Off to Gretna Green! by Brenda Webb

Off to Gretna Green! by Brenda Webb

Do you just love those scenes in Jane Austen fanfiction where a couple we care about elopes to Gretna Green?

The Elopement by John Collet

 

Whether it’s Darcy and Elizabeth or some other couple we are rooting for, it seems so romantic to picture them rushing off to be married. Of course, we also cringe when a naughty couple such as Wickham and (fill in the blank) do the same. Still, I love to read about Gretna Green, and I thought I would share just a little about this life-changing village in Scotland and why it became legendary.

Arrival at Gretna Green

The reason for the exodus to Gretna Green was the Marriage Act of 1753—Lord Chancellor Hardwicke’s Act for the Prevention of Clandestine Marriages. The law passed after a good deal of debate about regularizing marriages to protect wealthy families from having their offspring preyed upon. Prior to this, London was infamous for “Fleet marriages” performed by clergymen who were in Fleet Prison for debtors.

Clergymen could live in the “Rules” area, just outside the prison (meant to provide them a sanctuary) and there they performed questionable marriages. They could not be fined for performing these marriages and were effectively beyond the law. The Fleet weddings were the bane of many a rich family. Underage heiresses were tricked or kidnapped and forced into marriages by unscrupulous men. Fathers also complained of sons who had married unsuitable brides. Even two dukes saw their sons married in these secret ceremonies. However with the Marriage Act, by 1754 the informal wedding had been swept away.

Under the act, clandestine or common-law marriages in England were made illegal. Now marriages required an official ceremony performed by a Church of England priest, unless the couple was Jewish or Quaker. The groom and bride had to each be 21 years of age, or have the consent of their parents or guardians. The wedding had to take place during daylight hours in a parish church within the Church of England’s jurisdiction. Banns had to be read for three Sundays prior to the ceremony, and the curate would ask if anyone knew any reason why either the man or woman could not marry. If the couple lived in separate parishes, the banns had to be called in each. Lastly, a license had to be obtained and the marriage recorded in the parish church.

Special Licenses avoided all these requirements but had to be obtained from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the names of those to be married had to be written on the license. These constraints did not help those wishing to marry against the wishes of their families. By requiring parental consent, the act gave parents the right to reject any marriage they considered undesirable. A clergyman who performed an illegal marriage could be transported for up to fourteen years. Yikes!

This act also applied in Wales and Ireland. However, it did not apply to Scotland which was under its own legal system and where the age of consent was 12 for girls and 14 for boys. Hence marriages at Gretna Green became popular. It was not the only Scottish Border village destination, though it was the first village over the border on the main west coast route from England. It was not the closest place if you went north from London. If you went up the Great North Road to Scotland, it would take you to Coldstream Bridge or Mordington or Lamberton Toll, all on the eastern side of the country.

Moreover, marriage records show a number of Irish couples married in Scotland to thwart the Irish marriage laws. Gretna Green was not the most popular venue for the Irish, however. Instead they headed for Portpatrick in Wigtownshire on the far west coast because there was a daily packet boat service from Ireland to that village. Finally, the eloping couple didn’t necessarily need to go to Scotland at all. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man also allowed for clandestine marriages before their laws were changed.

One had to be absolutely certain they were in Scottish territory when the marriage took place. The Berwick toll keeper, who usually presided over the weddings for those who crossed into Scotland there, was sent to prison for performing a ceremony in Berwick town itself, which was in England.

Under Scotland’s irregular marriage traditions, anybody could perform marriages whether they were farmers, the blacksmith, the toll masters, the landlord of the local tavern, a passing highwayman or a local smuggler. So, contrary to the common tradition of “anvil priests,” the blacksmith was not the only person who could marry a couple.

After reading this, I began to wonder if I would actually feel married if the ceremony was performed by a blacksmith, much less a highwayman or smuggler! How binding would that seem? I would love to hear your views on the subject.

 Information in this post came from the following: http://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/2013/11/ten-fascinating-facts-about-gretna-green.html  and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrigley_abduction

 

 

I had new covers created for my books, “Fitzwilliam Darcy An Honourable Man” and “Mr. Darcy’s Forbidden Love” and in celebration, I am giving away a Kindle e-book of each. Just leave a comment to this post by Midnight Friday (CST) if you would like to be in the drawing.

 

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75 COMMENTS
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Ivee
Ivee
October 22, 2015 3:59 AM

Hello from the Philippines! I guess, if the couple are so in love, then it does not really matter who marries them. Thanks for the post. Very interesting.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
November 16, 2015 8:37 PM
Reply to  Ivee

So happy to hear from you Ivee! I am a romantic, so I agree with you! So glad you found the post interesting.

Linda A.
Linda A.
October 5, 2015 8:53 PM

Not sure which Friday this contest ends, but at least had to comment… getting married at 12 or 14? yuck. Heaven forbid.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 7, 2015 11:40 AM
Reply to  Linda A.

I’m glad you commented anyway Linda! 🙂 I’m with you on the marriage at 12 or 14. I was aghast at Mrs. Bennet’s delight in Lydia being marriage at 15! Times have changed.

Billi Switzer-Aaron
Billi Switzer-Aaron
October 2, 2015 3:08 PM

This article you have written here is so engaging! The next time we return to England, I will definitely want to go to GG and check it out! Thank you very much!

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 3, 2015 11:15 AM

How nice of you to say Billi, and I envy you for being able to travel to England. When you check out GG, consider taking pictures and sharing with us. I would love to have them on the Austen Authors FB pages or my forum DarcyandLizzy.Com. Hugs,

anadarcy
October 2, 2015 2:09 PM

I have really liked this post because I knew part of the information but for instance, I did not know that on the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man these marriages were “allowed” as well.

Gretna Green… to be honest I have mixed feelings. It sounds extremely romantic but sometimes these marriages were quite crazy and people did not think it through.

I got engaged a year ago and as we are not registred in Spain anymore, we are registeres on the ambassy, we would need to do a lot of paperwork in case we decide to get married in Spain. On February we went to Scotland and coming back home, we drive near Gretna Green. Due to the time we had, we did not stop to see the town. The idea of getting married there was discussed but I actually discard it because although GG is very “romantic”, I have the feeling that from mid-18th century onwards, some of the marriages at GG were, as I wrote, a crazy idea, where two people got married and who knows how many of those marriages were not happy at all.

We will get marry in England though, unfortunately not in any Pemberley 🙂

Thank you for the giveaway.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 3, 2015 11:11 AM
Reply to  anadarcy

I perfectly understand your feeling Anadarcy. While I might think it romantic for Darcy and Elizabeth to escape their families, I do not think most marriages in GG were for the best of reasons. 🙂 It is fascinating that you were there and discussed getting married . . . small world! Too bad you can’t be married at Pemberley! And you’re welcome for the giveaway. I appreciate your taking time to comment and share your experience with us.

Tresha
Tresha
October 2, 2015 8:10 AM

Thanks for the giveaway! The new covers are gorgeous. So glad to read you have a new book out soon can not wait 🙂 12 and 14 years old to marry yikes I can not imagine being ready to marry so young.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 2, 2015 10:43 AM
Reply to  Tresha

Thank you, Tresha. I am glad that my readers are looking forward to my new book.:) And, I’m with you about the ages. The only thing I can think is that most people did not live long and could often be dead by their thirties or forties, so they married young.

Joana Starnes
October 2, 2015 7:26 AM

Thanks for this delightful post, Brenda! I loved the antique prints and I loved that I learned something new. Never knew that Gretna Green wasn’t the only ‘tourist destination’ for getting married quickly and no question asked 😀
Congrats on the new covers, they’re exquisite!!

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 2, 2015 10:38 AM
Reply to  Joana Starnes

I am so proud that you found something new in the post, Joana. I, too, learned a lot while doing the research. I love the covers, but I am prejudice, so your approval is much appreciated. Hugs.

Sally Cline
Sally Cline
October 1, 2015 11:24 PM

I always wondered why people went to Gretna Green. Thanks for the answer!

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 2, 2015 12:25 AM
Reply to  Sally Cline

Now you know, Sally! 🙂 So glad you came over to read and left a comment. It helps to know people do read these posts. Heh heh.

Sheila L. M.
Sheila L. M.
October 1, 2015 10:58 PM

That was very interesting. But did you know that we have a town on the east coast of the USA that had that reputation for eloping couples?

http://blogs.weta.org/boundarystones/2013/02/14/elkton-maryland-quickie-wedding-capital-east-coast

My mother went there for her second marriage. She was in her 50’s and met this man through a dating service back in 1973. We (her children) were shocked. We didn’t even know she was dating….only knew him for 45 days. But he treated her well and brought her 3 roses every Sunday for “I Love You”. She has passed away but, as her first marriage was not a good one, we were so happy she had this good man for the time she did.

Your new covers are beautiful. Are you working on anything new? I have all your books on my kindle already so don’t need either one but would love to hear of a new story in the making. I love long ones with lots of angst and yours have fit that bill.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 2, 2015 12:23 AM
Reply to  Sheila L. M.

I had no idea, Sheila, and your mother’s story is heartwarming. I am so proud she found someone who evidently cared very much for her. That is something not everyone finds in their lifetime. Thank you for sharing. I am proud of the covers and I am working on a story that I hope to finish by the end of November/first of December. It is called Darcy and Elizabeth – A Promise Kept. There is a preview on DarcyandLizzy.com already, and I hope to start posting the story this month (keeps fingers crossed!). So nice to see your smiling face and to hear your mother’s experience.

Sheila L. M.
Sheila L. M.
October 2, 2015 12:16 PM
Reply to  Brenda Webb

OK, I am off to find that preview. Have spent the last two days re-reading stories…but that is an endless task and I am ready for something new.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 5, 2015 9:16 AM
Reply to  Sheila L. M.

Hope you found it and will tell me what you think. 🙂

Sheila L. M.
Sheila L. M.
October 5, 2015 9:20 AM
Reply to  Brenda Webb

I did, I read it, I posted a comment and marked it as favorite author and favorite story…so hoping to be sent new postings.

Joan
Joan
October 1, 2015 7:46 PM

It is true you learn something knew every day. Thanks for the great article and giveaway.
Joan

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 2, 2015 12:16 AM
Reply to  Joan

I was hoping everyone would, Joan. You’re welcome and thank you for letting me know you are reading.

Marion
Marion
October 1, 2015 7:45 PM

WOW! How interesting! All I can say is “live and learn”, I did not know these things.
Marion

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 2, 2015 12:15 AM
Reply to  Marion

Exactly why I like to write these kind of posts, Marion. 🙂 Thank you for commenting.

Marilyn
Marilyn
October 1, 2015 7:43 PM

What a fascinating piece of information. Thank you for this generous giveaway.
marilyn

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 2, 2015 12:14 AM
Reply to  Marilyn

So happy you thought so, Marilyn and good luck with the drawing! Thanks for taking time to comment too.

Ann Todd
Ann Todd
October 1, 2015 5:27 PM

Reminds me of my grandparents running away on the train to Dillon, SC one Sunday morning while her parents were attending church back at home in NC. She was young and he was older, so her parents didn’t approve, but she met the legal age in SC. She wore all her clothes on top of each other to church that morning to meet him because she knew that once she was married, she wouldn’t be allowed to go back home even to collect her things. They had 3 children, 6 grandchildren and were married close to 60 years before he died.

I love reading your books, and your new covers are beautiful!

Ann Todd

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 2, 2015 12:13 AM
Reply to  Ann Todd

How romantic! And though her parents didn’t approve, it was obviously a great match. If only all marriages lasted that long. I am so glad you like my books and the new covers. I am excited about them for I wanted to update them for a long time.

charlene
charlene
October 1, 2015 1:00 PM

thanks for the wonderful article!

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 1:27 PM
Reply to  charlene

You are so welcome, Charlene. Thanks for commenting to let me know you read it. 🙂

Diana Oaks
AuAu
October 1, 2015 12:49 PM

It wasn’t long ago that I researched all this myself, so I already knew the things you covered. I will add that I LOVE it when that happens – it makes me feel so smart. 🙂 Your new covers are just lovely. Don’t enter me in the giveaway, though, as I already have the books.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 1:25 PM
Reply to  Diana Oaks

It is fun to run across things we didn’t know, isn’t it and then to have our readers say they didn’t know it either . . . well that is exciting. Thanks for taking time to comment Diana and I am proud of the covers!

MaryAnnN
October 1, 2015 12:11 PM

Thanks for the education on Greta Green and what transpired with the marriage laws. It is interesting how people then and now share the same kind of trouble with trickery into marriage, parents not giving consent, and what one would due for love or money whichever the case may be.
However, it would be a fun picture if you ever visited Greta Green to have a photo taken over the anvil with the blacksmith present.
Very educational!

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 1:24 PM
Reply to  MaryAnnN

I was fascinated to learn a lot more when researching the subject MaryAnn and yes, we have the same problems today, only with different solutions. 🙂 I would love to have my picture taken over the anvil!

MaryAnnN
October 1, 2015 12:15 PM
Reply to  MaryAnnN

Don’t enter me into the contest as I already have the novels with the old covers. The new covers look great!

Glynis
Glynis
October 1, 2015 11:54 AM

That’s so amazing. I somehow assumed that Gretna was the only place and that they were married by the blacksmith over the anvil. What a surprise to read this article. Thank you for going to the trouble of researching and sharing this.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 1:21 PM
Reply to  Glynis

I love it when I find something I didn’t know and like you I thought Gretna Green was the only place. You’re welcome for the info – thank you for taking the time to comment.

Vesper
October 1, 2015 11:05 AM

To me it does not sound romantic, but then I have visited the modern Gretna Green and was not impressed, I presume it was a much nicer place in the early 19th century and before

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 11:09 AM
Reply to  Vesper

I suppose if one wanted to marry without parental consent or unhappy relations, it would be romantic to defy convention. 🙂 And, yes, it probably looked a lot better in the 1800s.

Jennifer Redlarczyk
Jennifer Redlarczyk
October 1, 2015 10:27 AM

Oh Brenda, this was great! I can imagine that Darcy would have to be pretty desperate to take Lizzy off to Gretna Green. Then if he did, he would probably have a second ceremony performed when they got back. LOL I wonder if folks in modern days still go to Gretna Green just for the novelty. Bye the way, I love your new covers. Jen

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 11:06 AM

I am glad you liked it Jen! Yes, I can see our guy being desperate to marry Lizzy though. 🙂

Jennifer Redlarczyk
Jennifer Redlarczyk
October 1, 2015 10:29 AM

PS I have both e-books so I don’t need to be entered in the contest.

Lúthien84
October 1, 2015 10:04 AM

Although I’ve read about Gretna Green before, I find something new that I didn’t know like the Marriage Act of 1753 also applies to Wales and Ireland. I always assume it is enforced in England only. Thanks for sharing this information with us.

The new covers are better than the old ones in my opinion. Will you be changing the book cover for Darcy and Elizabeth: A Most Unlikely Couple?

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 11:12 AM
Reply to  Lúthien84

I am pleased that you learned something new for I did too. I love the new covers but I also like the cover of D&E A Most Unlikely Couple, so I don’t think I will change it. Thanks so much for your comment.

BeckyC
BeckyC
October 1, 2015 9:37 AM

Very interesting! I love the new covers. I am reading An Unlikely Couple right now. You have a gift with long novels in keeping the reader’s attention with every word. Thank you for the giveaway. I would be thrilled to have an ebook of either one.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 11:18 AM
Reply to  BeckyC

I am proud that you are reading my book and your kind words are appreciated. I try not to put ‘fluff’ in my stories to fill in the chapters, so I hope that is why they keep your attention. Best of luck on the drawing.

BeckyC
BeckyC
October 3, 2015 10:10 PM
Reply to  Brenda Webb

Finished! An Unlikely Couple is at the top end of my favorite variations! Love it!

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 5, 2015 9:13 AM
Reply to  BeckyC

Doing a happy dance! Thank you for telling me and if possible I would love for you to post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Hugs!

lynncharLynn char
October 1, 2015 9:22 AM

I’ve never thought running away to be married sounded like fun. But then I think destination weddings are wacky as well! Love the new covers! And while I already have Mr Darcy’s Forbidden Love (great book by the way), I would love to venture into Fitzwilliam Darcy An Honorable Man. Thanks for all the marriage info, I think having a smuggler marry someone would be a delightful twist lol

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 11:22 AM

I was thinking the same thing about the smuggler! What a great story that would be. 🙂 I actually agree with you on destination weddings but in that day and age I am pulled toward the romantic elopement. I hope you do read FDAHM as that is my favorite story and apparently the favorite of my readers. Good luck.

lynleywa
lynleywa
October 1, 2015 8:41 AM

All these little tidbits of history, and the working of such into stories is one of the most attractive aspects of the Pride and Prejudice genre. I think it is safe to call it a genre – there a so many stories out there, some great, some fabulous, all worth reading.

Keep writing Brenda! I’ll keep buying and reading

Thanks for sharing your love of Ms Austen

Lynley

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 11:29 AM
Reply to  lynleywa

I agree with you entirely, Lynley! And I think of it as an genre too, a genre so many more authors are discovering. I am glad I began publishing when I did and thank you for the encouragement to keep writing. For some time I have wondered if my style of long novels was going the way of the dinosaur. It is always nice to know someone appreciates the time and effort. Thank you for reading!

Pam H.
Pam H.
October 1, 2015 8:39 AM

Very interesting! I had no idea that anyone in Scotland could marry a couple. How odd! I don’t think I would like being married by a blacksmith or a smuggler! 🙂

Thanks for the great giveaway! I’d love to win.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 11:31 AM
Reply to  Pam H.

I’m with you Pam! I don’t think I would feel married if a blacksmith performed the ceremony, but the others are ridiculous. Heh heh Best of luck on the giveaway.

carylkane
carylkane
October 1, 2015 8:25 AM

Were blacksmiths licensed to perform marriages? Thank you for the fascinating post. Your updated covers are beautiful.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 11:34 AM
Reply to  carylkane

In everything I read, no. Besides if anyone could marry a couple, I think having a license might be hard to enforce. 🙂 So happy you liked the post as I enjoyed researching it. So pleased, too, that you like the covers. I did not have the money to do them well until now. It is expensive but worth it, I think.

chatty1082
October 1, 2015 6:59 AM

Very interesting. Love the new covers, though the stories were incredibly enjoyable reading them in the old covers!

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 11:40 AM
Reply to  chatty1082

How sweet of you to say! I have always believed that stories sell themselves, not beautiful covers (though I love them). I tell new writers that good stories told with as few errors as possible is what you aim for, not brilliant covers, you-tube trailers, bookmarks and other giveaways or reviews. Thank you for always taking the time to support me. You will never know how much that means to me. Hugs.

LilMissMolly
LilMissMolly
October 1, 2015 6:59 AM

Really like the new covers! I always think of Las Vegas weddings as the present day Gretna Green.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 11:43 AM
Reply to  LilMissMolly

Thank you Miss Molly! I had not thought of that but you are so right. 🙂

Debbie Fortin
October 1, 2015 6:44 AM

Thank you so much for sharing the marriage information. Thank you so much for the generous giveaway. I love the new covers.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 11:44 AM
Reply to  Debbie Fortin

So nice to see your smiling face here Debbie. Glad you like the new covers, the post and the giveaway!

tgruy
October 1, 2015 1:38 AM

I love your new covers, but I already have the e-books. Congratulations!!! They look great!!!

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 11:47 AM
Reply to  tgruy

I am glad that you like them Tere! And thank you for always supporting me with your comments.

Maureen
Maureen
October 1, 2015 12:47 AM

It does sound so romantic to elope to Gretna Green, last year when I went back to England with my sister and niece we did the complete tour of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and among my favourites stops was Gretna Green, and what was the old Blacksmith. Although the Blacksmith shop built in 1712 is exactly the same, it is now a mecca for tourists. While we were there a wedding was held and of course photos taken outside the Blacksmiths. There was also a Scottish Piper playing in the courtyard. It doesn’t take too much imagination to think of couples marrying there over the centuries.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 11:51 AM
Reply to  Maureen

What an experience that would have been Maureen. I always love your tales of your vacations, especially when you go back to the UK. Lucky you! I did read where a lot of weddings are held there now. That would be a wedding to remember. Thank you for always being one of my greatest supporters!

Maria Thomas
October 1, 2015 12:37 AM

I’ll enter

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
October 1, 2015 11:52 AM
Reply to  Maria Thomas

I’m glad you did Maria. Good luck on the drawing!

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