• Poll from 1981 reveals surprise sex symbols from the world of politics and royalty
• Celebrity figures named as dream Valentines
• UK population more romantic than ever before
Margaret Thatcher was seen as the dream Valentine date by one in twenty men during her time as Prime Minister, a new study of Gallup polls from the early 1980s show.
And Prince Charles was the dreamboat of his day in many women's eyes, with 13% of those quizzed saying they hoped he would break off his courtship of Diana Spencer and spend the day with them.
The 1981 poll doesn't document how many anonymous Valentine's cards each received, but does reveal that fewer cards generally were sent. Just over half of 18-35 year olds sent Valentine's Day cards compared to 64% today. Older people have become more romantic too, with 11% of over 65s sending cards compared to just 6% in 1981.
"It's encouraging to see that in this age of text messages and emails, the handwritten message is becoming increasingly valued," said Tim Fairs, director at Clintons, the national chain of greeting card retailers. "If you want to show how much you care for someone, a personalised, hand-written card counts for more than all the petrol forecourt flowers in the world."
The 1981 poll also found that 5% of men would want to spend Valentine's Day with Margaret Thatcher, compared to 21% who wanted to spend it with Sophia Loren. A romantic core of 5% of men picked their current partners, while 20% would rather spend the day on their own. 14% of women polled as part of the 1981 survey picked Roger Moore as their dream date. With Roger busy filming For Your Eyes Only at that time, another 14% instead chose unlikely heart-throb Terry Wogan as the man they'd like to spend Valentine's Day with. Evidently seduced by the recent success of 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da', 7% of women chose primary school teacher-turned-singer Sting.
Dream Valentines for men – 1981:
- Sophia Loren (21%)
- Pamela Stephenson (17%)
- Debbie Harry (11%)
- Jane Fonda (11%)
- Diana Ross (7%)
- Margaret Thatcher (5%)
- Wife/Girlfriend (5%)
- Other (3%)
- Alone (20%)
Dream Valentines for women – 1981:
- Roger Moore (14%)
- Terry Wogan (14%)
- Prince Charles (13%)
- Sting (7%)
- JR Ewing (6%)
- Daley Thompson (6%)
- Husband/boyfriend (6%)
- Other (12%)
- Alone (22%)
The tradition of sending a Valentine's Day note first became popular in the 18th century and takes its name from Saint Valentine, a martyr who was imprisoned for performing Christian marriage ceremonies. One legend states that the night before he was executed, he wrote a note to the daughter of his jailer which he signed "From your Valentine".
Traditionally, the Valentine's Day card was sent anonymously and could be used to woo a potential partner. However, today, the vast majority are bought by people already in relationships, although around 4% of cards are sent purely for fun.