IX, 2013, 1

A Lost Letter. Stephen the Great and the Wallachian Border Boyars | p. 23–52

border boyars, Braşov, political proclamation, scribes, Stephen the Great, Wallachia


This study scrutinizes the late fifteenth century correspondence between the Moldavian ruler, Stephen the Great, and the Wallachian boyars from the eastern borderlands. This letter exchange was the result of Stephen the Great’s initiative to support a pretender to the Wallachian throne. Thus, the Moldavian ruler sent two proclamations, of an identical content, to the boyars from the borderland regions of Buzău, Brăila and Râmnic. The harsh response of the Wallachian boyars had been written down, by the same scribe, with almost the same words, in two copies, on the back side of the Moldavian proclamations. Our contention is that this unique correspondence captures an incident that reveals far more about the medieval Moldavian-Wallachian political dialogue than the failed attempt by Stephen the Great to support a pretender. Thus, our analysis is focused on the language used in this correspondence, as well as on the political actors involved: the Moldavian ruler, the Wallachian boyars, the three scribes who wrote the four letters and the inhabitants of the Saxon city of Braşov, in whose archive this correspondence was unexpectedly preserved. The title of the article alludes to a famous nineteenth century comedy play, whose humour consists in the incongruity between the characters’ uncompromising assertions and their compliant actions. We suggest that, similar to the play’s characters, the late fifteenth century political actors concealed a far more complex dialogue of persuasion and negotiation under their apparently inflexible words.