Regency is one of the most popular periods for romantic novels and TV dramas, but behind the glitz portrayed on page and screen, the reality was somewhat different. Here are some less palatable facts, which most of us authors choose not to mention!
1.Hands and faces were regularly washed but not so much bodies, not least as soap was highly taxed and beyond most purses.
2.Sanitation was non-existent and that and the poor quality of water exacerbated the spread of diseases like typhoid and cholera.
3.Sugar was an expensive luxury enjoyed by the rich, but not by their teeth, which went black and caused halitosis.
4.The best dentures were those made with healthy teeth harvested from the thousands of young men who died at the Battle of Waterloo.
5.Addiction to morphine and heroin was commonplace, including imbibing laudanum for pain control and to fuel addiction.
6.Arsenic was commonly used in face creams, remedies to increase fertility and cure baldness and in the manufacture of everyday items like candles and cloth.
7.Prostitution was commonplace and in the late 18th Century ‘gentlemen’ could purchase a copy of ‘Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies’ detailing what each lady offered.
8.A slightly different publication was produced by Mr John Penn, also for circulation amongst upper-crust gentlemen, listing the qualities of marriageable society ladies.
9.Pineapples were expensive and tended to be passed on from one household to another as gifts of status, to the extent that they were never eaten, but eventually went rotten.
So, next time you pick up a Regency novel, read between the lines!