Spring and The Season

The London season—a time of balls, riding in Hyde Park, and otherwise socializing in Regency England. But when was the Season?

There’s actually no official dates for when things started or ended. In general, those with a political interest—or who wished to vote on issues—would be in London for Parliament’s season. The dates Parliament might meet were anywhere from November on through to June or July. In summer, London became both hot and the Thames stank of sewage. Everyone who could fled London for the countryside and stayed there for autumn hunting, fishing, and shooting. Some years push Parliament’s session dates to January, or even to February, as in 1816—a year with terrible weather.

In 1816, snow was reported as falling on Easter Sunday (which fell on April 14) in London, and in general, a London spring could be wet and cold.

Easter—or just before—was often the time to head to London. Between 1800 and 1820, most dates for Easter fell in April (the earliest being April 1 in 1804 and April 2 in 1809), but in 1806, 1812 and 1818, Easter fell in March.

The weather and roads would have improved by March, and London’s social scene would be starting. While May and June seem to be the most active months to judge by reports in newspapers of the periods, grand balls were not unknown in March.

On March 18, 1801, the Marquis and Marchioness of Abercorn held a ball at their London townhouse in Grosvenor Square, and then held another ball on March 24, 1801—a busy social couple.

Painting of Lady Anne Jane Gore, Marchioness of Abercorn, 3rd wife of the 1st Marquis (d. 1827) ca. 1800, New Orleans Museum of Art.
Lady Anne Jane Gore, Marchioness of Abercorn, 3rd wife of the 1st Marquis (d. 1827) ca. 1800, New Orleans Museum of Art.

The Morning Post reported “The Marchioness of Abercorn’s first entertainment since her marriage was a splendid Ball, on Wednesday evening, at the family residence in Grosvenor-square…The following distinguished personages formed a part of the assemblage, amounting to upwards of three hundred, present at the Ball: The Prince of Orange, Prince William of Gloucester, Dukes: Gloucester, Cumberland, Bourbon, and Somerset, Duchesses: Montrose, Bolton, Gordon and Somerset…”

The ball started at 11 PM, and it was noted that “In the dining-room were placed six round tables, for parties of twelve; in the eating room below, seven tables for the same number; and, in the parlour, a long table for sixty. At half after one o’clock supper was announced; it was a hot supper, and served up in plate and china of great beauty; the dishes, ornaments, &c. displayed great taste. No frame work was used, but branched lights, in magnificent silver candlesticks, supplied their place. Turtle soup was generally introduced, and French beans and asparagus were among the novelties of the season.”
Dancing began again at half past two in the morning and went on until a quarter past five.

The second ball hit a big of a snag in that in mid March, The Morning Chronicle carried the announcement from the Lord Chamberlain of official mourning for her Royal Highness Philippina Charlotte, Duchess Dowager of Brunswick—and a granddaughter of George I—between the 19th of March and the 30th of April. However, the Prince of Wales did attend that second ball. During official Court mourning, the nobility were expected to follow deep mourning, mourning, then half mourning dress, and to be less frivolous. But if a ball was planned, with invitations sent, a ball must be held.

March also might be a time for the Queen’s Drawing room and presentation at court.

The Times reported on the Queen’s Drawing room that was held on March 8, 1810, with presentations of Lady George Beresford by the Countess of Arran, Miss Harriet Thornton by her mother, Mrs Thornton, Lady Charlotte Graham by her mother, the Duchess of Montrose, Mr Roust Broughton by his father, Lady Mary Sackville by her mother, the Duchess of Dorset, the two Misses Wellesley Pole by their mother, Mrs Pole, Mr Villiers upon his return from Portugal, and Major-General Sir Stapleton Cotton on his return from Portugal and on coming to his title.

In March, balls might be planned, wardrobes needed to be refreshed, invitations would be going out, and the mad whirl could continue on through to June and into early July.

In August and September, those with country estates would be looking to head there for shooting, fishing, and then fox hunting would start up in late October or November, with the first hard frost. The following spring, the social scene would begin again.

To find out more about the social whirl of spring and the London season—

Article by Shannon Donnelly for The Quizzing Glass blog and The Regency Reader.

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