They came to No.3: Beau Brummell
Author: Sophie Thorpe
George Bryan “Beau” Brummell was an iconic figure in Regency
England whose effortless style set the benchmark for men’s fashion in his
lifetime, and beyond.
Brummell first came to No.3 in 1798, aged 20, weighing 12st 4lbs. Fresh from Eton and Oxford, he had joined the Prince of Wales’s regiment, the Tenth Hussars, and – taken under the wing by the Prince Regent (the future King George IV) – had been accepted into the gilded, exclusive world of Georgian aristocracy.
He soon sold out of his regiment, after it was posted to Manchester – a hardship that Brummell couldn’t bear. Over the next 18 years – and despite his modest means – Brummell established himself as the darling of society, a determined dandy who became an undisputed dictator of style. It is perhaps no surprise that over that time he gained almost a stone.
Unfortunately Beau’s lifestyle was far beyond his means, his position in society allowing him a line of credit which he abused, frivolously spending and gambling it all away. He eventually lost favour with his one-time friend, the Prince Regent, who reportedly bluntly ignored his presence when talking to one of his companions, Lord Alvanley in 1813. This exchange prompted one of Brummell’s most famous remarks: “Alvanley, who’s your fat friend?”
By 1816, the debts became too much and Brummell fled to France to escape prison and his English creditors. While it is commonly thought he never returned to Britain, our ledgers prove otherwise. An entry of Brummell’s weight against the date “July 26, 1822” shows that he did return, weighing a slight 10st 13lbs – his loss of status perhaps taking its toll.
Beau Brummell is one of the customers that feature on our new tote bags, illustrated by John Broadley.