On this day in history : 14th February 1477 – Margery Brews sends a Valentine’s Day message to John Paston in Norfolk – it is the oldest known such message written in the English language….
The letter was uncovered by the British Library when a collection of 15th century private correspondence was bought from the Paston family in the 1930s…. The family rose from being peasants to aristocracy in just a few generations…. Clement Paston, who died in 1419, was a peasant but who had been able to give his son William a good education – enabling him to study law….
The letter was rediscovered in 1999 when curator Dr. Chris Fletcher was searching for exhibits…. Margery addresses her letter…. “Be my olde Valentine”…. She writes to her fiancé John, that she has asked her mother to try and persuade her father to increase her dowry…. But she then goes on to say that if he loves her he would marry her anyway…. Her letter begins…. “Unto my right well-beloved Valentine, John Paston, Squire be this bill delivered” …. She signed it…. “Be your Voluntyne / Margery Brews”….
Margery was a Norfolk gentlewoman and the letter was written on her behalf by Thomas Kela – a clerk of Sir Thomas Brews…. Margery and John Paston did indeed eventually marry and by all accounts went on to have two children – one of which, William, became a prominent figure at the court of King Henry VIII….
Meanwhile, the oldest printed Valentine card known was published on the 12th of January 1797 by John Fairburn of 146, Minories, London….
The card is part of the collection of York Castle Museum, York. It is a delicate piece, with piercing at the corners to resemble lace and is adorned with flowers, doves and Cupids and is hand-coloured after printing. The verse around the edge reads… “Since on this ever Happy Day, All Nature’s full of Love and Play, Yet harmless still if my design, ‘Tis but to be your Valentine”….
It was sent by Catherine Mossday to Mr. Brown of Dover Place, Kent Road, London. Her handwritten message inside reads:-
As I have repeatedly requested you to come I think you must have some reason for not complying with my request, but as I have something particular to say to you I could wish you make it all agreeable to come on Sunday next without fail and in doing you will oblige your well wisher
Intriguing! I wonder if that story had a happy ending….