In our culture, we all strive for that happily ever after that romantic comedies promise us. But some of the most beautiful love stories don’t end happily. In fact, some love stories end in abject tragedy. A number of these tragic romances have gone down in the annals of history and have inspired countless stories and reimaginings. But one thing these people all have in common is that they lived, they loved, and then their stories ended.
Mark Antony and Cleopatra
The video above features clips from the HBO series Rome, which was inspired by real events. But the love story at the heart of the show was between Mark Antony, a consulate of Rome, and Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. The story was dramatized by William Shakespeare, and was featured again in a famous film starring Elizabeth Taylor. The real story of their love angered the Romans, who feared the growing power of the Egyptian empire. Despite threats, they married. And when Antony received false news of the Queen’s death, he fell on his sword in battle. Learning of his death, Cleopatra ended her own life, using the venom of the asp.
Napoleon and Josephine
This was not a story of love at first sight. In fact, Napoleon and Josephine were a married out of convenience and politics. But over time, Napoleon fell deeper and deeper in love with his wife, and she with him. It is said that he tried to conquer the world for her, but when she could not bear him an heir, necessity demanded that they part ways.
Paolo and Francesca
This pair was made famous by Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, and has the added bonus of being a true story: Francesca was married to a horrible man, but took his brother as a lover. Paolo fell deeply in love with his brother’s wife, but they were discovered, and put to death. It is said that this story inspired the love between Lancelot and Guinevere in the Arthurian legend.
Eloise and Abelard
Eloise was a nun and Abelard was a monk, both living around 1100. Abelard was a noted philosopher whom many sought out as a tutor. He tutored Eloise, and fell deeply in love with her. The two conceived a child together out of wedlock, and her father was furious. He sent her to a convent and castrated Abelard while he slept. Abelard became a monk and Eloise became a nun, but the two remained in love, writing letters to one another over the course of their lives, despite their separation. Those letters were later published.
Marie and Pierre Curie
This famous pair discovered polonium and radium together, acquiring the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903. But their science was dangerous in a way they did not fully understand at the time, and Pierre Curie died in 1904. After his death, Marie devoted her life to their work, until she died of leukemia in 1934.