Ardour in the Archives: Valentine’s Day Special

In the western world it’s hard to miss that 14th February is Valentine’s Day. You might choose to mark the occasion – or perhaps you feel exasperated with the increasing commercialisation suggesting we must spend money on gifts to express our love. Whatever your perspective we hope you enjoy this delve into the Broadlands Archives to find some accounts of love and marriage from centuries past. The Special Collections hold extensive family papers for the Temple family, Viscounts Palmerston, who once lived at the Broadlands estate near Romsey.

Matrimonial ladder

MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR34/6 Matrimonial ladder

Writing to her future husband, the second Viscount Palmerston, nearly 250 years ago Frances Poole has concerns but not, she professes, of the monetary kind:

[Saturday night, 12 o’clock (1767)]…not being able to persuade myself that I am young enough, or amiable enough, to insure you lasting happiness: I say nothing of not being rich enough, for scruples of that kind may be carried to a degree that is not generous; besides I could not have a serious thought of any body that could be influenced by things of that sort.” [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR16/9/3]

The second Viscount replies with reassurance: [Thursday night, eleven o’clock] “How lasting happiness is likely to be anybody’s lot I do not know but this I know that I must find it with you or nowhere.” [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR16/9/4]

They were married later that year but sadly Frances died in childbirth less than two years later.

The second Viscount Palmerston was lucky enough to find love for a second time. He married Mary Mee on 5 January 1783 and they had four children. There is extensive correspondence between Henry and Mary which clearly shows they were happily devoted to each other. In a letter from 1782 Palmerston talks of “how much I think of her and long for her society”. [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR20/1/9]

Henry and Mary’s eldest son was Henry John Temple, the future third Viscount Palmerston, Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister. Palmerston earned himself the nickname “cupid” because of his many romantic liaisons.

Palmerston did eventually settle down marrying his long-standing mistress, the recently widowed Emily, Lady Cowper. The Archives contains the poem he wrote for her on their tenth wedding anniversary:

“To Emily, Sunday morning, 16 December 1849

Ten quick revolving years have past

Since hand in hand securely claspt

Before that altar bending low

We pledged the heartfelt marriage vow…”

[MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR23AA/2/1]


One response to “Ardour in the Archives: Valentine’s Day Special

  1. Pingback: Love stories from the Broadlands Archives | University of Southampton Special Collections

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