For all you romantics, who see in love the highest form of friendship one can find on earth, the following list of 10 most famous couples in history offers a look at love across the ages. The love stories, like the people who wove them, are filled with passion and a spark of the eternal. And what makes them magical is the fact that all these famous couples are not fictional. Every love story here really happened.
#1. Elizabeth Barrett Browning & Robert Browning
This love story reads like a fairytale. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, an invalid and plain-looking woman, was born with a soul that could speak in poetry as others speak conversationally. Hardly the candidate for one half of a famous couple, she became the center of a beautiful love story. Famous for her poetry, she was contacted by a handsome, worldly young poet who was just starting to make a name for himself. Six years her junior, Robert Browning might have chosen a young, pretty heiress for his bride. But his soul had fallen in love with Elizabeth long before they met. The famous couple married in secret and lived in Italy most of their lives, their poetry reaching new elevations of perfection through mutual inspiration.
#2. Heloise & Abelard
Perhaps the most romanticized famous couple in history are the medieval nun, Heloise, and the philosopher, Abelard. The attachment began when Abelard was hired to tutor young Heloise. The two fell deeply in love and married in secret when Heloise became pregnant. The story runs that from this point this famous couple was doomed to misery. Discovered by Heloise’s guardian, the couple were separated. Heloise was sent to live behind the closed gates of a convent. Abelard was castrated in his sleep and retired from the world to become a monk. The love letters of this famous couple have become the stuff of legends.
#3. Antony and Cleopatra
In her time, Cleopatra was said to be the most beautiful woman in the world, while Anthony was a Roman General, entrusted with the provinces of the East. And yet, the famous couple, each with opposing political agendas, were destined to become immortal lovers. So besotted with Cleopatra became Anthony that he rebelled against Rome and was defeated in the battle of Actium, the greatest sea battle of its day. Upon hearing rumors of Cleopatra’s suicide, Anthony is said to have taken his own life, as did Cleopatra in turn when the news reached her. This famous couple of antiquity was immortalized in William Shakespeare’s tragedy named after the famous lovers who dared so much in the name of love and power.
#4. Mary Shelly & Percy Bysshe Shelly
One of the most famous couples in literature and poetry are the novelist, Mary Shelly, creator of Frankenstein, and the immortal romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelly. The two were young when they met and very much in love but, inheriting from Mary’s father the view that marriage was a “repressive monopoly”, they did not marry at first and even entered simultaneous romantic attachments with friends and acquaintances. In consequence, the love this famous couple felt for each other was both fraught with passion and with sadness, and when Mary sunk into depression at the death of her child, Shelly wrote to her: ” My dearest Mary, wherefore hast thou gone, and left me in this dreary world alone?” Despite their affairs, the famous couple remained together until the tragic sailing accident that claimed Percy’s life.
#5. Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII
Imagine a King giving up his thrown to be with the woman he loves. The story of this famous couple is perhaps the most romantic of the 20th Century. Though groomed to the crown from infancy, King Edward VIII fell in love with a divorcee, and consequently a woman deemed unfit to sit on the thrown of England beside him. But so in love were this famous couple that, rather than break beneath the tide of opposition from the royal family, the House of Lords and the entire machine of British government, the two vowed to marry-but at the price of losing the thrown. King Edward VIII became the Duke of Windsor and married his beloved Wallis Simpson. The famous couple lived happily together for 35 years.
#6. Lady Jane Gray and Lord Guildford Dudley
This famous couple lies at the heart of the most dramatic event in British royal succession. Named his successor by King Edward VI, Lady Jane Gray was to become the Queen of England in defiance of “The Third Succession Act” which promised the thrown to the King’s half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth. Lady Jane was only 16 at the time and her handsome husband, Lord Guildford, was only 17. When pressed to take the thrown, Lady Jane begged to be excused, but her family, the peers of England and even her husband pressed her. In the 9 days that followed, Jane and Guildford passed humane laws to alleviate the wretched lives of England’s peasants. But already the seeds of power were destroying their love and ambitions. When the 9 days drew to a close, Lady Jane was declared a usurper and traitor by the peers of England who chose to support her sister, Mary, instead. The famous couple were beheaded.
#7. Napoleon and Josephine
This famous couple proved that love may outlast even adultery and separation. The young general, Napoleon Bonaparte, wishing to smooth his path to promotion, power and wealth, married the wealthy widow, Josephine. Though a marriage of convenience at first, the relationship blossomed into a passionate love in which the couple exchanged famed love letters great beauty. Though finally separating when Josephine was unable to give Napoleon an heir, the famous couple remained one of his history’s unforgettable lovers, as proven by Napoleon’s parting words on his deathbed when he whispered the name of Josephine.
#8. Marie and Pierre Curie
This famous couple encapsulate the unity of mind and body. The story begins with Maria Sklodowska, a Polish Chemistry student who came to study in the Sorbonne in Paris. There, Pierre Curie, the head of one of the university labs, was struck by the studious beautiful student. But with a spirit of a woman committed to her work more so than her heart, Maria, known as Marie in Paris, would not marry the ardent chemist, not until he proposed many times. But then began a deep love as the two worked together to uncover the uncharted world of radioactive materials. For their discovery of radium and polonium, the famous couple won a Nobel prize. After Pierre’s death in 1911, Marie never married again but continued working in Chemistry and became the first person to win a second Nobel Prize.
#9. Queen Victoria & Prince Albert
This famous couple embodies a beautiful love story of a Queen who fell in love with her husband before he ever fell in love with her. Victoria was not a pretty girl but a vivacious one when she married the handsome Prince Albert of Germany. Though Victoria is said to have fallen in love almost at first sight, the Prince found Victoria and the power she wielded in her mannerism less than attractive. And yet, through love this famous couple cultivated a unique friendship. Prince Albert became Queen Victoria’s right-hand-man, advising her on matters of State and diplomacy. On his death, Victoria was struck with such grief that she shut herself up in a Scottish palace for three years, far removed from public life. Though she later took up her role as Queen once more, she wore black to the end of her days and never stopped mourning her beloved Prince.
#10. Francesca & Paolo
This famous couple lies at the heart of an epic tragedy. Francesca and Paolo are said to have been real-life characters, whom Dante immortalized in his “Divine Comedy”. Reading the medieval love story of Lancelot and Guinevere together, the two fell in love. But alas, Paolo was the brother of the cruel and powerful husband of Francesca, and though the famous couple lived to become passionate lovers, they were soon discovered and executed by the cuckolded husband.