The tale of Elizabeth Smith (and her second husband’s first wife’s first husband), 1766

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The tale of Elizabeth Smith (and her second husband’s first wife’s first husband), 1766

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The History of Love

Sometimes, when trawling through historical records, a researcher comes across personal stories that seem destined for Hollywood. Take this dramatic tale of romance triumphing against all the odds, featuring sexually-charged teenage servants, illegimate pregnancy, forced separation, triple bigamy, a few deaths, and a gouty clergyman in a sedan chair. All in that world-renowned town of passion and enchantment… Bicester.

Before I offer a summary of events, take a deep breath and…:

one

two

 – Oxford Journal, Saturday 3 May 1766


So, the script runs thus:

– Plucky young Buckinghamshire barmaid Elizabeth Smith [interesting that she is the only party named in this story] falls pregnant, and also falls for one of her fellow servants (it is unclear in what order these two events occur).

– Although he is under age (then 21) the couple wed, only to be cruelly wrenched apart by his somewhat unimpressed friends and their respect for the recently-introduced marriage law.

– She embarks upon a friendless journey…

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