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Valentine’s Day in Tudor England

Posted By on February 14, 2011

In her book, “Pleasures & Pastimes in Tudor England”, Alison Sim writes of how the Tudors obviously did celebrate St Valentine’s Day because it is mentioned three times in the Paston Letters* in the 1470s. Apparently, “valentines were chosen by lot from among a group of friends, who then had to buy their valentine a gift.”1 Sim goes on to describe how the steward’s accounts of the household of William Petre show lengths of cloth and gold trinkets being given to valentines who were chosen by lot and that one year “one of the maids was even fortunate enough to draw Sir William himself one year, and was given a whole quarter’s extra wages as her valentine” – lucky girl!

Obviously, there is no way of knowing whether drawing of lots was a general countrywide custom, but Valentine’s Day would have been another opportunity to inject a bit of fun into the dreary English winter.

Whatever Tudor people did to celebrate Valentine’s Day, here at The Anne Boleyn Files I want to celebrate the annual day of romance by looking at the love letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn.

Here is the first letter and you can read the others at  “Henry VIII’s Love Letters to Anne Boleyn”.

IN turning over in my
mind the contents of
your last letters, I have
put myself into great
agony, not knowing how to interpret
them, whether to my disadvantage,
as you show in some places, or to my
advantage, as I understand them in
some others, beseeching you earnestly
to let me know expressly your whole
mind as to the love between us two.

It is absolutely necessary for me to
obtain this answer, having been for
above a whole year stricken with the
dart of love, and not yet sure whether
I shall fail of finding a place in your
heart and afFeftion, which last point
has prevented me for some time past
from calling you my mistress; be-
cause, if you only love me with an
ordinary love, that name is not suit-
able for you, because it denotes a sin-
gular love, which is far from com-
mon. But if you please to do the office
of a true loyal mistress and friend, and
to give up yourself body and heart to
me, who will be, and have been, your
most loyal servant, (if your rigour
does not forbid me) I promise you
that not only the name shall be given
you, but also that I will take you
for my only mistress, casting off all
others besides you outof my thoughts
and afFeftions, and serve you only. I
beseech you to give an entire answer
to this my rude letter, that I may
know on what and how far I may
depend. And if it does not please
you to answer me in writing, appoint
some place where I may have it by
word of mouth, and I will go thither
with all my heart. No more, for fear
of tiring you. Written by the hand
of him who would willingly remain
yours, H. R.

Notes and Sources

  1. Pleasures and Pastimes in Tudor England, Alison Sim
  2. “Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn”, 1906 book published by John W Luce and Company

8 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day in Tudor England”

  1. Anne Barnhill says:

    wow, I didn’t know they had any sort of celebration for Valentine’s Day in Tudor England–very cool. Thanks, Claire!

  2. Robert Parry says:

    Yes, it does brighten up the dull old winter time. From such a inauspicious beginning – the original St.Valentine being a Christian martyr – it has grown into a fine institution.
    I do like Henry’s letters too, and especially the one you chose, Claire. Fine sentiments – ‘stricken with the dart of love.’

  3. catharine says:

    ROFL at the picture of Henry witht he rose in his mouth. OMG, classic, love it.

  4. Eliza M. L. says:

    I think the love letters and poems of the Tudor period are quite lovely, as is the video. And that picture of Henry made me laugh so hard my friends think I’m nuts 🙂

  5. Laurie says:

    I love the photo too — that headpiece of Anne’s is so striking!

  6. Fiz says:

    I think you should give him some horns and a matador’s cloak as well, Claire! Very funny!

  7. Ann says:

    Claire,
    Love him with the rose!!! LOL

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