STEAMY sex scenes, illicit affairs and handsome hunks – Netflix drama Bridgerton has, quite literally, laid bare life within Regency Era Britain.
Set between 1813 and 1827, the popular series takes place when Great Britain and Ireland were coming to the end of the Georgian reign – and social standards were a lot different.
One thing fans of the show will now know for sure was that back then it took a lot of hard work for a woman to avoid social scandal and 'effortlessly' bag a desirable – and rich – husband during the social season.
Every tiny meticulous detail, from how a woman laughed, to what she ate and even the manner in how she fainted, was all planned with military precision.
But there's even more to it than first meets the eye. Here, royal and etiquette expert and Polo & Tweed CEO Lucy Challenger talks us through some of the bizarre rules of the Bridgerton era not shown on the show…
Going knickerless & showing off pale skin
In the Netflix drama, the Regency Era is all about the fashion and elaborate dresses for the upper class ladies, with a new outfit purchased from sought-after seamstress Modiste Genevieve Delacroix for every ball.
And in real life, it was no different. However there was one item the women wouldn't have needed to spend a pretty penny on – knickers.
Lucy explains: "Modern underwear was created in the 1920s, so it would have been very breezy back in the 1800s, with no underwear. Women wore layers of petticoats."
Even when knickers were introduced, they were very different to the version we're used to today and were crotchless.
Toy with food, avoid crispy hare ears & NEVER refuse soup
Dinner parties could be a long affair – with anything up to 25 dishes being served in one sitting – and women were required to eat elegantly and silently.
According to the Jane Austen Centre, a book entitled True Politeness: A Handbook of Etiquette for Ladies suggested: “It is usual to commence with soup, which never refuse; if you do not eat [it], you can toy with it until it is followed by fish…
"Soup must be eaten from the side, not the point of the spoon; and in eating it, be careful not to make a noise, by strongly inhaling the breath: this habit is excessively vulgar; you cannot eat too quietly.”
Sadly for ladies, eating roasted hare ears – a delicacy of the time and the Regency Era equivalent of crisps and dip -was not allowed because they were crunchy and it wasn't proper.
Be seen, but not heard
At one point in the Netflix show, when Daphne Bridgerton – played by Phoebe Dynevor- meets Prince Friedrich, she laughs with such vigour that she actually snorts – a huge, unattractive and often unforgiveable faux-pas.
Lucy says: "It was completely improper for a woman to raise her voice and there were often restrictions when it came to overtly laughing or smiling."
Speaking on a BBC documentary to mark 200 years of Pride and Prejudice, which was based around the same time, Amanda Vickery, professor of history at Queen Mary, University of London, added: "Laughing and showing teeth were signs of vulgarity, being a peasant and sexual availability.
"You’re not supposed to relax too much or lounge on the sofa, either, and don’t draw attention to bodily functions. Don’t say, 'I’ve got stomach ache' or cramp. You shouldn’t let on about any of that; you’re supposed to be a stately swan."
Public outbursts banned – but fainting encouraged
While being loud was considered un-ladylike and public outbursts were unacceptable, it was perfectly reasonable for a woman to faint or suffer from hysteria if confronted by 'vulgarity or an unfavourable scene'.
Accrding to the History Collection, fainting was considered an appropriate, even understandable, reaction for a lady to have when confronted with foul language or bad manners.
In fact, this could work out very well if there was a gentlemen nearby to help the distressed lady onto a fainting couch.
Strictly no indecent carriage contact
Such was the minefield of strict rules, even getting into a carriage required careful thought – as even sitting in the wrong seat could cause scandal.
Lucy says: "The gentleman always sat with his back to the horses, and a non-relative must never sit next to each other to stop any indecent contact as not even a knee or arm should touch.
"In the show when Benedict Bridgerton gets in the carriage with Genevieve Delacroix and they sit together this would be entirely improper."
Dancing until the early hours
They might look like tame events, but actually Regency Era balls were pretty hardcore.
Each dance could last half an hour and there could be up to 14 dances a night, so guests needed strong stamina to go the distance.
Based on all this, while it seemed like a much simpler time in many ways, it seems to live – and thrive – in Bridgerton Britain with your reputation in tact took A LOT of hard work…
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