This chapter begins by providing an account of the second Regency Crisis. It then expands upon this by considering some of the scandals associated with the Prince Regent and other members of his family. This is followed by a section that deals with the career of Beau Brummell and his relationship with the Prince. The basic aim of the chapter is to describe, at the level of historical narrative, certain events that may not be familiar to many students of literature. Austen’s letters are one of the sources used. The more ambitious intention is to use topics such as scandal and dandyism to move beyond a factual account of the Regency period towards one which concentrates more on moods and mentalities. The section on scandal ends by anticipating very briefly how the material discussed throughout the chapter is going to be used in the readings of the novels that follow as a way of emphasising its relevance.
Austen told Cassandra, in a letter from Chawton dated 10 January 1809, that she had been devoting time to the question of whether the rule of George III would have to be replaced by that of the Prince of Wales: The “Regency” seems to have been heard of only here; my most political correspondents make no mention of it. Unlucky that I should have wasted so much reflection on the subject’ (L, p. 246). George III’s erratic health meant that the Regency question was never very far away from the political agenda. Legislation had eventually been framed back in 1788/9, after much delay and party feuding, to enable the Prince of Wales to assume a strictly limited number of his father’s prerogatives and privileges. It was in the event not needed as the King’s health improved. 1