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Gretna Green in United Kingdom

“Village just over the border into Scotland which benefited -in accordance to Bamber Gascoigne´ Encyclopedia of Britain about “Gretna Green”– greatly from the Marriage Act of 1753, prohibiting in England ‘clandestine’ marriages – meaning those solemnized outside authorized Christian places of worship. Also known as Fleet marriages, such ceremonies had traditionally been conducted by clergy who were in the Fleet prison for debt. It was this abuse which was now stopped. Scottish law required only a declaration in front of witnesses, and the blacksmith’s anvil at Gretna Green became the fashionable location for runaway couples. From 1856 a new law required one of the pair to live in Scotland for three weeks, and in 1940 these marriages were declared illegal. But the anvil is still there and is still a powerful centre of attraction.”

Meaning of Gretna-green

The following is an old definition of Gretna-green [1]: A ” Gretna-Green marriage ” was a marriage solemnized in Scotland by parties who went there to avoid the delay and formalities required in England. Gretna-Green, being the nearest place across the boundary line, was the more generally resorted to. Statute of 19 and 20 Vict. (18S6), c. 96, requires that at least one of the parties shall have his or her usual place of residence in Scotland, or shall have lived there twenty-one days preceding the marriage. In the United States, the term describes marriages celebrated between residents of a State who go to a place beyond and yet near to the boundary line of an adjoining State, on account of some advantage afforded by the law of that State.

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Notes and References

  1. Concept of Gretna-green provided by the Anderson Dictionary of Law (1889) (Dictionary of Law consisting of Judicial Definitions and Explanations of Words, Phrases and Maxims and an Exposition of the Principles of Law: Comprising a Dictionary and Compendium of American and English Jurisprudence; William C. Anderson; T. H. Flood and Company, Law Publishers, Chicago, United States)


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Anthony J. Bland, 'Gretna-green' (lawi.org.uk 2017) <https://lawi.org.uk/gretna-green/> accesed 2021 June 22

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Schema Summary

  • Article Name: Gretna-green
  • Author: Anthony J. Bland
  • Description: Gretna Green Village just over the border into Scotland which benefited -in accordance to Bamber Gascoigne´ Encyclopedia [...]

This entry was last updated: April 21, 2017

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