History of Valentine's Day.

The Greatest Romances Ever and the History of Valentine’s Day

To help get you in the right mood to celebrate this year’s Val’s Day, below we have featured a quick history of the day and, in keeping with the spirit of the celebration, some of the greatest romances of all time, both old and new.

And as if all that isn’t enough, we also include some of the most memorable Valentine’s Day Quotes of all time.

Table of Contents

Historical Background of the Celebration of Valentine’s Day

How long has humanity been celebrating this special day? Read on to find out.

  • Valentine’s Day originated as the celebration of the life of one or two Christian saints, both named Valentine, who were martyred around the same time in the 3rd century. The first, whom the holiday has become primarily associated with, is Saint Valentine of Rome, who according to some legends was martyred in 269 for illegally wedding soldiers to their sweethearts at a time when it was supposedly illegal to do so, thus making him a true champion of love. He is also said to have ministered to persecuted Christians and miraculously restored the sight of his jailer’s daughter whom, upon his execution, he sent a missive signed your Valentine. Other legends state that the real crime behind Valentine’s capital punishment was his refusal to renounce Christianity and subsequently convert to paganism.
  • The second saint linked to this holiday is Valentine of Terni, of whom little is currently known except he was martyred in Africa in 273, where he probably fled to avoid persecution from Rome. Remains of both of these saints are still preserved by the Church to this day. In 496, the former Saint Valentine was officially recognized by the Catholic Church and February 14th was declared a holiday in his honor.
  • Initially Valentine’s Day had nothing to do with romantic love and didn’t become so until sometime around the 14th century. Valentine’s Day occurs within the same timeframe as did an ancient Roman pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia that was actually outlawed by the same pope, Gelasius I, who legalized Valentine’s Day. Thus some believe that Valentine’s Day is basically a Christianized version of Lupercalia. However, there has yet to be clear, distinct evidence of this.
  • France and England also used to consider February 14th the beginning of the bird-mating season, which may be another reason this holiday has become associated with romantic love. However, even to this day, associating courtship with Valentine’s Day is not a universal practice as some churches still hold an official feast in honor of the saints Valentine on February 14th. Yet in modern times, Valentine’s Day is commonly known for being a celebration of romantic love and in that regard has become one of the most-popular holidays in the world.

The Greatest Romances in History

Below are some of the most notable romance stories of the world that have left us all captivated:

1. Marc Antony & Cleopatra

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema - The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema – The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra

Marc Antony was a Roman general, and Cleopatra was a pharaoh of Egypt. Cleopatra, who was already married (to her younger brother) and had served as the mistress of famed Roman general Julius Caesar before his death, had also captured the heart of Antony when he had traveled to Egypt in a bid to further Roman influence in the North African region. This union was not approved by the powers that were in Rome yet the couple still wed in 36 B.C., with plans to consolidate their immense power and conquer Rome.

However, this was not to be as the Roman general Octavius defeated their combined forces. In hindsight, Antony’s and Cleopatra’s union is one of the most-significant in history. For instance, not only did Octavius go on to become the first Emperor of Rome (under the name Augustus), but Cleopatra’s demise marked the end of the glorified pharaonic period of Ancient Egypt.

2. King Richard & Anne of Bohemia

Anne of Bohemia
Anne of Bohemia

Although the marriage of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia was arranged, that doesn’t mean it didn’t result in a legitimate romance as apparently Richard and Anne were in love from the start. For instance, Anne, though well-connected politically, was far less-fortunate financially. In fact Richard had to lend her family money in order to pay her dowry, which didn’t sit well with many of his English natives. However, due to her compassionate nature, the people in England soon began to love their queen.

Though being renowned for having a committed marriage, unfortunately it was also a brief one that only lasted 12 years as Anne died at the age of 27 to the plague. Her death affected Richard so strongly that he destroyed the massive building in which she died. The first record of Valentine’s Day being linked to romantic love came in a poem written in 1382 that was actually dedicated to Richard and Anne on their first anniversary.

3. Lancelot and Guinevere

The Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere, by Julia Margaret Cameron
The Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere, by Julia Margaret Cameron

Another notable romance worth including in this list is that of Guinevere and Lancelot. While being married to King Arthur, Guinevere fell head over heels in love with Lancelot who was the chief knight to her husband. And since the feeling was mutual, Lancelot and Guinevere embarked on a secret affair.

Sadly for the couple, King Arthur discovered their betrayal and ordered that Guinevere be burned at the stake. However, Lancelot rescued her from the jaws of death and killed several knights of the king in the process. The illicit affair indirectly led to the deaths of scores of people, including King Arthur himself. Deeply saddened by the bloodshed caused by their affair, both Guinevere and Lancelot end up living lives of penitence as a nun and a hermit respectively.

4. Romeo & Juliet

Francesco Hayez, The last kiss given to Juliette by Romeo [L’ultimo bacio dato a Giulietta da Romeo]
Francesco Hayez, The last kiss given to Juliette by Romeo [L’ultimo bacio dato a Giulietta da Romeo]

Although Romeo and Juliet is a fictitious tale written by William Shakespeare in the 16th Century, these two names have become synonymous with real-life romantic love in many parts of the world.

It is believed that Shakespeare’s tale was a retelling of a legend that dates before his time, with some of the specifics from the story coming from a story written in Italy that was published over 100 years before Romeo and Juliet was in England.

5. Jay-Z & Beyoncé

Beyoncé and Jay-Z
Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Though one point of his career was marked by songs proclaiming his proficiency as a womanizer, all of that changed once American rapper Jay-Z met R&B diva Beyoncé sometime in the late 1990s. They enjoyed a pop media-influenced romance, where they performed a number of hit songs with and about each other, until the year 2008 when they actually wed.

As with all Hollywood power couples, their marriage endured divorce rumors and other kinds of harsh criticisms, but in 2018, after having three children during their first 10 years of wedlock, they renewed their marriage vows, thus reaffirming the impression that nothing is going to be able to break their love apart.

6. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visit Belfast’s Crown Liquor Saloon - 2018
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visit Belfast’s Crown Liquor Saloon – 2018

Prince Harry, a popular former member of British royalty, met Meghan Markle in 2016 as the result of a blind date. The couple had a whirlwind courtship, which of course was highlighted by media speculation and massive-popular interest.

Their brief dating relationship ended less than two years later when in 2018 they got married, all of this despite plenty of outspoken opposition against someone of Markle’s African-American ancestry becoming a member of British royalty.

Best Valentine’s Day Wishes and Messages

Best Valentine’s Day Wishes + Messages for a Day of Affection

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Yiannis Kalliantas

Yiannis Kalliantas (He/Him) has worked for more than 15 years in the hotel industry, organizing all kinds of social events like birthday parties and wedding receptions.

He has been one of the top contributors on Birthday Wishes Expert since the launching of the site. Yiannis has curated hundreds of articles and he is committed to the mission of our site to helping people from all around the world find the right birthday wish on every occasion.

He has an MBA in Tourism, and is an avid city photographer. His recent work on street photography in Athens, Greece can be found on his website IWalkAthens.com.