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Over 100 letters have been opened and read for the first time since they were written 265 years ago.
1 / 2Photo: Renaud Morieux/Cambridge University
The love letters were seized by the British navy during the European Seven Years’ War in the 18th century. Then they lay unopened for over 265 years.
Now researchers have read and studied over 100 letters written to French soldiers in 1757 and 1758.
Renaud Morieux has been able to find many personal words in the treasure of letters, including in a letter from Marie Jeanne Françoise Dubosc.
“I could write to you all night. (…) I am forever your faithful wife. Good night, my dear friend. It’s midnight. I think it is time for me to rest,” she wrote to her husband, Lieutenant Louis Joseph Chambrelan.
Little did she know then that his ship had already been captured by the British and would never be seen again.
Renaud Morieux, a professor at Pembroke College in the UK’s Cambridge University, has spent months deciphering the letters sent by wives, fiancees and other relatives of French soldiers. In many cases, the letters are poorly spelled and lack punctuation and capital letters.
He ordered the letters out of curiosity, he says.
“The letters were very small and unopened so I asked the archivist if they could be opened and he did. I realized that I was the first to read these very personal messages since they were written, Their intended recipients never had that opportunity, it was very emotional,” said Renaud Morieux in a statement.
“Today we have Zoom and Whatsapp. In the 18th century, people only had letters, but what was written feels very familiar,” he says.
The letters are today at the National Archives in Kew outside London.