To my wife, Kate:
“If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.”
A A Milne, Winnie the Pooh
One legend of St. Valentine contends that he was a priest in third century Rome. Emperor Claudius 11 outlawed marriage because single men made better warriors. Valentine, however, continued to perform marriages in secret. When the Emperor discovered what Valentine was doing he ordered that Valentine be put to death. Whilst awaiting execution, so the story goes, he fell in love with the jailor's blind daughter. His love and belief in God cured her blindness and, when he was taken to be killed on 14 February, he sent her a love letter signed "from your Valentine".
Others claim that the Christian church decided to celebrate the feast of Valentine in an effort to 'christianise' the celebrants of the Lupercalia, a pagan festival that celebrated purification and fertility. It was held in mid-February.
The first Valentine message (apart from that by St Valentine himself) is thought to be a poem from Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife in 1415. He was captured at the Battle of Agincourt and was imprisoned in the Tower of London to await execution.
Traditionally on Valentine's Day in a leap year - every four years - women can propose marriage to their partner!
Valentine's Day didn't become popular in the UK until the 17th Century. By the 18th Century it was traditional for people to swap handwritten messages of affection. Printed cards soon replaced these, making it easier for people to say "I love you" secretly.
Some of the Valentine cards from the past are inappropriate by today’s standards and sensitivities, creepy and just so wrong. Here are some...