A Pair of Prints Relating To Gretna Green Elopements:-
"A False Alarm on the Road to Gretna, 'tis only the Mail"
"One Mile from Gretna. Our Governor in sight,–with a screw loose!"
Engraved by Richard Gilson Reeve (1803–1889)
After Charles B. Newhouse (fl. c.1820–1836)
Etching with aquatint, hand-coloured
Published by B. Moss & Co, Leman St., Goodmans Fields
London, Circa 1838
36.6 cm x 46.8 cm (Framed)
A charming pair of characterful, time-worn 19th Century prints. Presented in antique Hogarth frames, beneath their original ripple-glass. The original colours faded to a delightful ochre and blue.
The prints relate to couples eloping to marry in Gretna Green. In England, with effect from 1753, couples wanting to be married had to reach the age of 21 before they could wed without their parents' consent, their marriage had to take place in a church and could only take place after giving three weeks’ formal notice of their intention to marry with banns being read in each of the parish churches of their places of residence before a wedding could take place. Scottish law allowed a couple to marry on-the-spot, in a simple 'marriage by declaration', or 'handfasting' ceremony, requiring only two witnesses and assurances from the couple that they were both free to marry.
This discrepancy in the law meant that English couples seeking a swift marriage without parental approval had to venture north. The first village across the border from England into Scotland was Gretna Green, which became infamous for "quickie marriages". Couples often eloped, riding north at speed to tie-the-knot - often with relatives in hot-pursuit to prevent an unwanted union from taking place. In the two prints here couples fear they will be apprehended by pursuers. In "False Alarm" they are relieved when it transpires that a following carriage is just a Mail coach (newly painted with Queen Victoria's "VR" cypher). In "One Mile from Gretna" they are relieved that the carriage following them can be seen, through a telescope, to have has broken down.
See pp.216-217 F.L.Wilder, "English Sporting Prints", London, Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1974. Illustrated p.96 ('False Alarm')
See Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection [B1985.36.744] & [B1985.36.743]
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