27th February 1895

Release of Reverend Harry Samuel

Reverend Harry Samuel found himself in prison after performing an illegal marriage. The young Methodist minister had married 56-year-old John Matthews and 24-year-old Louisa Carre in his living room. Neither a registrar nor a witness was present, and there couple were already related. Matthews was Carre’s uncle, and there was some question over whether he was already married.

Their marriage licence was for an Anglican union at the Church of the Holy Trinity. But the priest at that church, Rev Nassau Cathcart, had refused to proceed when he’d discovered their blood relationship.

They approached Reverend Samuel a few days later, without revealing the back story, and he’d agreed to marry them.

A terrible discovery

Harry discovered the truth of the matter the following day, and reported himself to the church authorities. Unfortunately for him, the police had also heard what had happened, and set out to arrest him and the groom.

The Committing Court heard two days of evidence against Harry and Matthews, and decided that they should stand trial. Matthews sat out the interim in prison, and Harry released on bail of £250.

The jury at their trial found against them. It jailed the groom for 12-months and Harry for six months. Harry lodged an appeal against his conviction with the Home Secretary.

Political intervention

Home Secretary Herbert Asquith, later Prime Minister, recommended Harry’s release in Parliament on 25 February. He had received a report from Guernsey on the case, which influenced his decision.

Rev Harry won his freedom at 11am on 27 February 1895, and was met at the prison gate by his wife.


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