Untold lives blog

14 February 2013

Marry in haste? Not us!

Thinking of proposing marriage this Valentine’s Day?  Afraid of being too hasty?  You could always agree to have a long engagement.  Here are some examples taken from British Library Newspapers of couples who delayed tying the knot for many years.

In 1864, 26 year old Jacob Schwartz said goodbye to Freda Schmidt, aged 25, and left Germany to seek his fortune in America. He promised to come back. She promised to wait. In 1929, just 65 years later, Jacob, 91, cabled Freda, 90, to tell her to prepare for their wedding as he was sailing back to Germany.

  A fly and bee getting marriedA fly and bee getting married. BL,11646.h.32.  Images Online     Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

On 19 September 1822, William Bretherton, an ‘amorous and constant swain’ aged 64, married Ellen Taylor aged 62 after an ‘undeviating’ courtship of 44 years and 7 months. The pair enjoyed nearly 14 years of marriage in Leyland Lancashire before William’s death in June 1834. Ellen survived him by 2½ years.

Our next long engagement unfortunately had a tragic ending. In March 1906, John Reynolds had been engaged to Ellen Charles for 25 years.  He committed suicide on the railway near Cheltenham having kissed Ellen goodbye twice earlier that day.  A note was found on his body which bequeathed all his possessions to his ‘dearest friend’ Ellen.

Let’s end on a happier note.  It was reported in September 1900 that a couple in Cincinnati had been engaged for 15 years. The marriage had been delayed not through the bridegroom being ‘a laggard in love’ nor because of any ‘undue coyness’ on behalf of the bride. There simply had been no time during that 15 years when both were out of prison at the same time.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records 

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive
Stories taken from:
Western Daily Press 31 August 1929
Lancaster Gazette 5 October 1822
Worcester Journal 10 October 1822
Westmorland Gazette 26 October 1822
Dundee Courier 14 April 1906
Huddersfield Chronicle 20 September 1900


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