As the summer winds to a close, I'm thinking about the bicentennial. Not the one we celebrated with tall ships 35 years ago, but the one just across the pond: the 200th anniversary of the English Regency.
It's a term often associated with fussy furniture, but it refers in fact to the last nine years of King George III's life, when he was put in a straitjacket and his son was asked to mind the throne. The Regency began with a massive kickoff party in the summer of 1811. It ended with George III's death in January 1820. In between, the English got food riots, Luddites, Jane Austen and Waterloo.
For most Americans, the period comes down to one man: Colin Firth, whose star turn as Austen's Fitzwilliam Darcy still brings grown women to their knees. For those who'd like to know more about those racy nine years, a few good books come to mind.