Coach Travel in Regency England, stage and mail coaches

Travel in Regency England took many forms. While journeying to the nearest village, one usually walked or rode horseback, or, if wealthy, took the family coach. Travel to distant destinations, however, was different. Walking and horseback was impractical, and most family coaches had to travel slowly so as not to over-tire the horses. Wealthy people might send horses ahead several days in advance to wait for them at various posting inns so they could be changed out up on arrival. This allowed them to continue their journey with a fresh team every so often. They might even board horses long-term at posting inns if that route was one they frequently used. Many lords did this along the main routes to London so they could reach it easily and without a lot of arrangements ahead of time.

However, in many cases people used the mail coach or the stage coach. These coaches traveled on schedule much like today’s trains or airplanes.

One of the least expensive ways to travel was the Royal Mail. This ran over specific routes usually only once a day in either direction. They did not travel on Sundays or religious holidays, such as Easter or Christmas. The main coach’s purpose was to deliver the mail. Passengers were secondary, and the coachmen were very strict about keeping their schedule—even if it meant leaving a tardy passenger behind.

Stage and mail coaches primarily stuck to the main highways but could take smaller routes—just less frequently. In well-established efficiency, they stopped at posting inns to change horses. Each posting inn along the stage coach routes kept horses to switch out with incoming coaches. With the speed of a pit crew changing tires at a NASCAR race, men changed the horses for the mail or stage coaches. According to several sources, they could do it in under 5 minutes. Some of these coaches had teams of four and some had six. Obviously, the more horses, the longer it took the change the team.

Private companies owned various stage coaches. These ran on their own schedules but kept to them as tightly as the mail coaches. They were dependable and often more crowded. They, too, were not supposed to run on Sundays or religious holidays, but some did in the interest of profit. The time they took to change horses was more relaxed and stops were worked into their schedules to give the passengers up to twenty minutes to get out to stretch, eat, and take care of personal needs.

Whether there was more than one stage or mail going out a day depended on the route. Generally, they ran once a day in each direction—or possibly even less depending the route. Well-traveled roads leading to cities and larger towns had more frequent trips. Several coaches used the same main roads for part of the journey, then split off to reach various end destinations. The destination determined whether the next coach out would be in two hours or the next day.

Coaches stopped during severe weather such as blizzards, and when snow blocked the roads, however, they generally ran regardless of the cold or rain. In a couple of cases, outside passengers froze to death.

Getting a seat on a coach could be difficult. Most sold out days in advance, so it was not easy to simply “catch” a ride. One bought tickets at the origin point for the mail or stage. Coachmen could sometimes be bribed to stuff in a passenger or give them an outside seat on the top of the coach, but it was not always possible. Horses can only pull so much weight, after all.

Coach Travel in Regency England, stage and mail coaches syndicated from http://donnahatchnovels.tumblr.com/

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Autumn, Fall and Mabon

Signs of autumn are already showing in many parts of the US but September 23, 2018 is officially the first day of Autumn, or “fall” as we Americans call it.

Long ago, when the air cooled and the leaves turned gorgeous shades of gold, red and burgundy, people did more than don sweaters, switch their clothing to darker colors, and decorate their homes with autumn leaves and pumpkins.  Anciently, the Autumn Equinox or Harvest Home was called Mabon, pronounced ‘MAY-bon’, after a Welsh god called Mabon ap Modron which literally means ‘son of mother.’

One Mabon Celtic ritual was taking the last sheaf of corn harvested and dressing it in fine clothes, or weaving it into a wicker-like man or woman. Apparently, they believed the sun was trapped in the corn and needed to be set free. So they burned it and spread the ashes on their fields.

Mabon is also known as the Feast of Avalon, derived from the word Avalon which means ‘the land of the apples’.  It was also traditional at Mabon to honor the dead by placing apples on burial cairns as a symbolism of rebirth. It was also a way for the living to anticipate being reunited with their loved ones who had passed on.

Many people often associate autumn with being melancholy and facing the end of the liveliness of summer and the beginning of the bleakness of winter. Grey skies cause many people to retreat, both physically and mentally. Autumn is the time of year when the celebrated English poet, John Keats, wrote his most acclaimed poem, “To Autumn” which has a distinctly melancholy beauty.

The ancient Celtics, however, used this time to reflect on the past year as well as celebrate nature’s bounty by having a feast and a celebration. I imagine those were the roots for the Thanksgiving feast that Americans celebrate.

In my novella, “Unmasking the Duke,” I chose an autumn setting to add color to the story, but also to give it a dimension of a wistful longing. Don’t worry, like all my romances, this has a swoony happily ever after ending!

Unmasking the Duke

The last thing Hannah Palmer wants to do is flirt with men in a crowded ballroom, but when her sister, the Countess of Tarrington, throws a Masquerade Ball, Hannah can’t say no to the invitation. Taking comfort behind her disguise, she dances with a charming masked gentleman, matching him wit for wit. When the glorious evening culminates in a kiss, and the two remove their masks, Hannah is horrified to discover she’s been flirting with all night with her most despised neighbor, the Duke of Suttenberg. No matter how charming the duke was at the ball, and how wonderful the kiss, he is the last man she could ever love.

“Unmasking the Duke” is available in ebook and paperback

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Autumn, Fall and Mabon syndicated from http://donnahatchnovels.tumblr.com/

Dressing the Regency Lady

If you’ve been following all my scandalous (gasp!) posts about all the underpinnings a Regency lady wore, but wished for a quick overall in one place, this post is for you.

The first layer is the shift or chemise. Notice how plain and unadorned it is as well as being very shapeless. A chemise/shift provided a barrier between a woman’s body and the other layers of clothing, so the shift absorbed perspiration. I had my shift made out of poly cotton batiste which is as close to an heirloom fabric as I could find. A fine weave muslin would have worked well, too.

The next layer is the corset, which, during the Regency, was called Stays. This style of stays is called long stays. This is the kind of stays nearly every women, rich or poor, wore. The material we used these for stays was cotton twill. Later, I discovered that another good choice for stays or corsets is Coutil (or Coutille), a woven cloth created specifically for making corsets. These grommets are metal, but Regency stays have stitched button holes. Some women preferred short stays during the summer or if they were especially small busted, or if they didn’t have someone to help lace up their

stays—although that would have been very rare—but these provided less support and lacked the smoothing effects of the long stays so they were not anywhere near as popular. It is believed that more of the working classes wore short stays than members of the upper classes but most working women wore long stays, too. The center has a wooden busk which is designed to help the garment lay flat, as well as help lift and separate the breasts. It loosely resembles a ruler, and in some stays it can be removed for washing.

The next layer is the petticoat. Regency Ladies wore one petticoat underneath her formal gowns. The petticoat resembles a sleeveless jumper with a scooped neckline. The petticoat helps create a smooth canvas over which ladies wore the transparent muslins and silks of the era that were intended to flow elegantly around a lady’s form. To make this petticoat, we choose cotton sateen, made with spun yarn instead of filament. Sateen is similar to muslin so it still feels authentic and has a really nice feel to it, a nice shimmer, and it drapes beautifully. The petticoat ties shut at the back. It is anchored at the back with hooks and eyelets. This pattern our lovely model is wearing is smooth at the front and sides, and pleated at the back to keep the streamlined silhouette while still allowing room for leg movement. Petticoats were often embellished at the hem with tucks or embroidery. In very cold weather our Regency lady probably worn more petticoats for warmth, but her gowns would have to be made large enough to accommodate that, unless she is wearing an apron-style gown that is less fitted.

At this point, the lady might have donned her gown, or her stockings. I’ll address gowns in another post, so I’ll dress my lady in stockings, next.

Stockings fastened with garters that tied, buckled, or hooked either at the thigh or just above the knee. Stripes on any and all garments were extremely popular in the 1790s but by the Regency, plainer styles, almost always white, either plain or stitched with white or colored embroidery became popular. I don’t have any authentic Regency stockings (yet) but our Regency lady would have worn knit stockings of cotton or silk (or wool if it was cold. People often wore thicker stockings under the fine silk ones for additional warmth if it was a formal setting where silk would be more fashionable. Wearing white cotton underneath their silk also helped hide their leg hair.

It is my hope that the next time you read (or write) a Regency novel, you will better be able to visualize all the undergarments and how they work together to create the desired Regency clothing silhouette that fine ladies prized.

Dressing the Regency Lady syndicated from http://donnahatchnovels.tumblr.com/

The Hierarchy of Servants

Jean Siméon Chardin, The Kitchen Maid, French, 1699 – 1779, 1738, oil on canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection

A few days ago, a friend commented that our appliances and small machines–washers, dryers, dishwashers, lawnmowers, garbage disposals–even cars–are the modern-day equivalent to servants. I had never thought of it that way, but she’s right.  In Regency England, however, people relied on manpower to run their households. Many people comment on the division of classes in those days–specifically the differences between the upper classes and the working class. However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that there was a whole social structure within the working class–especially those employed by the Big House, and house servants were even more conscious of status and rank than members of the ton.

At the top of this food chain were the housekeeper and butler. Not all houses had both, but those that did, had two leaders each with different duties. They were addressed as Mr. Lastname and Mrs. Lastname, both by their co-workers and their employers. Lower servants were normally addressed their first names.  The cook was most often called Cook (unless you had a fancy French chef, in which case you stuck with strict formality).  The servants called those above them Mr. Lastname, Mrs. Lastname, etc, and addressed those below them by their first names.  For example, a groom would call the top footman Mr. Lastname, and would call the groom Firstname. Sometimes the family simply called the person by their job title such as John Coachman, regardless of his real name. It all depended on the individual’s personality, their relationship with the servant, the servant’s position as well as his personality, and the circumstances.

In a small country manor where most of the servants were drawn from the tenant families, they would mostly be related to each other and use names for each other that they had used since birth.  A lady might call her lady’s maid Lastname if they had a formal relationship (especially if the maid was French or good enough to be called a “dresser” or “lady’s” maid rather than simply a maid). If this personal maid had been serving her since she was a child, then they might have developed a friendlier relationship. The same goes for a gentleman and his valet.  

Author Arietta Richmond has a thorough list of household servants on her post on Historical Hussies. I cannot improve on it, so I will simply quote her:

Butler

The senior servant in the house, responsible for oversight of all other male servants (except in some cases, where a Lord might have a steward who was responsible for all of their estates, in which case the Butler also answered to the Steward, as the Butler was only for a single house). Butlers also were not necessarily responsible for managing tutors, who might come in each day just to teach.  Responsible for making everything run smoothly, for the security of the silverware and other valuables, and for the quality of service.

Housekeeper

The senior female servant in the House, responsible for oversight of all other female staff (except for the Companion or Governess, if there is one). Responsible for ensuring that the linens, draperies etc are maintained in good order, that the rooms are cleaned as needed, that the items needed for the kitchens (as specified by the Cook) are available, and that the female servants are cared for and protected from abuse.

Cook / Chef

Responsible for the kitchen for that establishment. Manages the scullery maids and any kitchen boys. Responsible for food ordering, and for planning menus, in consultation with the mistress of the house and the housekeeper. Also manages the storage of food and avoids waste.  In a big house, there may be second cooks, who answer to the senior cook.

Scullery maids

Work in the kitchen, under the Cook’s direction. Scrub benches, tables, pots and keep things clean, also may be called upon to cut up food and help with other prep work.

Kitchen Boys

Do the dirty work in the kitchens – keep the fires going, cart coal or wood, cart away the rubbish, take the food scraps out to the compost heap. Turn the spit if there is a spit to cook whole animals, carry water where there is no running water.

House maids

Responsible for keeping the house clean and tidy. Each maid will be allocated certain rooms to keep clean – dust and mess free, with everything in its place, and making sure that there is always coal in the coal scuttle beside each fire place, ready to go. The larger the house, and the wealthier the owner, the smaller number of rooms that each maid will likely have to look after, and the more maids there will be.

Ladies maids

Generally, each lady living in the house would have a dedicated Lady’s maid, to help her dress, to do her hair, and generally to look after her in any way that was needed.  Sometimes, two sisters might share a maid. The maid was expected to have sewing / clothing repair skills, cleaning skills, hairdressing skills, skill with cosmetics and more.

The Lady’s maid was the top of the hierarchy of maids, with greater privileges, including often receiving her mistresses cast off dresses – which, even when they were ‘too old and unfashionable’ for the Lady, could easily be reworked into higher quality dresses than the maid might ever have otherwise.

Footmen

Footmen were the ubiquitous method of getting anything done.  They might be tasked with staying in the foyer, ready to open the door, or might each have a section of the house where they simply waited in the halls, ready to run errands or do whatever was needed.  There was a hierarchy here as well – some tasks were more desirable than others. Footmen might also accompany a lady when she went shopping, ready to carry her parcels. Pretty much any time that someone pulled the bell rope to summon a servant to get something done, the one who answered was a footman, even if the task then required action by someone else.

Nanny

If the household had young children, there was usually a nanny. The Nanny was the senior childcare servant and might have nursery maids to help her – the more children, the more nursery maids. The nanny was also usually responsible for the children’s first, very basic, education – in manners, and in simple reading and numbers.

Nursery maid

Nursery maids did the tedious bits of childcare – from changing nappies, to being the one up at all hours of the night, to providing entertainment for teething children. They took children out for walks in the park (note, early baby carriages barely existed yet, so often they carried the children), and amused the children. They also had to deal with washing all of those nappies….

Valet

The Valet, like the Lady’s maid, was a role with status.  The valet was the gentleman’s personal servant, responsible for helping him dress, caring for his clothes, shaving him, polishing his boots and more.  A good valet could tie a perfect cravat in multiple styles and could dress a man’s hair in the fashion of the day. He was also likely to receive the gentleman’s cast off clothes, and was expected to be very discreet about the gentleman’s day to day affairs, which he was almost always aware of.

Valet

The Valet, like the Lady’s maid, was a role with status.  The valet was the gentleman’s personal servant, responsible for helping him dress, caring for his clothes, shaving him, polishing his boots and more.  A good valet could tie a perfect cravat in multiple styles and could dress a man’s hair in the fashion of the day. He was also likely to receive the gentleman’s cast off clothes, and was expected to be very discreet about the gentleman’s day to day affairs, which he was almost always aware of.

Governess

A Governess was employed to teach younger children – usually girls, but sometimes also very young boys. A Governess was an odd position, hallway between a normal servant, and a gently born lady. Often, women of the upper classes, whose families had fallen on hard times, would take employment as a governess. It was regarded as one of the only acceptable roles for a well born lady, if she had to work. The governess taught young girls manners, ladylike skills (painting, music, singing, dancing, languages and more) and prepared them for their role in society.

Companion

A Companion was employed to keep an older woman, or a single woman, company – this provided a layer of propriety, as well as giving an older widow (for example) someone to talk to, in their daily life. Companions, like governesses, were in that grey area between servant and the nobly born. They were often from good families fallen on hard times, or they were distant cousins from the poor side of the family.

Tutor

A Tutor was employed to teach boys, before they reached the age where they were sent off to boarding schools. The Tutor taught languages, maths, science and potentially other subjects which were regarded as suitable for boys. Like governesses, tutors might be of gentle birth, but from a poorer family, but they might also be from a commoner family, but be  a man who had done well for himself and become learned. They might live with the family, or come in each day to teach, and live elsewhere.

Smaller houses would not have had all these servants. They might simply have a maid-of-all work, or two. It all depended on the wealth and status of the family.

The Hierarchy of Servants syndicated from http://donnahatchnovels.tumblr.com/

18th Century Harp, a demonstration

If you’re like me, the very thought of a harp creates a magical wistfulness inside. When I was twelve years old, I heard about an opportunity to take harp lessons, and something came alive inside me. Instantly, more than anything, I wanted–no, had–to learn to play. It’s been an ongoing love affair ever since.

Playing the harp takes years to master, and a great deal of time must be devoted to technique, not just learning to read music. It has been said that harp is the second most difficult instrument to learn to play. (Apparently bagpipes is the hardest.)

The earliest harps had very little versatility and had to be re-tuned to play songs in different keys. Later, harps had levers, which allowed the harpist to flip a lever attached to a string to make it either higher or lower (sharp, natural, or flat) depending on how it was tuned. Flipping levers using the hand takes a great deal of practice and timing. During the 17th Century, some genius invented the pedal, which allowed a harpist to change keys using his or her foot, and it changed that note for every octave. For example, moving the F pedal made all the octaves of F strings a half step different. It still is difficult to master the timing, but allows for so much more versatility on pieces that can be played.

Until about a hundred years ago, harps had an eighth pedal which opened a panel in the back to allow access to changing out strings. This is the kind of harp my heroine in my book, Heart Strings, would have played.

Today’s modern harps have oblong holes that provides the same access. Strings must be fed through these access holes, through the holes in the soundboard, and wound around the little pegs in the picture below. Therefore, harps now only have seven pedals, one for each note.

In this video, harpist Frances Kelly takes us through some of the basics of her 18th century pedal harp and performs a snippet of Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.  I hope you enjoy the video.

18th Century Harp, a demonstration syndicated from http://donnahatchnovels.tumblr.com/

Special Announcement: A New Release–WEDDING WAGERS, a new Timeless Regency Collection

Announcing a new Timeless Regency Collection: Wedding Wagers

Three wagers.  Three couples. Three chances at Love. Let the bets begin.

From the publisher of the USA TODAY bestselling & #1 Amazon bestselling Timeless Romance Anthology series in Regency Romance, comes WEDDING WAGERS, featuring bestselling authors Donna Hatch, Heather B. Moore, and Michele Paige Holmes. Available beginning today, August 20, 2018.

Order here for instant delivery or copy and paste this link into your browser: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D7JSNHL

From the publisher of the USA TODAY bestselling & #1 Amazon bestselling Timeless Romance Anthology series in Regency Romance, comes WEDDING WAGERS. Featuring bestselling authors Donna Hatch, Heather B. Moore, and Michele Paige Holmes.

From the publisher of the USA TODAY bestselling & #1 Amazon bestselling Timeless Romance Anthology series in Regency Romance, comes WEDDING WAGERS. Featuring bestselling authors Donna Hatch, Heather B. Moore, and Michele Paige Holmes.

A WAGER FOR LOVE by Donna Hatch:
For once, Phillip would like to be seen as more than the younger brother of the famous Duke of Suttenberg. When he unexpectedly meets the one girl in all London who doesn’t give two figs for his rank in society, she won’t give him the time of day. Determined to gain her attention, he accidentally tips over her boat and dumps her into a river. Not the best way to convince a lady of worth that he is a gentleman of promise. Frustrated, Phillip makes a rash wager with a friend: he vows he’ll not only gain her forgiveness, but her hand in marriage by the end of the Season. The stakes are high in this romantic Regency romp!

THE FINAL WAGER by Heather B. Moore:
When Victor Roland, Earl of Locken, enters into a game of twenty-one with Lord Southill, the stakes get quickly out of control. Before Victor knows it, Southill is betting the dowry of his sister. While completely illegal, Victor is mostly insulted, so he does what any gentleman of the ton should do. He punches Southill out. Problem is, Southill is in so much debt that he’d been kicked out of his townhouse earlier that day. So Victor is forced to deliver Southill at his estate outside of London … only to meet Southill’s sister, Lady Juliet, a woman who Victor now wishes he’d bet on.

AN IMPROBABLE WAGER by Michele Paige Holmes:
Sherborne Alexander Rowley III has come home to marry his neighbor—and solve his financial problems in one fell swoop. Love doesn’t figure into the equation, only the need to save his family’s estate. The reserved Miss Emily Montgomery seems willing enough, leaving the only possible obstacle to Sherborne’s success his childhood friend, Eli Linfield, and the wager they made long ago that Eli would be the one to marry Emily. When the timely birth of a colt, Emily’s mischievous sister Sophia, and Emily herself all conspire to ruin Sherborne’s plans, one night of mayhem unravels far more than their betrothal. Emily is not as demure as he believed, nor is Eli what he has pretended these many years. Yet the future for all may yet be bright. Sherborne might even wager on it.

Order here for instant delivery or copy and paste this link into your browser: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D7JSNHL

Special Announcement: A New Release–WEDDING WAGERS, a new Timeless Regency Collection syndicated from http://donnahatchnovels.tumblr.com/

More Scandalous Talk about Regency Undewear–the stockings

After all my scandalous talk of Regency underwear, here, here, here, and here, I am finishing off with a tamer post about the last layer of undergarments–the stockings. See? Not scary at all 🙂

Regency ladies wore stockings held up with garters either at the thigh or just above the knee. These stockings pictured at the left are knitted in blue and white silk. Stripes on any and all garments were popular in the 1790s but had faded by the Regency Era. These stockings pictured date from around 1800 so they are nearing the end of their heyday for stripes before giving way to the plainer styles—and almost always white–either plain or knitted in a lacy pattern stitched with white or colored embroidery.

The picture to the right is of a Georgian lady putting on her stockings. Her stockings are white, almost certainly silk, and she is tying them on with ribbon garters.

Our Regency lady would have worn knit stockings of cotton or silk (or wool during cold weather), held up with garters that tied, buckled, or hooked. Below is a fun engraving showing ladies getting dressed, inclding putting on stockings.

Ladies (and gentlemen, too, for that matter) often wore thicker stockings under their fine silk stockings for additional warmth if it was a formal setting where silk would be more fashionable. As an added beenfit to wearing white cotton underneath their silk, the thicker fabric help hide their leg hair. Shaving leg hair is a fairly modern–and largely American–custom; certainly Regency ladies didn’t think to shave their legs.

Now that our Regency lady has on all her undergarments, she can now don her gown, although, of course, she may certainly have put on her stockings after dressing in her gown rather than before.

More Scandalous Talk about Regency Undewear–the stockings syndicated from http://donnahatchnovels.tumblr.com/