Shana Galen
Shana Galen

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Best Of, Our Books, Research, Shana Galen

This month we’re posting our best blogs from years past. Here’s one I found with a research emphasis from the 2007 publication of Blackthorne’s Bride. I don’t write nearly enough of these!

Blackthorne's Bride--Rita Finalist for Best Historical Romance 2008

If you’ve read a few historical novels, you’re probably familiar with Gretna Green. I’ve married two of my fictional couples there, and I had so much fun researching this romantic spot.

In 1752 the English Parliament passed the Hardwicke Marriage Act, which prevented the rampant practice of clandestine marriages. These marriages were being used by unscrupulous men looking to marry an heiress and secure their fortunes. As you can imagine, the parents of these heiresses were more than slightly displeased, even more so when incidents of men being clandestinely married to three or four women came to light. Lord Chancellor Hardwicke proposed a bill to end the worst abuses of the clandestine marriages. The Hardwicke Marriage Act, as it came to be called, made elopement all but impossible in England.

Brazilian Cover for Blackthorne's Bride

So what’s a couple who lacks parental support to do?

Elope, of course! And the nearest spot was Gretna Green.

Of course a couple didn’t have to elope to Gretna Green. Boats waited at Southampton to take runaway couples to the island of Guernsey, where the clandestine marriages were legal. But Scotland was easier to access, and therefore more popular.

There are many romantic stories of prospective brides and grooms running away to Gretna Green, the bride’s father in hot pursuit. In fact, Gretna Green has built quite a reputation as a destination wedding spot off these legends.

The primary legend was that the first stop eloping couples made was the local blacksmith’s shop to be wed over the anvil by the local blacksmith—men called anvil priests. There’s probably not much truth to the legends about blacksmiths and anvils, but there were several men who made their fame and fortune marrying England’s desperate lovers. Robert Elliott was one. Some scholars speculate that Elliott married over 3000 couples.

Joseph Paisley was another anvil priest, and he was not your typical “priest.” He’d been a smuggler before he got into the marriage business, and he had a bit of a drinking problem.

Joseph Paisley

Blackthorne’s Bride, my latest novel, incorporates a story about Joseph Paisley and mixed up marriages. Take one drunk anvil priest, a father with a pistol banging on the door to the blacksmith’s shop, and two couples in a hurry, and you get…well, let’s just say that I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed taking this real-life tale and weaving it into fiction.

Read more about Blackthorne’s Bride or any of my more recent releases on my website.


14 thoughts on “The Best of Shana’s Blogs…Elopement—Regency Style

  1. Connie Fischer says:

    Thank you, Shana, for the history of Gretna Green. I’m certainly familiar with it being mentioned in novels, however, I didn’t know the background. I’m ashamed to say that I have yet to read “Blackthorne’s Bride,” however, I’m placing it on my TBR list right now. Sometimes, a novel gets missed and it’s great when we can be reminded about it!

    1. Shana Shana says:

      Connie, I remember wondering what Gretna Green was too and researching it for my first book, WHEN DASHING MET DANGER. I heard this fun story about Joseph Paisley marrying the wrong couples and knew I would have to use it in a book. And several years later, there was BLACKTHORNE’S BRIDE!

  2. I *loved* BLACKTHORNE’S BRIDE!
    In fact, I might have to re-read it now that you reminded me of it. :-)

    1. Shana Shana says:

      Thanks, Margo! It has always been one of my favorite of mine. I think it’s one of my best (and there are some I will acknowledge are not my best).

  3. Fascinating stuff, Shana. I’d heard once upon a time the custom of the ‘honeymoon’ was so the couple could get away and let the bride’s family calm down. Your blog just kind of reinforces that…. :grin:

    1. Shana Shana says:

      Ha, Will! I think if a couple eloped, the bride’s family (and possibly the groom’s) would definitely need cooling off time. I know in Blackthorne’s Bride, the father’s are chasing them and firing pistols at the potential grooms.

  4. catslady says:

    Oh, I haven’t read that one yet. I have your newer books. I glad lovers had a place like Gretna Green instead of being forced into some horrible arranged marriages.

  5. Shana Shana says:

    It’s an older book, catslady, but one of my best. Gretna Green was definitely a way to avoid unpleasant marriages, but it was also a way for lovers too young to marry without parental consent to tie the knot. And it was used by fortune hunters to marry wealthy heiresses.

  6. Elise Rome says:

    I’d love to go to Gretna Green someday, if for no other reason than I’ve read about it in so many hist rom books. And can I just say–I LOVED Blackthorne’s Bride!!! May have to do a re-read soon. =D

    1. Shana Shana says:

      I’d like to go to Gretna Green too, Elise. I think it might be kind of touristy now, though.

  7. Cindy Kirk Cindy Kirk says:

    I love to learn new information. Thanks for sharing!! Sooo interesting.

    1. Shana Shana says:

      Thanks, Cindy! It was fun to research.

  8. Gayle Cochrane says:

    Very interesting, I would have loved running off to Gretna Green to be married by an anvil priest. Looking forward to reading Blackthorne’s Bride.

    1. Shana Shana says:

      It sounds romantic, doesn’t it, Gayle? BB was one of my best books and was up for a Rita.

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