200 Years Ago on December 30, 1816 Mary Godwin and Percy Bysshe Shelley were finally married.
If a 50th Wedding Anniversary is Golden and 6oth is Diamond, what is a 200th Wedding Anniversary? Does hallmark sell cards for that? It was at last official. The Shelleys had been in love and together since they eloped in June of 1814 and for two-and-a-half years had endured tragedy, adventure and the rejection of their families, until they could be formally married and Mary Godwin would at last become Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, retaining her mother’s maiden name, added to her husband’s.
Mary had been living with one year old infant son, William, and then pregnant step-sister Claire Claremont in Bath after their return from Geneva in August of 1816. Mary had begun her work on Frankenstein in Bath while Shelley oversaw the publishing of Bryon’s Childe Harold dealt with debts and searched for a permanent residence for them. Mary’s half-sister Fanny Imlay committed suicide in October of 1816 and soon thereafter, Percy Shelly received news that his first wife, Harriet Westbrook Shelley had been found drown in the Serpentine River of Hyde Park, in early December.
Shelley had made a new friend in publisher Leigh Hunt, and Mary and Percy would travel from Bath to London, to stay with the Leigh Hunts for only two nights. Mary had promised Claire she would return to Bath as quickly as possible as Claire was very near to term in her pregnancy with her child by Byron. The wedding, held at St Mildred’s Church (now gone) was attended by Mary’s father, William Godwin, and her step-mother Mary Jane Claremont Godwin, and the Leigh Hunts in a very small and informal ceremony. The Godwins had refused to see their daughter since 1814, but the death of Shelley first wife which allowed them to be married brought them together again, but the relationship would remain strained from Mary’s perspective, especially toward her step-mother. There would be no honeymoon. Mary would return to Bath and Percy made arrangements to secure a house in Great Marlow near his friend Thomas Peacock. Claire’s daughter Alma, (later Allegra) would be born on January 12, 1817 and the Shelleys would leave Bath for Great Marlow at the end of February of 1817.