Lady Margaret Douglas, who was the niece of Henry VIII was arrested with her secretly betrothed Lord Thomas Henry in 1536, after incidentally becoming the first in line to the English throne. After Lady Margaret became ill and got transferred to the Syon Monastery, the couple began writing poetry to one another; which Tudor aristocrats often done whilst imprisoned. They both wrote a series of love poems which still survive today because they were written in the Devonshire Manuscript. It was passed around to share poetry, notes, and coded messages between young courtiers. It is estimated that there were at least 19 other users, being distinctly recognised by their individual hand writing. The main contributors were Lady Margaret, her close friend Mary Shelton, Lord Thomas and his niece Mary Fitzroy as well as several others. The Devonshire Manuscript circulated within this group for several years. It was most actively used between 1534 – 1539.

Within the 194 entries there featured verse fragments from Geoffrey Chaucer and other prominent poets at that time including: sir Edmund Knyvet , Sir Anthony Lee and the Earl of Surrey. The interactions in the book and around the poems took place in comments written in the margins as well as rewording existing poems and the creation of many new ones.

The Devonshire Manuscript gives us a glimpse into the social network at that time. Teenagers have a selection of ways to privately communicate with each other today by using social networks. A modern day Devonshire Manuscript would most likely take place on a Facebook group message where several people could contribute a selection of messages, photographs or videos. Everyone in the group would be able to share their opinion on the content of the messages and add their own. We still interact in a similar way as Lady Margaret and Lord Thomas did in the 1500s. However technology and social networks have changed the platform that we use to share these private messages.






Jones, M. (2016). Lady Margaret Beaufort | History Today. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 December. 2015].

Routh, E. (2016). Early Years. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 December. 2015].

Standage, T (2013). Writing On The Wall, Social Media – The First 2,000 Years. Great Britain: Bloomsbury Publishing. p64-67


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