“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” wrote Benjamin Franklin.
That was certainly true in the Georgian era! While we Americans started a revolution over high taxes, the people residing in the British Isles were taxed on just about everything. Plus, income taxes were introduced to fund the Napoleonic conflicts. Waging war is expensive.
My hero in The Duke She Despised (currently with the editor) has inherited a title and an estate encumbered with taxes and debt. Not such a far-fetched idea! Regency historian and author Nancy Mayer has an excellent post on Georgian era Taxes. If you feel overburdened now, take a look at the list of items taxed then.
One of my favorites:
The Window Tax
The Powers That Be often work to find innovative ways to squeeze money from people over luxuries (the soda tax, for example). The window tax was a property tax, first implemented by William III in 1696. I don’t know the date on the Mayfair mansion picture above, but there are a lot of windows in this house.
Think of the window tax when you see pictures of great country estate houses. The Wall Street Journal had a story about a couple refurbishing a Georgian mansion outside London built in the 1780s. The house has 135 windows. The cost of refurbishing in 2019? Forty million dollars.
It’s likely the window tax mostly hit the rich and kept the middle class living in dark stuffy rooms. But the other taxes listed by Nancy in her excellent post would have taken a bite at every level of society, except for the very poorest.
Of course taxes go back much further. What’s the earliest tax you’ve heard of?
Image credits: Benjamin Franklin, Wikimedia Commons; Mayfair mansion, the author