Launches Search for the Most Romantic British Love Letter Ever Written

Share Article to host online gallery of British love letters from the 15th Century to today, and launch the search for the most romantic British love letter ever written

To celebrate Valentine’s Day and the opportunity it presents for the British to drop traditional reserve and openly express affection, the world’s largest family network, (, launched today a search for the most romantic British love letter ever written – with the UK’s best-selling chick-lit author, Wendy Holden, acting as judge.

From Valentine’s Day, is calling upon the British public to delve into their attics and shoe boxes to find ancestral love letters, and submit them via Participants are also welcome to submit more recently-written love letters and messages for consideration. The best submissions will be featured on the special competition webpage within, with the most romantic British love letter of all time – as chosen by Wendy Holden (author of The School For Husbands, Beautiful People and Gallery Girl) – being announced on Friday Feb. 25th 2011. Full competition terms and conditions online.

To provide inspiration, has teamed-up with a number of leading UK museums and archives – including the British Library, The Royal Naval Museum, and The Imperial War Museum – to obtain scans (and transcripts) of significant British love letters from the past 500 years. These include the first love letter written in English (from 1477), and poignant missives penned by an unknown World War Two airman based in Yorkshire. The historical British love letters can be found in an online gallery at

The initiative is part of a drive by to encourage people to collect and preserve their family memories online – past and present. Romances between older living relatives and ancestors, often illustrated in love letters, are a critical point in every family’s history. With over 54 million users around the world, has become the leading place online for creating and sharing a family tree.

The Historical British Love Letters Online at include:

From the 20th Century

Letter written by an airman, ‘Jonny’, to his sweetheart during the Second World War. From the address, it can be established that Jonny was situated at the RAF base in Melbourne, Yorkshire, which was open from 1940 – 45. It is believed that the letters were written at some point during this time frame. No other information is known about the writer of this letter, or the recipient.

From the 19th Century

A letter from a collection of 174 letters that were sent by Chief Stoker Walter Grainger to his fiancé, and later wife, Edith Townsend. They principally cover the years 1895-1899 and William's three year commission as Chief Stoker on the sloop HMS Daphne on the China Station (Shanghai). has an example from 1896.

All of the letters have been hand-illustrated with watercolour pictures, some mounted with dried flowers. They are, principally, a series of deeply affectionate love letters. Walter was born in 1861 and died in 1937

From the 18th Century

Lyrics for “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond”, or simply “Loch Lomond” for short, the well-known traditional Scottish song. Interpretations of the song vary. One is that it is attributed to a Jacobite Highlander, captured after the1745 rising (often referred to as the ‘Forty-Five), when Charles Edward Stuart – commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender – attempted to regain the British throne for the exiled House of Stuart. Some schools of thought believe that this version is written to a lover who lived near the loch; and is sung by one of two captured soldiers, the one who was sentenced to die – the low road being symbolic of the passage to the underworld.

A second interpretation is that the song is sung by the lover of a captured rebel, who was awaiting execution in London. It was common for the heads of executed rebels to be set upon pikes and exhibited between London and Glasgow. A morbid procession along the “high road” (the most important road) would follow, although the relatives of the rebels were forced to walk back along the “low road” (the inferior road travelled by peasants and commoners).

From the 17th Century

Sir Walter Raleigh’s last correspondence to his wife, written during his imprisonment in The Tower of London, on – what he thought was to be – the eve of his execution (1603). Raleigh had been tried and convicted of treason, after his alleged involvement in the Main Plot (a conspiracy by English Catholics to remove King James I from the throne).

From the 16th Century

A letter from Henry VIII to his second wife Anne Boleyn during 1533 – the same year that they were married.

Owing to Henry’s annulled marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the union of Henry and Anne – and her subsequent execution – made her a key figure in the political and religious upheaval that was the start of the English Reformation.

From the 15th Century

The Paston letters are a remarkable collection containing over 400 letters (c.200,000 words) written over three generations by a Norfolk family.

From these, the example featured on is the oldest love letter in Britain, dating back to 1447. It is also the first-recorded reference to a person being described as a Valentine. The letter was written by Margery Brews to her fiancé John Paston, and it alludes – in some agitation – to dowry arrangements for their impending marriage. It is written in an informal style, with several personal flourishes in the way she forms her letters and no special concern for consistency in spelling. The lettering is not always easy to decipher, and transcripts of the manuscript vary somewhat as a result.

Competition Judge – Wendy Holden

Wendy Holden began her career as a journalist on the prestigious art monthly, Apollo, later working on the Sunday Times, Tatler and the Mail on Sunday. She has worked as an illustrator for magazines and newspapers, contributing to Vogue, The Independent, and Private Eye among many others.

Wendy Holden has written nine novels previous to current title, Gallery Girl – each being a top ten bestseller. She regularly writes for newspapers and magazines on a wide range of social, topical and lifestyle subjects and is also a regular TV and radio contributor. - Background is the most popular family network on the web. Millions of families around the world enjoy having a private place for their families to explore their family history and keep in touch.’s Smart Matching™ technology empowers users with an exciting and innovative way to find relatives and ancestors. With all family information stored in a secure site, is the ideal place to share family photos, and celebrate and preserve special family moments. With 700 million profiles and 17 million family trees, and available in 36 languages, is nurturing family relationships and uniting families worldwide. /


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Caroline Cohen
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