Readers of regency romance can’t help being aware that the gentlemen’s clubs were enthusiastically patronised by the elite in society. The represented a female-free haven from the stresses and strains of the social season, an environment in which a little male bonding went a long way. Each club epitomised common interests – political, artistic, sporting and military, for example. They were exclusive, sophisticated and seeped in tradition. Most were a collection of several rooms that afforded their members elegant dining, plenty of space to relax and, most importantly of all, gambling—the scourge of the Regency age and beyond.
The most famous club of all is White’s. It started life in 1693 as a public coffee house but after being burned down in 1753, it moved to St. James Street, where it still exists today. Beau Brummel immortalised the place when he sat in the famous bow-windows and passed judgement on the fashion sense of the passing gentry.
Boodles established itself as a political club but Brooks was far more popular during the Regency years since it was best known for its gambling. Charles Fox is reputed to have played for twenty-two hours straight, losing 11,000 guineas – a fortune. Overcome by debt, he was apparently so popular that his fellow members helped him out.
It’s a testament to the bond between members that even as recently as 1973, when Lord Lucan allegedly killed his nanny in mistake for his wife, the members of his elite gaming club closed ranks to shield him from the full force of the law. Perhaps they succeeded because he’d never been seen since. Well, not officially anyway.