Elegance and Decadence, The Age of the Regency
... was a series for BBC4 broadcast in September 2011.
It was in three parts, for brilliant BBC4 once again (yes, the brainy channel). The Prince Regent officially became ‘acting king’ in 1811, two hundred years ago, and 'elegance' combined with 'decadence' seems really to sum up his nine-years reign as Regent before he properly became King George IV in 1820. We had an hour on the corpulent Prince of Whales himself, beginning of course at our beautiful Kew Palace where he grew up, great events and great artists (Lawrence and Turner) and the Battle of Waterloo. Episode Two is about architecture, Brighton Pavilion, Windsor Castle, the property market and the middle classes, and there was a bit of my all-time favourite Regency person Jane Austen. We finished with an hour of sedition, violent protest, the Peterloo Massacre, industrialisation, royal divorce and dissent. Fun, huh?
This series was made by BBC Bristol, and our talented directors were Sebastian Barfield, Rachel Jardine and Gerry Dawson. Here are some pictures of what we got up to...
Filming the title sequence with the fantantastic Jane Austen dancers in Devizes Town Hall. Our cruel perfectionist director kept us going so long that the fingers of the poor lady playing the piano LITERALLY bled.
I spent a day as a dandy of St James' in the company of Ian Kelly, quite the dandy himself, and biographer of Beau Brummell. We tied cravats, visited brothels, etc.
A mini-break to Cornwall to trace the footsteps of Turner, on his sketching tour of the West Country. Can still see why he liked the light down there so much.
That's Jane Austen's writing table. Yes, really! And I'm sitting at it! Memorable moment.
This is Robin, who taught me the waltz. Waltzing was dirty dancing when it made its appearance in the Regency ballroom - read more about that in a blog post here.
Here I'm falsely claiming the credit for that magnificent building, constructed out of sugar. Really it's the work of Ivan Day there, but he let me have a go at a little bit of my own in the kitchen of the Brighton Pavilion.
In the Regency the most dashing people were literally dashing up and down the country, in the fast new mail coaches. Here I'm whizzing around Suffolk in the Swingletree Mail.
Against that very wall many people were crushed to death during the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester of 1819. It was repression on the scale of Tiananmen Square.
Episode 3 became unofficially known as 'The Plebs Are Revolting', and who could blame them? Workers conditions in the industrial revolution, combined with government indifference, still horrify.
That's our ep. 3 director Gerry Dawson, the man who falsely reassured me that I wouldn't be terrified in the hot air balloon. You can see how ridiculously small the basket was! And Rhys Thomas, our sound recordist, in the sunglasses.
Rachel Jardine, our ep. 2 director, at the Thomas Lawrence exhibition at the National Gallery, with our cameraman Ian Salvage in the background (smiling as usual).
The evil slave-driver Sebastian Barfield, grudgingly-to-be-admitted to be the rather good director of ep. 1.
© 2013 Lucy Worsley