A Short History of Valentine’s Day
Hello again. It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, so of course I shall include a few tidbits about the history of St. Valentine’s Day. All of us have heard the day is named for a priest, sainted by the Catholic Church. Three such priests were sainted and martyred.
One legend contends that Valentine was one of these priests and served during the third century in Rome. Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers and outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers. He was put to death for his efforts, but he remained a hero to the people. Valentine was seen as a romantic figure and became one of the most popular saints in England and France.
There were other contenders, but I thought this was the most romantic.
At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day to shatter a pagan festival. It was years later before that day became known as a day for romance. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed February 14 was the start of mating season for birds, thus adding to the rightness of that day for romance.
Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages. Written valentines didn’t begin to appear until the 1400. The oldest known valentine, still in existence today, was a love poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. It now resides in the British Library in London, England.
In Great Britain, celebrating Valentine’s Day became popular in the 17th century. In the middle of the 18th century, all social classes from the highest Lords and Ladies to the scullery maids and boot-boys exchanged small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. Of course, written notes only applied to people that could scribe.
Americans may well have exchanged hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. She was known as the “Mother of the Valentine”. She made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures known as scrap.
Being a man of the times, Lord Royce Carrington, Earl of Rivton (the hero in A Lady’s Vanishing Choices) wrote such a love note to his beloved wife. On a mission to discover a killer, he witnessed Juliet Savoy’s death beneath the wheels of a gig. As he watched in horror, all he could think about was how much she reminded him of his wife, the same build, the graceful stride, the hair color, and lovely complexion. The disaster finally made him realize his love for Bethany. It was no longer merely passion—if it had ever been only that. In his room in the inn that night, he dashed off a valentine for his wife.
To My Valentine, Bethany Ann.
My fairest wife, you are the keeper of my heart.
I pledge it now until this life I depart.
A deep love for you has flooded my soul.
I do apologize because this love was never told.
I shall ever keep you safe and warm.
Tomorrow night, you shall rest in my arms.
Royce folded the love note and placed it in his pocket where it was forgotten. No doubt because of all the happenings going forward at his estate when he arrived home.
A Lady’s Vanishing Choices is my latest release from Soul Mate Publishing.
The whole of A Lady’s Vanishing Choices is a love story, not merely a love note, as are all my books. However, all three are not the traditional Regency romance. All are laced with mystery, suspense, and above all—love.
I hope you enjoyed this small glimpse into the history of Valentine’s Day with me.