Regency Easter

Eastertide during the Regency was a holiday facilitated by the adjournment of Parliament, new bonnets and rolling eggs downhill to symbolize the removal of the stone from the tomb.

Easter at Kenilworth Castle ruins

Easter at Kenilworth Castle ruins

Here are a few Regency Easter anecdotes:The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historikal Chronicle reports that in 1814 a man in a northern county was found in arrears–he had refused to pay his Easter tithe to the parish. The Committee appointed to protect the Civil Rights of Protestant Dissenters dismissed the case brought by the curate. This dismissal provoked widespread outrage, some even going so far as to say the committee has thrown down “an apple of discord between a clergyman and his parishioners.”

In 1818 there seemed to be, at least among some readers of the Gentleman’s Magazine, not a little confusion concerning the dating of Easter Sunday. “Almanacks,” that is, publications containing calendars and other important forecasting of dates, had Easter Sunday occurring on March 22nd. However, this date was apparently put into some dispute by the English Book of Common Prayer, which contained a Table that seemed to place the day as March 29th, if one followed the appearance of the full moon.The dating of Easter Sunday in England, as in other countries in Europe, mandated Easter fall on the Sunday after the first full moon following the March equinox of March 21st. This results in a difference between astronomical and ecclesiastical (that is, Paschal) full moons.A reader was so vexed by this difference that he was moved to comment to the editor of Gentleman’s Magazine:

“This discrepancy is awkward and strange–and ought not to be permitted. I have more than once conversed with able Astronomers on the subject, but the anomaly is not for the Almanack-makers, but for the Legislators to correct, and I wish they could be persuaded to undertake it.”

In 1824, the great Regency poet George Gordon, Lord Byron, died on April 19th. The English were shocked and appalled by the manner of his death. The Greeks cancelled Easter.

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16 thoughts on “Regency Easter

  1. Interesting stories. The one about Easter of 1818 is one I hadn’t heard about before.
    I wonder which was celebrated. The dated many things from Easter.

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    • The editor of Gentleman’s Magazine followed up with a supplement reminding readers they ought to use Table 2 of the Common Prayer book keeping the March 21st date in mind as the starting point for one’s calculations. Therefore, March 22nd was the date, well before the appearance of the astronimical full moon.

      I confess the whole scheme has me a bit muddled.

      Thank you for stopping by, Nancy.

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  2. I never knew all of that….especially the rolling of Easter eggs. So many traditions we accept without knowing the story behind them. Thanks for an enlightening post.

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  3. Great post! How does one go about cancelling Easter? Still, if anyone could figure out a way to do it, it would be the Greeks!

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    • Quite right. The Greeks followed the Eastern Orthodox calendar (that would be Julian) and thus their Easter occurred later than that of the Western world in 1824. So they had time to prepare.

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      • It seems that every so often the dates of Greek and English Easter coincided. and it seems that both were on April 18th. Byron died on April 19th so the Easter church services were not cancelled. However, Easter week was a time of many festivals and celebrations in Greece and those were cancelled. The shops were closed and mourning for 3 weeks was imposed. Requiems were sung in the churches.
        I think these dates are correct, though one web page had Byron dying a week before Easter.

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  4. I’m glad you pointed that out. I was struck by the outpouring of grief for Byron in Greece. It must have seemed like Easter had been cancelled, for that holiday is an otherwise joyous occasion for those who celebrate it.

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    • Thank you so much, Gerri–the comments make this blog really worthwhile. I’m so fortunate to have kowledgeable readers like yourself and others stop by and give me their input.

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