Have you ever wondered what kind of passionate love would have to truly exist to inspire such embellished, sexy stories like that of Romeo and Juliet? Love has caused people to do some outrageous, sweet, compassionate and downright crazy things over the years, with just as many outrageous twists and turns as your favorite romance movie or novel.
Yes, love has conquered, disrupted, and overthrown people, countries, and beliefs over and over throughout the years. And while not all of these loves might be considered unselfish, they certainly show the spark of power that ignites when two people are that crazy about each other.
Historical love stories that have echoed through the ages
Ah, love. Who would have thought that the love two people had for each other could change the course of history? These four couples have definitely done just that!
#1 Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. “The demonstrations of your affection are such … that they oblige me for ever to honour, love, and serve you sincerely, beseeching you to continue in the same firm and constant purpose, assuring you that, on my part, I will surpass it rather than make it reciprocal, if loyalty of heart and a desire to please you can accomplish this.” -A letter to Anne from Henry VIII. Adorably, the initials “A.B.” can be found drawn inside a heart at the bottom of the letter.
Alright, so being accused of infidelity and having your head chopped off probably doesn’t quickly fall under your category of “great love stories,” but there was something powerful and unique about the love briefly shared between King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
Anne Boleyn, famously refusing to be Henry’s mistress as her sister had done, was a lady-in-waiting to Henry’s wife, Catharine of Aragon. Anne was fiery, outspoken, and perfectly manipulative. Soon, the passions between Henry and Anne became so explosive that Henry was willing to do just about anything to have her. She allegedly kept this charming and spoiled King out of her petticoats long enough to insist that there would be no hanky-panky until they were married. [Read: 10 sneaky techniques guys use to get into your pants]
Henry all but begged the Pope to grant him a divorce from his wife, Catharine, who was too old to produce a male heir. When no acceptance was granted to annul the marriage, Henry took matters into his own hands by setting the Reformation in motion, separating church and state by denouncing the authority of the Catholic Church over his marriage and his country.
Once in the hands of the people, the Reformation became largely about the Protestant religion, something Henry was once against, and it still stands to this day that Protestantism is the official religion in England.
With his new religion and new declaration as “Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England,” King Henry VIII got his divorce and his marriage to Anne Boleyn – much to the dismay of the English people, who had so loved their previous Queen. Anne soon gave birth to a daughter, and one of the greatest rulers England has ever seen – Elizabeth I. With this act of defiance, Henry began a religious revolution that spiraled out of control throughout his entire life.
Things took a turn for the worst three years after Anne and Henry married. Without the male heir Anne promised him, Henry VIII’s eyes wandered to his wife’s lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour, and had Anne Boleyn beheaded on charges of adultery, incest and witchcraft. While fleeting, the passionate love shared between the fiery, intelligent Anne Boleyn and the all-powerful Henry VIII was enough to shake the entire country that its effects still echo to this day.
#2 Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.” – Duke of Windsor, Edward.
Another royal to shake up England with his love interest was Edward, Prince of Wales. After being introduced to Wallis Simpson, an already twice-married woman often criticized as a social climber, Edward found her to be the perfect partner. When King George V passed away, Edward was crowned king, but carried on romantically with Wallis and eventually proposed.
The proposal caused such a huge scandal that the Prime Minister himself said he would resign if the couple carried out their plans for marriage. Instead of pulling a Henry VIII, Edward instead chose to abdicate the throne after less than a year of ruling, and left Britain to marry Wallis. Now that’s love!
Here’s a bit of trivia: It is said that Edward and Wallis were both Nazi sympathizers. Now imagine what that would have meant if Edward was allowed to marry Wallis and reign as the King of England!
#3 George Burns and Gracie Allen. “Happiness? A good cigar, a good meal, and a good woman – or a bad woman; it depends on how much happiness you can handle.” – George Burns
Theatre lovers George Burns and Gracie Allen met at a vaudeville theater in New Jersey and soon became stars in vaudeville, radio, and television. At the time of their successful partnership, Burns fell in love with his co-star, who was already engaged to another man.
One year later, at a Christmas party, Burns made Allen cry, in which she finally relented to his affections, saying that he was the only boy to ever make her cry, and this must’ve meant that she truly loved him.
This famous couple defied social standards at the time, not only marrying as a Jew and an Irish Catholic, but also by adopting two children. Aside from that, both were known for their philanthropic causes such as making numerous contributions to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A.
This on-screen/off-screen couple even adopted adorable nicknames for one another, with Gracie calling George “Nattie” and George referring to her as “Googie.” Let’s all say it together now: Aww!
Gracie died in 1964 and was put in a crypt with the inscription: “Good night, Gracie” only to be replaced after George Burns’ death whereafter the crypt read: “Together Again.”
#4 Antony and Cleopatra. “I made these wars for Egypt, and the Queen, whose heart I thought I had, for she had mine.” – William Shakespeare, Anthony & Cleopatra
Cleopatra VII Philophator, the last active pharaoh of Egypt and the woman with the fabulous winged liner copied even today, did more than just inspire a makeup look! A learned woman, Cleopatra studied religion, language, math, and knew how to use her intellect, charm, and feminine wiles to her advantage. In fact, she banked on it on several different occasions!
At the time, it was the custom to marry family members, so she became the wife of her much younger brother, Ptolemy. At the same time, she was also mistress to Julius Caesar, Dictator of Rome, the lover who would eventually assign her as Queen over Egypt. Within just a few years, on the Ides of March, Julius Caesar was murdered, creating an upheaval in Rome with many factions now vying for power over it – one such army being that of Mark Antony, once loyal friend to Caesar.
Cleopatra was summoned to meet Mark Antony in Tarsus, and while there, Cleopatra saw an opportunity to obtain power within Rome. Antony, for his part, was immediately smitten by her charms. Before long the two became lovers.
Eventually, Antony returned to Italy to discuss a settlement that might quiet the political unrest in Rome. The solution? He married the sister of Octavian, Caesar’s lawful heir and at the time, the Emperor of Rome. It would be three years before he saw Cleopatra, his extremely forgiving lover and baby mama, again. [Read: Should you ever forgive a cheating partner?]
After their reunion, Cleopatra got pregnant and wiggled her way back into controlling Rome’s eastern possessions, to the dismay of the Roman Emperor.
Soon, war broke out, and despite the numerous sailors and sea vessels sent out by Antony and Cleopatra, Octavian gained victory, and Antony fell on his own sword in suicide. Hearing that her lover was dead and her forces defeated, Cleopatra dressed in her finest and followed her lover’s suit – committing suicide.
While tragic, the love shared between these two historic figures has inspired movies and plays throughout the years, all trying to portray their passionate affair and their dramatic demise by their own hands.
[Read: 10 types of love you’ll experience in your lifetime]
Love can touch people for centuries, can forgive, and in some cases, can change a country. Let these true love stories show you just how this one human emotion can cause the ripples that will change the world for centuries to come.
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Waverly Smith is a freelance writer who has been getting paid for spreading her sarcastic take on love, life, and sex since 2010. She is many things that peo...
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