Cely Letters

The Cely Letters are a collection of family correspondence written in the 15th century, which describe the lives and business activities of a family of London wool merchants.[1] Key members were Richard Cely and his wife Agnes and their sons Robert, Richard, and George.[2] This collection is one of the few surviving letter collections from the 15th century, along with the Paston Letters and the Stonor Letters.[3] While the Paston Letters cover a period spanning over 3/4 of a century, the Cely Letters cover a much shorter period of time between 1472 and 1488. The Cely letters were preserved only because they were used as evidence in a lawsuit.[4] The Cely Letters are primary sources of information about the English economy and English society at the end of the Wars of the Roses.[1] Only one thing that was known about the wives from the letters is that they would take care of the house and land the husbands own since they would be away.


In the few letters that were salvaged, there was more discussion of the work aspects of wool merchants. Their business was always away from home, which meant they would travel in order to make a living. The main work that would be done by the wool merchants such as the wool trade that takes place in London and Calais.[5] Not only did the merchants mostly trade in the wool trade, but were a part of wool staplers and had a monopoly on Calais wool market. The reason for them to have a monopoly on Calais wool market was in order to get a loan from the company.[5] By them being the reason for a monopoly, since it would show what they had in a financial way.

The Letter 'Y' and Languages usedEdit

Before discussing the letter 'Y', it is important to know how the family were able to write. The family was able to write based on them traveling. Since they would travel to different places for work they would learn different languages such as English and French. The merchants would mostly write in English since they did not know much French.[6] This is important since it would explain why the remaining letters that were salvaged were purely written in English. The letter 'Y' is essential in the letter, since it was one of the first letters that were continued in the English language that we use now. Since it was in a document written back in the 15th century, it would show how the English language has progressed to the one we use in the current day.


  1. ^ a b Wagner, J. A. (2001). Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-57607-575-3. OCLC 50174695.
  2. ^ Hanham, Alison (1985-12-05). The Celys and their World. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-30447-4.
  3. ^ Weir, Alison (1994). The princes in the tower (1st American ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-38372-9. OCLC 29616908.
  4. ^ Hard-science linguistics. Victor H. Yngve, Zdzisław Wąsik. London: Continuum. 2006. ISBN 978-0-8264-9239-5. OCLC 70128127.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ a b Allen, Grace (2015). "Concerns of a Fifteenth Century Gentry Woman: A Study in Letters". Tenor of our Times. 5.
  6. ^ Conde-Silvestre, J. Camilo. "Revisiting the Cline from Code-Switching to Borrowing: Evidence from the Late Middle English Cely Letters (1472-1488)". (“Revisiting the Cline from Code-Switching to Borrowing ...”). 80: 51–72.


  • Hanham, Alison. "A fifteenth-century merchant family." History Today (Dec 1963) 13#12 pp 821-829
  • Wagner, John A. (2001). Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-85109-358-8.
  • Alison, Weir (2004). Princes in the Tower, the. New York: Fawcett. ISBN 978-0-345-39178-0.
  • Yngve, Victor; Wasik, Zdzislaw (2006). Hard-Science Linguistics. A&C Black. ISBN 978-0-8264-9239-5.