It is a truth universally acknowledged that Netflix’s smash hit series Bridgerton, a sumptuous and steamy saga set in Regency England, has kept many of us going through lockdown mark 3.
Whilst the actors who brought this confection to the screen had to undertake endless etiquette lessons to perfect their roles, there are a host of even more bizarre rules that never made it onto the screen. Not surprisingly many of these were reserved for the fairer sex. For a young lady’s reputation was of paramount importance and even the most innocent of breaches could ruin her marriage prospects.
Here we ask royal and etiquette expert and Polo & Tweed CEO Lucy Challenger to divulge some of her favourites.
Seen but Not Heard
A young lady in society would never raise her voice or smile too broadly. As for laughing so hard she actually snorts – which Daphne Bridgerton does on meeting poor Prince Friedrich – that would be quite scandalous! Bizarrely however women could have the vapours, faint or suffer from hysteria – if the situation demanded it.
Dinner is Served
Dinner parties were complex social events with their own specific set of rules; one false move and a lady could bring shame upon herself and her family. Dressing for dinner was a must with a more casual dress seen as a sign of disrespect to the host.
It was known that the hostess would be seated at the head of the table, with the male guest of honour on her right. There was no other seating plan and the remainder of the guests would have to seat themselves, ranking their social standing against their fellow guests.
The Last Dance
A young woman’s reputation would be at risk if she danced more than twice with the same man. Even two dances showed that the gentleman in question was interested in her. As such the following day she would expect a call so that she could continue her acquaintance with him.
Your Carriage Awaits
Carriage rides were a minefield of rules and regulations. The gentleman always sat with his back to the horses and a non-relative would never sit next to each other to stop any indecent contact! So, when Benedict Bridgerton positions himself next to Genevieve Delacroix in his carriage, this would have been deemed entirely improper.
A Walk on the Wild Side
Drinking, gambling and meeting with women of ‘ill repute’ may have been part and parcel of a gentleman’s lifestyle but it would have been seen as scandalous if a woman so much as acknowledged these activities. To avoid any awkward encounters, certain streets in London were off limits to ladies of a certain social standing including St James’s Street, home to several gentlemen’s clubs.
‘til Death Us Do Part
The tradition of wearing black was very much in place during the Regency era. Widows were expected to wear black for 12 months, or six months if a parent or parent-in-law had passed away. During this period fashions were expected to be stripped back – no extravagant jewellery or shiny fabrics. Invitations to any social events also had to be declined during this time.
Sit Up Straight
Ladies had to maintain the correct erect posture when sitting or standing. Slouching or leaning back was very much frowned upon. To this end many young ladies were fitted with a backboard – single pieces of wood fixed in place by a leather strap – that would ensure they sat up straight.
A Cut Above
Another major faux pas was to ‘cut’ – or to ignore – someone. This was strictly forbidden among gentlemen, although women could get away with it, but only if they had a particularly strong reason for doing so.