A Gentleman’s Sporting Life

In a Regency era story I’ve been working on, my hero is a sporting man. Whatever the sport, he loves it: Fencing, boxing, fishing, shooting—they’re all on my hero’s list of favorite things to do.

Fencing at O’Saunessy’s Rooms in St James Street in 1820, by Cruickshank.

While researching different sports that were popular at the time, I came across a reference to the sport of hare-coursing.

A portion of a 17th Century painting on silk of a hunter and his dog hare-coursing.

Hare-coursing is a violent sport in which dogs are turned loose to hunt down hares by sight.

That’s all the description I’ll provide, because I find the concept of the sport too upsetting. I’m an animal lover through and through, so I’m glad to know the sport is banned in most places today.

Still, it was a normal gentleman’s pastime during the Regency, and while I’d never write about it in a story (except to condemn the practice), I was intrigued to discover there was a specific style of dress men wore for the sport.

I did a previous post (which you can read here) that featured gentlemen dressed for shooting pheasant or other game birds.

Likewise, when I stumbled upon a description of hare-coursing, I also found this image of a coat a gentleman would have worn that was specially designed for the “sport.”

From the John Bright Collection

The coat itself is made of wool, trimmed with velvet, which leads me to think hare-coursing was a popular pastime during the colder months of the year.

The coat has two deep pockets on either side of the back skirt. The size of the pockets indicates they may have been used to carry the dead hares.

But what I found most interesting was the buttons on the coat. They were cast with images of a running hare, which makes me think the garment belonged to a wealthy man who could indulge in a custom coat to wear just for engaging in hare-coursing.

I’d never glorify hare-coursing by including it in a story, but this image does inspire me to rethink my hero’s wealth. Is he the kind of man possessed of such an extensive wardrobe that he’d naturally have a custom coat made up to wear only one or two times a year?

Or would that be too vain of him?

Maybe I’ll have my hero be a little more altruistic—the kind of man who would rather put his wealth to better use.

Hmmm, the possibilities are endless!

Admiral Lord Nelson’s Final Journey

In a previous post (which you can read by clicking here) I talked about how long it took for news to reach England of the death of Horatio, Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. Today marks the anniversary of Nelson’s funeral.

Nelson was a hero, by any standard. He not only led England’s navy to victory, he lived his life in service to his country, and suffering serious injury in the process. By the time he led his fleet into battle with France and Spain on October 21, his battle experiences had already taken from him an arm and an eye, and he had sustained numerous other injuries over the years, all in service to England. The public revered him, so with his passing it was fitting that he be given a hero’s funeral.

Nelson’s coffin on its journey through the streets of London.

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Nelson’s body finally reached British soil on January 5 (he died on October 21). His remains were placed in a coffin and lay in state in Greenwich’s Painted Hall where thousands of members of the public paid their respects.

This commemorative linen panel from 1806 depicts the funeral procession of Lord Nelson and scenes from his life. The image at the top right shows a portion of the funeral cortege on its way to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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On January 8, 1806 a royal barge, draped in black velvet, carried his coffin up the Thames to Whitehall, where it remained overnight. The next day, a funeral cortege preceded the coffin to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Tens of thousands of Londoners lined the streets to see the procession. Thousands of navy pensioners and soldiers marched from Whitehall to St. Paul’s, including the officers and crew of Nelson’s ship, the Victory.

Nelson’s coffin arrives at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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The entire procession was so long that by the time the column reached St. Paul’s, the funeral car was still at Whitehall, almost two miles away.

Tens of thousands of Londoners lined the streets to see the procession, which lasted well into the night. By the time the service began at St. Paul’s it was dark; the light of 130 candle lamps lit the cathedral’s dome, where two gigantic captured French and Spanish flags were hung, as reminders of the security Nelson gave his countrymen by defeating their enemies.

Nelson’s funeral service inside St Paul’s Cathedral.

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When the service concluded on January 9, 1806, as Nelson’s coffin was lowered into a crypt, a herald read aloud Nelsons titles, and ended with these words:

The hero, who in the moment of victory, fell covered with immortal glory.

On Susanna Ives’ blog there is a wonderfully detailed account, taken from an English newspaper at the time, of the entire funeral procession and service. It’s a somber and moving tribute to Lord Nelson, “a perfect English Hero.” You can read Susanna’s post by clicking here.