Fascinating Famous Letters

Early in September, we wrote a blog on writing letters “Do You Write Letters?” Today we thought we’d follow up with some famous letters that are certainly worth taking a look at for inspiration and for a bit of fun!

Marie Antoinette

During the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette exchanged letters with a secret lover Count Axel von Fersen of Sweden. This was during Marie Antoinette’s confinement and some of her letters were censored in order to hide some of what was written in them.

Famous letters that impacted history

Up until very recently, there was a mystery surrounding the actual words that had been censored. A chemist from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris revealed the words through the use of X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy.

The letters were scanned “pixel by pixel” to look for differences in the ink. What was revealed were such words as “beloved” and “tender friend”. It also turns out that the person who censored them was the count himself. He apparently made copies of the letters to keep for himself despite it being a very risky action.

The exact nature of their relationship is still uncertain as to the extent of whether it was political or personal but it does indicate they were very close.

Dear Hitler

Leading up to World War II, Ghandi wrote a letter to Hitler, asking him to reconsider his path in order to prevent a war. It was simple and brief. He asked that Hitler hear the appeal of someone who had decided to act against war.

You can read his brief letter below:


King Henry VIII

King Henry VIII wrote Anne Boleyn love letters while still married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. His reason for pursuing Anne was due to his first wife not producing a male heir. 

Famous love letters that impacted history

In his letter, he explains how he’s arranged for Anne to stay in London and how he looks forward to spending time with her. Here are the contents of the letter:

“As touching a lodging for you we have gotten one through my Lord Cardinal's means, the half of which could not have been found around here, for all causes, as this bearer shall more show you. As touching our other affairs I assure you there can be no more done, nor more diligence used, nor all manner of dangers better both foreseen and provided for, so that I trust it shall be hereafter to both our comfort, the specialties whereof were both too long to be written, and hardly to be sent through a messenger.”

His eventual marriage comes about only after he leaves the Roman Catholic church in order to divorce his first wife. 

Charles Darwin

Famous letters that impacted history

A prolific writer, Charles Darwin exchanged over 1,400 letters with his closest friend. In 1844, he wrote to his friend, botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker, his ideas of evolution and natural selection. Fifteen years later he went on to write his book The Origin of Species.

Marting Luther King

While the focus seems to be on letters from one person to another, underlining the intimacy of the correspondence, some letters are written as open letters with the intent of them being shared for some greater message.

Famous letters that impacted history.

Perhaps one of the most famous of these letters was written by Martin Luther King - Letter from a Birmingham Jail - which became an important text for the American Civil Rights Movement.

Prince Albert to Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are said to have shared a strong love for each other. Evidence of their love can be seen in Victoria’s journal. However, Albert also showed his love for Victoria in his letters to her. 

As is well documented, Victoria was devastated when Albert died and she consequently wore black clothing for the rest of her life.

Famous letters that impacted history

Dearest deeply loved Victoria, I need not tell you that since we left, all my thoughts have been with you at Windsor, and that your image fills my whole soul. Even in my dreams I never imagined that I should find so much love on earth. How that moment shines for me still when I was close to you, with your hand in mine. Those days flew by so quickly, but our separation will fly equally so. Ernest [my brother] wishes me to say a thousand nice things to you. With promises of unchanging love and devotion, Your ever true Albert.

Letter Writing in Victorian Times

They were the main form of correspondence and the method which was used to share news. It was also thought that letter writing was an important way of identifying someone’s class. Of course, thick, high-quality paper was also an essential aspect of proper letter writing. A proper pen and the right colour of ink was also essential.

Want to know more, here is a review of a book about Victorian letter writing.

Want to get started letter writing? We’ve got the supplies for you!