First Valentine: Undying Love

Do you know when was the first mention of the word Valentine in the English language?

500 years ago in a letter, written from a young woman to her love. And, for the first time, the descendants of Margery Brews and her betrothed John Paston have been traced.

It was presented an exhibit at the British Library.

And can you imagine, they had the same “loves, desires and financial problems”

In 1477 Margery 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).

John Paston might have had his mind on business, driving a hard bargain for her hand in marriage.

“It might not necessarily be that nobody had used Valentine in any context before, but this is probably one of the first times it was written down,” says British Library curator Julian Harrison.

While romantics 534 years later might celebrate Valentine’s Day with fine dining, chocolates and flowers, Margery is left pleading with her love not to leave her while pledging her heart over all “earthly things”.

She promises her undying love: “Myne herte me bydds ever more to love yowe truly” (My heart me bids ever more to love you truly)

Like any self-respecting fairytale romance the heart did (finally) rule the head and, despite her father’s stubbornness over her dowry, Margery did marry her knight.

The couple had a son, William, in 1479. Margery died in 1495, John in 1503.

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