The oldest existing Valentine card is believed to be housed in the manuscript collection of the British Library. In 1415, Charles, duke of Orléans, gave his wife a valentine while being held prisoner in the Tower of London. The French nobleman was wounded and captured at the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Year’s War.
The valentine poem that Charles wrote his wife was not the typical happy-go-lucky valentine that we may be use to but, instead, was of somber yearning:
Je suis desja d’amour tanné
Ma tres doulce Valentinée…
I am already sick of love
My very gentle Valentine…
The duchess died before the poem could reach her. Over the duke’s 25 year imprisonment, he wrote his wife 60 love poems that are often said to have been the first “valentines.”
[Zim’s Side Note: The Battle of Agincourt was the centerpiece of William Shakespeare’s Henry V. Charles, duke of Orléans appears in the classic play as well.]