Regency, in British history, the period of the last nine years (1811–20) of the reign of George III, when the king's insanity had rendered him unfit to rule and the government was vested in the prince of Wales (later George IV) as regent. The period witnessed the end (1815) of the Napoleonic Wars and growing social unrest, which was met by the Tory government of the time with harsh repression. Socially, the period took a distinctive coloration from the gay and dissolute regent and his companions. It was the time of a notable flowering in arts, letters, and architecture. In literature, the period marks the height of the romantic movement in the work of such poets as Lord Byron, John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley and in the novels of Sir Walter Scott. Regency architecture culminated in the elegant simplicity of the Regency style. Regency furniture shows a similar refinement of design and taste and a strong influence of the styles of the French Directoire.

See A. Bryant, The Age of Elegance (1950); J. B. Priestley, The Prince of Pleasure and His Regency (1969).

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