The sphere in which the end of the Georgian Era can be mostly clearly witnessed is within the Church of England. The Church of England was transmuted from an essentially Latitudinarian Protestant sect, suspicious of ‘enthusiasm’, into a Church fully asserting its historic Catholicity, and strongly influenced by medieval ritual.
In the early 19th century, a parish vestry had wide-ranging responsibilities for such areas as poor relief, tax collection, registration of births, marriages and deaths, and road maintenance. A series of legislative measures of the 1830s gave such duties to secular bodies like poor law unions and civil vestries, making the Church’s sole concern religion.
It would be completely unjust to characterise the earlier Georgian Era as devoid of charity, but it is probably fair to state that it had never been accompanied by such spiritual fervour as shown by reformers like Wilberforce, Hannah More, Henry Thornton and Charles Simeon. Their main cause was the abolition of the slave trade, an object achieved in 1807, followed by the total abolition of slavery in 1833.
Despite the excessive pomp of George’s coronation in 1821, the monarchy – and thus the establishment – had reached its lowest point. In the eyes of many, including the growing number of political radicals, it had lost all moral integrity and could no longer command the respect of the nation. When Victoria became Queen at the age of 18, her unenviable task was to restore the moral authority of the British establishment.
Transition between the artistic cultures of the Georgian and Victorian eras, from ‘neoclassicism’ to ‘romanticism’. This was observable to some degree in all western cultures during the first half of the 19th century. Writers such as Wordsworth, Blake, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and Bryon were mainly active during the Georgian Era, but were often dissident elements, refusing to conform to the Augustan society around them.
In the early 19th century, the dominant style of architecture was that of the Greek Revival. From the 1840s onwards gothic was the standard style for churches,
Female clothing changed drastically around the same time: dresses were no longer large and elaborate, but were simple and light in imitation of Grecian models. By the 1830s female dresses were gradually expanded and embellished, reaching the absurd extreme of the unapproachable crinoline dresses of the 1860s
It is clear that the transition between the Georgians and the Victorians has had profound consequences. The demise of the Georgian Era demonstrates how a complete set of assumptions can be undermined, and finally overthrown, from within. The battles between rationality and romanticism, moral leniency and strictness, materialism and mysticism, still affect us today. /georgian-victorian