DON’T be alone in the company of a gentleman
When it comes to mingling with the other sex, the rules for ladies in the Regency era was simple: Don’t! Put simply, if a lady was unmarried and under the age of 30, she was never to be seen in the company of a man without a chaperone present. And, of course, it goes without saying that a lady should never, ever call at a gentleman’s house unless she needs to speak to him about a professional or business matter – and even then, a chaperone must be present.
What’s more, a lady would not only be frowned upon – and become the subject of much gossip – if she strolled through town in the company of a gentleman to who she was neither related nor married to, she would also be frowned upon for stepping out alone. Indeed, a lady of good repute was expected to always step out in the company of another lady or, failing this, with a male relative or, at worst, a servant. There were only two occasions where this unwritten rule was relaxed: firstly, when walking to church on a Sunday morning and, more generally, when taking an early morning constitutional stroll in the local park or around the block.
Historians of the Regency era note, however, that, as the years passed, this rule became a bit more relaxed. Of course, there would always be gossip and rumors if a man and woman were spotted in each other’s company without a chaperone present. However, towards the end of the period, it became increasingly more acceptable for ladies to go out alone, even into town. Evidence of this can be found in the novels of Jane Austen, where the female protagonists – depicted as progressive, ground-breaking women for their time – routinely go out without having a male watch over them.