I know I have asked this before, but what is the period of time that is relevant (from when to when)?
At the beginning of the 1800s, George III was King of England. His eldest son, also named George, was elegant, vain, dissolute, and a spendthrift. In 1810, George III went mad. He'd had a spell of madness once before and had recovered, but this time it was permanent. He couldn't fulfill his duties as King, so his eldest son stepped in as Regent (in effect a stand-in King). He ruled as Regent from 1810 through 1820, which is why that period is called the Regency.
In 1820, George III died. His son the Regent went on ruling England, but now he could formally succeed his father as George IV. He was King from 1820 to his death in 1830 (for some reason this was a period of round numbers). The term "Regency" tends to be applied to this latter period as well, because the culture and art were similar to those of the decade before. My books have so far spanned the middle of this decade, 1824-25.
Both as Regent and as King, George IV did a great deal of building and landscaping in London. He was responsible for Regent Street and Regent's Park, and it was he who began to convert the genteel residence Buckingham House into the royal residence Buckingham Palace. Previously he had spent a fortune rebuilding and redecorating his London home Carlton House -- then around 1826 he decided he didn't like it anymore and had it torn down! He spent another fortune building a fantastic oriental palace, the Pavilion, at his favorite seaside resort, Brighton. So you can see why his subjects thought him wasteful and insensitive. They were having a lot of crises during this period, what with the Napoleonic Wars and some serious shortages of food and jobs.
George IV's worst problems were in his domestic life. Early on he fell in love with an Irish woman named Mrs. Fitzherbert. It appears he actually went through a marriage ceremony with her, but the marriage was not recognized, because she was an Irish commoner, and he was heir to the throne. He eventually married a foreign princess, Caroline of Brunswick. They couldn't stand each other. Eventually she left him and went to live with a lover in Italy. Their one child, Princess Charlotte, died young without children, which is why when George IV died he had to be succeeded by his brother William.
George IV's troubles with his wife were not over after she went to Italy. When he became King in 1820, Caroline returned to England to be crowned Queen. George wanted no part of her and tried to induce Parliament to give him a divorce. The plan fell through, in part because the country was up in arms. Perhaps simply because George was so unpopular, the British made Caroline into a heroine and a martyr. Her cause was a godsend to journalists, who brought out no end of articles, books, broadsheets, and cartoons about her sufferings and George's abominable treatment of her, as well as his carrousels with his mistresses. The quarrel became so ludicrous that when Caroline tried to go to George's coronation, he barred all the doors so she couldn't get in. She died soon after, and the government thought it would be prudent if her funeral procession bypassed central London. Her supporters, furious, attacked the procession and forced it to pass through the heart of the city.
As you can see, this was a very lively time period. ... What other kinds of things would you find it useful to know?
So Napoleon was doing his thing during this period?
...In the 1790s England, Austria, and other European countries declared war on France, because they didn't like the way the Revolution was going. As you can imagine, other monarchs were a bit uneasy when the French people beheaded their rulers in 1793. France was feeling so feisty that it readily went to war with multiple enemies. Napoleon Bonaparte was the most spectacular general France produced in this war. In 1796 he conquered a good part of Italy (warning: you'll be hearing a lot more about this in The Devil In Music). He crowned himself Emperor of France around 1803 (I'm not sure of the precise date. He added Spain and a good deal more of Europe to the French Empire. In 1812 he carried out his not-so-brilliant idea of conquering Russia, and it was a total disaster. From then on everything fell apart for him. He abdicated in 1814 and was banished to the island of Elba, and what was left of the French royal family returned in triumph. In 1815 Napoleon electrified Europe by escaping from Elba and returning to France, where troops rallied around him, and it appeared he might actually retake the country. But the rest of Europe ganged up on him, and he was decisively defeated at the utterly famous battle of Waterloo. He was then banished to the much more remote and dreary island of St. Helena, where he dragged out another six years and died in 1821.
...how about a brief run down on the music and art scene i.e. who were the more familier artists/composers of the period?
Among the composers alive and at work in the 1820s were Beethoven, Schubert, and Rossini. The operatic composers Donizetti, Bellini, and Meyerbeer were just getting started. Mendelssohn and Liszt were renowned as child prodigies but hadn't come on the scene as composers.
I'm a lot less knowledgeable about the visual arts. In England, Sir Thomas Lawrence was the number one society painter. Constable was painting his beautiful landscapes, and Turner was at work... Cruikshank was the premier cartoonist/caricaturist. In France, this was the period of Ingres, but I think it was a bit too early for Delacroix, Courbet, and Corot.