Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Revisiting "A Feudal Foundation" (Part One)

Photo Credit: Sensibility
Today I want to continue our investigation of England’s class system during the Regency Era. Think of these discussions as the setting in which we will place our most prized gems, the men and women who shaped the early life of the beloved Queen Victoria. I wish to remind you that we’re learning all of this so that we can understand the powerful forces governing the actions of those who were most influential in Victoria’s life.

If we are to learn to master the lessons we face as we attempt to dig out the roots of our past and become the vivid queens we were meant to become rather than queens dressed in mourning garb, we will also need to probe the foundations of our own lives. It is my hope that digging into the history of this one Queen will aid you in digging into your own history.

High Society Banquet Table
Photo Credit: English Heritage

It was this rigid class system which was in large part responsible for the environment in which the Royal Duke of Kent found himself in debt and out of the graces of his brother, King George IV. Had he been in good graces with the King, or had the King’s opinion of his brother impacted the man’s circumstances less, it is highly likely that he would never have contracted the pneumonia that led to his demise eight short months after the birth of his daughter. If he had not died, he likely would have continued working toward producing a more secure offspring in the form of a male child. If this male child had been born, we would not have the illustrious Victorian Era to study at all.

Furthermore, I believe it was this rigid social class system that bears a great portion of the responsibility for shaping the life of our Queen’s mother and closest advisers, and I intend to make sure we learn everything we can about it without growing weary or bored.

Medieval Life
Photo Credit: UNCP
Through the Regency Era and into the early part of the Victorian Era, England’s class system consisted of the Royals, the Nobles, and the peasants, with the Royals and Nobles, as well as the peasants and Nobles, in various forms and types of feudal relationships. The rules governing the formal code of the Nobles and Royals were stringent and taught from birth to only those fortunate enough to have been born into high-society families. These upper class citizens learned an entirely different vocabulary for everyday items, and they followed a strict formal code which allowed for a distinct separation between upper and lower classes.

If you were born in the lower class, not only would it have been daunting to learn all the rules, you would have been excluded from all the social opportunities in which you could have learned them. This exclusion was the intended result of this strict code, and any attempt to deviate from traditional class roles was discouraged. The question I pose in part two is: How did the feudal system of the Middle Ages set the stage for this strict class system to form in England?



  1. Excellent writing and very informative stuff! Their distinction between "upper and lower class" worked quite well in England, didn't it? (And still does, I think.) Especially for those born into "high society."

  2. Thank you, Gram. I think they have certainly been more honest in terms of behaving in acknowledgement of the distinction. I do have a fondness for a more open system, with the freedom to work hard to change your position in society.