Famous Londoners – Beau Brummell

December 7, 2010

Generally acknowledged as having introduced the concept of men wearing a suit and tie during the Regency, ‘Beau’ Brummell’s sense of fashion continues to impact the way we dress right across the globe.

George Brummell was born in London 0n 7th June, 1788, the son of William Brummell, the private secretary of Lord North. Educated at Eton and Oxford, Brummell later joined the army and it was there that he became friends with George, Prince of Wales (the future King George IV). It was the prince who aided his promotion to captain before he resigned his commission.

Setting up home in Chesterfield Street, Mayfair, using the small fortune he inherited on his father’s death, Brummell became a member of the prince’s inner circle and quickly established a reputation for his elegant – and sober – dress sense and skills at the art of conversation.

But Brummell’s talent for spending above his means and his reckless gambling began to catch up with him as did his, at times, overly sharp tongue, and he gradually fell out of favour with his highly placed friends, including the Prince Regent whom he is said to have famously insulted after the prince snubbed him.

In 1816 he fled to France to escape debtor’s prison and remained there for the rest of his life. While friends helped him to secure the position of British consul in Caen briefly during the 1830s, he gradually slipped into decline and spent time in a French debtor’s prison until, impoverished and now insane, he died in an asylum in Caen in 1840.

Brummell, whose life has since inspired numerous books, plays and films, can be seen standing on Jermyn Street where a statue of him by Irena Sedlecka was erected in 2002 (pictured). His legacy to fashion lives on.

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