Episode 69: Love

Friday, April 6th, 2018

“I know no ways to mince it in love, but directly to say ‘I love you’” (Henry V, Act 5, Scene 2 – William Shakespeare (1599)


Welcome to Histories of the Unexpected where we demonstrate how everything has a history, and how those histories link together in unexpected ways!


For this episode let us join the Cupid of history, Professor James Daybell , and the Casanova of historical crime, Dr Sam Willis, as they, with arrows notched and ready to fly, bring you the unexpected history of love.

Our two star crossed history hunters take the lead along love’s fickle twisting and turning path, from the modern phenomenon of attaching inscribed padlocks to public bridges in Paris to the votive offerings made through centuries past, from the tempestuous affair between Peter Abelard and Heloise d’Argenteuil in the 12th century and one of the earliest examples of a love letter to Verona in the 1930s and the beginnings of the ‘Juliette Secretary’s’, from the in-twinned savagery of politics and courtly love of the Tudor period and the poems of Sir Thomas Wyatt to Stalin and the Soviet state and the poignant last letters of those condemned to death, and from the letters of Sir Edward Dering to his ‘dearest and best friend’ his beloved wife Unton in the mid fifteenth century to the earliest recorded English valentine letter from the Paston papers, written in 1477, love is most definitely all around.

Knowing no bounds and conquering all, Sam and James discover that this unexpected history is actually all about; affection and romance, family and companionship, cultural expression and interpretation, attraction and biology, chemistry and psychology, endurance and expectations, security and commitment, permanence and loss, betrayal and sacrifice, intimacy and passion.

“Farewell love and all thy laws forever;

Thy baited hooks shall tangle me no more” (Sir Thomas Wyatt, 1557)


Lovelocks padlocks on the Forth Road Bridge, Scotland

Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn – Love letter, No 5 (Vat. Lat. 3731A, f. 5r. BL)

Ford Madox Brown’s ‘Romeo and juliet’ (1869-1870), at the Delaware Art Museum.

Sir Thomas Wyatt

Sir Edward Dering (1598–1644), 1st Baronet {by William Dobson(c) The Royal Welsh Regimental Museum Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Moscow, love-padlocks tree

Juliet’s House, Via Cappello, Verona – Love notes and graffiti

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