- Bridgerton -A Guide To Dating In 'Bridgerton's Regency England
As we are all well aware, 21st century dating is already a minefield unto itself. Dating apps, texting vs. talking on the phone — and that's not even taking into account the travesty that is courting in the midst of COVID-19.
But turn the time tables back 200 years, and you'll see that trying to discern your feelings for someone from a distance was the norm. Rarely could you get a moment alone with your intended, and dating was for all intents and purposes in pursuit of marriage.
As we see in Netflix's Bridgerton, Daphne Bridgerton, the Featherington sisters, Marina Thompson, and Cressida Cowper are all out and about waiting for men to sign their dance cards at the balls, trying to see if they can strike a match that will keep them in comfort for all their days. Marriage was more of an expectation, for the woman to give birth to heirs and for the man to provide for them all. At one point, Daphne Bridgerton even refers to the nature of the London season as a "marriage mart." A true love match was a rare boon rather than the base requirement.
As fear of scandal or impropriety appearing in Lady Whistledown's Society Paper is rife in Bridgerton, let's break down a guide to Regency dating for London's society girls. The do's and don'ts, if you will.
Warning: Light spoilers for Season 1 of Bridgerton follow.
Do: Wait Until the Proper Age to "Come Out"
Remember the scene in What a Girl Wants where Colin Firth hosts a grand debutante ball for Amanda Bynes to introduce her to London society? Well, that was drawn from the English tradition of a young lady's debut, which in the 19th century was to announce that a noble family's daughter has accomplished all the proper skills to make herself eligible for marriage to a suitable husband.
Typically, the age would be between 16 to 18, and if a family had multiple daughters, the oldest one would "come out" and be introduced to the society circuits first, as is the case with Daphne Bridgerton.
Do: Wait for a Proper Introduction to a Potential Suitor
A lady could never simply go up to an attractive man she fancies and make his acquaintance. Rather, she must let the lads flock to her side, as Lady Violet Bridgerton imparts to Daphne at Lady Danbury's first ball of the season.
Further, a third party was needed for introductions, typically at public affairs like a dance or dinner. A gentleman would seek the host or hostess to make a lady's acquaintance, but a "man of the house" (like Viscount Anthony Bridgerton), elderly and revered matrons (like Daphne's mother), or mutual connections might be enlisted to do the honors.
Do Not: Dance More Than Two Dances with a Suitor
Do: Anticipate Callers and Flowers
After an introduction at a ball, perhaps, a young lady much like Daphne and Marina should anticipate gentleman callers to pay their respects with chaperoned visits in their drawing room in the following days. Or they may send flowers, like Simon's grand display he sends to keep up their ruse and appearance of a courtship. But a single caller's time would be limited to roughly a half hour. He should not overstay his welcome.
Do Not: Call a Suitor By Their First Name
Which is why it's such a sign of intimacy when the Duke of Hastings and Miss Bridgerton refer to each other as the more casual Simon and Daphne. Rather, in Regency England, referring to a gentleman or lady by their family name or, when appropriate, their title, was the mode of decorum when courting.
Do Not: Be Alone with Your Suitor Without a Chaperone
Completely OUT of the question. Young ladies should be chaperoned at all times when with your potential betrothed. This is why Nigel Berbrooke following Daphne into the Dark Walk could have seriously damaged her reputation, and why her moment of passion with Simon in the garden would have been even more ruinous (as seen by protective older brother Anthony punching Simon in the face).
This cardinal rule is also why Marina pulling Colin into the study at Daphne's wedding party is so salacious. It's no wonder why Daphne insists she will preside as chaperone when she arranges a secret meeting for Colin to confront Marina about the sham of their courtship.
Rather, more appropriate examples of "dates" include Simon and Daphne taking walks around the park with Lady Danbury and Lady Violet Bridgerton present.
Do Not: Partake in PDA
Stand a foot apart, children, even when dancing. Kissing, caressing, any lingering touch between a gentleman and a lady was most ardently unacceptable when courting. No, you may only experience physical relations, aside from dancing, after wedding vows are exchanged. But you are to have no knowledge of those intimacies before then, as is custom.
Do: Find Friendship If You're Lucky
Navigating the frightening waters of 19th century dating was a treacherous endeavor indeed, which is why it's such a blessing if your partner wading through the stream with you is a pal and confidante who you can hopefully rely on the rest of your days for support. Friendship is indeed the strongest foundation upon which to build a marriage, as Queen Charlotte commends Simon and Daphne on after hearing of the closeness between them.
So remember, ladies, abide by these codes of courting conduct and you just might find yourself your perfect match this London season.