“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” — Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Henry-Nelson-O'Neil_Before-Waterloo_1868Everyone knows of the story, and bookstores never stop selling them. The fans have seen the movies, and know the lines by heart. But not everyone knows the world behind the story. Far from the romance of marriage, social politics, and Collin Firth’s version of Mr. Darcy, the time of Pride and Prejudice was merely the fantasy, to escape the grim reality of Jane Austen.

On September 26, 2015, the Jane Austen Society transported us to June 15, 1815: the night of the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball. Famously known from Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, two experts in the time of the event were invited to give an unforgettable lecture for the Society’s members: Peter Graham, an English professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia (also known as Virginia Tech), and Fritz Bronner, actor, producer, and director of The War Horse & Militaria Heritage Foundation. Needless to say, it was an amazing treat for Bibliophiles, Historians, and Janeites (devoted fans of Jane Austen).

Graham’s lecture covered the history of the grand Ball. He presented the fashion and dances that captivated the culture of the time, reciting excerpts from Byron and Austen, and, favorably, the Duke of Wellington. From his notes, he shares with us the importance of the Balls of the time, coinciding with the Napoleonic War. It was impressive as to how diversions and espionage improved the party scene, as much of the luster for more Balls came due to the timing of vulnerability. Battle strategies were very well dissected throughout the day, especially much after, with Bronner’s Greys and Glory, representing the Royal Scots Greys – a group reenacting the capture of Napoleon’s personal gold eagle that sat atop a flag for victory during the days-long battle.

Waterloo was the key term to know in this event, as the Ball and battle supplied us with several inspiring paintings, capturing history too close for comfort – relieving us with less imagination that one would expect. Through Grays and Glory, Bronner’s Foundation aids in not only education through historical reenactments, but the healthcare for horses. Due to the energy for the care taking of Equine-kind, they take only the best riders for the reenactment battle scenes, a majority of whom are women.

Suffice to know that the female gender had much to do about everything in Austen’s stories, our reality feeds us with no less than such influential prowess to boot – in the ballroom or out in the battlefield. The Jane Austen Society is an epic group of Literati’s that know their stuff. Loving to learn, easy to associate, this meeting felt more like a conference of history makers, gathered to review their findings, and their endeavors to improve our culture’s future through preservation. Romance isn’t dead. You just haven’t met the right society yet.

For more information about the Jane Austen Soceity, visit:

jasnasw.org

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