Valentine’s Day has been considered the most romantic day of the year for centuries, so we decided to spread a bit of modern romance with a global celebration across our galleries. From Hong Kong to Auckland to Amsterdam and beyond, champagne corks were popping, fresh red roses were aplenty and special treats were sweetening the mood and welcoming people in store.
The legend of St Valentine is in fact a bit of a mystery, but one story claims that Valentine was a martyred priest in 3rd century Rome, who was put to death by Emperor Claudius II for marrying young couples in secret. The emperor had decreed that single men made better soldiers than married ones, thus banning the union of marriage.
It was much later, in the Middle Ages and the era of courtly love, that Valentine’s Day became associated with lovers. The middle of February was believed to be the start of the mating season for birds, and many English and French poets starting drawing paralells between the mating season and Valentine’s Day. Geoffrey Chaucer, known as the ‘Father of English Literature’, penned ‘A Parliament of Fowls’ in around 1382, one of the first known references linking Valentine’s Day to lovers.
The British Library in London houses the oldest valentine still in existence – a poem written in 1415 by French nobleman Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London after being captured in battle.
Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in countries across the world and has inspired a plethora of poetry and songs. The 1930s film Babes in Arms produced the iconic love song My Funny Valentine, which was later covered by both Etta James and Frank Sinatra: “Sweet comic valentine, You make me smile with my heart.” If Valentine’s Day is about making someone smile, our gallery celebrations certainly raised plenty of smiles across the globe.