Regency London 1813
In the glittering ballrooms and perfumed gardens of Mayfair, the members of the Ton trade quips, barbs, and flirtations, and display the fashions of the Season. Elsewhere in London, worker unrest is on the rise due to food shortages caused by Napoleon’s blockade on French goods; in Cheapside and St. John’s Wood, radical students from Dissenter Academies and the lesser London colleges organize for religious freedom for Catholics and non-Anglican Protestants, as well as the suffrage of the lower classes.
Great scientific and artistic innovations sweep the nation: the first steam train just completed a successful test run in the North, celebrated composer Ludwig van Beethoven continues work on a brilliant new symphony, and the rather notorious Lord Byron recently turned his hand to poetry, publishing his Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and becoming an instant celebrity.
In Parliament, debates rage over how to handle the spate of so-called Luddites who have turned to smashing up Northern mills in a protest against industrialization and the unrest within London, as well as the Catholic-Dissenter Question. Although the London Season has just ended, members of the Ton gather at house parties and hunts in the country to seek advantageous marital prospects for themselves and their children, hoping to maintain their status in Society.
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In the England of Yours, Etcetera, advantageous marriages of all kinds are highly sought after during the Season by the members of the Ton. Whether the parties are straight, queer, monogamous, or polyamourous, one’s sexuality and gender are immaterial, so long as one’s standing and wealth might be improved by the match… although some romantic souls do insist upon marrying purely for love. Sexual impropriety outside of wedlock is highly looked down upon by Society, of course, but adoption has been quite a standard procedure since time immemorial; adopted children amongst the aristocracy are granted the full titled status as their birth order allows. Titles and inheritance are important, after all.
Amongst the Ton, reputation is everything, and the merest hint of scandal or impropriety has the potential to bring social ruin...although who is to say what takes place behind the closed doors of those immaculate Society townhouses?
The Crown as an institution abhors discrimination; both the law of the land and the minds of the British people dictate that ethnicity and ability are no longer in and of themselves barriers to gaining standing and wealth. Nowadays, especially amongst the members of the Ton, it is your familial and social connections, as well as the outward stamp of your character as reflected in your words and deeds, that come in for the lion’s share of Society's scrutiny. The tensions, conflicts, and dramas of the times are focused upon the social constraints of Society and the rather sweeping judgements made by its members, as well as the grievances against the upper classes felt by those who must actually work for their daily bread. As London and other English cities industrialize, this general disposition has caused the rise of an accessible architectural infrastructure as well as new opportunities, but many warn that industrialization brings its share of ills, too...
Looking beyond the mansions of Mayfair, the Napoleonic War is in full swing, the Corsican general has recently invaded his former allies in Russia, and the nature of England’s involvement is hotly debated within Parliament and across the nation. The strain of the French blockade on goods has sparked protests and calls for suffrage for the impoverished amongst students and the poorer neighborhoods of the City and the East End, but those who sit in the House of Lords often seem more concerned with waltzing, courtship, and the latest scandals and fashions. And although those of all faiths are technically free to worship in England, non-Anglican Christians, in particular, are still barred from participating in many civic functions, and there are those amongst the Ton especially who cling to the Church of England as part of the national identity.
As unrest sweeps the country, the Continent, and the world, most members of the Ton find themselves worrying about domestic affairs. The importance of presenting oneself appropriately to one’s Peers can make or break fortunes for those who depend on a betrothal, and while the battles rely on wit and charm, and the occasional duel or boxing match, they are no less fierce than the battlefields of Europe. England’s peerage and landed gentry concern themselves with the dictates of good Society: propriety, elegance of manner, and preserving the family name. In service of this goal, one must always make sure to associate with the right sort: the titled, the wealthy, and the virtuous, whether in search of an advantageous match, connection, or merely the right sort of friendship. And, of course, to do so, one must be sure to parse out the secrets others would prefer to keep hidden - whilst carefully protecting one’s own.
Everyone has Shadows following them, after all.
But some are deeper than others.