Romance in the archives
Romance in the archives
09 February 2009
With Valentine's Day fast approaching, The National Archives highlights some of its collection associated with romance and affairs of the heart…
See our selection of Valentine's e-cards featuring images from records held at The National Archives and send an e-card for free.
Surname searchLooking for Champagne, Flowers and Cupid? All these surnames can be found in our records. See how many you can find at Documents Online.
Valentine design for the Great Exhibition of 1851
'The Great Exhibition of 1851 was a celebration of not only British trade, manufacture and industry but those of all nations', says Dr Sue Laurence, Head of Interpretation at The National Archives.
'Henry Cole was responsible for its launch, its organisation and its legacy. Initially, there was considerable opposition to the idea of a Great Exhibition, but Cole managed to overcome this resistance through an alliance with Prince Albert, who was also heavily involved with the scheme, together with a handful of powerful politicians.
'The displays were extraordinarily diverse and fell roughly into four divisions: raw materials, machinery and mechanical inventions, manufactures, sculptures and plastic art generally' Sue tells us. 'This Valentine design in high Victorian style was submitted by a competitor with a view to securing a place within the Great Exhibition. Unfortunately, it is not known if the competitor who designed this card was successful. It was the task of local committees to present awards to the short-listed candidates, with the prizes ranging from £5,000 to medals.'
First World War service record of William Crawford 1917-1919
William Crawford was enlisted in the Household Cavalry in 1917. He served in France for three months before being wounded, eventually dying of his injuries in February 1918, aged just 25.
His service records are unusual as they contain his personal letters, which were usually sent back to the soldier's next of kin. These letters, sent to Crawford from his beloved Hetty, reveal the anguish of separation during the war and communicate the fear that loved ones would not return.
Listen to the podcast: Voices of the Armistice: with love from Hetty to hear the series of love letters written to Crawford by Hetty, or visit the museum at The National Archives to view one of the letters.
The great playwright and poet William Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616. Despite penning some of the finest dramas and odes of love, his last gift to his wife was far from romantic. His will, dated 25 March 1616, includes bequests to his fellow actors, his neighbours in Stratford and his 'second-best bed' to his wife, Anne Hathaway.
The will contains three of the only surviving six examples of his signature and is available to download from DocumentsOnline. The page containing his signature can be viewed here.