In Jane Austen’s day, at about five o’clock in the afternoon, in London people of fashion loved to promenade in the public parks such as Hyde Park. In June 1806 ladies paraded with ‘hats and tiaras of white satin and various coloured silks’, and ‘turbans, bonnets and straw hats...‘tastefully ornamented’ with roses, lilac and hyacinths, according to La Belle Assemblée. Kensington Gardens were popular, too, but St James’s Park was no longer fashionable.
Captain Gronow (1794–1865 recalled that after the Peninsular War, many ladies were seen driving in Hyde Park ‘in a carriage called a vis-à-vis, which held two persons. The hammer-cloth, rich inheraldic designs, the powdered footmen in smart liveries, and a coachman who assumed all the gaiety and appearance of a wigged archbishop, were indispensable’.
The crowds headed home again about three o’clock.