Marrying at Gretna Green

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By Maggi Andersen
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“I publish the Banns of marriage between Groom’s Name of–his local parish–and Bride’s Name of–her local parish. If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons should not be joined together in Holy matrimony, ye are to declare it. This is the first [second, third] time of asking.”

Gretna Green Marriage
Gretna Green Marriage

Lovers elope In the third novella of my Baxendale Sisters series, LADY HOPE AND THE DUKE OF DARKNESS, although not to Gretna Green.  Since Georgette Heyer first created her charming Regency world, we have been reading about lovers eloping to Gretna Green to be married, when no other option is open to them.

So why Gretna Green?

The introduction of the “Scottish Elopements and the Marriage Act of 1753. An Act for Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage, was also known as Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act), and was the first statutory legislation in England and Wales to require a formal ceremony of marriage. The Act prevented clandestine marriages (valid marriages performed by an Anglican clergyman but not in accordance with the canons). And ended the notorious Fleet Marriages associated with London’s Fleet Prison.
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Scottish law allowed for “irregular marriages,” meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. To be married “over the anvil,” meant that the eloping couple took their vows at the blacksmith’s shop. “Blacksmith priests” conducted the ceremony, which was a public acknowledgment of a couple’s desire to pledge themselves to one another.
Any man could set himself up as an ‘anvil priest.” Although they were frowned on by the local church for calling themselves a priest, the fee and a tip which could be as much as fifty guineas, made it very attractive. Couples could also marry at inns in the surrounding villages.

So where is Gretna Green?

The village of Gretna Green lies on the main road from Carlisle to Glasgow and is situated on the most southerly point of the English border on Scotland’s west side. The Sark River marks the border itself, a half mile from Gretna Green.
From Gretna Green Memoirs by Robert Elliot (1842):
Near the Solway Firth, the Regency era’s Greta Green is “…[a] small village with a few clay houses, the parish kirk, the minister’s house, and a large inn. From it you have a fine view of the Solway, port Carlisle and the Cumberland hills, among which is the lofty Skiddaw; you also see Bowness, the place where the famous Roman wall ends.”




#Regencymarriage #Regencyromance #maggiandersen #HistoricalResearch #GretnaGreen

Follow Maggi Andersen:

Maggi Andersen is an Australian author of historical romance, mysteries, contemporary romantic suspense and young adult novels. She lives in a pretty historical town with her husband, a retired lawyer. Maggi is a bird lover, she supports the RSPCA, IFAW and Youth off The Streets. Maggi's latest Regency series is The Baxendale Sisters. Book #1 Lady Honor's Debt is available on Amazon, and relevant sites.

8 Responses

  1. ki pha

    Hi Maggi!

    Oh my gosh, I had the pleasure of visiting Gretna Green this summer and it was amazing. There were two weddings that were being held there and the bride and groom were just beautiful. I really loved all the historical facts, ledgerbook, artifacts, dresses, carragies, and the real anvil that was housed there. Oh and the stories and real love letters arranging with the blacksmith for a ceremony…now that was definitely the highlight for me to read and see when I was there.

  2. Barbara Monajem

    Hmm, so if they don’t elope to Gretna, where do the lovers in your book go? (I guess I’ll have to read it to find out! And I agree, it’s a gorgeous cover.:))

    • Maggi Andersen

      If you feel inclined to wade through Gretna Green Memoirs, there’s some interesting stories. Some are sad too.