Ward's Book of Days.
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What happened on this day in history.
On this day in history in 1778, was born Beau Brummell.
George Bryan Brummell was an associate of the Prince Regent, later George IV, and the leader of fashion in early Nineteenth Century society.
Brummell was born in London of doubtful parentage. He was brought up by his grandfather, an innkeeper who let out lodgings to aristocrats. It was always believed, but never proved, that Brummell was of the nobility. Brummell was sent to school at Eton, where he was noted for his dress sense and became known as ‘Buck Brummell’. Brummell went on to Oriel College, Oxford where he continued his reputation for his outfits and added a name for a wit. At Eton, Brummell had become acquainted with the Prince of Wales, Later George IV. In 1794, the Prince offered Brummell an army commission, which he accepted but left the colours as soon as action was mentioned.
Brummell was called to take part in court society. He became a friend of the Prince and consequently of the young Bucks of the Regency social order. He set up an apartment in Mayfair, where he became the arbiter of fashion. It was said that it took him five hours to dress and that he polished his boots with champagne. He introduced pantalones, a tailored garment very much like modern trousers, in places of the ill-fitting breeches worn by previous generations. He introduced the necktie, a forerunner of the modern man’s tie, but grossly elaborate and conspicuous.
Brummell inherited a fortune of £30,000, (about £4 million in today’s money) which he spent on fashion, lavish living and gambling. His influence in society was undisputed until he got above himself and made a sneering reference to the Prince saying to a colleague “Who’s your fat friend?”
From that moment, Brummell’s career as court dandy was over. He was snubbed by his former friends, pursued by creditors and was obliged to flee to France where he spent the last fourteen years of his life in poverty, far from the luxury of fashionable society. He died in 1840, at a hospital in Caen, Normandy, where he is buried in the Protestant Cemetery under a simple tombstone.
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