There are countless books, films, and TV shows devoted to love stories, but some of the very best - and most tragic - tales are the ones that really happened. This Valentine's Day, we're honouring some of our favourite romantic duos whose love has stood the test of time.
Cleopatra and Mark Anthony
This story had all the makings of a Shakespearian tragedy from the get-go. She was an Egyptian Pharaoh. He was a Roman general. She rejected all her other admirers to be with him. He defied all of Rome to be with her. So far, so romantic – but here comes the twist: after mistakenly believing Cleopatra had killed herself, Anthony stabbed himself with his sword, and died in her arms. Cleopatra then joined her love in death by receiving a bite from a venomous snake.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
We all know the boy-meets-girl cliche, but have you heard of the one where girl becomes queen, girl falls madly in love with her first cousin, marries him, first cousin dies prematurely, and girl mourns his death for the next 40 years? It's not exactly a riot, but it's what happened when 19th century British monarch Queen Victoria met her beloved husband, Prince Albert.
Bonnie and Clyde
They say love makes you do crazy things, and these two should know. The infamous outlawed couple Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow met in Texas in the early 1930s, and soon began a life of crime together. Of course, it wasn't to last, and the pair were shot dead by police while driving a stolen car. They have since become one of the most famous – and romanticised – criminal duos in history.
John Keats and Fanny Brawne
Even though he's one of the great British Romantic poets of the 19th century, John Keats wasn’t actually all that big on romance ... until he fell for the girl next door (Fanny Brawne). Although their love was intense, it was to be short-lived: Keats suffered from tuberculosis, and left England for Italy in the hopes of improving his health. It didn’t really work, and he died at just 25 years old. Still, the poems Keats wrote for Brawne while they were separated have endured, and remain some of the best-known and loved in the English language.
Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier
It really is the stuff of fairytales. Grace Kelly, a Hollywood beauty, fell in love with the dashing Prince Rainier III of Monaco, and lived out all of our childhood dreams by becoming a real-life princess. Tragically, however, the princess was killed in a car accident in 1982, leaving her husband grief-stricken. She is remembered as an icon, both on and off-screen.
St Valentine and Julia
We couldn’t talk about love stories on Valentine’s Day without mentioning St Valentine himself. It all started in 270 AD, when Roman emperor Claudius got sick of all the healthy young men in Rome choosing to stay at home with their wives instead of joining the army. So he decided to simply outlaw marriage. Valentine, a Catholic priest, believed marriage was sacred, and so began marrying couples in secret. Of course, he was promptly thrown in jail once discovered. But far from being taught a lesson, Valentine went ahead and fell in love with the prison guard’s daughter, Julia. He was eventually sentenced to death, but wrote his love a final farewell before his execution, signing it “from your Valentine”.
Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal
You may not know their names, but you’ve certainly heard of the world-famous tribute one made to the other. When the Muhgal emperor Shah Jahan lost his cherished wife, he decided that no ordinary grave would be good enough for her. So he built the Taj Mahal. Upon his own death, the emperor was placed in the mausoleum right beside his wife.