What is the Regency Period? - Definition & Characteristics

Instructor: Matt Lamb

Matt has tutored for six years now, in a variety of subjects including reading, essay writing, chemistry, and theology. He is finishing his M.A. in Political Science this August.

In this lesson you will learn about the defining characteristics of the Regency Period. This lesson includes major people, art, and literature of the Regency Period.

Regency Period: Romance and Elegance

A king falls sick while on the throne, and his young, handsome son takes over leading a storied country. Is this the plot to a great novel? Probably. But more importantly, it's the plot line for the Regency Period, a time of romance and elegance in Great Britain. The period is named for George, Prince Regent, the temporary king of Great Britain while his father, George III, was ill. The Regency Period officially lasted nine years, from 1811 to 1820, and saw the rise of many well-known authors and styles of art, including Jane Austen and Regency Classicism.

The Handsome King

That the Regency Period is known as a time of luxury and romance should come as no surprise. George, Prince Regent was a handsome young man and the art and literature of the time matched his looks. It might be helpful to think of the Regency Period as another Renaissance, when art, literature, and high society flourished. Think about the fanciest, stuffiest art gallery you can imagine and that is basically the Regency Period.

George, Prince Regent, also known as George IV
George Prince Regent

Literature in the Regency Period

The Regency Period was marked by a number of good authors, including Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and Jane Austen. Of these three, Jane Austen is often most associated with the Regency Period. How did Austen's novels fit into the Regency Period? Consider many of the themes in her novels: romance, fortune, and love. For example, in Pride and Prejudice, Austen writes a story about courtship and romance. In Sense and Sensibility, Austen writes a story about inheritance, money and love. These were common themes of the Regency Period.

Regency Period author Jane Austen
Jane Austen, Regency Period author

Another example of Regency literature is Percy Shelley. His works are often thought of as embodying the idea of romanticism. For example, in the poem called ''Love's Philosophy,'' Shelley paints a vivid image complete with analogies between love and nature. The imagery in Shelley and Austen's works are similar to the imagery in the art of the Regency Period. Remember that old Beatles song, ''All You Need Is Love''? That is one of the best ways to easily remember what the Regency Period refers to.

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