Leaden Heart

This article touched me deeply when I stumbled across it the other day. It came up while I was searching the phrase ‘a token of my love’. It begins like this:

As a token of my Love..

Today this is still such a powerfully romantic phrase! And it is only today I have learned where this phrase has originated from.

In the late 18th and 19th centuries, love tokens were common. Coins were personalised for those that were left behind hoping for the return of their loved ones, so it was no surprise that in many cases these were often marriage proposals. Convicts did not know what would be waiting for them on their return, or even the chance of their return was always questionable.

These small tokens are also known as ‘leaden hearts’. They record personal and emotional responses from convicts whose lives are more often represented by official government records. This was one of the few ways a convict could leave a memento behind with loved ones in England before being transported.

Transportation was an alternative punishment to hanging. Convicted criminals were transported to the colonies to serve their prison sentences. It had the advantages of removing the criminal from society and was also quite cheap for the government as they only had to pay the cost of the journey. In 1787, transportation started to the first penal colonies in Australia. Over the years, about 160,000 people were sent there: men, women and children. ~S. Mcguire, PrisonVoices.org


Another article read:

In The Chronicles of Newgate, Arthur Griffiths quotes a prison inspector’s report from the parliamentary papers of 1836: “The most peaceably disposed found some occupation in Newgate making tokens, leaden hearts, and grinding the impression of penny-pieces, then pricking figures or words on them to give to their friends as memorials. The initials or names of a loving pair were punched upon them, together with a heart or some symbol of affection, sometimes with a motto such as ‘True for ever’, ‘Love for life’.

“The greatest value was attached to these tokens by the criminal classes. Those at large constantly wore them round their necks and treated them as amulets to preserve them from danger and detection.” ~Christopher Pearson, TheAustralian.com

They are beautiful, very romantic, and were treasured, but each coin tells a tragic story. Many surviving tokens have been researched, and their stories written. Imprisoned for something minor, facing death or banishment, and leaving behind the ones they loved. This was the only memento they could give. Sailors used them as well. I read some of the stories. Few who left ever returned.

How sad. How similar to my current situation. Too fucking similar.

I had originally been searching for perhaps lyrics, a poem, or something to go with a little birthday gift I had made for Sir. It started as a happy search. Inspired by a friend’s necklace, I had already had a pewter token engraved for Sir. I couldn’t afford anything fancier.

Until I read that article, I had no idea about the meaning behind the phrase ‘A Token of my Love’. Now my gift is just that much more appropriate. And honestly, as I write this, I am second-guessing giving it to him…

The news of my move next summer has hit us both very hard. I am not imprisoned, and we can be together until then, but it is still very difficult. Both of us have been suffering from bursts of sadness, anger, and depression. There have also been bursts of love, joy, and peace. We are talking about our feelings with each other, and understanding each other… most of the time.

Sometimes though, the pain is so intense we push the other away…

After the emotional bubbles pass though, we hold each other again. We go on. We work. We figure out what’s for dinner, have the dogs have been fed yet, and if the plants need watering. We have now. We live.

None of us is ever guaranteed a tomorrow, yet they keep coming until they don’t. Even with my superpowers of optimism, sluttiness, and an imagination that often changes my reality, I can’t change that fact. I think I know how long I have left, but realistically everything can end in an instant.

Since ours is possibly One of the Greatest Loves of All Time, it seems history dictates a tragic ending.

I will not put off an opportunity any more to tell Sir I love him. The pain will fade. Later, fond memories will bring smiles. I know that, even if logic has absolutely no control over emotions right now. I want him to have something small to remember me by then. I will still have my collar to comfort me.

I give to you my leaden heart as a token of my love.
If you see it, think of me.
If you hold it, you’re holding me.
If you kiss it, you’re kissing me.
If you wear it, I am with you.
I have always been and will always be Yours Sir.

leaden heart vintage paper

leaden heart vintage 2

My heart is
Yours to own
Love always

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