Saint Valentine, Geoffrey Chaucer and Jesmond Dene House
Hallmark Cards was founded in Kansas City, in 1910, by Joyce Hall. However, in spite of the inordinate associated proceeds they receive annually, Joyce did not invent Valentine’s Day. So, who was Saint Valentine; what have they to do with Geoffrey Chaucer; and what has any of this to do with Jesmond Dene House?
With a superficial glance at Wikipedia, one can glean that Saint Valentine’s Day – or, the Feast of Saint Valentine – is an annual holiday, celebrated on February 14th, originating as a Western Christian liturgical feast, honouring early saints named “Valentinus”. Saints plural, there are several martyrdom stories, concerning various Valentines, connected to February 14th. So, there were loads of brave Valentines! But who is Joyce Hall’s – of Hallmark Cards – Valentine and why him of all the Valentines?
For our line of enquiry, Joyce’s Valentine is Saint Valentine of Terni: a third century, Roman saint associated with the tradition of courtly love. The popular, hagiographical account tells how Saint Valentine – a Roman Priest – was imprisoned for marrying soldiers forbidden to wed! According to legend, during his imprisonment, Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius (a Christian act par excellence). Before his execution, he wrote Asterius’ healed daughter a letter and signed it, “Your Valentine” (sound familiar?!). However, Valentine’s heroism, and its commemoration on February 14th, has come to permeate our consciousness thanks to Father of English Literature, Geoffrey Chaucer.
The first recorded association of Valentine's Day with courtly love is in Parlement of Foules (1382):
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
Consummate Royalist, Chaucer wrote Parlement to acknowledge the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. Whilst it has been unanimously accepted that Chaucer was referring to February 14th, mid-February is not traditionally a time when birds mate in England. Ever since – Shakespeare through Donne through Joyce Hall – Valentine’s Day has become synonymous with romance!
In not so formulaic a way as Joyce Hall and Hallmark Cards, one can celebrate Valentine’s Day at Jesmond Dene House this February. On 14th February itself, we’ve a Special Menu in our Restaurant. And, capturing the weekends either side, between 9th and 18th February, we’ve a Valentine’s Dinner, Bed & Breakfast Offer (for full details, follow: https://jesmonddenehouse.co.uk/valentines-day-at-jesmond-dene-house/).
Just don’t forget Valentinus of Terni and all the soldiers he wed!