Monday, February 13, 2012

Cassie's Regency Tidbits - The Grand Tour

Hi again, time for another of Cassie’s Regency tidbits.  Well, okay, The Grand Tour was not specific to the Regency period but it was important to the upper classes, or more importantly to the men of the upper classes.
Emil Brack - "Planning the Grand Tour"
by Marcus, GK
The Grand Tour was a time for privileged young men to travel abroad and gain an education that could not be found in books or the hallowed halls of Cambridge and Oxford.

The tour was usually undertaken by young men and their tutor. They would travel to such places as France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Greece and sometimes, if one was particularly keen, even as far as Africa and Egypt.
The whole idea of the tour was for young men to have the opportunity to travel and learn about the different cultures, languages and history of the places he visited. This would give him extra polish and a certain sophistication that was necessary to form character before taking on the daunting task of the family responsibilities - such as running an estate. It would also give them an edge over others in society who could not afford a Grand Tour.

A young charge and his tutor
(or Bear-leader)

This jaunt abroad could last anywhere from two to four years and cost his family a fortune. This was not generally seen so much as a burden but as the finishing touches of a young man’s necessary education.

Gentlemen would return laden down with art collected on their journeys. Often the paintings would be portraits of themselves in front of historic landmarks to record their time away. They would also send back keepsakes such as rugs, furniture and antiquities.

A typical route taken by young men

Although the Grand Tour was all but stopped during the Napoleonic Wars, as soon as it was safe to travel again, young men flocked back to the continent and beyond in search of education and adventure. However, with the invention of the railway, travel became easier and more affordable for people of lesser means, and so the elite exclusivity of the Grand Tour was all but lost.
This may all sound delightful but there were many dangers to be encountered when travelling abroad. A young man was likely to have his money stolen (if not his life), become infected by some kind of sexually transmitted disease, fevers and other nasty ailments and sometimes even kidnapped for ransom. However, this did not seem to stop many young men from taking the treacherous journey across the sea  (which was a risk on its own) in search of enlightenment. Instead of taking bags of blunt with them, most would travel with letters of credit, which they would present at the major cities – a little like travellers cheques. They also often carried letters of introduction as well, so that they could integrate into the local aristocracy.

Later in the Victorian period, travel abroad was more often taken by families and young women with an artistic bent or an adventurous spirit. They were encouraged to spend time in Italy and France admiring art and culture in all its forms. (See the movie, Room with a view for an example of this sort of travel.)
Of course, the world seems so much smaller now than it was then. With the advancements in air travel and the infinite resources of the Internet, you can travel and learn about other cultures from the comfort of your armchair, but it can never quite replace the thrill of seeing those sites in person.

I travelled to the United Kingdom recently for the first time and it will be an adventure I will never forget. I loved every minute of it. I was overwhelmed by the history and age of everything I encountered and the people I met. I was like a sponge soaking up every little detail as I explored. I wonder if those privileged young men felt the same thrill as I did while travelling?

If you had the chance to send your child on a Grand Tour after University or College, would you? And if so, what places would you insist they go and see?

For a really interesting blog on Richard Bealey’s grand tour see here:


Maggi Andersen said...

And those that survived it certainly learned a lot about life! Great post, thanks Cassie.

Elle Fynllay said...

The world has certainly become smaller. My youngest children have multiple stamps in their passports. One son having traveled abroad for a year, I think, did come back a better person for the experience. The Grand Tour, was certainly, a great solution to putting up with teenager males in that time period. What a great job for a tutor. Thanks Cassie for the info.

Allison Butler said...

Thanks for the wonderful and informative post, Cassandra:)

I'd definitely send my children on a Grand Tour and would send them to Britain and all over Europe - for starters. I would have to insist on playing their tutor, though:)

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Cass.
I'll most certainly be sending my boys on a trip during their gap year, and will be of course, going with them. ;p

Tam :)

Cassandra Samuels said...

Thanks girls for your lovely comments. I would love to be sending my kids off on a Grand Tour when they are ready. Such a great way to learn about other people and cultures and get to know yourself - which is pretty important.

Cheryl Leigh said...

Wonderful post, Cassie.

*A young man was likely to have his money stolen (if not his life), become infected by some kind of sexually transmitted disease, fevers and other nasty ailments and sometimes even kidnapped for ransom.*

Hmm, some things never change!

One of my daughters travels frequently (being in the travel industry helps), and I love living vicariously through her. It seems to be a rite of passage for young Aussies to embark on their own 'Grand Tour' to the UK.

Alison Stuart said...

Cassie, thanks for your interesting post. Without knowing it our own youngsters take themselves off in the footsteps of their ancestors for the big OS trip. Like their predecessors it seems to involve a great deal of alcohol, art galleries, architecture and affaire de coeurs!
Kevin Macloud (Mr. Grand Designs) did a wonderful series on the Grand Tour and its influence on British Architecture. It was absolutely fascinating (for a historical writer!)

Anonymous said...

Great post Cassie,

Ellie I second that - I would volunteer to go (all expenses paid) as a tutor... what a job?

As for sending our children abroad now-a-days ...
I do believe it is still kind of 'a-right-of passage' even these days, as well.
Although for Australia because of our close ties to Asia, it is not always UK/Europe anymore.

Both my went long before I ever got to UK/Europe. With many kids still in the family home until they are late 20's, overseas travel is much more accessible for them.

Both my kids have traveled, but have worked and saved to pay their own way (thank-god)
My daughter has been twice because of her casual job during high school.

DO they really appreciate the history of what they are seeing/visiting?

I'm not too sure they all do. I think it is more about the fun for them.:) Because my son said to me, after DH & I returned from our Grand-Tour "I'd love to go back with you to re-do the history side."

As to where they could visit.
London,Scotland, Rome (no ALL of ITALY --- ahhhh)Amsterdam/Den Hagg, Paris, Belgium,Germany. and Many more ...
Really, as much as they are interested in and have the funds/time for :)

Suzi said...

Thanks so much for such great information about the Grand Tour. Loved reading where they went and what happened. And as Cheryl said...nothing much has changed today, has it? Money stolen, sexually transmitted disease, fevers. LOL!
But what an amazing experience for anyone who had the chance to do the Grand Tour,

Cassandra Samuels said...


I think you are right. Now the dollar is so strong why wouldn't you go if you are young and free to do so.

Cassandra Samuels said...


I love Kevin. I did watch the series he did on the Grand Tour. I it was very well done I thought.
I agree that these days it is all about the party but I think it was pretty much the same back then. The artistic bent to their trips was probably just a cover for having a lark over seas and getting away from marriage minded mothers.

Cassandra Samuels said...


I am so glad for you that your kids paid their own way. In the Regency the parents paid for the lot.

I feel that if the kids pay for at least most of their travel they appreciate the trip so much more. They learn to budget and plan which ar two good lessons for life.

Cassandra Samuels said...

Hi Suzi

The world really is ours to explore now. It is so easy to hop a plane and get to anywhere in the world - even the remote places on the map are now pretty acessable.

I am hoping to do more travelling in the next few years and wished I had done so when I was younger and didn't have a morgage and children to care for. I am going to encourage my kids to travel, even if it is only around their own country - which is amazing in itself.

Angelyn said...

better than a grand tour: send your kiddo to school abroad. Many colleges offer a Junior Year Abroad program.

Dana said...


Wow! So much info in so few words! I hadn't realized Grand Tours were the domain of men originally and I often wondered if these 'sophisticating tours' bankrupted the parents. I imagine it was just as expensive then (if not more so) as it is now.

If I had the ability to send my sons on a grand tour, yes, I most certainly would. After having traveled myself, I realize how it broadened my scope as a human more narrow minded thinking that my culture is the only culture!

I would love to send my boys on the grandest of grand tours...through Europe, Russia, Africa, China, South America...and of course, Australia and the USA/Canada. Even if they just go one or two places they will have broadened their world view.


Cassandra Samuels said...

Thanks Dana. You better win the lottery to send your boys on that kind of tour. ha ha.

Yes, travelling is a great way to learn about others and also to appreciate the country they come from too.

I suspect that funds were put aside for the son's education when born and that would have included The Grand Tour I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Cassie...

Forget the kids....I want to go on a Grand Tour!