Vidal, of course, eventually married at the British Embassy in Paris and it is more than likely that the Duke of Avon also arranged for a second ceremony there when he returned to Paris with his new wife. But for both couples, as for all other British couples who married abroad prior to March 1816, the record of their marriage was not kept at home. Should marriage lines be lost, the only way to prove the ceremony had taken place was by appealing to the relevant Anglican chaplaincy abroad in the hope that proper records had been maintained.
The aftermath of the fall of Napoleon saw British troops stationed in France and a rush of British travellers to the continent with a resulting increase in demand for these chaplaincies’ services. On 23 March 1816 the Deputy Registrar of the Bishop of London, who was responsible for foreign chaplaincies, inserted the following notice in The London Gazette, The Times and The Morning Chronicle:
FOREIGN MARRIAGES, &c. &c.
Bishop of London's Registry, No. 3", Godliman Street, Doctor's-Commons.
THE Lord Bishop of London having been applied to, in numerous instances, to permit foreign marriages, births, and burials' of British subjects to be recorded in his Registry, has permitted a book to be kept therein, in which the memorials of the same may be entered and preserved, at the request of such persons as are desirous thereof.
JOHN SHEPHARD, Dep. Reg.
Many returns were made by clergymen serving as chaplains at Embassies or on board ship. The first record is of a marriage at the British Embassy in Brussels on 6 April 1815 and the oldest is of a baptism in Brazil in 1788. The system of registration continued until 1924 and thirteen volumes known as the International Memoranda were filled. They are held at the Guildhall Library in London.
As an aside, according to the UK National Archives, ‘No merchant ship has ever been approved for marriages, although from 1854 any which took place had to be reported in the ship’s log. Any marriage which took place on board a merchant vessel was not legally valid.’ Looking at transcriptions of records of 219 marriages at sea from 1854 to 1972 compiled by TheShipsList from the Register of Marriages at Sea in the Public Record Office (ref: BT 334/117), it appears that shipboard marriages were generally solemnized by a clergyman and not by the ship’s Master or Captain. There is plenty of room for confusion and food for novelists there!