The Children of Pride and Prejudice

The Children of Pride and Prejudice

There’s a scene in the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice that has always intrigued me. You may be familiar with it.

Mid-way through the series, Jane Bennet goes to London to stay with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. After Jane has been in London three weeks, Caroline Bingley calls on Jane and is introduced to Mrs. Gardiner and two of the Gardiner children.

Mrs. Gardiner and her children.

What fascinated me about that particular scene was the way the children were dressed. Their outfits were identical to the clothing the adults wore; and I when I first saw the series in 1996, I wondered if the costumes were accurate.

Could it be that in Jane Austen’s time, little boys ran and played in cravats and coats? And little girls climbed trees and threw balls wearing gloves and bonnets?

The answer is, yes, they did!

Girls playing a game of catch.

There are many resources for researching children’s clothing: fashion plates from the era, books on Regency costume. I even found paper dolls that came with a lovely wardrobe of fashions from the early 1800s.

But my favorite source for imagining children’s attire during the Regency is, hands down, my collection of Kate Greenaway’s illustrations.

Younger boys wore pantaloons and jackets that buttoned together, creating a one-piece effect called a “skeleton suit.”

In her drawings Kate captured the children’s clothing of the era, as well as their pastimes and social customs. Here’s one of her illustrations of a mother and daughter paying calls:

And this illustration from an 1884 almanac shows Regency era children running from trouble:

The drawing below depicts children (and some mothers) gathering to watch a street show. It illustrates the many different styles of clothing children wore:

Many of Kate Greenaway’s illustrations accompanied poems for children. Here are the opening lines of a poem titled “The Twelve Miss Pellicoes:”

It’s one of my favorites because it also shows so many different styles of coats, hats, and dresses depicted in one illustration.

The simple illustration below of a mother and her son is another favorite of mine. I love the roses peeking around the corner!

Kate Greenaway’s drawings have been a tremendous help to me as I’ve written my stories. For example, when I wanted to know the approximate age a boy graduated from wearing a skeleton suit to breeches and stockings, I turned to this Kate Greenaway illustration:

Kate Greenaway’s sweet illustrations of Regency life were published in the late 1800s to early 1900s. They graced almanacs, poetry books, and children’s stories.

Two girls going to school.

Thanks to our digital age, many of Kate Greenaway’s books and illustrations are available to view on the Internet. Below are links to two of her books; just click on the book covers to view them. I hope you enjoy looking through them!


Have you ever heard of Kate Greenaway before or seen her illustrations? Which illustration in this post do you like the most?

18 Responses to The Children of Pride and Prejudice

  1. I loved that scene in 1995 P&P — what amused me is the little boy is the one carrying a doll.

    We don’t know if he was teasing a sister by playing “keep-away” with the doll or if maybe the Gardiners were centuries ahead of their time and not worried about assigning sex-appropriate roles to their children.

  2. I do love her pictures and remember seeing them in books as a child. I think my favourite of the above is the mother and daughter paying calls. Followed by the children running from the bull.
    Thank you, I enjoyed this post so much.

  3. I never heard of Kate Greenaway and love these illustrations. Anything with children from that era is appealing to me. Thanks for sharing and the links.

  4. They are all very pretty! I too like the roses prolongation in the one picture! She is a wonderful artist although this is the first I’ve seen her pictures!

  5. Nancy, what a lovely and informative post! I did not hear about Kate Greenaway before, but I really enjoyed the illustrations. I imagine young Lizzy Bennet elegantly dressed, running and climbing trees 🙂

Comments are precious!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.