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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Regency era fashion for Christmas 1806-1820

Each day during advent I posted a different Regency era Christmas fashion on my Facebook page. Here are the 24 fashion prints which all appeared in the December issues of either La Belle Assemblée or Ackermann's Repository between 1806 and 1820.

Pre-Regency: 1806-1810

1806 - English morning dress: “Of French cambric, made with a train; plain waist, rather high behind, and sharply rounded at the chest; trimmed round the bottom with muslin à la corkscrew; long and very full sleeves, edged at the hands with the same; a blue ribband round the waist, terminating with bows and ends on the right side. The cap à la cloister, entirely concealing the hair, flowing loose, and shading the face on the left side, gathered above the right eye-brow in a sort of irregular nosel, and simply confined round the head with a blue ribband, which finishing behind with a bow, forms the crown, or caul of the cap. A neckerchief, or shirt, sitting full in the front, and high towards the throat, with a deep falling collar, embroidered at the edge. Limerick gloves, and jean shoes.”

Mourning full or opera dress: “A Spanish vest and petticoat of Italian crape, worn over white satin, with a rich border of embossed velvet, terminating at the extreme edge with a narrow Vandyke, or fringe of bugles; the petticoat gathered in a drapery towards the right knee, with a chord and tassels; the front of the vest made high, and formed in irregular horizontal gathers; confined with two narrow bands of bugles, terminating at the corners of the bosom, where the vest flows loose, and forms the square bust, which is finished with a pearl or diamond brooch in the centre. A short full twisted or rucked sleeve, bordered at the bottom similar with the vest. The hair in a plain band round the right temple, relieved, and terminated by loose curls, which commences on the crown of the head, and flow in long irregular ringlets from the left eye-brow, so as to reach the shoulder.” From La Belle Assemblée (Dec 1806).

1806 - Parisian morning walking dress: “Of twill sarsnet, cambric or velvet, embroidered round the bottom and up the right side, where it confines the front which wraps under it, with three bows and the ends of correspondent ribband; long waist with robin front; and long sleeve, nearly to fit the arm.” Worn with a “poke bonnet, of woven willow, or fancy straw, blended with crimson velvet”.

Ball dress: “A frock of white Italian crape, over a white satin slip; the latter edged with a narrow border of pink velvet at the feet; the frock festooned with gentle curves round the bottom, with single Persian rose” and the hair “divided behind; part formed in braids, and brought in loose loops over the right eye”. From La Belle Assemblée (Dec 1806).

1807 - Morning dress: “A round cambric gown, a walking length, with short full sleeve, and puckered cuff, buttoned or laced down the back, and made high round the neck , with a full frill of lace. A military stock, edged round the chin with the same. A figured Chinese scarf, the colour American green, twisted round the figure in the style of antique drapery. Melon bonnet the same colour, striped, and trimmed to correspond with the scarf.”

Morning walking or carriage dress: “A simple breakfast robe of Indian muslin, or cambric; with plain high collar, and long sleeve. Plain chemisette front, buttoned down the bosom. A Calypso wrap of morone velvet, or kerseymere, trimmed entirely round with white ermine, or swansdown.” Worn with a “mountain hat of white imperial beaver, or fur, tied under the chin with a ribband the colour of the coat. Gloves and shoes of American green, or buff. Cropt hair, confined with a band, and curled over the left eye.” From La Belle Assemblée (Dec 1807).

1808 - Carriage costume: “A round robe, with short train and long sleeves, of fine grey cloth, shawl muslin, or velvet. A Spanish cape, or pelerine of the same. Each extremity bordered with a narrow crimson velvet, or chenille. A helmet bonnet of crimson velvet, ornamented with narrow sable, or other well-contrasted fur.”

Carriage costume: “A round high morning robe, of muslin or cambric; with long sleeves, worn quite plain, or otherwise ornamented with lace or needlework. A Spanish mantle, or cloak of purple, green or flame coloured cloth, lined and trimmed with skin, with high collars, and Maltese hood”. From La Belle Assemblée (Dec 1808).

1809 - Evening dress: “A white satin round robe, with demi-traine. A short sleeve of interjoined lace and gold beading. A military front, composed of gold cord and frogs. A peleriae of white satin, with full collar, and border of swansdown, and a rich cord and tassel of gold. A Grecian coif of white satin, with appliqued border of lace, and band and crescent of pearls. A long sleeve, of French lace; or a long glove, of French kid; with bracelets and necklace of pearl. Crimson slippers, with gold imperial trimming. Ivory fan, with mount of crimson crape, ornamented with a border of gold jessamine.” From Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1809).

1810 - Evening dress: “An amber colour crape dress, with long sleeves, and frock waist, tied with white ribband; slashed Spanish front, let in with satin of the same colour, ornamented with white beads, the bosom and sleeves trimmed with beads, on the back of the dress is worn a drapery of amber colour satin hanging over the shoulders in front, or tied in a bow behind, which either way forms a pretty finish to the dress.” Worn with a cap “composed of amber plaited ribband and lace, edged with vandyke lace, tied in a bow on the left side, with amber flower in front.” From La Belle Assemblée (Dec 1810).

Early Regency: 1811-1813

1811 - A mourning dress: “A round robe of fine iron-grey cloth or velvet, with long sleeves and demi high front, trimmed down the center of the figure, at a measured distance, with chenille fur, and clasped in the center, from the bosom to the feet, with lozenge clasps of jet; the belt confined with the same. Antique scalloped ruff of white crape; cuffs to correspond. Hungarian mantle, with double capes, trimmed with chenille fur” worn with “a small Eastern turban of grey and silver tissue; short willow feathers (alternately grey and white) drooping on the left side”. From Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1811).

1811 - Riding dress: “Of fine Georgian cloth; colour, a pale lead or olive tinge; ornamented with frogs à la militaire in front, and finished at the pocket-holes to correspond. Beehive hat of fine moss or cottage straw; white lace curtain veil, twisted occasionally round the rim of the hat.” From Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1811).

1812 - Evening dress: “A round robe of fine Georgian cloth, a pale olive colour, with full puckered sleeves, of white satin. Worn with a French quartered cap, composed of satin and thread lace, ornamented with bows of net, and a wreath of barberries. The hair as a curled crop.” From Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1812).

1812 - Morning or carriage costume: “A white cambric round robe, with long full sleeves, stomacher front, and full ruff round the throat. A Russian mantle of pale fawn-coloured cloth or velvet, with capes of the same; trimmed entirely round with angola trimming fur, or full feathered border; and lined with rose-coloured sarsnet, tied in front of the throat, with a ribbon of a correspondent colour. A traveller's hat, composed of fawn-coloured and rose velvet, with curled ostrich feathers on one side.” From Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1812).

1813 - Evening or opera costume: “A round robe of morone or crimson-coloured Merino, kerseymere, or queen's cloth, ornamented round the bottom and up the front with a fancy gold embroidered border” with the “hair disposed in dishevelled curls, falling on the left side, and decorated with clusters of variegated autumnal flowers” and matching “slippers, of crimson velvet, ornamented with gold fringe and rosettes” and a fan of “richly frosted silver crape”. From Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1813).

1813 - Promenade or carriage costume: “The great convenience and novel attraction of this dress, consist in its admitting of a spencer of the same material as the robe (as seen in our promenade figure), which is richly ornamented, à la militaire, with gold braid and netted buttons, forming a sort of epaulette on the shoulders. The spencer is embroidered up the seams of the back, on the shoulders, and cuffs, to correspond with the bottom of the robe” and worn with “a straw or velvet hat, ornamented with feathers”. From Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1813).

Mid-Regency 1814-1817

1814 - Walking dress: “A pelisse, of short walking length, made either in erminette or silk velvet of puce colour, open down the front, and bound entirely round with celestial blue satin, terminating at the feet with a broad border of white lace; high plain collar, and treble copes bound to correspond; full lace ruff. The Spanish hat composed of erminette or velvet and blue satin, corresponding to the pelisse, trimmed round the edge with quilled lace, and ornamented in the front with a plume of ostrich feathers. Half boots, blue kid or erminette. Gloves, Limerick or York tan.” From Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1814).

1815 - Evening dress: “A crimson satin slip, underneath a frock of three-quarters length made of the silver-striped French gauze; the slip ornamented at the feet with clusters of flowers, and a narrow border of white satin edged with crimson ribbon; the frock has a border of white satin, edged to correspond, and is drawn up in the Eastern style, confined by a cluster of flowers. The body of the dress has open fronts, with a stomacher, which are severally trimmed en suite; short open sleeve, to correspond with a quilling of tull round the arm. Head-dress à la Chinoise, composed of pearl; the hair braided, and ornamented with a wreath of flowers. Ear-rings and drops, pearl; necklace, the French neglige. Gloves, French kid, worn below the elbow, and trimmed with a quilling of tull. Sandals, white kid.” From Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1815).

1815 - Walking dress:
“Pelisse, of walking length, composed of blue twilled sarsnet, fastened down the front with large bows of white satin ribbon, and ornamented at the feet with a border of leaves formed of the same sarsnet, edged with white satin: the bottom of the pelisse, trimmed with white satin, is drawn into small festoons; sleeve ornamented at the shoulder and the hand to correspond; a French embroidered ruff. A French hat composed of the blue twilled sarsnet, trimmed with white satin edged with blue, and decorated with a large plume of ostrich feathers. An Indian silk shawl of crimson silk, richly embroidered in shaded silks. The pocket-handkerchief French cambric, embroidered at the corners. Shoes, blue morocco, tied with bows high upon the instep. Stockings with embroidered clocks. Gloves, York tan.” ‪From Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1815).

1816 - Carriage costume: “A velvet pelisse of bright carmine red, superbly trimmed with ermine; the tops of the sleeves caught up à-la-Mancheron, with rich military silk chain work, the colour of the pelisse. Russian hussar cap of ermine, ornamented with gold military chain. Limerick gloves and half-boots or shoes of kid, of a correspondent colour.” From La Belle Assemblée (Dec 1816)

1816 - Promenade dress: “A high dress of cambric muslin trimmed at the bottom with a single flounce of work. The body, which is composed entirely of work, fits the shape without any fulness. A plain long sleeve, finished by a triple fall of narrow lace. Over this dress is worn the Angouleme pelisse, composed of crimson velvet, lined with white sarsnet, and trimmed with a single welt of crimson satin, a shade lighter than the pelisse. The body is made exactly to the shape; the back is of course a moderate breadth, and without fulness; for the form of the front we refer our readers to our print; it is confined at the waist, which is very short, by a narrow velvet band, edged to correspond. A small collar, of a novel and pretty shape, stands up and supports a rich lace ruff, which is worn open in front of the throat. The sleeve has very little fulness, and that little is confined at the wrist by three narrow bands of puckered satin. Bonnet à la Royale, composed of white satin, very tastefully intermixed with a large bunch of fancy flowers, and tied under the chin by a white satin ribbon, which is brought in a bow to the left side; a full quilling of tulle finishes the front. Black silk ridicule, exquisitely worked in imitation of the ends of an Indian shawl, and trimmed with black silk fringe. White kid gloves, and black walking shoes.” ‪From Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1816).

1817 - Walking dress:
“A high dress composed of bombazeen; the bottom of the skirt is ornamented with black crape, disposed in a very novel style. The body, which is made tight to the shape, wraps across to the right side; it is adorned in a very novel style with pipings of black crape disposed like braiding, and finished by rosettes of crape, in the centre of each of which is a small jet ornament. Long sleeve, tastefully finished at the wrist to correspond with the body, and surmounted by a half sleeve of a new form trimmed with crape. A high standing collar partially displays a mourning ruff. Claremont bonnet, so called because it is the same shape as the one recently worn by the Princess: it is composed of black crape over black sarsnet, and is lined with double white crape. The crown is rather low, the front large, and ornamented by a bunch of crape flowers placed to one side. Black shamoy gloves, and black shoes.” From Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1817).

Late Regency: 1817-1820

1817 - Evening dress: “A black crape frock over a black sarsnet slip. The skirt of the frock is finished by full flounces of the fashionable chevaux de frise trimming. The body, which is cut very low round the bust, is elegantly decorated with jet beads. Short full sleeve, ornamented to correspond with the body. The hair is much parted in front, so as to display the forehead, and dressed lightly at each side of the face; the hind hair is drawn up quite tight behind. Head-dress a jet comb, to the back of which is affixed a novel and elegant mourning ornament; and a long black crape veil placed at the back of the head, which falls in loose folds round the figure, and partially shades the neck. Ear-rings, necklace, and cross of jet. Black shamoy gloves, and black slippers.” From Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1817).

1818 - Evening dress: “A black crape dress over a black sarsnet slip; the body is cut very low and square round the bust, and is tight to the shape; it is trimmed round the bottom and the back with a rouleau of crape intermixed with jet beads; this trimming does not go round the shoulders. The bottom of the waist is finished by rounded tabs. Long sleeve, made very loose, and finished at the band by a rouleau to correspond with the bosom; the fulness of the sleeve is disposed on the shoulder in puffs, which are interspersed with jet beads, some of which also confine it across the arm: this forms a new and elegant style of half-sleeve. The bottom of the skirt is cut in broad scollops, the edges of which are ornamented with narrow black fancy trimming, and an embroidery of crape roses, with branches of crape leaves disposed between each; a second row of this trimming is laid on at a little distance from the first. The front hair is much parted on the forehead, and disposed in light loose ringlets, which fall over each ear. The hind hair is braided, and brought round the crown of the head. Head-dress, a long veil placed at the back of the head, and an elegant jet ornament, consisting of a rose and aigrette, which is also placed far back. Shamois leather gloves and shoes. Ear-rings, necklace and cross, jet.” From Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1818). ‪

1818 - A "fancy mourning dinner dress": “White crape with pointed festoons of the same, fastened at each point by black rosettes, and folds of black satin placed above and below the festoons. Black satin Canezou spenser, elegantly ornamented with white crape. Frederica hat of white crape, surmounted by a plume of black feathers. Necklace of jet; black gloves and slippers.” From La Belle Assemblée (Dec 1818).

1819 - Parisian evening costume: “Dress of gros-d’Eté of a faded violet colour, with white satin sleeves; and ornamented round the border and bust with rich gauze en carreaux, set in separate squares. Buffont sash of white silk net, fastened on the left side. White satin dress hat ornamented with violets, and a superb plume of marabout feathers. Necklace and bracelets of rubies, set in gold à-l’Antique. White satin slippers, and white kid gloves.” From La Belle Assemblée (Dec 1819).

1820 - An English walking dress: “Round dress of fine cambric, with broad honeycomb border, surmounted by two narrow full quilled flounces of the same material. Fichu spencer of black satin or velvet; the fichu points edged round with a rich cordon of black and pink entwined, and terminating by a pink tassel: the tops of the sleeves and cuffs trimmed to correspond. Long elastic scarf of pink net, with very rich white silk tassels. Bonnet to answer the spencer, with battlement edge of pink satin, and ornamented with a small plume of black ostrich feathers; from which depends, on the left side, a beautiful pleureuse feather. Black satin slippers, Limerick gloves, and pink ridicule.” From La Belle Assemblée (Dec 1820).

1820 - Evening dress:
“Round dress of celestial blue gros-de-Naples, made partially high, and trimmed down the front and round the border with Jabots volans, with satin rouleaux between the surrounding Jabots. (A drapery scarf shawl of Lyonese silk is often thrown in graceful folds over this dress.) Hat of quadrille gauze of celestial blue and black, with superb plumage of blue marabout feathers: the hair arranged underneath à-l’Anglaise, with a white satin bow in front. Necklace and ear-rings of rubies: carved ivory fan dyed yellow, with a space left white, which is elegantly painted en medallion. Shoes of blue gros-de-Naples, and white kid long gloves.” From La Belle Assemblée (Dec 1820).

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes clean/Christian historical romance set in the time of Jane Austen. She has been sharing her research on this blog since 2011. Rachel lives in the beautiful Georgian seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew.

Find out more about Rachel's books and sign up for her newsletter here.

If you have enjoyed this blog and want to encourage me and help me to keep making my research freely available, please buy me a virtual cup of coffee by clicking the button below.


Sources used include:
Ackermann, Rudolph, The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics (various)
Bell, John, La Belle Assemblée (John Bell, 1806-1837, London)

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The blacksmith's shop at Gretna Green - a Regency History guide

Anvil in the main marriage room of the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
Anvil in the main marriage room of the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
Where is Gretna Green?

Gretna Green is a village in the Scottish county of Dumfries and Galloway, just over the border from England.

What is so special about Gretna Green?

Gretna Green is famous for the huge number of couples who eloped there to get married. After Hardwicke’s Marriage Act came into force in 1754, couples under the age of 21 needed parental consent to get married. As this law did not apply in Scotland, couples who wanted to wed without this consent fled to the border and were married before their parents could stop them. As the first village in Scotland on the main post road from London, Gretna Green became a popular destination for eloping couples.

You can read more about why people ran away to Gretna in my earlier post: Why did Regency lovers elope to Gretna Green?

The blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
The blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
The blacksmith’s shop

Many of the runaway couples were married over the anvil in the blacksmith’s shop. The handfasting (1) ceremony was conducted by one of the self-appointed ‘anvil priests’ who would bring his hammer down on the anvil as he completed the marriage ceremony. It was a very lucrative business. The eloping couples were typically well off and in such a hurry to get married that the anvil priest could charge a substantial fee for obliging them. Once the ceremony had taken place, the marriage was legally binding.

The main marriage room in the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
The main marriage room in the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
The anvil priests

The most famous anvil priests during the Georgian period were:

Joseph Paisley (anvil priest 1754-1814)

Joseph Paisley was an ex-tobacconist and smuggler, renowned for his strength. He became a blacksmith, but quickly recognised that it was more lucrative to marry eloping couples and became one of the first blacksmith priests in 1754. Despite becoming immensely fat and addicted to drink, he continued to conduct marriage ceremonies until his death in 1814.

David Lang (anvil priest 1792-1827)

David Lang was Paisley’s nephew. He was pressganged into the British Navy as a young man and then captured by the American pirate John Paul Jones and made part of his crew. He escaped from Jones’ ship when it was near the Solway coast, swimming to the shore near Gretna.

In 1792, he became a rival blacksmith priest and was known as Bishop Lang because of the clerical style of dress he adopted. Like his uncle, he had a reputation for drinking too much. He was the anvil priest responsible for marrying Ellen Turner to her abductor, Edward Gibbon Wakefield, in the notorious Shrigley abduction and gave evidence at the trial in 1827. He died the same year.

David Lang - picture from the blacksmith's museum, Gretna Green (2015)
David Lang - picture from the blacksmith's
museum, Gretna Green (2015)
Simon Lang (anvil priest 1827-1872)

Simon Lang was David Lang’s son and took over from his father in 1827. When the number of marriages started decreasing, he supplemented his income from the wedding business with weaving and smuggling, but he continued as an anvil priest until his death in 1872.

Robert Elliot (anvil priest 1814-1840)

Robert Elliot was a farmer’s son who worked for a stagecoach company. In 1811, he married Paisley’s granddaughter, Ann Graham, in the parish church at Gretna Green. He became Paisley’s assistant in the marriage business and took over from him on his death in 1814. 

In his memoirs, Elliot claimed to have performed between 4,000 and 8,000 marriage ceremonies before he retired from the business in 1840. However, some of the other facts in his memoirs were clearly wrong, so it is hard to know how accurate this figure is and impossible to confirm one way or the other as his registers, and those of Paisley, were destroyed in a fire.

The end of runaway marriages

Travelling chariot in the museum at the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
Travelling chariot in the museum at the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
In 1856, the Marriage (Scotland) Act was passed which changed the law in Scotland. At least one of the people getting married now had to live in Scotland for a minimum of 21 days before they could get married. There was still no need of parental consent for underage couples, but the residency requirement made runaway matches much less appealing as parents had plenty of time to catch their errant offspring. 

The number of eloping couples dwindled and Gretna Green’s once thriving marriage industry petered away.

The blacksmith’s shop gets a new lease of life

Sign on blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
Sign on blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
It is unlikely that we would be so familiar with the Gretna Green story if it wasn’t for Hugh Mackie. Back in the 1880s, he bought the Gretna estate, including the famous blacksmith’s shop, and founded the family business which still runs Gretna Green today, promoting it as a romantic tourist spot. 

The blacksmith’s shop remained a popular wedding venue until 1940 when an Act of Parliament made handfasting (1) ceremonies illegal, though some couples still liked to have a blessing over the anvil. 

Today, the blacksmith’s shop at Gretna Green is once again in high demand as a romantic place to get married with over 1000 weddings taking place there every year. Scottish law now allows couples to get married over the anvil in either a religious or civil ceremony and, since the residency requirement no longer applies (2), Gretna Green is the obvious romantic destination for eloping couples.

Arch outside the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
Arch outside the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
What can you see today?

The blacksmith’s shop is part museum, part wedding venue. The museum is not expensive, but when I walked into the room initially, I was somewhat disappointed. There are a number of signboards telling the Gretna Green story, together with a couple of room sets (including one with a spinning wheel set up some years ago by my mother-in-law), a few costumes and various documents displayed on the walls.

The museum at the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
The museum at the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
A room depicting a household scene with a spinning wheel set up by my mother-in-law in the blacksmith's shop museum, Gretna Green (2015)
A room depicting a household scene with a spinning wheel set up by
my mother-in-law in the blacksmith's shop museum, Gretna Green (2015)
At the end of the room is the way through to the anvil room. While we were parking our car, we saw one couple who had just been married, but by the time we were in the museum, another ceremony was already in progress. We were told that people were only allocated half hour slots!

Between weddings (there was another wedding group waiting to come in!), we had a few brief moments in the anvil room, enabling us to grab a few pictures. At this stage, I decided that the few pounds I had paid were probably worth it. After all, I had managed to see where the famous runaway weddings had taken place.

With my hand on the anvil at the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
With my hand on the anvil
at the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
But there was more to come. Beyond the entrance to the anvil room, there were more marriage rooms, each with their own anvil. There are a lot of anvils in Gretna, both inside and out!

Another marriage room in the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
Another marriage room in the
blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
And the museum continued. There was a collection of horse-drawn vehicles, including a travelling chariot (shown above), a barouche, a Brougham and a stagecoach. I was not expecting this and it was a lovely surprise.

Barouche, blacksmith's shop museum, Gretna Green (2015)
Barouche, blacksmith's shop museum, Gretna Green (2015)
Brougham, blacksmith's shop museum, Gretna Green (2015)
Brougham, blacksmith's shop museum, Gretna Green (2015)
Stagecoach, blacksmith's shop museum, Gretna Green (2015)
Stagecoach, blacksmith's shop museum, Gretna Green (2015)
Outside, there are various shops and the newest attraction—the Courtship Maze. Not much to look at yet, but I expect it will prove to be a nice addition to the complex when the hedges are fully grown.

Entrance to Courtship Maze, Gretna Green (2015)
Entrance to Courtship Maze, Gretna Green (2015)
If you are looking for a romantic and historic venue for a wedding, what better place than Gretna Green!

Rear entrance into courtyard outside the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
Rear entrance into courtyard outside
the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes clean/Christian Regency era romance and historical non-fiction. She has been sharing her research on this blog since 2011. Rachel lives in the beautiful Georgian seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew.

Find out more about Rachel's books and sign up for her newsletter here.

If you have enjoyed this blog and want to encourage me and help me to keep making my research freely available, please buy me a virtual cup of coffee by clicking the button below.

(1) A handfasting ceremony simply required a couple to declare their intention to marry in front of witnesses and was a legal form of marriage in Scotland until 1940.
(2) The residency requirement established by the 1856 Marriage (Scotland) Act requiring at least one party to a marriage to live in Scotland for 21 days before the wedding could take place was abolished in 1977.

Sources used include:
Glasgow University website
Gretna Green website
Parliament website

All photographs ©

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Why did Regency lovers elope to Gretna Green?

A travelling chariot in the museum at Gretna Green
A travelling chariot in the museum at Gretna Green (2015)
If you’ve read many Regency romances, then you are probably familiar with the notion of couples eloping to Gretna Green. But why did couples need to go all the way to Scotland to get married?

The problem of irregular marriages

It all started with Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753. Before this Act came into force, although most people were married in church and subject to the rules laid down by the Church of England, this was not legally necessary. 

According to the Church’s rules, marriages had to take place in the church of the parish where one or both people getting married were living. Either banns had to be read—that is, the intention to marry had to be publicly announced in the church prior to the wedding—or the couple had to procure a license to marry. 

However, as long as the marriage was conducted by an Anglican clergyman, it was still legal, even if all the other conditions were not met!

The Fleet Prison from Ackermann's Microcosm of London (1808-10)
The Fleet Prison from Ackermann's Microcosm of London (1808-10)
As a result, there was a roaring trade in irregular marriages, particularly at the Fleet Prison in London, where imprisoned clergymen were happy to marry couples at any time of day or night, provided the price was right.

Another popular, but not quite so disreputable location, was St George’s Chapel, Hyde Park Corner, which seems to have been built for the express purpose of conducting irregular marriages. According to the marriage register of St George’s Chapel, an incredible 61 couples were married on 24 March 1754, eager to escape the restrictions that would be imposed by Hardwicke’s Act which came into force the following day (1).

St George's Chapel, Mayfair c1761 from Mayfair and Belgravia: being an historical account of the parish of St George, Hanover Square by G Clinch (1892)
St George's Chapel, Mayfair c1761
from Mayfair and Belgravia: being an historical
account of the parish of St George, Hanover Square
by G Clinch (1892)
Hardwicke’s Marriage Act 1753

Hardwicke’s Marriage Act was devised to put a stop to these irregular marriages. 

The Act required that:
• All marriages had to take place in the parish church of one of the parties getting married and be performed by the minister of that church.
• All marriages had to take place in a public ceremony.
• All marriages had to take place during daylight hours.
• Anyone under the age of 21 wanting to get married had to have parental consent. Formal consent had to be given before a marriage license could be issued and an objecting parent had the right to forbid the banns. However, if the banns were read without challenge, it did not make the marriage illegal even if the parents were against the marriage.
• Marriages could only take place after giving three weeks’ notice of the intention to marry, that is, the banns being read in the parish church for three times before the wedding took place. Marriages without banns required a marriage license. This was more expensive and could only be acquired from a bishop or archbishop.

These rules made it virtually impossible for those under 21 to be married without their parents’ permission.

Scottish marriage law

But crucially for the Gretna Green story, Hardwicke’s Marriage Act only applied in England and Wales. It did not apply in Scotland. The Scottish government was encouraged to adopt the same law, but it did not.

Sign saying Scotland Welcomes You

It was still possible for those aged under 21 to be legally married in Scotland without their parents’ permission. In fact, Scottish law allowed boys as young as 14 and girls as young as 12 to be married. No parental consent was required and the marriage did not have to be consummated to be valid. 

By travelling into Scotland, underage lovers from England could still get married without parental consent. 

Another group of people who took advantage of the more relaxed marriage laws in Scotland were Dissenters. There were special dispensations for Jews and Quakers, but not for non-conformists and some chose to make the journey to Scotland rather than get married in a Church of England church.

Why Gretna Green?

A new trade developed along the Scottish border providing swift marriages for couples eloping from England. The most famous location for these runaway marriages was the blacksmith’s shop at Gretna Green, but other popular places in the Scottish Borders included the toll house on the Scottish side of Coldstream Bridge and the toll house at Lamberton.

Sign saying Welcome to Gretna

Graitney, more familiarly known as Gretna, was the first village in Scotland on the main post road from London. The blacksmith’s shop was ideally located as one of the first buildings that an eloping couple came to.

The blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green
The blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
All that was required for a marriage in Scotland to be legal was a declaration in front of witnesses. Couples arriving at the blacksmith’s shop in Gretna Green were married by a self-appointed ‘anvil priest’ – not a clergyman, but an entrepreneur who could see that conducting runaway marriages was big business. As the eloping couples were typically rich and in a great hurry to be married, the anvil priest could charge whatever he liked and the couple would probably pay. 

The anvil priest conducted a short hand-holding ceremony over the anvil in front of two witnesses and pronounced the couple man and wife. If the couple had arrived without witnesses, the anvil priest would obligingly provide them.

Marriage room at the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
Marriage room at the blacksmith's shop, Gretna Green (2015)
Famous Gretna weddings

One of the most famous marriages to take place at Gretna Green was between Sarah Anne Child and John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland, which took place on 20 May 1782. Sarah Anne’s father, Robert Child, chased the couple all the way to Scotland, but failed to prevent the marriage. He was so angry that he cut his daughter out of his will, determined that no Earl of Westmorland should benefit from his wealth. As a result, his fortune passed to his eldest granddaughter, Sarah Child Villiers, Countess of Jersey.

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes clean/Christian Regency era romance and historical non-fiction. She has been sharing her research on this blog since 2011. Rachel lives in the beautiful Georgian seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew.

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(1) The Gretna Green website states that Hardwicke's Marriage Act came into force a day later, on 26 March 1754.

Sources used include:
Armytage, George J, The Register of Baptisms and Marriages at St George's Chapel, May Fair (1889)
Clinch, George, Mayfair and Belgravia: being an historical account of the parish of St George, Hanover Square (1892)

Glasgow University website
Gretna Green website
Parliament website

Photographs ©

Friday, 20 November 2015

Rowlandson’s comic art at the Queen’s Gallery, London - 2016 exhibition

Doctor Convex and Lady Concave
by Thomas Rowlandson (1802)
Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) was one of the greatest caricaturists of his time. The exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery – High Spirits – was all about his comic art and included nearly 100 of his prints and drawings. The exhibition ended on 14 February 2016, but you can still enjoy it on this blog.

High Spirits exhibition at the Queen's Gallery,
Buckingham Palace, London
Here is the promotional video for the exhibition narrated by Brian Blessed. It is a lovely introduction to the subject of Thomas Rowlandson's art and caricatures in general.

There is a comprehensive book that accompanies the exhibition which includes all the prints and pictures on display (and a few more besides) together with the background and provenance for each.
The fashion for caricatures

Before I start telling you about the exhibition, I have a confession to make. I am not a huge fan of caricatures—they are very Georgian, but not always to my taste. Rowlandson’s cartoons are often quite ugly and frequently bawdy. However, I appreciate their cleverness even when I’m not keen on the pictures and I did find some prints in the exhibition that I liked.

A wall of Rowlandson prints at the exhibition
Caricatures were a great source of amusement to rich and poor alike. It was fashionable to collect prints and display them on a wall or screen or keep them in an album. Showing off your print collection was a popular after dinner entertainment. If you couldn’t afford to build up your own portfolio, then you could hire one from a print shop for the evening to share with your guests. If that was beyond your means, you could still enjoy spotting the royals and politicians lampooned in cartoon form by gazing at the latest prints on display in the print shop window.

I'm looking at a screen at the exhibition covered
 with cut-outs of Thomas Rowlandson prints
 which dates from c1806
A close-up of the print screen shown above
Everyday life

Many of Rowlandson’s prints were social satires – taking a humorous view of daily life and topics that were in the news. Rowlandson was fond of depicting opposites - such as Doctor Convex and Lady Concave at the top of the page and the very streamlined outline of Buck's Beauty contrasting with the curves of Rowlandson's Connoisseur below.

Buck's Beauty and Rowlandson's Connoisseur
by Thomas Rowlandson (c1799)
Three Principal Requisites to form a Modern Man of Fashion
by Thomas Rowlandson (1814)
Overset by Thomas Rowlandson (c1790)
Rowlandson delighted in caricaturing current events, such as the news that Richard Brinsley Sheridan was going to pull down the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane in order to build a bigger one. Rowlandson depicted this as the theatre tumbling down during a performance.

Chaos is Come Again! by Thomas Rowlandson (1791)
Ridiculing the royals

George III and his family were frequently the subject of Rowlandson’s cartoons. His caricatures included prints about George III's illness of 1788-9; George, Prince of Wales' bad behaviour; and the Mrs Clarke scandal of 1809 involving the Duke of York. During the Mrs Clarke scandal, Rowlandson produced an incredible 27 caricatures in little over 6 weeks!

Money Lenders [featuring the young George IV]
by Thomas Rowlandson (1784)
Suitable Restrictions [for a regency] by Thomas Rowlandson (1789)
Yorkshire Hieroglyphics by Thomas Rowlandson (1809)
[depicting a love letter from the Duke of York to Mrs Clarke in pictures]
A York address to the Whale. Caught lately off Gravesend.
[The Duke of York pleads with the whale to distract the public
from the Mrs Clarke scandal] by Thomas Rowlandson (1809)
Political satire

Rowlandson began producing political caricatures around 1780. The battle between the Whigs led by Fox and the Tories led by Pitt gave ample scope for his wicked wit. His series of prints on the Westminster Election of 1784, published by William Humphrey, was particularly successful, firmly establishing him as one of the leading satirists of his day.

The Devonshire or Most Approved Method of Securing Votes
by Thomas Rowlandson (1784)
 Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, is shown kissing a butcher
 in order to secure his vote for Fox.
Views of England and other works of art

In addition to all the caricatures, a number of Rowlandson's other works were on display. These included book illustrations from Ackermann’s Microcosm of London and An excursion to Brighthelmstone made in the year 1789. This volume included what was probably my favourite picture in the whole exhibition – that of the bathing machines at Brighton pictured below.

Bathing Machines by Thomas Rowlandson in An excursion
to Brighthelmstone made in the year 1789 by H Wigstead (1790)
Christie's Auction Room from The Microcosm of London
published by R Ackermann (1808)and illustrated by Augustus
Pugin [the architecture] and Thomas Rowlandson [the people].
The paintings in the exhibition included this one, featuring George III returning from a hunting trip.

King George III returning from hunting through Eton
by Thomas Rowlandson (c1800)
A Georgian connection with the Dutch paintings

Having examined the Rowlandson exhibition thoroughly, we decided to take a quick look round the exhibition of Dutch paintings which ran alongside it. Although these were pre-Georgian, mostly dating from the 17th century, there was a Georgian connection. Many of the paintings were acquired by George IV and prints of various rooms in Carlton House and Windsor Castle from Pyne’s The History of the Royal Residences showed the paintings had been displayed. One or two of the paintings in the exhibition were even identifiable in the prints.

An Old Woman called The Artist's Mother
by Rembrandt van Rijn (1627)
The King's Drawing Room, Windsor Castle
from The History of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819).
The Old Woman is on display to the right of the doorway.
There was also a small selection of Sèvres porcelain on display.

Chocolatière from the Sèvres
porcelain factory (1777)
Acquired by George IV in 1815.
Pot-pourri à vaisseau or pot-pourri en navire
from the Sèvres porcelain factory (1758-9).
It is extremely likely that this item was originally
owned by Madame de Pompadour,
mistress of King Louis XV of France.
In summary, High Spirits was a great little exhibition and the exhibition book details all the works of art on display.

All photos © except Money Lenders and The Devonshire © The Royal Collection.
All prints and objects © HM Queen Elizabeth II.