Spring in the Edwardian Era and the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race

After one of the harshest winters in history, we have finally arrived at spring. For Americans, the spring is ushered in by baseball—spring training, Little League tryouts, and the first game of the season. For Edwardians, especially the middle and upper classes, spring was heralded by one of the biggest sporting events in England: The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, which took place, and still takes place, on the last weekend of March or the first weekend of April.

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The race remains an annual event between the Cambridge University Boat Club (light blue) and the Oxford University Boat Club (dark blue). The Race began in 1829, and has been held every year since 1856, apart from during World War I and World War II. Today the event draws a quarter of a million spectators who view the race from the riverbank at Putney, Hammersmith, Barnes, or Chiswick. And there are millions more viewing the spectacle on television.

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The two teams race in eight-oared rowing boats, which is steered by a cox. The course begins in Putney and finishes four miles and 374 yards later at Mortlake.
After a flip of a 1829 sovereign coin, the crews row upstream on the Tideway (the tidal part of the River Thames), which includes the Thames Estuary, Thames Gateway, and the Pool of London. The course record stands at 16 minutes and 19 seconds, which was set by Cambridge in 1998. This year, celebrating its 160th year, Oxford won, which brings the overall standings to Oxford at 78 wins and Cambridge at 81 wins.

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I have always been intrigued by the tradition and national passion of the Boat Race and when I was thinking about a talent for Edmund Carrick-Humphries, Vicky’s fiancé in A MAD, WICKED FOLLY, I knew he had to be a rower, and a good one. Good enough to row for Oxford. And good enough to help break Cambridge’s three-year winning streak. And of course Edmund looked very dashing and swoony in his dark blue uniform.

Just as dashing as these guys, I’m sure!

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About Sharon Biggs Waller

I'm the author of A MAD, WICKED FOLLY (Viking, Penguin Jan 2014) and THE ORIGINAL HORSE BIBLE (i5 Publishing). Visit me at www.sharonbiggswaller.com.

One thought on “Spring in the Edwardian Era and the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race

  1. Shawn says:

    I now have the urge to go and read some Jeeves and Wooster stories!

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