currant ice scented with elderflowers. Flowers were popular flavors—lavender, bergamot, jasmine, and orange flower, for example—but there were also burnt filbert, rye bread, parmesan cheese, and tea flavors! One of these days I’m going to try my hand at some Regency ice cream. But I’ll skip the rye bread flavor!