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Love letters have been written since ink was first put to paper.. However, billet-doux were not referred to as valentines until the early 1400’s when the Duke of Orleans, imprisoned in the Tower of London after the Battle of Agincourt, wrote a poem to his wife. Sadly, she died before he was released from captivity, but the tales of his passion lived on..
The Tower of London circa 2015.. The blue cupolas were added on Henry the Eighth’s orders in honor of Anne Boleyn’s coronation.. Pretty romantic..
Ever since, love letters and cards exchanged on the 14th of February were commonly referred to as Valentines in honor of the man (or one of them–see history on the plethora of St.. Valentines, HERE) who wrote a love letter to his jailor’s beautiful, blind daughter, prompting one to wonder how she could possibly read it with any sense of privacy.. But I digress.
The making and writing of Valentine’s Day cards thereafter became a tradition. The wealthy could afford manufactured cards, some of which date from as early as the 1700s. Factory workers painted color onto black-and-white images, leaving the composition of the words up to the giver of the card. However, it would be hundreds of years before the mass production of cards created a market for Valentines amongst all walks of life.
During the Regency era, most cards were still handmade. As such, not many survived.. However, there are quite a few examples of a special card known as the puzzle purse, perhaps because they were so much work for the creator that they were cherished in ways that a simple letter was not.
This photo shows the back of a puzzle purse that is preserved at the British Postal Museum in London.
That our two hearts will join in one.
This puzzle purse, dated February 14th, 1816, is quite beautifully illustrated. The current owner, an avid collector, has baptismal certificates that are folded in the same manner.. You can read more about this particular card and learn how to make your own puzzle purse via these instructions.
These elegantly written cards differ from most ordinary letters during this time period. Due to the exorbitant cost of delivery, people “crossed” their letters, meaning that they wrote across the page horizontally, then turned it and wrote across it vertically, sometimes even turning it to write across the letter diagonally. You can see a replicated example of a crossed letter here.
Though there is no evidence that the men and women who peopled the Regency era held parties for Valentine’s Day, they did enjoy some rather romantic parlor games throughout the year. Kissing games were quite popular, a fact that might come as a surprise to those who think of the 19thC as an era of utter moral rectitude. You can read about these games on this blog post, complete with a delightful period illustration.
From the publisher of the #1 Amazon bestselling A Timeless Romance Anthology series in Clean Romance.. Join three bestselling regency romance authors, Heidi Ashworth, Annette Lyon, and Michele Paige Holmes, for three new Regency romance novellas in A MIDWINTER BALL.
Whatever your Valentine’s celebrations entail this year, they are part of a very long tradition of love all around the world, including that highly romantic time period and place known as The Regency.