Saturday, September 3, 2011

September 14, 1865 --- A Romance in Real Life

A police escort is needed to lead the bride and groom through happy, cheering crowds outside All Saints, Wandsworth. The bride is 20-year old Alice Crosse, only child of a wealthy, widowed, rector from Ockham. The groom is just that, the family groom, 18-year old George Smith.

Their romantic elopement, with Alice's midnight clamber down the ivied wall of her father's rectory and their pursuit by hired detectives, had been closely followed across England. Rev. Crosse had forbidden Alice's fancy for George without success and so the groom was sacked in August. Two nights later, they ran off to London. Turned away at the Registry Office as Alice was under age to marry without parental consent, they went to Wandsworth where George had family. The trail was not hard to follow.

George was charged with abduction and robbery. Rev. Crosse claimed the young man "systematically worked upon [Alice's] feelings to dislike her home." He accused him of lusting more for Alice's inheritance, £2600, hers at age 21. The crowded Police Court fell silent when Alice took the stand. Without nervousness, she declared her love for George. Asked who made the first advance, she answered, "We were about equal"; about the elopement, "I proposed it"; about the flight to London, "I arranged it." Reversing the robbery charge, she boasted of taking George's money to pay for the train. As for her father at home, Alice insisted, "Whether George was there or not, I should have gone."

The case was remanded for a week and George given bail, the young lovers managed to convince Rev. Crosse to drop the charges. Nor would he stand in the way of their marriage, once satisfied that - in his words - "Alice returned home as intact as on the day she left." The father of the bride opts not to attend the wedding, however. At their modest reception, George and Alice appear at the window to acknowledge the crowd outside.  In the words of The Times:  "A public scandal, which has greatly shocked well-regulated minds in the genteel classes of society, but which, after brilliant sequel, will doubtless be the theme of admiring and envious comment in many a Servant's Hall."

Their married life was short as Alice died in 1871.

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