Historical Fiction: Turning Tides

Writing her first historical novel has raised some unexpected challenges for the historian Stella Tillyard.

It is just as well that I have written a Regency novel and not a history of the Regency; it seems my memory of the factual is weak. I had always thought it ran from 1810 to 1820; but in fact it began 200 years ago on February 5th, 1811, when a Bill ‘for the care of the King during his illness’ was enacted and George III’s son, the Prince of Wales, declared regent. By the time I realised this my novel, Tides of War, was finished. Thank goodness it didn’t matter; no one in the book exclaims ‘Ah, ha, its 1810 and the Regency has begun’.

Historiographically, and beyond the confines of military history, the Regency, after the upheavals of the French Revolution but before the period of industrial unrest that produced Chartism and the 1832 Reform Act, has been rather a blank time. Historians such as Boyd Hilton, Victor Gatrell and Ben Wilson have begun recently to close that gap; the era emerges from their work as both extravagant and severe, balanced between the license of the 18th century and the repressions of the Victorian age.

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