Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Revisiting "A Royal Undertaking"

English Royal Party
Photo Credit: Old-Print
As you’ve probably surmised by now, I’m loathe to misrepresent this beautiful country or any of its illustrious and noble people. The more I delve into this topic, the more I realize I have so much to learn, so I beg your patience. I would hate for my naivete to cloud your judgments about the value of this system, which is very different from my native American capitalist system, or about the value of these richly complex people that can only be known history's representation and our own lenses. That being said, I will share what I’ve learned so far.

The Regency Period (1811-1820) was a tumultuous time in England’s grand history. Just as the Duke and Duchess of Kent are transitional figures in Queen Victoria’s life, so the Prince Regent (George IV) was a transitional figure for the greater society of England. The traditions of a nation, seemingly as old as time (unified as a state in AD 927), changed radically due to the newly manifesting effects of the industrial revolution, which began to make an impact on English society in the early 1800s. Of course, the Prince Regent did not have much personal effect on the economic structure of England; however, he did play a role in preparing the country for said changes.

George IV Coronation Procession
Photo used  courtesy of UK Parliament

Leading into the Regency Period, England’s high society was governed by what was called, after 1801, the Peerage of the United Kingdom. (Again, I give a caveat that I am very new to the ins and outs of this type of system. Therefore, I reserve the right to correct and amend my virginal thoughts about this subject in later posts.) In the 1800s, this order of Peerage staunchly set the tone for honor, dignity, and deference between the peasant class and the aristocracy.

To my decisively American sensibilities, this type of system seems distasteful. However, a dear friend reminded me today that I am wont to judge too quickly. She pointed out that there resides a dignity and sense of protection and honor within a feudal system, which I simply need more time to understand before I can discuss it fairly. I beseech all of you who are unfamiliar to this system of governance to also keep an open mind as we further explore this system.

George IV Coronation Banquet
Photo used courtesy of UK Parliament

As I was reviewing my notes today about the Peerage, I had a vivid recollection of the day I graduated from high school. The tradition in my school was to proceed to the stage to collect our diplomas at the alphabetical calling of our names. I then remembered that at my college graduation the decorum was a little more sophisticated, resembling more closely the Peerage, in that Masters graduates were announced first before the general graduating class. The Peerage laws similarly govern the order in which royalty and nobility are announced at society events, allowed to present at public events, called to proceed at court, and seated at table for banquets, balls, and other social events. Because I do not want to take us on a rabbit trail down the complex path of this topic of Peerage and Precedence, I have included a link to my resources for this topic alone.

In our particular chapter of history, our dear Duke, Prince Edward, was born the fourth son of King George III and Sophia Charlotte. Upon his father’s death, his class rank rose to second in the nation (since his eldest brother, George IV, did not have any sons), and his individual rank rose to fourth (behind King George IV; Prince Frederick; and Prince William, who would later become king). For a detailed list of rank (precedence), take a look at the Table of Precedence for Men on Laura Chinet’s website. It was the Duke's position of precedence, coupled with the failure of those higher in rank to produce a qualifying heir that afforded him the opportunity to sire the future Queen of England.Image Credits


  1. I was exposed later than many to the likes of Jane Austen, but was immediately fascinated and curious about the whole system of class rank, and inheritance.

    For instance, why do some daughters of weathly upper class men inherit wealth, but others do not?

    My curiousity and fascination definitely extend to royalty and the rest of the upper crust of historical Britain. I can see from what you're going through that the subject is vast and complicated. Thanks for answering some of my questions, and for all the hard work to be sure you are presently accurately.

    Looking foward to your next post!

  2. Thank you, my dear friend. I just found a cache of new books to read from the library. I am so excited. This has been a good week for me in the writing arena. And thank you for appreciating my accuracy and not just thinking I'm a perfectionist lunatic. Hehe.