St Valentine's Day

It's that time of year when the shops are filled with pink love hearts and the TV is dominated by jewellery adverts -yes Valentine's Day is just around the corner.

But romantics everywhere might be surprised at the grizly origins of such a soft and fluffy celebration of love.

Posted By
Muntham Holiday Apartments
2nd February, 2024

St Valentine

The Grizzly History of St Valentine

Allegedly, it was on 14th February 270 AD that a Christian priest in Rome was executed on the orders of the then emperor. The villain of the piece was Claudius II also known at Claudius the Cruel. Claudius was grappling with shortage of manpower in the Roman Army and came to believe that it was a result of men not wanting to be parted from their wives while on service. He therefore banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentine defied this ban and continued to perform marriages. An alternative theory is that because Valentine was a Christian and Rome was still largely Pagan he was accused of subversive activities.

Not surprisingly, when this became known to the authorities Valentine was in big trouble. He was dragged before the prefect of Rome who sentenced him to death by clubbing followed by a beheading. The legend suggests that he left a farewell note to the daughter of his gaoler who he had befriended signing it "From Your Valentine". He was buried along the Via Flaminia and a later Pope, Julius I, erected a basilica over his grave. Archaeologists have found remains.

The problem with legends is that they are notoriously unreliable. Early Catholic records suggest that there are three saint Valentines all of whom were martyrs. Apart from the Valentine mentioned above there was one from Terni in Italy and one from a Roman province in Africa.

St Valentine's Day

Cards, Chocolates and Flowers

So, February has a bit of a history as a time for lovers and this continued through the Middle Ages when at this time of year it was alleged that birds chose their mates. As tme passed so the signiifcance of St Valentine's day grew and by the time of Shakespeare it had begun to take on many of the aspects we recognise today.

Valentine Cards made an appearance in the mid 1800's and as the postal service grew the numbers increased dramtically. In 1835 60,000 were sent and by 1840 with the appearance of cheaper post and the Penny Black Stamp, 400,000 were sent. The early cards were mass produced BUT very fancy by modern standards with lace and ribbons. Today, spending on cards, flowers and chocolates excceds £2 billion a year in the UK.

Cadbury's were the first chocolate manufacturer to produce Valentine specific gifts in 1868 with their heart shaped gift boxes.

As for flowers, although the rose is the floral emblem of Valetine's Day, the more authentic flower for Valentine's is the crocus. The rose has since come to symbolize romance thanks to the writings of people such as Burns and Shakepseare.

Giving jewellery is a much more modern development and didn't really appear until well into the second half of 20th century.