Hello, everyone! We hope you had a wonderful summer. Now that September’s almost here, we’re slipping back into our regular posting schedule once again…did you miss us?
A couple of posts ago Regina blogged about country house visits. We thought it would interesting to delve a little more deeply into the country house...the place where our young ladies of fortune retired to when they weren't gallivanting about in London, going to Almack's and flirting with handsome young men.
An estate (or often more than one) in the country was home for the upper classes in 19th century England. More than the aristocracy of other European nations, the English loved country life. Houses in London, Bath, Brighton, or whatever other urban setting might come and go, but the ancestral estate was always there.
There was a darned good reason it was always there: ownership of extensive amounts of land was the noble family's source of wealth. Don't forget that English titles of nobility were usually tied to a geographical location, a relic of the giant land giveaway that happened after the Conquest. A wealthy landowner's income, whether he was titled or not, came chiefly from rents on land and buildings and commercial property: you rented land for farms out to farmers, houses and shop buildings in your villages to shopkeepers and professionals. But there was also substantial money to be had from from crops and other products of the land like mining, forestry, and animal husbandry, and from manufacturing.
In addition, if you were a member of the House of Commons (open to non-peers), you generally counted on your tenants (the ones who could vote, anyway) to vote for you. Prior to the 19th century seats in Parliament were almost looked at as family perquisites that could be handed down father to son; while that assumption was less true in the 19th century, it hadn't entirely gone away.
In short, if you had land, you had money and power.
Not everyone was enamored of country life--not a few wealthy men dedicated themselves to life in politics, the law, or court life, which necessitated living in the city. But the country house was always there in the background, like a safety net one could fall into during times of illness, disgrace, or surfeit with city life and high living. It was the place you called home.
Stay tuned for more detail on just what life in the country entailed.
And it's nice to be back!