HOW TO LOSE YOUR REPUATION IN ONE EVENING:
A REGENCY LADY'S GUIDE TO RUIN
My heroine, Lady Honoria Carlow, the strong-willed, tempestuous daughter of an earl, used to tag along as a child on many of her older brother Hal’s exploits. When he became a rakehell cavalry officer and she a young lady making her debut, she found it horribly unfair that Hal might still have adventures, while she was bound at every turn by stifling rules of behavior.
Being the daughter of a rich and influential man previously allowed her to escape censure for some pranks that would have ruined a girl of less impressive dowry and lineage. However, even for Honoria, there are some rules that, once broken, put her forever beyond the pale and sent her off in disgrace to exile in Cornwall.
What could be so terrible, you ask? In order of seriousness, here’s a few breaches of decorum of which she is guilty:
1. Walking down St. James’s Street (location of the gentlemen’s clubs, including White’s with its famous bow window where anyone passing by could be ogled by all the men, something no genteel lady would permit!)
2. Walking alone around the city without a chaperone or maid to accompany you.
3. Driving or riding in the park without a chaperone or groom to protect you.
4. Strolling with a gentleman in the park or down the street without a chaperone to accompany you.
5. Driving with a gentleman in a closed carriage without a chaperone to accompany you.
6. Sneaking away from a ball or dinner party without your chaperone to meet a gentleman not your fiancé.
7. Strolling in a dark garden without a chaperone and with a gentleman not your fiancé.
8. Being caught kissing a gentleman who is not your fiancé.
9. Being caught kissing a known rake and roué in a dark garden at midnight.10. Being discovered in the arms of a known rake and roué in a dark garden at midnight with your bodice half undone.
To those of us in the modern world, the “grave offenses” which leave Honoria disgraced seem laughably trivial. But in a time when a titled gentleman had great wealth and power to be passed to his eldest son, making sure that a prospective bride was chaste and circumspect was very important.
I, for one, am glad I live in 21st century America!