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Tender, moving, heartfelt and warm (and sporadically scandalous and outrageous too), these are the private messages between people in love. Yet they are also correspondence between the rulers of nations.

From Henry VIII’s lovelorn notes to Anne Boleyn and George IV’s impassioned notes to his secret wife, to Queen Victoria’s tender letters to Prince Albert and Edward VIII’s extraordinary correspondence with Wallis Simpson – these letters depict romantic love from its budding passion to the comfort and understanding of a long union (and occasionally beyond to resentment and recrimination), all set against the background of great affairs of state, wars and the strictures of royal duty.

Here is a chance to glimpse behind the pomp and ceremony, the carefully curated images of royal splendour and decorum, to see the passions, hopes, jealousies and loneliness of kings and queens throughout history. By turns tender, moving, heartfelt and warm (and sporadically scandalous and outrageous too), these are the private messages between people in love. Yet they are also correspondence between the rulers of nations, whose actions (and passions) changed the course of history, for good and bad.

This morning I received your dear, dear letter of the 21st. How happy do you make me with your love! Oh! my Angel Albert, I am quite enchanted with it! I do not deserve such love! Never, never did I think I could be loved so much. Queen Victoria to Prince Albert (28 November 1839)