For 265 years, 104 letters written to French sailors by their loved ones sat on a shelf in a government building in the U.K. They were never opened, until recently. They were read for the first time in two and a half centuries. The letters were on the French warship Galatée. The ship was captured by the British Navy in 1758 during the Seven Years' War of 1756-1763. The sailors on the Galatée were captured before they had time to open and read their mail. The letters were taken to London, where they were put in storage and forgotten about, gathering dust. An academic from Cambridge University said the letters were in an archive in London. He said many of them were love letters.
A group of academics read and studied the letters. Lead researcher Renaud Morieux said the messages provided a rare and unique look into history. The writers were from poor people and rich people; from fiancés, parents, siblings and wives. The writing showed the differences in levels of literacy among the classes of French society. Professor Morieux said the letters were important documents. He said: "They reveal how we all cope with major life challenges…like pandemics or wars. We have to work out how to stay in touch, how to care for people, and how to keep passion alive. Today, we have Zoom. In the 18th century, people only had letters, but what they wrote about feels very familiar."