The upper ranks were not renowned for good behavior. Drunken "gentlemen" knocked over watch-boxes, broke windows, and assaulted women with impunity. It was perilous to take action against a titled gentleman, as this story shows.
In 1797 a sentry named Thomas Davis arrested Sir John Riddle. Here's Davis’s version of events:
“ . . . about half past ten, this gentleman came through the gate, into the Green-Park, he looked at me very hard, he turned up towards the Bason in the Green Park, he turned back, and looked at me again, I did not know what he meant; I was very dry, and I went up and asked the women if they would give me some clean water, or table beer; they gave me some, and that gentleman came up to the window, what conversation they had I do not know; I did not think it prudent for me to stop there; I went to my sentry-box, and laid down my firelock behind my box, and soon after that, the gentleman came up to me, and said, "soldier, should not you like to have connections with these girls?" I said, I should not mind it in the least, if I had one of them here, and he made no more to do than to take hold of my breeches, "sentinel," says he, "do your p-s stand?" no, says I, if I had them here, I don't know but they might; he opened the slap of my breeches, and took hold of my t-s in his hand, I had my firelock in my hand, I immediately seized hold of his coat, and said, what did he mean by that; I called out for assistance and then Sharman came up; I said, I insist upon your taking charge of this man, he accordingly took hold of him, he made a scusstle to get away; I called out again for assistance, and then there came up another man, and then Sir John was still, he put some money into my hand, and said, I will give you any thing before I will be detained; no, says I, I will take you a prisoner to the Guard-room . . . and I laid my charge, that this gentleman did so and so with me; I shewed the Colonel the money he gave me, and I was confined all night."
The baronet retaliated for being arrested by charging the soldier with robbing him.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.