Sunday, December 16, 2012

Where to Elope in Regency England

In Regency England, common law marriages, which the Hardwicke Act outlawed in England and Wales, were still legal in Scotland. As such, the border towns of Scotland became famous for providing these marriages. No ceremony was required, and anyone could officiate, if so desired.

The most famous of the marriage border towns was Gretna Green in Dumfries and Galloway. Weddings are still a thriving business in Gretna Green. The two pictures above are Gretna Green then (left) and now. Gretna Green also has its own website.
Gretna Green was not the only place for these so-called irregular, but legal, marriages. Other towns, especially in the Eastern Borders of Scotland, also performed quick marriages. While Gretna Green was the destination of choice in the west, these next towns are in eastern Scotland.

Lamberton, Berwickshire was the most popular of the eastern destinations, since it’s the first Scottish town reached via the Great North Road, the main thoroughfare from London to Edinburgh. The toll-keepers provided the marriages at the Old Toll House. Here’s a picture of the Old Toll House in 1890.

The toll-keepers at Paxton and Mordington, other border towns near Lamberton, and also close to the Great North Road, also performed marriages.

Another town is Coldstream, Scottish Borders. The couple would cross the river Tweed using the Coldstream Bridge, which links Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland to Coldstream. As in the other towns, the Toll House, here called the Marriage House, on the Scottish side of the bridge provided common law marriages.
Like Gretna Green, Coldstream still does a thriving business in marriages. Here’s their marriage website:
Who performed these marriages? Anyone who wanted to. Two people need only declare themselves married before two witnesses to be married. Thriving businesses provided a marriage ceremony of sorts, with witnesses and a clergyman, if desired, officiating. These ceremonies would also provide a certificate as proof of the marriage, for when the couple returned home.

Various laws in the early 1800’s changed and restricted these marriages, (, but many of these towns continued their clandestine wedding business almost up to the twentieth century. Nowadays, the most famous, like Gretna Green and Coldstream, still trade on their history as they provide marriages.

My Regency Christmas comedy, Mistletoe Everywhere, takes place in Northumberland, England, across the river Tweed from the Marriage House in Coldstream. Eloping plays a part in the story.

A man who sees mistletoe everywhere is mad--or in love.

Charles sees mistletoe. Not surprising, since he's spending Christmas at Mistletoe Manor. But why does no one else see it? And why does it always appear above Penelope, the despised lady who jilted him after their last meeting?

Penelope wants nothing to do with the faithless Charles, the man who cried off after she accepted his marriage proposal. But he still stirs her heart--and he stares at her all the time. Or rather, he stares at the empty ceiling over her head…What does he see?

According to folklore, mistletoe is the plant of peace. Can Penelope and Charles, so full of hurt and anger, heed the mistletoe's message and make peace?

“Penny, look out!”

Penelope spun on her heel. Charles, his eyes wide with terror, raced down the hall. He grabbed her arms and shoved her to the side. Her back hit the wall and her breath rushed out in a startled huff.
Charles gripped her shoulders hard as his body slammed full-length against hers, his forearms bracketing her sides, his head over hers.

“Thank God, I reached you in time.” His breath sawed in and out of his chest, crushing her nose into the starched folds of his cravat. The silver buttons of his coat dug into her breasts. His legs pinned hers to the wall.

Her own breaths were uneven pants, partly from his weight, and partly from his nearness. Her pulse thudded. “What happened?” she asked, her voice whispery.

“The kissing bough above you fell.”

Her breath slowing, Penelope shifted her nose out of his cravat and peered around his shoulder. The ceiling and floor were empty. “What kissing bough?”

Moving only his head, he looked over his shoulder. He stiffened. “I could have sworn…” He dipped his chin to look down at her, his body still holding her captive. “I beg your pardon, Miss Lawrence. I appear to be mistaken.”


Although the imagined danger was past, he made no move to release her. Instead, his hands, which had flattened on the wall beside her, cupped her cheeks. His fingers tangled in the strands of hair that had escaped from her braid. A smile played upon his lips. “Penny. My Shining Penny.”

His body heat flowed through her, and a different kind of heat arose. His face softened and time reeled backwards. Here was the Charles she remembered, the man who had placed her in the center of his world.
Her arms, flat against the wall, lifted and wound around his back. He bent his head to hers as she lifted her face to his. “Charles—”

His lips stroked hers, back and forth, warm and soft. Her eyes drifted shut as he feathered little kisses over her cheeks. She leaned against the wall, luxuriating in the soft caress of his lips on her face, the hardness of his body against hers…

And just to include everything, here's the original excerpt.

After Charles had heaped his plate with more food than he wanted, he took one of the empty chairs at the table bottom, as far from Penelope as possible.

His tensed muscles eased as he joked with his friends. Smythe made a comment and Charles turned to answer. He caught sight of Penelope…and a monstrous bunch of mistletoe above her.

"Gordon? What is it?" Smythe swiveled in the direction Charles was staring. He looked up and down, and from one side to the other. "I say, with your mouth hanging open like that, you must see something spectacular, but damned if I know what it is."

With an audible click, Charles clamped his jaw shut. "I thought I saw…" He forced his gaze back to his companion. "Nothing. I imagined I saw mistletoe."

Smythe's eyebrows rose. "Mistletoe?"

"Yes. The house is named 'Mistletoe Manor', so the place is filled with mistletoe decorations. Pictures, wall hangings, ceiling trim, whatnot."

"Indeed." Smythe's eyebrows rose higher. "That 'mistletoe' you saw is over that Miss Lawrence. Lovely little filly." His lips curved into a knowing grin. "My jaw dropped the first time I saw her, too."

Charles stiffened. "I was not looking at Miss Lawrence. I believed I saw mistletoe over her."

"'Mistletoe'." Symthe's grin widened. "Of course."

And I hope you get what you want for Christmas, too!

Available at The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance Ebooks and other places where ebooks are sold.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and I'll see you all in the new year.

Thank you all,

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