What Regency romance would be complete without a heroine enjoying a London Season? And yet, there may be some confusion surrounding exactly what a "Season" was and why it was so important.
It occurred the same time that Parliament was in session. Some families returned just after Christmas so the gentleman could get ready for Parliament. But the Season was actually from May to July. It was during these three months that the head-spinning round of balls, dinners, and other social events took place, as well as sporting events, art exhibits, and court presentation. The annual exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art was in May. Two huge sporting events, for which Parliament adjourned, was the Derby and Ascot in May or June. The Henley Regatta and various cricket matches were in July. The Season ended August 12 in anticipation of the grouse hunting season. Parliament adjourned and families returned to their country estates or hunting boxes, or visited the homes or hunting boxes of friends or family.
The London Season was essential for a young woman of good family if she desired to make a suitable match. A young lady was not officially "out" until she'd been presented to the queen, usually around the age of 17 or 18. After that, she was allowed to attend balls and breakfasts, dinners and routs, the opera and the theater, as well as any number of dances and other social gatherings. It was her job to attract the eye of a suitable spouse, preferably in her first Season. If she did not, she had one or two more Seasons in which to do so. After that, she was considered a failure and once she reached her late 20s, a spinster.
*Picture is a satirical representation of the London Season, printed in Harper's Bazaar in 1870. It is in the public domain. Click the graphic for more info.
**Further reading: What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool.