Love letters between George Carteret and his wife Elizabeth

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A remarkable quantity of George Carteret's correspondence has been preserved in various collections, including letters between Carteret and King Charles II owned by the States and La Société Jersiaise. However, the most poignant are letters exchanged by George and his future wife Elizabeth and held by the Public Record Office. Clearly all was not well in the de Carteret family, George and Elizabeth being first cousins. On 21 March 1639 she wrote to him from Mont Orgueil:

"My most dear heart,

I am sorry to hear that you have been sick, and at the reading of your letter it made my heart ache, till I had read further and seen that you had recovered your health, which I pray God to continue, for in it consists all the happiness that I hope for in this world. I confess that you made me sad to write that, as for my father, you do not speak unto him other language than what I have taught you. I cannot conceive your meaning; but, if I should think that you have any coldness to him, and that you should not love him as you have done heretofore, I, knowing how much he loves you, and how much he makes of me, since I have been yours, it would break my heart the grief of it. Therefore, dear heart, let it not be so, but let there be love between you, for I know he loves you dearly. All the gales that have been between you have been by means of the old woman you know. She never loved my dear mother, and for her sake she hates us all, and me she ever loved worst, because she thinks my mother loves me best. Now she thought to make me miserable by putting differences between you and my father, which I hope to God she shall never do. My father hath promised he will never believe her more. If she were not our grandmother, I would say more. I pray God to amend her, and send you to love my father, and I shall think myself happy. Thank you for the things you have sent me. I have not seen them yet, for I send this letter for fear the bark will be gone.

Your most faithful servant till death


A month later, having apparently received four further letters from Elizabeth in the meanwhile, Carteret replies from London:

"You did promise that I should know in your next letter the plot that the old woman had contrived to cross us, but you have forgot. I am certain that your father was something out of the way to follow her counsel against me, for I have always employed all my endeavours to serve him, and therefore I do not deserve to be dealt ill with. A man's word has not to be broken with a stranger, much less with a son; but he knows well that I had more than I deserve in having thee. For my part I will still love him and honour him as our father. I have little more to say unto you, my sweet Bettie, but that the time doth seem long until I be with you, but, seeing that the good of both of us doth require this absence, I do bear it with more patience, hoping that one day all our desires shall be fulfilled. Therefore I will imagine a kiss on thy fair lips.

Your most humble and most affectionate servant till death,

pray let me say husband,

G Carteret

George and Elizabeth did not marry until 6 May 1641. In 1639 he was in command of the Leopard, a 34-gun naval vessel escorting merchant shipping in the English Channel.

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