Hearts and flowers through the ages

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Ah, Valentine's Day. The primping, the pressure, the proposals! Today we take a look back through history at some lovers' correspondence, specifically that which dealt in marriage proposals.

Will You Marry Me? Seven Centuries of Love (Touchstone Books, 112 pages, $14.95) was originally published in 1940. Perhaps this newly bound reissue will inspire Internet-age folks to take paper to pen and snail-mail a little romance to their loved ones.

Will You Marry Me?

Here's a smattering of smitten folks' marriage-minded missives...

Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn

I beseech you earnestly to let me know your real mind as to the love between us two. It is needful for me to obtain this answer from you, having been for a whole year wounded with the dart of love and not yet assured whether I shall succeed in finding a place in your heart and affections... But if you please to do the duty of a true and loyal mistress and to give yourself heart and person to me, who will be, as I have been, your most loyal servant (if your rigor 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 mistress, cutting off all others that are in competition with you, out of my thoughts and affections, and serving you only... No more for fear of tiring you. Written by the hand of him who will willingly remain... Your Henry Rex

Note: The two married in 1533; several months later Henry wrote similar letters to Jane Seymour; in 1536, Henry had Anne Boleyn beheaded. Ain't love grand?


Jonathan Swift to Mrs. Howard, Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Caroline

Twickenham, August 14, 1727

Madam... I wish I were a young lord and you were unmarried. I should make you the best husband in the world; for I am ten times deafer than you ever were in your life, and instead of a poor pain in the face I have good substantial giddiness and head-ache. The best of it is that though we might lay our heads together, you could tell me no secrets that might not be heard five rooms distant... I am, ever, with the truest respect and esteem && Jonathan Swift


Emperor Napoleon I to Archduchess Maria Louise of Austria

Rambouillet, February 23, 1810

Dear Cousin... The striking qualities which enhance your person have inspired in us the desire to serve and honor you. We are requesting the Emperor, your respected father, to entrust to us the happiness of Your Imperial Highness. May we be permitted to hope that you will receive graciously the feelings which impel us to take this step? May we harbor the flattering hope that you will agree to this marriage not only because of filial obedience and duty? If your imperial Highness has but the slightest affection for us, we will cultivate this feeling with the greatest pains, and make it our supreme task ever to seek your happiness in every respect. In this way we fondly hope to win your complete affection some day. That is our most fervent wish, and we beg Your Imperial Highness to be favorably inclined to us. Napoleon

Note: This one seems to have the right sentiment but I wouldn't use this letter as a model or your intended is likely to think you have multiple personalities.

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This page contains a single entry by Teresa Budasi published on February 14, 2008 8:29 AM.

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