In many tales of the Regency era, we hear of a couple racing to Gretna Green in Scotland to marry before being caught by the lady’s relations. At the time, marrying in Scotland was as simple as standing up before witnesses and sharing one’s desire to be wed to one’s significant other. No calling of banns. No ordinary license No special license. This type of marriage is known as a clandestine marriage, and I have spoken of it several times in previous blogs, as has some of my fellow Austen Authors:
Alexa Adams: Why Gretna Green: Marriage Over the Anvil
Regina Jeffers: Handfasting as a Means to Marriage
Regina Jeffers: Clandestine Weddings
However, one must not think such a marriage could only take place in Gretna Green. Once the couple crossed the border between England and Scotland (keeping in mind that border, for many years, was a very fluid marker), they could be married by any willing officiant at a variety of churches and locations. One such location was the Coldstream Tollbooth.
Coldstream, or to be more precise, the Toll Booth on the Scottish side of Coldstream Bridge over the River Tweed, was where many English couples went to marry. These marriages were in the main quickies and non-denominational in nature. On the English side of the bridge is the town of Cornhill, a chapelry of the parish Norham in Northumberland. The bridge itself was built by John Smeaton, of Eddystone Lighthouse fame, in 1766. The Toll House was infamous for clandestine marriages, with some 635 marriages performed there between May 1793 and July 1797 by a “Border Priest,” according to a copy of the register index found among the Parish Chest’s contents relating to Cornhill. The details in the copy register are very few, just the name of the bride and the groom, along with their parish of origin and the date of the marriage, and, for the first ten pages, the fee charged by the Border Priest.
“The majority of the marriages are between couples from parishes in the eastern Scottish Borders and north Northumberland. The first entry, on the 26th of May 1793 reads simply, “Geo. Hutchinson & Charlotte Barbary Dawson of Stockton”, who were charged two guineas for the service, for that is what it amounted to. The sixth entry, dated the 24th of August, records the union between “Thomas Henry of the Parish of Ford & Marjory Crone of the Parish of Doddington”, and they were charged only eight shillings. The usual fee seems to have been nine shillings and sixpence, however, the impression is that half a guinea was probably the prefered rate, and that desperate runaway lovers prepared to travel some distance were charged a higher rate. One wonders what the Lords Eldon, Erskine and Broughton of their day were charged, as all were married at Coldstream Bridge and, remarkably, all three subsequently became Lord Chancellors of England!” [NDFHS: Coldstream Bridge Marriages 1793-1797”]
In part of my tale, Courting Lord Whitmire, Miss Verity Coopersmith is sent away to Hull to marry a man her relations have chosen so that they might control both her and her younger brother’s fortune and title. Obviously, my hero, who is slow to admit his fascination with the woman, cannot permit this to happen. After kidnapping from her under the noses of her relations, they must race to the Scottish border, but not to Gretna Green, for Hull is on the eastern coast of England, where Gretna Green is in the western part of Scotland. Colonel Lord Andrew Whitmire chooses Coldstream, for the Coldstream Guards, the oldest regiment in the British Army (originating in Coldstream, Scotland, in 1650), were part of those with whom he served during the Napoleonic Wars, meaning he held “friends” in the area, if he required their assistance. Do you not just love it when a story comes together? Sizzle!!! [Coldstream Guards]
Available Today! Only $0.99
FREE on Kindle Unlimited.
At the bend of the path, an unexpected meeting.
She is all May. He is December.
But loves knows not time.
COLONEL LORD ANDREW WHITMIRE has returned to England after spending fifteen years in service to his country. In truth, he would prefer to be anywhere but home. Before he departed England, his late wife, from an arranged marriage, had cuckolded him in a scandal that had set Society’s tongues wagging. His daughter, Matilda, who was reared by her grandfather, enjoys calling him “Father” in the most annoying ways. Unfortunately, his future is the viscountcy, and Andrew knows his duty to both title and child. He imagines himself the last of his line until he encounters MISS VERITY COOPERSMITH, the niece of his dearest friend, the man who had saved Andrew’s life at Waterloo. Miss Coopersmith sets Whitmire’s world spinning out of control. She is truly everything he did not know he required in his life. However, she is twenty-two years his junior, young enough to be his daughter, but all he can think is she is absolute perfection.
Excerpt from Chapter Two:
Andrew smiled as he recalled his encounter with Miss Coopersmith. He had dreamed about her last evening, and not in a manner of which the lady would have approved. She possessed eyes in which a man could lose himself and a body both soft and inviting. He had repeatedly told himself his reaction to the woman’s femininity rested purely in the fact it had been months since he had spent even an hour in the company of an attractive woman and even longer since he had shared the bed of a tempting female, instead of the fact the woman was one of the handsomest females of his acquaintance.
At first glance, he knew immediately she was more than pretty. Despite the wet hair and muddy clothes, Andrew had never seen someone so captivating. Her form was curvy, despite being quite slender, and her hair was the shade of wheat that had ripened in the field. Her eyes as green as an emerald, but when he had squatted before her to examine her injury, even in the shadows of a rain-soaked day, he had noticed the flecks of gold surrounding the irises. Yet, it was none of those most enticing features that had attracted him to her. Instead, it was the coruscating energy that swirled about her and which had invaded his being when he had touched her. Miss Coopersmith was certainly not the type of young woman he would expect to discover in a London drawing room, for she could not be considered insipid, by any meaning of the word. She was bold spoken, a bit reckless, and supremely indifferent, and the lady had made him feel more alive in those few stolen moments he had held her in his arms than he had felt in years.
“Just a reaction to a comely female in my arms,” he silently warned the abrupt hitch in his breathing. For not the first time since yesterday’s encounter, Andrew once again told himself that although he felt only a modicum of affection for Mrs. Louisa Wentworth, perhaps he should have married the woman when he had had the opportunity. While serving with the Hudson Bay Company in what was known as Rupert’s Land, he and the lady had “kept company” for more than two years, but when she had delivered her ultimatum for him to propose or leave, Andrew had chosen the latter. As foolish as it would seem to many, after the mare’s nest his marriage had proven to be, he had assumed the philosophy that beyond the need to produce an heir to his title—a highly insensitive business, in his opinion—and not necessary, as the heir presumptive to the title was a man he admired—marriage was not a priority. Moreover, he would soon be two and forty, not an age for a man to dance the pretty for a new bride.
Even so, in his dream of Miss Coopersmith, he had seen himself as a virile young man again, enjoying the favors of a comely woman. Realizing the futility of such thoughts, he shook his head in disbelief.
“What have I done to displease you now?” his daughter asked in hurt tones.
In truth, beyond a simple response to his request to know something of her day, as Matilda rarely spoke to him during the meals they shared, he had forgotten her presence at the table. “I beg your pardon?” he responded.
“You were shaking your head in disapproval,” she challenged. Whether his daughter would enjoy the comparison or not, in her willfulness, she was very much of his nature. “As I am the only other one present, I must assume your vexation is directed to me.”
“Then you would be in error. My thoughts were not of disdain, but more of chariness,” he explained in softer tones than he customarily employed with those with whom he interacted. Although, to date, nothing appeared to soothe Matilda’s feelings of abandonment, Andrew drew upon his well-honed patience in dealing with his child. “I encountered one of our neighbors during yesterday’s storm. In her eagerness to reach home, the lady had misstepped and found herself caught by the small bog near the north woods. I lent a hand, but she was injured, nevertheless.” He paused to sip his tea, as he shoved away another jolt of lust to his mid section that appeared quite suddenly every time he thought of Miss Coopersmith, while an idea hatched for him to have a reason to call upon the lady properly. “I plan to call upon Cooper Hall during the appropriate hours to learn how the lady fares. Mayhap you would care to accompany me.”
His daughter’s nose snarled in distaste. “Why would I wish to spend an afternoon conversing with those some forty years my senior?”
Andrew’s eyebrow rose in bemusement. Matilda’s stubbornness was courtesy of his nature, but her snobbery could be laid at the feet of her mother. Years in the King’s service had taught Andrew forbearance for all, a lesson he hoped to one day instill in Matilda, especially if she were to reflect his values to Society. “Certainly, Mr. and Mrs. Coopersmith are of an age, old enough to be my parents, but, it is my opinion, you could learn much of the world from the pair. Mr. Spenser Coopersmith is a renowned historian and has traveled throughout the world. His lady wife accompanied him through most of his expeditions. They have outlived their own son and Coopersmith’s two elder brothers. Being able to speak on a variety of subjects would do you well when you finally make your Come Out, and the Coopersmiths are well received in Society.” He knew that last part was a bit of a stretch of the truth, for Spenser Coopersmith was an anomalous fellow, at best; yet, Andrew thought it would be good for Matilda to have a female friend such as Miss Coopersmith. Moreover, the Coopersmith name was well revered in England.
He had learned much of the Coopersmiths’ missing history after ceremoniously delivering their niece to the couple’s door yesterday. Although he had made a speedy exit, claiming the need for dry clothing as an excuse, he still managed to learn more of his neighbors’ recent homecoming by speaking to his estate’s steward upon Andrew’s return to Whit Manor.
“Miss Coopersmith,” he continued before Matilda could deny an interest in history of any kind, “is actually closer to your age.” An image of the lady’s lovely countenance easily took prominence in his mind. Andrew thought he could look upon the lady’s countenance for hours and never tire of the exercise. “Not so young as you, but, certainly, no more than a handful of years your senior. If I understand it correctly, Miss Coopersmith and her brother were sired by Murdoch Coopersmith and the gentleman’s second wife. The brother is away at university. He will be the new baron when he reaches his majority.”
Matilda paused as if considering his offer, but, in the end, she said, “Perhaps you might ask Miss Coopersmith if Mrs. Baldwin and I might call on her on Thursday.”
Andrew had hoped for a different outcome, but his daughter’s concession was within reason, and so he said, “Most assuredly. If you change your mind, I mean to leave at eleven. You are most welcome to share my curricle.”
NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY! I have three eBook copies of Courting Lord Whitmire available to those who comment below. The giveaway ends at midnight EST, Thursday, March 26, 2020. The winners will be announced on Sunday, March 29.
NOTE! For another chance to win and another excerpt, visit my blog today and Wednesday. reginajeffers.blog