Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency

Monday 5 September 2011, 14:00

Lucy Worsley Lucy Worsley Presenter

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A ballroom, pretty dresses, couples twirling round the floor to the swelling music of the Waltz. What could be more genteel?

Well, as I discovered in my new series Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency, the waltz was the Regency equivalent of dirty dancing.

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Historian Robin Benie gives Lucy Worsley a lesson in waltzing

Waltzing also played a sad part in the unstable Lady Caroline Lamb's tempestuous relationship with the poet Lord Byron.

Lady Caroline was one of Lord Byron's many groupies, and for a while he indulged her in a scandalous affair.

He made her swear never to waltz, as it made him so jealous to see her in the arms of another man. (He couldn't waltz himself because he had a bad foot.)

After their break-up, though, they ran into each other at a ball, and she said to him that 'she supposed she might waltz now'.

Yes, he said, she could dance with anybody she liked.

Poor Caroline was devastated by this evidence that their relationship was really over.

She immediately got hold of a knife, cut herself, and blood went all over her gown.

I myself managed to get through my waltz lesson without bloodshed and can now twirl very nicely indeed.

And I really enjoyed my afternoon as a Regency Rihanna.

Lucy Worsley is the presenter of Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency.

Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency continues on BBC Four at 9pm on Monday 5th September.

For further programme times, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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