Regency Money ~ How Rich is that?

Apparently Mr. Darcy had ten thousand pounds a year. And that was very rich indeed to afford to run a pad like the one pictured above.

It is always hard to do exact money conversions, because the importance of things changed. But Mr. Darcy's income was fabulous when one considers that a gentleman with a family of five could live reasonably well and keep a maid on Two Hundred and Fifty pounds a year. But part of that was because labor was a relatively cheap commodity.

A maid at £16 would be considerably cheaper than keeping a pair of horses costing £65-17s. The maid would be considered a necessity.

An income of a thousand pounds would allow for five servants, a cook, a housemaid, a nursery-maid, a coachman and a footman, whose combined wages are £87 a year.

So an income of the size of Mr. Darcy's is huge. But so is that pile he has to maintain.

An artisan would expect an income of about one hundred pounds a year, no servants, rented property and a reasonable standard of clothing and food.

In normal times a loaf of bread could be purchased for a penny, while one and a half pence could buy you a meal at an Irish ordinary. If you wanted something rather more filling you could try a three penny ordinary, where a meal of meat and broth and beer was available for the advertised price. A quart of beer could be purchased for a penny, and a cup of coffee for the same price. Gin ordered by the quarter and half pint, would set you back a penny and two pence respectively.

A surgeon might expect to make two hundred and seventeen pounds a year, a barrister or solicitor doubled that and a teacher a quarter of that amount.

We know that the Prince Regent paid 900 guineas for Mrs. Robinson's carriage. Enough money for a family of five to live on in very good style for a year.

The Regency was also a time of rising prices for the poor and the start of the industrial revolution that for a time would leave the poor even worse off than before.

That is it for me today. This merely skims the surface of what is a fascinating topic. Until next time Happy Rambles.

Money continued

Before we start, I wanted to mention that tomorrow (Friday) I will be sending out my summer newsletter. So if you want to receive a copy, sign up right away. You will find the link in the side bar.

When I looked back, I realized I had got as far as thruppence in my accounting. Hardly anywhere at all, you might say.

Some of the siliver coins used during the Regency:

Sixpence = six pennies
shillings = 12 pennies make a shilling
half crown = two shillings and six pence - pictured here
crown = five shillings

There were also dollars issued during this period worth five shillings. These were struck from captured Spanish American dollars, and even some French ecus and United States dollars. They were counter-marked and issued as an emergency currency. And so the word dollar meaning five shillings entered English slang in 1804 even though crowns disappeared as a unit of currency.

There were guineas and half guineas, worth Twenty one shillings and ten shillings and six pence respectively. These were coins made in gold as you can see. This picture is of a George III guinea.

- In some fancy shops items were still priced in guineas not so very long ago. You would think the price was in pounds and then when you checked it is a shilling per pound more. Very sneaky. But posh. Oh, and there were no actual guineas to be had at that time.

Then there were the sovereigns and half sovereigns.

In 1816, the basis of English money changed from the value of silver to the value of gold. We adopted the Gold Standard. The Guinea was withdrawn and the basic monetary unit became the pound, which was represented by the Sovereign coin worth twenty shillings and the half sovereign worth ten shillings. Finally.

Sovereigns alas are also no more, first replaced with the pound and the ten bob not (ten shillings) and then we did away with shilling altogether. Sovereigns have been occasionally minted for special occasions. And they are still valued as jewelry, as bangles or pendants and my husband has a half-sovereign set in a signet ring.

Okay, so that is the basics, though there could be much more. Now we can get to the interesting stuff, like how much did things cost and slang terms for sums of money in the Regency.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Regency Money Part 2

So we have it perfectly straight from our first post. Twenty shillings in a pound and twelve pennies in a shilling.

The smallest denomination of English money was the farthing. It was worth one quarter of a penny. Nowadays this would seem a ridiculously small amount of money, but in earlier times and even during the Regency a penny was worth something. I can recall buying four sweets for a penny and if you had a farthing, you could buy one.

Originally made of silver, for a while they were made of tin, but more importantly in our era, they were made of copper. I chose this picture because it has the worth farthing on the coin. Not all of them did. They went by the size.

The next highest denomination was the halfpence, commonly know as a ha'penny. You pronounce this haypny. The one struck in 1806 and before looks just like the penny we looked at last time. It was worth half a penny, obviously, or two farthings.

A coin which fascinates me is the twopence, pronounced tuppence. It is a half a groat, originally produced in silver in 1351, it is still used today as Maundy money (something we can look at another time if you wish). In George III's day and during the Regency it was copper and was a "cartwheel" coin. This is by far the largest base metal coin issued in the UK, weighing two ounces (56.7 g) and measuring 41 mm diameter and 5 mm thick. It was only struck the once and found too heavy for everyday use. You can imagine those weighting down your pockets can't you?

Next is my favorite coin, the three pence coin, known as thruppence. Sometimes "Thruppence" is used as a term of endearment for children. My sister-in-law had a cat called Thruppence.

In my childhood they had lots of corners and a portcullis and made of nickle and brass and it was my pocket money!

During the Regency prior to 1800 these coins were silver generally 1.5g and 17mm diameter. They were not in general circulation after 1817 until 1845 again.

Oh dear, once more there is so much to tell and only so much time and patience. Next week I will be in San Fransisco attending the Romance Writers of America conference. I may see if I can send pictures from there. I will resume this topic when I return, and will try to send some thoughts from San Fransisco in the meantime.

Oh, and we will be in August so I will have some fashions and flora and fauna as well.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Regency Money

The money that was second nature to me growing up, is no more. How strange is that? Any one living in Britain prior to 1970 will of course remember pounds shillings and pence, or if you visited prior to that date you may recall the nomenclature and all of the idiosyncracies. But some of you spring chickens or recent Regency addicts may find the monetary system of the Regency Era a mystery. Hence this blog.

Pounds Sterling is still the official currency of Britain. The symbol for a pound is £ from the latin libra meaning pound.
In a bill of fare from an inn during the Regency one might have seen the following accounting for your meal.

Roast beef................. £1 5s. 3d.

The s. does not mean shilling as one might expect but soldas and the d. is dinaro. These terms stem all the way back to the time when Rome ruled Britain. We Brits do like to hang on to our history. lol. As far as I know no one used those terms to refer to the denominations as a general rule.

Well that seems fairly straightforward. Oh, but wait a minute, how many shillings were there in a pound and how many pence.

So what value did the various denominations have. There were twenty shillings in in pound, twelve pennies in a shilling. Not the easy decimal system we have to day. Hang on, this means there were two hundred and forty pennies in a pound. That is a lot of pennies. And they weren't the tiny little things we have in Canada and the US, they were honking cartwheels of pennies - (They even called them cartwheels in those days). A pound's worth in your pockets would have you walking on your knees. Or me anyway.

Pennies were both silver and copper during the Regency, the first copper (actually partly copper) pennies being introduced in 1797. They contained a penny's worth of copper and weighed an ounce. In other words, they were not token currency, they were worth the value printed on them.

So that is pretty straight forward isn't it? Oh, but wait a minute there are all kinds of other coins that we haven't talked bout yet, guineas and groats, ponies and farthings. We will look at those next time and we'll also try to work out some values in future posts.

In the meantime, if you love books, here is a chance to win some, my new one included. The Toronto Romance Writers are having a contest and there are some fabulous authors and their books. Go here to enter. It's easy and fun. I promise.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.