Home Forums Articles Patterns Graphics Extras

decorative bar

Medieval Missives: Aids to Letter-Writing

Caryl de Trecesson
decorative bar

This is a compilation of openings and closings from medieval manuscripts to assist you in your letter-writing. They include public exhortations, private love letters, a Valentine, letters from kings and letters from servants. I hope you will find something of interest here. Please note that the links to the full texts will take you outside the DragonBear site to the "original" e-text. There is a full list of sources at the bottom of this page.

4th century Constantinople
From St. John Chrysostom (c. 346-407) to the deaconess Olympias, original in Latin (full text)

Pray say many kind words from me to all your blessed household. May you continue in good health and good spirits, most reverend and divinely favored lady.

4th century Constantinople
From St. John Chrysostom (c. 346-407) to Pope Innocent, original in Latin (full text)

Fare thee well always, and pray for me, most honoured and holy master.

11th century France: 1098
From Stephen, Count of Blois and Chartres to his wife, Adele, during the 1st Crusade (full text)

Count Stephen to Adele, his sweetest and most amiable wife, to his dear children, and to all his vassals of all ranks--his greeting and blessing.
These which I write to you, are only a few things, dearest, of the many which we have done, and because I am not able to tell you, dearest, what is in my mind, I charge you to do right, to carefully watch over your land, to do your duty as you ought to your children and your vassals. You will certainly see me just as soon as I possibly return to you.
(Before Antioch, March 29,1098)

12th century France
Love letter from Heloise (1101-1164) to Abelard, original in Latin (full text)

To her master, nay father, to her husband, nay brother; his handmaid, nay daughter, his spouse, nay sister: to ABELARD, HELOISE.
Consider, I beseech thee, what thou owest me, pay heed to what I demand; and my long letter with a brief ending I conclude. Farewell, my all.

12th century Germany: 1148
Public letter from Conrad II to the Abbot of Corvey on the Germans' Crusade, original in Latin (full text)

[heading] Conrad, by the grace of God, august king of the Romans, to venerable Wibald, abbot of Corvey, ­ his most kind greeting.

Because we know that you especially desire to hear from us and to learn the state of our prosperity, we think it fitting to first tell you of this.
In brief therefore, God willing, we shall return to you. We render to you the gratitude which you deserve for your care of our son and for the very great fidelity which you have shown to us, And with the full intention of worthily rewarding your services, we ask you to continue the same.

12th century France: 1160
Love letter from Constance of Brittany to Louis VII of France, original in Latin (full text)

To the venerable and excellent Louis, king of Gaul, Constance, daughter of Alan count of Brittany, greetings and the bond of friendship.
Fare thee as well as I fare.

12th century England: mid-October 1170
From John of Salisbury to Canterbury during the exile of Thomas Becket, original in Latin (full text)

[address] To William Brito, sub-prior, Robert, sacrist, and the obedientiaries of Christ Church, Canterbury

To his dear friends and brothers, William the sub-prior, Robert the sacrist, and the others who have charge in Canterbury's holy church, their John: greeting - and do you make wise provision for the future.
Think of yourselves and of us, in love, and farewell.

13th century Germany: 1229
From Frederic II to Henry III of England, during the 5th Crusade (full text)

Frederic, by the grace of God, the august emperor of the Romans, king of Jerusalem and Sicily, to his well-beloved friend Henry, king of the English, health and sincere affection.
Given at the holy city of Jerusalem, on the seventeenth day of the month of March, in the year of our Lord, one thousand two hundred and twenty-nine.

13th century France: 1249
Letter supposedly from Guy, a knight, to B. of Chartres, during the 6th Crusade, original in Latin (full text)

[heading]From Damietta, 1249.

To his dear half­brother and well­beloved friend, master B. of Chartres, student at Paris, Guy, a knight of the household of the viscount of Melun, greeting and a ready will to do his pleasure.
When we learn anything certain or remarkable of the Tartars, or others, we will send you word either by letter or by Roger de Montefagi, who is to return to France in the spring, to the lands of our lord the viscount, to collect money us.

13th century England: 1265
From Simon de Montfort to Henry III, in Matthew of Westminster's account of Simon de Montfort's Rebellion (full text)

"To the most excellent lord Henry, by the grace Of God, king of England, &c. The barons and others, his faithful subjects, wishing to observe their oaths and the fidelity due to God and to him, wish health, and tender their lawful service with all respect and honor."
"and if any other statement is made to you respecting these matters, do not believe it; for we shall always be found your faithful subjects. And we, Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, and Gilbert de Clare, at the request of the rest, have, for us and for them too who are here present, affixed our seals. Given at," etc.

13th century England: 1265
Reply from Henry III to Simon de Montfort, in Matthew of Westminster's account of Simon de Montfort's Rebellion (full text)

"Henry, by the grace of God, king of England, &c., to Simon de Montfort and Gilbert de Clare, and their partisans."
"and we do not care for your safety or for your affection, but defy you, as the enemies of us and them. Witness my hand, at Lewes, on the twelfth day of May, in the forty-eighth year of our reign."

13th-14th century Italy
From Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) to Can Grande, original in Latin (full text)

To the great and most victorious lord, Lord Can Grande della Scala, Vicar General of the Principate of the Holy Roman Emperor in the town of Verona and the municipality of Vicenza, his most devoted Dante Alighieri, Florentine in birth but not in manners, wishes him a happy life through long years, as well as a continuous increase in his glorious reputation.
And since, the principle or the Prime being found, i.e. God, there is nothing more to be sought, since he is the Alpha and Omega, that is, the beginning and the end, as the vision of John calls him, this treatise is ended with God himself, who is blessed throughout the ages.

14th century Italy: 1311
From Dante Alighieri to the Florentines, original in Latin (full text)

Dante Alighieri, a Florentine undeservedly in exile, to the most iniquitous Florentines within the city.
Written on the thirty-first day of March ["pridie Kalendas Apriles"] on the confines of Tuscany from beneath the springs of Arno, in the first year of the most auspicious passage of the Emperor Henry into Italy.

15th century England: 1430
From William Paston to the Vicar of the Abbot of Cluny: draft [spelling modernized] (full text)

My right worthy and worshipful lord, I recommend me to you.
And I am your man and ever will be, by the grace of God, which ever have you in his keeping. Written at Norwich the _ of April. Yours, William Paston

15th century England: 1444
From Agnes Paston to her husband William Paston [spelling modernized] (full text)

[address] To my worshipful husband W. Paston be this letter taken.

Dear husband, I recommend me to you, &c.
The Holy Trinity have you in governance. Written at Paston in haste the Wednesday next after Deus qui errantibus, for default of a good secretary, &c. Yours, Agnes Paston.

15th century England: 1445
From Agnes Paston to her son Edmond Paston [spelling modernized] (full text)

[address] To Edmond Paston of Clyfford's Inn in London be this letter take.

To mine well-beloved son I greet you well, and advise you to think onst of the day of your father's counsel to learn the law;
God make you right a good man, and send God's blessing and mine. Written in haste at Norwich the Thursday after Candlemass Day.
By your mother Agnes Paston

15th century England: 1454
From John Paston to the Earl of Oxford asking for release of a prisoner [spelling modernized] (full text)

Right worshipful and my right especial lord, I recommend me to your good lordship, beseeching your lordship that ye take not to displeasance though I write you as I here say...
Right worhipful and my right especial lord, I beseech Almighty God send you as much joy and worship as ever had any of my lords your ancestors, and keep you and all yours. Written at Norwich the iiij Sunday of Lent. Your servant to his power, John Paston

15th century England: 1459
From Elizabeth Poynings to her mother Agnes Paston [spelling modernized] (full text)

[address] To my right worshipful mother Agnes Paston.

Right worshipful and my most entirely beloved mother, in the most lowly manner I recommend me unto your good motherhood, beseeching you daily and nightly of your motherly blessing, ever-more desiring to hear of your welfare and prosperity, the which I pray God to continue and increase to your heart's desire; and if it liked your good motherhood to hear of me and how I do, at the making of this letter I was in good health of body, thanked be Jesu.
And Jesu for his great mercy save you. Written at London the Wednesday the iij day of January. By your humble daughter Elyzabeth Ponyngges

15th century England: 1472
Reminder from John Paston to the Duke of Norfolk [spelling modernized] (full text)

To the right high and mighty prince and my right good and gracious lord, my lord the Duke of Norfolk. Meekly beseecheth your highness your poor and true continual servant and orator John Paston the younger that it might please your good grace to call on-to your most discreet and notable remembrance that lateward,
And we shall pray to God for the preservation of your most noble estate.

15th century England: 1474
Love letter from John Paston III to "Mistress Ann" [spelling modernized] (full text)

Since it is so that I may not, as oft as I would, be there as I might do my message myself, mine own fair Mistress Ann, I pray you to accept this bill for my messenger to recommend me to you in my most faithful wise, as he that fainest of all other desires to know of your welfare, which I pray God increase to your most pleasure.
And now farewell, mine own fair lady, and God give you good rest, for in faith I trow ye be in bed. Written in my way homeward on Mary Magdelyn Day at midnight. Your own John Paston. Mistress Ann, I am proud that ye can read English, wherefore I pray you acquaint you with this my lewd hand, for my purpose is that ye shall be more acquainted with it or else it shall be against my will. But yet when ye have read this bill I pray you burn it or keep it secret to yourself, as my faithful trust is in you.

15th century England: 1476
From Robert Cely to his brother George Cely [spelling modernized] (full text)

[address] A George Cely.

[heading] (Anno lxxvj)

Well-beloved Brother I recommend me heartily to you furthermore informing you that ...
In witness hereof I set my seal at London the xiij day of April
per Robert Cely.

15th century England: 1476?
Supplication (from John Paston III?) to an unknown lady: draft [spelling modernized] (full text)

Mistress, though so be that I, unacquainted with you as yet, take upon me to be thus bold as to write unto you without your knowledge and leave, yet, mistress, for such poor service as I now in my mind owe you, purposing, ye not displeased, during my life to continue the same, I beseech you to pardon my boldness and not to distain but to accept this simple bill to recommend me to you in such wise as I best can or may imagine to your most pleasure;
And I will be at all seasons ready to perform in this matter and all others your pleasure as ferforth[?] as lythe[?] in my poor power to do, or in all theirs that ought will do for me, with God's grace, whom I beseech to send you the accomplishment of your most worshipful desires, mine own fair lady, for I will no further labor but to you unto the time ye give me leave and till I be sure that ye shall take no displeasure with my further labor.

15th century England: 1477
Valentine from Margery Brews (later Paston) to John Paston III [spelling modernized] (full text)

[address] Unto my right well-beloved Valentine John Paston, squire, be this bill + delivered, &c.

Right reverent and worshipful and my right well-beloved Valentine, I recommend me unto you full heartily, desiring to hear of your welfare, which I beseech Almighty God long for to preserve unto his pleasure and your heart's desire. And if it please you to hear of my welfare, I am not in good health of body nor of heart, nor shall be till I hear from you;
No more to you at this time, but the Holy Trinity have you in keeping. And I beseech you that this bill be not seen of none earthly creature save only yourself, &c. And this letter was indict at Topcroft with full heavy heart, &c. By your own M. B.

15th century England: 1477
From Margaret Paston to her cousin Elizabeth Brews [spelling modernized] (full text)

[address] To the right worshipful and my very good lady and cousin Dame Elizabeth Brews.

Right worshipful and my chief lady and cousin, as heartily as I can I recommend me to you. Madam, liketh you to understand that the chief cause of my writing to you at this season is this.
Madam, I beseech you that I may be recommended by this bill to my cousin your husband, and to my cousin Margery, to whom I supposed to have given another name ere this time, Written at Mawteby on Saint Barnaby's Day. By your Margaret Paston.

15th century England: 1478
From George Cely to his father Richard Cely [spelling modernized] (full text)

[address] Unto my right worshipful Father Richard Cely merchant of the Staple off Calais Dwelling at London in Mark Lane so it come.

[heading] Jesu M l iiij c lxxviij

Right worshipful Father after all due recommendation pretending I recommend me unto you in the lowliest wise that I can or may Further more pleaseth it to understand ...
No more unto you at this time but Jesu have you and all yours in his blessed keeping. Amen. Writ at Calais the viij th of May lxxviij
per your son
G. Cely.

15th century England: 1478
Reply from Richard Cely to his son George Cely [spelling modernized] (full text)

[address] To George Cely at Calais be this deliver.

[heading] Richard Cely the Elder
Jesu M l iiij c lxxviij

I greet thee well and I have received a letter from thee writ at Bruges the ix day of June the which letter I have well understand every point...
I write no more but Jesu keep you writ at London the xvij of June in great haste.
per Richard Cely.

15th century England: 1481
From Margery Brews Paston to her husband John Paston III [spelling modernized] (full text)

[address] To my right worshipful master John Paston, in haste.

Right reverent and worshipful sir, in my most humble wise I recommend me unto you as lowly as I can, &c.
No more to you at this time, but Almighty Jesu have you in his blessed keeping. Written at Norwich on Hallowmass Day at night. By your servant and bedwoman Margery Paston. Sir, I pray you if ye tarry long at London that it will please you to send for me, for I think long since I lay in your arms.

15th century England: 1480's?
From Ralph Hastings to his friend George Cely [spelling modernized] (full text)

[address] To my full good friend George Cely.

My full trusty friend I recommend me to you. I have received your kind and loving letter and well understand all things therein contained whereof thank you and for your good and true heart.
and any thing that I can do unto please ye shall find it ready by God's grace who ever preserve you. Written at Guines the last day of October.
Your true loving
Ralph Hastings.

15th century England: 1487
From William Cely to Richard and George Cely [spelling modernized] (full text)

[address] To my right worshipful masters Richard and George Cely merchants of the staple of Calais at London in Mark Lane so it dd:

[heading]Jesu M l iiij c iiij xx vij

Right worshipful Sirs and my reverent masters after all due recommendation preceding I lowly recommend me unto your masterships. Further more please it your masterships to understand that...
No more unto your masterships at this time but almighty Jesu preserve & keep you and all yours long in good health and prosperity for almighty God resettythe[?] sore here in Calais and the marches wt this great plague of sickness that raineth[reigneth?] I beseech of His mercy to cease it Written at Calais the xij jor de September.
per your servant
William Cely.

15th century Italy: 1490's
From Laura Cereta (1469-1499) to Benedictus Arsagus, original in Latin (full text)

To Benedictus Arsagus Papiensis, Laura Cereta sends greetings.
Farewell. viiii Calends. Aug.

15th century Italy: 1497
From Amerigo Vespucci to Pier Sodeini about his first voyage to the new world, original in Italian (full text)

[heading] To Pier Sodeini, Gonfalonier of the Republic of Florence

Magnificent Lord. After humble reverence and due commendations, etc. It may be that your Magnificence will be surprised by [this conjunction of] my rashness and your customary wisdom, in that I should so absurdly bestir myself to write to your Magnificence the present so-prolix letter: knowing (as I do) that your Magnificence is continually employed in high councils and affairs concerning the good government of this sublime Republic. And will hold me not only presumptuous, but also idlymeddlesome in setting myself to write things, neither suitable to your station, nor entertaining, and written in barbarous style, and outside of every canon of polite literature: but my confidence which I have in your virtues and in the truth of my writing, which are things [that] are not found written neither by the ancients nor by modern writers, as your Magnificence will in the sequel perceive, makes me bold.
Such is what befell me, most noteworthy, in this my first voyage.

16th century England: 1579
From Edmund Spenser to Gabriel Harvey [spelling modernized] (full text)

[heading] To the Worshipful his very singular good friend, master G. H., Fellow of Trinity Hall in Cambridge.

Good Master G. I perceive by your most courteous and friendly Letters your good will to be no less in deed, than I always esteemed.
So once again, and yet once more, Farewell most heartily, mine own good Master H. and love me, as I love you, and think upon poor Immerito, as he thinketh upon you.
Leicester House. This 5. of October. [1]579.
Per mare, per terras,
Viuus, mortuusque
Tuus Immerito.

16th century England: 1589
From Edmund Spenser to Sir Walter Raleigh, explaining the Faery Queene [spelling modernized] (full text)

[heading] To the Right noble, and Valorous, Sir Walter Raleigh knight, Lo. Warden of the Stannerys, and her Majesty's lieutenant of the County of Cornwall.

Sir knowing how doubtfully all Allegories may be construed, and this book of mine, which I have entitled the Faery Queen, being a continued Allegory, or dark conceit, I have thought good as well for avoiding of jealous opinions and miscontructions, as also for your better light in reading thereof, (being so by you commanded) to discover unto you the general intention and meaning...
So humbly craving the continuance of your honorable favor towards me, and th'eternal establishment of your happiness, I humbly take leave.
23 January, 1589.
Yours most humbly affectionate
Ed. Spenser.

17th century England: 1620
Dedication from Francis Bacon to James I for The Works (full text)


Your majesty will, perhaps, accuse me of theft, in that I have stolen from your employments time sufficient for this work.
May the great and good God long preserve your majesty in safety.
Your majesty's
Most bounden and devoted,

decorative bar
compiled Mar. 2000 by Carol Hanson (e-mail)
The Church Fathers: Index to the Writings of St. John Chrysostom
Includes the Letter I of the Letters to Olympias and the Letter I to Innocent, Bishop of Rome used above.
Hanover Historical Texts Project
At Hanover College. Includes the letter from Stephen, Count of Blois and Chartres, and the letter from Frederic II used above, along with other letters from the Crusades.
Medieval Sourcebook: Heloise (1101-1164): Letter to Abelard
Medieval Sourcebook: Conrad II: Letters to the Abbot of Corvey, 1148
Medieval Sourcebook: Constance of Brittany and Gerald of Wales on Louis VII of France
Medieval Sourcebook: Guy, A Knight: Letter from the Sixth Crusade, 1249
Medieval Sourcebook: Matthew of Westminster: Simon de Montfort's Rebellion 1265
Modern History Sourcebook: Amerigo Vespucci (1452-1512): Account of His First Voyage, 1497
The Medieval Sourcebook and Modern History Sourcebook sites (they split at about 1500) are excellent collections of period texts.
Thomas Becket
Texts concerning Becket and his murder. Includes the Letter to Canterbury from John of Salisbury used above.
Digital Dante: Dante's Works
Includes in-frame links to the Marchand translation of the Letter to Cangrande and the Toynbee translation of the Letter to the Florentines used above.
Paston Family: letters and papers of the fifteenth century, Part I
The e-text library at the University of Virginia has these on-line. The documents date from 1425 to about 1503.
Richard III Society: Fifteenth Century Texts: The Cely Papers
The e-text of a book: "The Cely Papers: Selections from the Correspondence and Memoranda of the Cely Family: Merchants of the Staple: A.D. 1475-1488: edited for the Royal Historical Society by Henry Elliot Malden, M.A.: Longmans, Green, and Co.: 39 Paternoster Row, London New York and Bombay 1900."
The Other Voice: Laura Cereta in Her Own Words (1469-1499)
Contains the text of five letters, including a translation of Letter 5 to Benedictus Arsagus.
The Edmund Spenser Home Page: Online Texts
Among the e-texts listed are the Letters to Gabriel Harvey and the Letter to Raleigh used above.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626): Texts
Also at Hanover College and containing the "Epistle to James I" used above .

Home | Usage | Forums | Articles | Patterns | Graphics | Extras | Contact Us

created and maintained by Carol Hanson
last modified on Mar. 16, 2000

page counter

Amazon.com Amazon.com Associates