The Carlton House set, the collective name for the Prince Regent’s friends in the early 1800s, raised the practice of nicknaming to an art form. Some of these names are already familiar to regency readers, and more or less self-explanatory. Frederick “Poodle” Byng had light curly hair and kept a poodle, giving rise to the inevitable comparison. Edward Hughes Ball Hughes (he added the second “Hughes” in 1819 after his grandmother’s second husband, Admiral Edward Hughes, left him an enormous fortune of 40,000 pounds a year) was rich and handsome enough to be known as The Golden Ball. And, of course “Beau” Brummel is much better known today by his nickname than by his given name of George.
Others from the same set are a bit more obscure. Thomas Raikes was the son of a merchant banker, a famous dandy and friend to the great. He was said to have “risen in the east [the City, the financial center of London] and set in the west [Mayfair, the fashionable end of Town],” which led in a roundabout way to his being nicknamed after the sun god, Apollo. Lord Yarmouth, later Marquis of Hertford, was known as “Red Herrings,” since he was ginger-haired and Great Yarmouth was a thriving port for the herring industry. Joseph Haynes earned no less than three nicknames: for the color of his coats, he was known as “Pea Green” Haynes; for his rivalry with the wealthier Golden Ball, he was known as “Silver Ball”; and when he proposed to the famous actress-courtesan Maria Foote, he became known as—what else?—“Foote Ball.”
Maria Foote won a breach of promise suit against Pea Green Haynes before marrying the more loyal Beau Petersham.
The 2nd Lord Foley, an early champion of flight, was known as "Lord Balloon" after the abortive September 29, 1784, launch that ended with a hot air balloon ablaze in his Portland Place garden.
What about you? Do you have a favorite historical nickname, whether real or fictional?
Alyssa Everett's debut regency romance, Ruined by Rumor, is currently available from Carina Press. She hopes you'll visit her website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook, where she promises not to spam you relentlessly.