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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Medieval Love Tokens by Jenna Jaxon

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, and with me having just celebrated the new covers on my medieval series of novellas, I thought it only apropos for me to do an article on medieval tokens of love. If you thought the medieval courtiers weren’t particularly romantic, think again!
Throughout the Middle Ages people in love exchanged gifts to celebrate their feelings, just as we do today. Some tokens have continued down to our time, while others might seem rather odd to our modern sensibilities.

One love token that is still being given today is jewelry, especially rings. Rings would be given certainly as part of betrothal or wedding celebrations, but could be given on less formal occasions to express affection. Rings could be made of gold or silver and set with precious stones or they could be made of simpler materials, such as bone or glass. Many times these tokens were inscribed with some sentiment from one lover to another.

Another piece of jewelry often exchanged between lovers that isn’t all that unfamiliar to our modern eyes is the brooch. A beautiful, yet
practical gift, the brooch showed off the wealth of the giver (and the depth of their regard as well), while it assisted the receiver in pinning a cloak together or fastening a garment.

An interesting custom for people of less wealthy means was the giving of miniature items that they could not afford. These token would probably have looked like modern day charms and might have included everything they would have seen wealthy couples exchange, such as purses, shoes, chaplets, or jewelry boxes.

When a medieval lady wished to bestow a favor on her knight of choice before a joust, she would give him a token that would mark him as her chosen courtier. Items that were easily detached, such as sleeves or a scarf, or fluttery, such as a handkerchief or ribbon would signal that he was her particular champion.

And a final token that would be considered somewhat different today is a casket, or box, usually carved in an intricate fashion, perhaps with scenes of lovers imprinted all about it. These boxes could hold jewelry, other trinkets, or something more personal, like a lock of a loved one’s hair.

So this Valentine’s Day, don’t say it with flowers, say it with a casket or a sleeve, something a medieval lady or knight would cherish forever.


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