First Valentine: Lasting legacy of 500-year-old love





Love it or hate it, even the most hardened anti-Romeo will be hard pressed to avoid Valentine's Day this year. But as an exhibit at the British Library currently on show is testament to, there is a first for everything - even on Valentine's Day.

It is a letter, written from a young woman to her love, and is the first mention of the word Valentine in the English language. And, for the first time, the descendants of Margery Brews and her betrothed John Paston have been traced.

In 1477 Margery wrote a letter to her John pleading with him not to give her up, despite her parents' refusal to increase her dowry.

Addressing her "ryght welebeloued Voluntyne" (right well-beloved Valentine), she promised to be a good wife, adding: "Yf that ye loffe me as Itryste verely that ye do ye will not leffe me" (If you love me, I trust.. you will not leave me).

Her beloved might have had his mind on business, driving a hard bargain for her hand in marriage, but Margery still had her sights on romance, and so secured her place in English history....


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