I cannot believe that I have not seen this stunning piece of work before. In the manner of Frontier House, a series called Regency House Party is born. It’s a sort of 1700s dating game (actually “1811”), where for nine weeks five single men and women are taken back two hundred years in time to court one another. Set in Kentchurch Court in Herefordshire this is a shocking change for all of the participants and is made to be very authentic (with chaperones, suckling pigs… the whole deal). It has lovely little snippets about the Regency era, and shows the transformation of the men and women into their historical counterparts. Plus, it’s all on youtube.
The first “chapter” of the series is entitled Pride and Prejudice. It says “In the Regency, romance was a slow dance played out with courtesy and reverance.” It then explains that marriage was still “business, a chance to achieve power, wealth and status”. How they managed to get men involved in this I have no idea- but it is giving me hope in humanity. The men chosen appear to be well educated, fairly attractive and funny- so it’s great to see how it pans out when you put these qualities (which we value today fairly highly) into Pride and Prejudice days.
29 year old London resident Chris Gorell barnes is given the role as host, and the title of Mr. Darcy. We hear about his life, as we do the other characters and it is fairly typical of a dating show. But… this doesn’t seem to bother me as we see them all dressed up (either in cravats or in regimentals or similar). You can’t help but feel a little hurt for the men and women as they are explained to, in brutally honest terms, where their jobs would have put them in the social hierarchy (with the secondary school teacher coming in last, being equivalent to a clergyman… and while he isn’t a slime bag, something suddenly screams MR COLLINS!).
When the women are introduced, we see the poorer Miss Haley Conick referred to as Elizabeth Bennet (and she seems like a lovely lady and beautiful, so let us hope!). Although, we see that the Countess has already been hoped for as our Darcy’s wife by the hostess. The chaperones, upon first meeting of the men and women, seem to get it- and want to secure the richest male. There are servants, spreads of incredible food, sporting events, fireworks (in both senses of the word), romantic displays, gothic fancy dress parties and engagements. Even a hermit makes an appearance. Oh, and watch out for one of the chaperones and one of the gentlemen forming a relationship…
While it is a lovely series, and makes you appreciate the courtship of the time that much more, it highlights the difficulties for all of the women. The production values are high- and there is a great sense of the era through the painstaking effort in the costuming, authenticity of the smaller details (bathing and shampoo) and the manners they learn. The editing is also tight, and while it has the “reality television” style where the person speaks to the camera about something that happened, it is still very watchable.
Favourite moments in the series: The first meetings of the ladies and the men (and watching each other while they watch each other using telescopes!)
If anything, this series shows that people have not changed. Whether it is the men still getting drunk, gambling and saying lewd things or women giggling. Did you enjoy it?