Imprisoned, the First Valentine’s Day Card was Sent!

Those without a loved one to share Valentine’s Day have more in common with the tradition of sending cards than those with a significant other. Imprisoned and alone, a nobleman sent the first card.


I thought the Victorians began the tradition with their sentimental, flowery, lacy, and cupid adorned cards. I imagined a scene like this one:

The couple meets at a soiree where the fine lady’s heart beats like a caged canary. The gentleman wears gloves and even with them worries he’ll leave a thumbprint on the greeting card. He escorts her to a small chamber not far from the ballroom. Her cheeks flush with the touch of his warm hand on her back. It sends a thrill of which she is not accustomed. He pulls the declaration of love from his breast pocket and presents it with a bow. She smiles, rips it open and gasps when she sees two naked cupids complete with jiggly bits dancing in the sky. Underneath are the words “Be My Lover.” She drops the card and trounces from the room.

And that is when the gentleman became acquainted with the florist’s establishment around the corner which he frequented in years to come.

Cupids and heart Valentine

Sending cards began more than 400 years earlier with a French romantic poet, of course! It did not begin with the uptight Victorians, but the English had their part in history.

The French nobleman, Charles I de Valois, Duke of Orleans fought against the English and became trapped in his own armor. (How does that happen? “Help me! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!) In 1415, he took up residence as a prisoner in the Tower of London.

The Tower of London

That is where he wrote the very first Valentine poem to his wife, Bonne of Berry, whom he missed dearly. They were married the year Charles was imprisoned when she was the ripe age of eleven.

Go Forth My Heart

Go forth, my hert, with my lady;
Loke that we spare no business
To serve her with such lowliness,
That ye get her grace and mercy.

Pray her of times prively
That she keep trewly her promise
Go forth &c.

I must as a hertless body
Abide alone in hevyness,
And ye shal do wel with your maistress
In plesans glad and mery.                    (pleasure)
Go forth &c.

© Charles I de Valois, Duke of Orleans. 


I’m not sure the Duchess had much time for pleasure or merriment since she died five years later at age sixteen. She left the Duke childless.


The first Valentine is included in this letter to the Duke’s wife in 1415. The over-adorned cards came later.  Photo credit BBC.

Not to be outdone by his romantic prisoner, King Henry V had a poet, John Lydgate, write a Valentine poem for his wife, Queen Catherine de Valois. Henry only lived a few more years and then Catherine married a Tudor. They kept poor Charles locked up. Such was life in the Middle Ages.

After twenty-five years as a prisoner of war, Charles was freed.

That same year, he married Maria of Cleves who was thirty-five years his junior.

Is this where the most overused verb in romance novels, “cleave” originated?

I can imagine there was a lot of cleaving going on in the Duke’s bedroom after being imprisoned for such a long time.

The freed Duke and fourteen-year-old Maria waited seventeen years to become proud parents. They had two daughters and their son became King Louis the XII of France. The Duke died in 1465 and Maria secretly married a much younger man fifteen years later. Good for her!

Here’s another fun fact: The Duke of Orleans’ mother was named Valentina and was also a poet.

Many claim, she died of a broken heart at age 40 after her husband was killed by a cousin. Her son was the first to send a Valentine card.

Was that ironic, poetic justice, or poetic irony?

I’m sure she had no idea her son would become such a trendsetter. According to History. com, around 150 million Valentine’s Day cards will be sent this year. That may have cheered her up.


Valentina mourning the death of her husband – By Francois Fleury Richard – Wikimedia

So if you are alone this Valentine’s day, buy yourself a box of chocolates and a romance novel. Every time you see the word “cleave” eat a delicious bon-bon and think about the man who sent the first Valentine card who was without a lover for 25 years! Maybe you should buy two boxes…

800px-Aladdin_chokladask_pralinerPhoto credit – Wikimedia

Happy Valentine’s Day!

How will you celebrate the day?

Click for more adventure on the Wild Ride! 

Related articles:

Leaping for Love, Lust and Lulu on Valentine’s Day – Valentine’s Day

The Daily Post

Click for a funny and surprising story about the first Valentine sent from The Tower of London! England, Duke of Orleans, Valentines Day, History, Culture #history #valentinesday #historyofvalentinesday #valentines #valentinecards

95 thoughts on “Imprisoned, the First Valentine’s Day Card was Sent!

Add yours

  1. What a fascinating post! We went to a trivia competition on Friday night and Valentine’s was one of the categories. I could have used this info then to avoid an inglorious 5th place finish.

    I’m taking your advice about the chocolates, which means I will be cleaving to my stretch pants this Valentine’s Day.


    1. I couldn’t believe the story about the Duke. There is so much irony in history. The fact that he fell over in his armor and became trapped was hysterical. Congrats on your 5th place! Unless of course there were only 5 competing…. 🙂
      I would love to know how many times the word “cleave” is mentioned in those classic romance novels with Fabio on the cover. Cleave on my friend!


      1. There were 12 tables so we weren’t total failures. We got the question right about “where was the first sender when he penned the first valentine”, but missed the # sent each year.

        “Cleave” and “heaving bosoms” are both very popular in those books. Or so I’m told.


          1. It was, except another category was “books”. One question went something like, “Name the 3 (3 of the?) books in the smutty, online books series.” All we could think of was “Shades of Grey” and we didn’t even know enough to put “50” at the front of the title. The feeling of smug superiority that none of us had actually read that drivel was little comfort for getting 0 points for the question.


  2. Gosh it’s that time of the year already. Thank you for the history lesson 😉 We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day in our little bubble… but wish everybody who does a blessed day 🙂


    1. It’s a tough one for those without a date so I was surprised when reading our founding father of Valentine cards was without a lover for 25 years!
      Thanks Barry! And Happy Valentine’s Day to you even if you don’t celebrate it in England! That’s kind of ironic too. Leave it to the Americans to commercialize the feast day.


  3. Interesting post Susie. There’s something about St Valentine running around in my the murk of my head. 😀
    When you speak of cleave, it reminds not to use it in my poetry. Thanks.
    Lastly a Feb 14th hug (if you accept them from weirdo’s like me.)

    Be Well.


    1. Of course! I accept all hugs especially one from you!
      I think St. Valentine is lurking in many heads this week.
      Thanks so much Linton!
      PS – use the word “cleave” as often as you want!


    1. Here, here! We have to love ourselves first! So bring on the chocolate whether we have a significant other in our lives or not. I have a box down in the kitchen and it’s almost time for a break…..


  4. I always thought that the guy who became St. Valentine had something to do with this, but I’m at The Grind and too lazy to check this out on Wikipedia, Susie. As for being “in-between” partners, I’m okay with it. I see Valentine’s Day as such a money pit. This year, I’ve invested those funds in the direction of new glasses. They’ll hopefully help me get a clearer view of who my next chocolate inhaling Valentine might be.


    1. I love Charlie Brown! He is very relatable.
      I had never heard of this Duke and the history of card-giving, but it was a dandy! (now there’s a word you don’t see every day…)


  5. Good compilation of the Valentine trail, Susie. You and your friends – single, hitched, experimenting, searching – are all invited to share in some big like at the Cougar Den this Friday. I have it on good authority that you like a party. No strings attached!!


  6. My man seems to think that jiggling the jiggly bits in front of my face is romantic, too. What’s up with that? I’m going to have a party, too, one with finger food only. This will certainly end up funny rather than romantic. I hope you get lots of chocolate.


  7. I always thought that Valentine’s Day was pagan in origin, what with the naked cherubs and arrows and stuff. It bugged me that the same parents who wouldn’t let their kids celebrate Halloween because of its dark side, would be the ones sending their kids to school with sacks full of cards and candies on Valentine’s Day…or maybe it was just my bitterness about how few cards I typically got.


    1. There is a spring tradition that coincided with the beginning of mating season, so they put Valentine’s Day in the same month.
      Awww! You and Charlie Brown. Well here’s a big cyber card from your friend Susie!


  8. Valentine’s day doesn’t get much attention in my house. We decided long ago that paying 2-3 times as much for things that are usually a lot less expensive just because it has been declared a day that we should do that is ridiculous. We should treat each other every day the way we are expected to on Valentine’s day. With love and respect.
    As for those chocolates, I will wait until the next day when they are all half price. 😉


    1. Great idea! That’s when I should have bought all my Bronco gear! 🙂
      I agree about love and respect. There are so many out there that don’t remember they live in a community!


  9. This will be my second Valentine’s Day alone. However, I’m not going to stuff my face with chocolate (dark, if you please) and make my loss of 10 pounds a distant memory. Susie, love your treatise of the holiday, and thanks for all that historical stuff! Always wanted to know. 🙂


  10. Reblogged this on Gogwit's Blog and commented:
    Thanks for this. I’d always been under the impression that the Valentine’s Day card was the opportunity to declare, anonymously, the undying love and affection which would be the stuff of scandal, of tongues set wagging, were it declared on any other day of the year.
    Am I sending such a message this year?
    Why – blush – that would be telling!


  11. It’s all a bunch of hogwash I tell you. The first Valentine’s card was created by a lady and her name was Hallmark. She was in cahoots with another lady named See and a guy named Hersey. Together they got rich in February. The end.

    Stuck in his own suit of armor? Wonder how often that happened?

    Good stuff, Susie.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


    1. Thanks Patricia! I laughed so hard when I read that the poor Duke became trapped. Poor guy.
      I think you just figured it out. Yep. They’ve been in cahoots for years!!!
      Happy Valentine’s Day!


  12. Looks like we get a bit of a history lesson today with our flowers, cards, and chocolates. Now it’s really a Hallmark holiday more like the St Valentines Day Massacre!


  13. This weekend just gone, I missed a chance to see real knights in armour – the local medieval society had a re-enactment planned. They’re the real deal – I believe Peter Jackson uses them for his movies. Alas, it rained.,, I think they staged the jousting etc anyway but my wife and I decided tramping around a fake battlefield in the rain wasn’t quite our thing… Possibly one or more of them got trapped in their own armour, a la the Duc, but these days I guess they have wrenches and such like to unbolt the stuff. 🙂


    1. Too bad! That would have been fun. I went to a Renaissance Festival a while back and it was a blast! No rain, but lots of dust and dirt.
      I think I would get claustrophobic in all that metal. 🙂


  14. This history is fascinating, and I love the way you add your humor to it. Did you write the Victorian piece? Love the bit about the cherubs! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: