Many people who know me personally will tell you that I adore a good love story. Call me a hopeful romantic. I certainly won’t argue with you. Since I currently reside in a country that has played host some of the most famous love affairs, I though it only appropriate to pay homage to what I consider some of the greatest love stories from this side of the Atlantic.
1. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
Victoria first met Albert in 1836 when their uncle, King Leopold, arranged to have Victoria’s mother invite him and Albert to Kensington Palace. It was hoped that the two cousins would make a suitable match for marriage. Victoria enjoyed Albert’s company early and was reported to have written in her diary about how attractive she found him. Despite her clear affections for Albert, at 17, Victoria was not yet ready to be married. Victoria became queen in 1837 at the age of 18. Though there was no formal courtship, Victoria took an interest in Albert’s education as it would pertain to helping her rule. When Albert visited for the second time in October of 1839, she proposed to him and he accepted. They were married in February of 1840. Victoria wrote in her diary the day after the wedding, “His excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before!” Albert would prove to be Victoria’s most important political adviser and companion. The couple had nine children throughout the whole of their marriage. Albert often did all he could to relieve Victoria’s stress. Before his death, he took on most of Victoria’s duties in order to allow her to properly mourn her mother’s passing. All this, despite being quite ill himself. In the beginning of December of 1861, Albert’s health continued to decline and he was diagnosed with typhoid. He died on December 14, 1861. Victoria went into a period of mourning afterward and was rarely seen in public. Privately, she laid out Albert’s clothes everyday just as she did when he was alive. When the queen died in January of 1901, a cast of Albert’s hand and one of his dressing gowns was placed in the coffin with her, as per her request. She was laid to rest alongside Albert in the Frogmore Mausoleum in Windsor Park.
2. Hugh Grosvenor (2nd Duke of Westminster) and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel
The famous couturier met the wealthy aristocrat in the early 1920’s after a party in Monte Carlo. Like so many aristocrats before him, Hugh fell hard for Chanel’s charms. As with all of his other affairs, the Duke was extravagant with his affection for her. He lavished Chanel with the best in fine jewels and costly art. At one point, he purchased a home for her in the prestigious Mayfair district of London. The extravagance didn’t stop at the gifts the Duke purchased. He would orchestrate elaborate performances to show his affection. In one instance, he disguised himself as a messenger boy with a huge bouquet of flowers and delivered them to her door. The ruse was discovered after Chanel’s assistant attempted to give him a tip. He even purchased a sizable plot of land on the French Riviera where Chanel built her villa, La Pausa. Their romance lasted for ten years during which the Duke proposed. Supposedly, when asked why she did not accept the Duke’s marriage proposal, Chanel responded, “There have been several Duchesses of Westminster. There is only one Chanel.”
3. Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson (The Duke and Duchess of Windsor)
When Edward first met Wallis, she was married to Earnest Simpson and the then Prince of Wales was embroiled in a love affair with a Viscountess. Oddly enough she introduced them. When Lady Furness left to visit her sister in America, the Prince fell for the stylish socialite and by 1934, they were mutually besotted. Edward showered Wallis with money and jewels as a sign of his affection for her. Unfortunately, he also began to shirk off his royal duties. When George V died, the Prince of Wales ascended as King Edward VIII in 1936. By this time it became clear that Edward meant to marry Wallis, an idea that was condemned by both the Conservative-led British government and the King’s faith. Edward’s family also did not approve and the public believed her to be a gold digger. As the scandal broke, Wallis fled the country and took sanctuary with her friends in the South of France. Edward’s Lord-in-Waiting urged Wallis to give up the king and even helped draft a public statement doing so. But Edward would not be dissuaded. The King decided to give up the throne. In his famous abdication speech, Edward is quoted as 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”. After several months of separation so as not to compromise Wallis’ divorce, the two were reunited and married at the Château de Candé. After a series of scandals, the two lived in exile in France until Edward died from cancer in 1972. Wallis died in 1986 after a long bout with dementia. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were both laid to rest in the Royal Burial grounds near Windsor Castle.
William was the Marquess of Hartington and the son and heir of Edward Cavendish, 10th Duke of Devonshire. He met Kathleen when she and her family came to England when Joe Kennedy Sr. served as the U.S. Ambassador to the court of St. James. Kick was a beautiful and lively young woman whose personality made her a darling in English society. She was even named “The Debutante of 1938”. It was in this year that Kick and Billy began a romantic relationship. The families had objections to the relationship early on. Edward Cavendish feared the potential for non-Protestant heirs being born into the family. The Kennedy family were devout Catholics. When war became an imminent possibility, Joe Kennedy Sr. sent his family back home in 1939 despite protests from Kathleen that she stay behind. She began seeking a way back to England in 1943 and eventually succeeded. When they were reunited Kick and Billy were married in 1944. Their time together was cut short when William went to fight at the tail end of WWII. He was killed by a sniper in September of that year, a mere four months after he and Kathleen were married. Kathleen died a few years later in a plane crash in 1948. William was buried in the Leopoldsburg War Cemetery in Limburg, Belgium. Kathleen is buried at the Chatsworth Estate.
5. Prince William and Catherine Middleton (The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge)
A list of great British love stories wouldn’t be complete without a modern fairy tale. Will and Kate have captured the hearts of hopeful romantics for years, and still do. They met in college and began dating in 2003 while they were students at the University of St. Andrews. When Kate made appearances at some high profile events as Will’s guest, everyone figured it was only a matter of time before there was a royal wedding in the works. In April of 2007, the two split for reasons the world will forever speculate about. Kate did still attend the Concert for Diana that Will and Harry put on in July of that year. Will and Kate were spotted out together frequently afterward and it was reported that they were reconciling. In November of 2011, it was announced that the two would be married after getting engaged in Kenya the previous month. On April 29 of 2011, the world watched the Royal Wedding at Westminster Abbey. They currently have two royal bundles of joy; Prince George Alexander Louis born on July 22, 2012, and Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana born on May 2, 2015.