From poet's and presidents to kings and courtesans,
history is filled with great romances and timeless love stories.
The history of Valentine's Day - and its patron saint - is shrouded in mystery.
Who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?
According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first "valentine" greeting himself.
While in prison, it is believed that he fell in love with a young girl
- who may have been his jailor's daughter - who visited him during his confinement.
Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter,
which he signed "From your Valentine," an expression that is still in use today.
Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky,
the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic,
and, most importantly, romantic figure.
It's not surprise that by the Middle Ages,
Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.
During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in these countries
that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season,
which added to the idea that the middle of February
- Valentine's Day - should be a day for romance.
The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem
written 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.
The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection
of the British Library in London. Several years later, it is believed
that King Henry V hired a writer to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.
ROSA GALLICA L. CV. 'DUCHESSE D'ORLEANS'
Valentines greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages,
and the oldest known card is on display at the British Museum.
The first commercial greeting cards produced in the U.S.
were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland.
Howland known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate
creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap."
My Bounty is boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
Shakespeare - 1564-1616 (Romeo and Juliet)
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY
1. image: Manon Balletti, 1757
by Jean-Marc Nattier (1685-1766)
National Gallery, London
2. image: Greetingcard from the WWF
3. image: Pierre-Joseph Redoute, Romantic Roses
Taschen GmbH, www.taschen.com
4. image: Jacob van Walscappelle (1644-1727)
National Gallery, London
Last image my own