At some point in their lives, most people fall in love. But what is it that distinguishes the average person’s love and romance from those considered the greatest love affairs in history? While each person’s lists of the great love affairs may vary, each has several aspects in common, such as the couple’s willingness to suffer for their love and attraction against all odds.
At the opening of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the famous lovers have not yet met. Romeo actually spends part of his first scene pining for another woman, Rosalind. But the minute he spies Juliet, he claims that “ne’er saw true beauty till this night.” The attraction between the pair is instantaneous. Other great love affairs, such as Napoleon and Josephine, felt a strong attraction upon first seeing the other.
Disregard for Society’s Opinion
Although their families had been feuding for years, Romeo and Juliet managed to carry on their love affair. A few other famous couples managed to fall and stay in love, despite not having the support of society. Edward, the former Prince of Wales, gave up being king of England and all his royal status so that he could marry Wallis Warfield Simpson, an American divorcée. Although he had married his rival’s sister to end a war in Italy, Mark Antony still fell for the Egyptian queen Cleopatra.
Many of the great love affairs in history featured partners who worked together to reach political goals. For instance, Catherine the Great may have plotted to overthrow and murder her husband, the Czar of Russia, Peter the III. After Peter was out of the way, she went on to rule the country with Potemkin, her lover, by her side. The Perons of Argentina were another politically united power couple. When Juan Domingo Peron was elected president of Argentina, he and his wife, Evita, worked together to reform the country’s social welfare.
Dying for Love
It may seem extreme to most people, but the partners in a majority of the great love affairs were willing to die rather than face life without their love. Juliet stabs herself, thinking Romeo is dead. After he awakens to find her body lying next to him, he too takes his life. Antony and Cleopatra suffered a similar fate. He killed himself, thinking she was dead. After he died in her arms, she let herself be bitten by a poisonous snake.
The Rare Happy Ending
Not all of the great love affairs in history ended in tears and grief. The former Prince Edward and his wife Wallis spent the rest of their days together in France. Despite enduring the kidnapping of their child, Charles and Anne Lindbergh carried on their marriage until his death in 1974. Elizabeth Waring of Detroit was instrumental in changing her husband, Julius Waring’s opinion on race and segregation in the United States. Waring went on to judge that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional, paving the way for the Civil Rights movement.