−−− BY LINZI DAVIES −−−
February is the month when love is in the air. You cannot avoid all the hearts and teddy bears, chocolates and flowers on sale for loved up couples to show their undying love for each other on Valentines Day. Restaurants are booked up for candlelit dinners, and there are proposals of marriage. There is nothing like a love story to capture the heart and our feature looks at some of the greatest romances in history – two Royals for whom love was everything. Victoria was so heartbroken by the loss of Albert that she spent the rest of her life in mourning, and for Edward VIII, the crown was no match for his love of Wallis Simpson. We also look at some stars of the silver screen who captured the hearts of courting couples in the cinemas. They show us how sometimes, chemistry cannot be ignored but ‘true love never runs smoothly’ for some, while for others love really did conquer all! To finish off our romantic feature, some of our readers share their love stories.
Queen Victoria And Prince Albert
The love between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert is well known. Despite the constrictions of Victorian society, the Queen never shied away from revealing her feelings to her private journal, and in letters to family members.
The pair, first cousins, were introduced by their Uncle, King Leopold I of Belgium when they were teenagers, and got on well. Three years later they met again. By now, Victoria was queen, and Albert was a strapping 20yr old man. Immediately smitten, she wrote in her journal on the evening he arrived in 1839 “It was with some emotion that I beheld Albert, who is beautiful. He really is quite charming, and so excessively handsome, such beautiful blue eyes, an exquisite nose, and such a pretty mouth…. My heart is quite going!”
Just four days later, she proposed to him as was Royal protocol at the time. Albert had to return home to Saxe-Coburg to organise his affairs before he relocated to England, which meant the pair were apart for three months. They obviously hated being apart, and Albert wrote her a letter which said “Dearest, deeply loved Victoria, I need not tell you that since we left, all my thoughts have been with you at Windsor and that your image fills my whole soul. Even in my dreams I never imagined that I should find so much love on earth. How that moment shines for me when I was close to you, with your hand in mine. Those days flew by so quickly, but our separation will fly equally so. Heaven has sent me an angel whose brightness shall illumine my life. Body and soul ever your slave, Albert.”
These letters and diary entries reveal a passion between the two that we would never imagine could exist in the stuffy and prudish Victorian era. The pair married on 7th February 1840 at St James’s Palace and they spent the night at Windsor Castle.
This passion did not wane throughout their marriage either. They had nine children together, and it has been said that their strong and overwhelming love for each other meant that they had little affection for their children – they were simply too obsessed with each other to have much space in their hearts for anyone else. They were strict with their offspring and had very high expectations of them.
There were rows over the years of course. Victoria suffered post-natal depression which put a strain on the marriage, as did her bad temper and rages. Albert was said to be domineering when it came to advising her on matters of state.
At the age of just 42, Albert died on the 14th December 1861 from stomach problems and suspected typhoid. Victoria was never the same again. Victorian society and propriety meant a woman had to be in mourning for two years, but the Queen remained in mourning for the rest of her days. In the first three months following his death, she contemplated suicide. A year later she summed up their relationship in a letter to her eldest daughter Vicky which said “My dearest child, Truly the Prince was my entire self, my very life and soul. I only lived through him. My heavenly angel. Surely there can never have been such a union, such trust and understanding between two people. I try to feel and think I am living on with him and that his pure and perfect spirit is leading and inspiring me. There is no one left to hold me in their arms and press me to their heart. Oh! How I admired Papa! How in love I was with him! How everything about him was beautiful and precious in my eyes. Oh! How I miss all, all! Oh! Oh! The bitterness.”
This famous love affair has been depicted recently in the highly successful television drama series Victoria, which shows the passion and strength of feelings the two of them had for each other.
King Edward VIII And Mrs Simpson
Everyone has heard the story of the King who abdicated in the name of love. Edward became King in 1936 following the death of his father George V, but he showed impatience and disregard for court protocol and constitutional convention. Ascending the throne on 20th January 1936, his reign was to last less than 12 months, as he chose to follow his heart, picking love over duty.
By the time he came to the throne, Edward had a reputation as a womaniser who had embarked on affairs with married women. His father George V was disappointed in him and had said “After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself in twelve months.” How true that would become!
Edward met Wallis Simpson through another of his married lovers – Lady Furness, and it is thought that they became lovers whilst Lady Furness travelled abroad. Wallis Simpson had divorced her first husband Win Spencer in 1927, and at the time of meeting Edward was married to second husband Ernest Simpson, a British-American businessman.
Upon becoming King, he was still very much in a relationship with Wallis Simpson, and they cruised the Mediterranean in August and September of that year. By October, it was clear to everyone around Edward that he intended to marry her, especially when she began divorce proceedings against her husband. In November 1936, Edward informed the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin that he wished to marry Wallis when her divorce was finalised. It was the opinion of Baldwin that the British subjects would not morally accept the marriage because the Church of England opposed remarriage after divorce if the previous spouse was still alive. As such, the people would not accept Wallis as queen, and as the head of the church, Edward was expected to support their teachings.
Eventually he was given three choices by Baldwin – do not marry Wallis Simpson, marry against the wishes of his ministers, or abdicate. Knowing that he would cause the government to resign if he married against their wishes, he chose abdication rather than give up the woman he loved. He signed the papers on the 10th December and announced his decision in a worldwide radio broadcast saying, “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.” He departed for Austria the following day.
The couple married in a private ceremony in France on 3rd June 1937 where the new king George VI forbade any members of the royal family to attend. The new Duchess of Windsor was also denied the title of Royal Highness and the government refused to include the Duke and Duchess on the Civil List meaning that his allowance had to be paid directly by George VI.
Edward’s decision to abdicate was justified however, as the couple remained together for the rest of their lives, living a blissful life together largely in France until the Duke’s death in 1972. His love for his wife was so great, that even being king was no match for his feelings. The Duchess died 14 years after him and is buried alongside her third husband in the Royal burial ground.
Clark Gable And Carole Lombard
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were one of the most celebrated couples in Hollywood, the envy of other couples around the globe until tragedy tore them apart too soon. They met properly in 1932 when they were both starring in the racy movie No Man Of Her Own. Despite playing a married couple, with plenty of sexy scenes, the pair were completely professional, seeing each other as nothing more than cordial work colleagues who greeted each other amiably. At this time, Carole was married to William Powell, and Clark in an unhappy marriage to Ria Langham. Carole Lombard was known for her sense of humour, starring in the screwball comedies, whilst Clark Gable seemed to be a much more serious character. Once filming wrapped, they exchanged gifts as a token of appreciation – simply a case of ‘thank you for being a pleasure to work with.’ Gable gave her a pair of ballerina slippers labelled ‘to a true primadonna’ and showing her silly side, Lombard presented him with a large ham adorned with his photo! The pair went their separate ways until their next meeting.
Fate intervened several years later when Clark attended the White Mayfair Ball which Carole had organised. By this time, Clark had separated from Ria Langham and was enjoying being a bachelor, and Carole was divorced. He caught sight of her across the room, wearing a clingy white silk gown, and could not take his eyes off her. They spent the evening dancing and he suggested they leave early and go back to his hotel. Carole laughed and said, “Who do you think you are, Clark Gable?” The next morning, he awoke to the sound of birds and discovered that she had convinced a hotel worker to put a pair of doves in his room with a note which read “How about it? Carole.” They became inseparable.
The pair were obviously deeply in love, describing their relationship as magical. However, Clark was still officially married and would remain so for quite some time. He loved Carole’s witty, joker personality, combined with her deeper vulnerable side. Despite him being the ‘King of Hollywood’ and a universal sex symbol, she treated him as just a man, and enjoyed playing practical jokes on him. He said of her “You can trust that little screwball with your life or your hopes or your weaknesses, and she wouldn’t even know how to think about letting you down. She’s more fun than anybody, but she’ll take a poke at you if you have it coming and make you like it. If that adds up to love, then I love her.”
In 1939 Clark Gable began working on Gone With The Wind, the classic love story still captivating viewers today. During this time, Ria finally filed divorce proceedings, meaning Clark and Carole could begin to plan their future together. They purchased a 20-acre horse ranch in Encino – a dream home for the love birds who enjoyed nature and the outdoors. Their future was cemented when they finally married on 29th March 1939 in a very private ceremony – Clark’s close friend Otto Winkler was best man, while two strangers stood as witnesses. The newlyweds spent blissful time together establishing their new ranch with horses, chickens and kennels.
To Carole, it was highly important to be a good wife to Clark, and she considered retiring from her acting career to be at home full time and take care of the man she loved. She said “I don’t give a damn about me. I want to take care of my pappy; give him everything he wants.” However, after trying for a baby for quite some time before suffering a miscarriage, it became obvious that their deep love would not be completed with children.
By 1941 Carole was at the peak of her Hollywood fame, renowned for her beauty, comedy and fairy tale romance with Clark. Sadly, this happiness was not to last, and their world would be turned upside down. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour and plunged the USA into WWII. Hollywood stars needed to help the war effort and Carole, among many others took to travelling around the country to sell War Bonds. On 12th January 1942 she travelled by train to her home state of Indiana, and working tirelessly, accompanied by her mother and Otto Winkler she managed to raise over $2million in defence bonds in mere days. This trip of four days was the longest she had ever spent away from Clark, and eager to return home to him she could not bear the thought of the long train journey back, so booked a flight instead. Her mother and Otto were terrified of flying and had tried to insist on the train, but Carole had won the debate with a coin toss.
Clark had also been missing his beautiful wife, and as was their tradition, had been busy preparing practical jokes and gifts for her return. He couldn’t wait to see her again, desperate to have her home. Tragically, she never arrived as the plane crashed into Potosi Mountain killing all 22 passengers instantly. At the age of just 33, Carole Lombard was gone, and Clark Gable was bereft. Friends of his commented that part of his soul had been ripped out. The light in his eyes went out and he was never the same again. He enlisted, not caring if he lived or died. He said “I’m going to enlist in the Air Corps but not until I get my head together and sort things out. I don’t expect to come back and I don’t want to come back.” Although he married a further two times, he could not replace his beloved Carole, saying of the relationship “It was a perfect thing. I never expect to find it again.” He was finally reunited with the love of his life in 1960, when he passed away and was buried alongside her.
Humphrey Bogart And Lauren Bacall
At first glance, a relationship between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall would, to the cynics, be a disaster. A 40 something well-established actor already on his third marriage, embarking upon an affair with a naïve 19yr old new comer would surely be a flash in the pan, just a physical attraction which would soon burn out. However, the cynics were wrong.
By 1944 Bogart was already a household name, mainly thanks to the film Casablanca. She had adorned the cover of Esquire magazine after being spotted whilst working as a theatre usher. Film director Howard Hawks was making the film To Have and Have Not, with Bogart in the leading role. He liked the girl on the cover of Esquire, who his wife had seen previously and flew her in for a screen test. She got the job.
On the first day of filming, Lauren was nervous, visibly shaking on camera. Bogart, wanting to help the inexperienced girl told her silly jokes to get her to relax, and they became friends. The relationship blossomed much to the disapproval of Hawks, who tried to convince Lauren that Bogart was just playing with her affections. He was wrong though; Humphrey Bogart had fallen in love with a girl 25yrs his junior. In one love letter he wrote “I never believed that I could love anyone again…. you are my last love and all the rest of my life I shall love you and watch you and be ready to help you.”
The film was a huge hit, in large part thanks to the real chemistry between the two on screen. They were placed opposite each other again for the film The Big Sleep, and just weeks into the filming, Humphrey Bogart asked his wife for a divorce. On 21st May 1945, Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart married in a small ceremony, and they remained united for the rest of Bogart’s life, having two children together.
The age gap did cause some problems, Bogart liked sailing and drinking, whilst Bacall being much younger still wanted to enjoy the nightlife that Hollywood had to offer. Bogart also continued his affair with hairdresser Verita Peterson which he had begun whilst still married to his previous wife. Bacall herself had a dalliance with Frank Sinatra. However, they remained a united front and cared deeply for each other to the end of their days. Humphrey Bogart died in 1957 from oesophageal cancer and Bacall eventually remarried. Bogart was a tough act to follow though and before her death at the age of 89 she had said of their union “No one has ever written a romance better than we lived it.”
Elizabeth Taylor And Richard Burton
Another love match that happened on a film set was that of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Ironically, they met on the set of Cleopatra – a love story itself between the Egyptian Queen and Roman General Mark Antony. From the very beginning, in the early 60’s, the couple captivated millions of fans with their turbulent on-off relationship, sharing a love that was deep, yet as destructive as it was beautiful.
When they met on set, both were already married – Taylor to her fourth husband. The on-screen chemistry was electric between them and the paparazzi were constantly hunting them down to get the latest pictures of the couple in their scandalous relationship. By 1963 they were completely smitten with each other and were seeking divorce from their respective spouses. On 15th March 1964 they married at the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal, just days after Elizabeth Taylor’s divorce was finalised. This was referred to as the ‘marriage of the century’ although they would go on to divorce, remarry and divorce once more. Deeply in love, but with Elizabeth being said to throw tantrums, and Richard battling alcoholism, the relationship was filled with drama. They made 11 films together but could have made one based on their own marriage.
In 1974 the couple divorced for the first time as they were constantly butting heads, and Burton had an affair with a co-star. Despite having other relationships during the split, they couldn’t stay away from each other and ended up crying in each other’s arms. They announced to the world they were in love again and remarried secretly in October 1975. Taylor wrote to her husband saying “Dearest Hubs, How about that! You really are my husband again, and I have news for thee, there bloody will be no more marriages – or divorces either. Yours truly, Wife.” Sadly, less than a year after their second wedding they split again – they fought so much they were simply unable to live together.
They remained close friends though until his death from a brain haemorrhage in 1984. Days before his death he wrote a final letter to Liz. She wanted to keep the letter private and never revealed its contents, but claimed he wanted to give the relationship another go. She said “From those first moments in Rome we were always madly and powerfully in love. We had more time but not enough.”