The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
King Nebuchadnezzar II supposedly built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in the sixth century BC as a gift for his wife, Amytis of Media. According to ancient historians, Amytis had difficulty adapting to life in the flat deserts of Babylon and longed for the forests and mountains of her native Media (today’s Kurdistan). To cure his nostalgia, Nebuchadnezzar II ordered the construction of a series of terraced gardens within the walls of the city. The Hanging Gardens-later included as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World-were supposedly hundreds of meters wide and filled with a variety of exotic plants, herbs and flowers. A marvel of engineering, the desert oasis was probably irrigated by the water of the Euphrates River through a complex system of bombs. Modern archaeologists have questioned whether gardens actually existed or are simply part of the legend.
The Taj Mahal of India took more than a decade to build, employed thousands of workers and almost bankrupted an empire, all for a man to express his love for a woman. The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the famous monument around 1632. It was conceived as a tomb for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to the couple’s 14th son. According to the accounts, the Shah was so dejected after the death of her husband that she entered a prolonged period of mourning, giving up music and other forms of entertainment for two years. He built the Taj Mahal, with its elaborate minarets, 250-foot-high vaulted mausoleum and 42-acre grounds, primarily as a monument to his memory. When he died in 1666, Shah Jahan was buried with his beloved wife in the white marble tomb of the Taj.
“Tribschen Idyll” by Wagner
Best known for his enthusiastic songs like “Ride of the Valkyries”, composer Richard Wagner may not have the reputation of being a romantic without hope. Still, Wagner is also remembered for secretly composing the symphony “Tribschen Idyl” (later renamed “Siegfried Idyll”) as a gift for his wife, Cosima, on his 33rd birthday. On Christmas morning in 1870, Wagner and an orchestra of 15 musicians met silently on the stairs of their house and woke up Cosima playing the piece, now considered one of his best works. Deeply moved, Cosima would write later in her diary: “When I woke up I heard a sound, it got louder and louder, I could not imagine myself in a dream, the music played and what music!”
The abdication of the throne of Edward VIII
The love life of Britain’s monarchs has long been a source of public fascination, but perhaps the most romantic real story of all concerns King Edward VIII, who elected a woman on the throne. Edward became king in 1936 after the death of his father, George V. His brief reign was marked by controversy, especially his falling in love with a socialite named Wallis Simpson. Not only Simpson was American, she was a married woman who had once divorced. As the gossip portrayed Simpson as everything from a seductive schemer to a German spy, the relationship plunged the monarchy into a crisis. Forced to choose between love and crown, Edward abdicated to the throne in December 1936. Simpson quickly divorced her husband, and she and Edward were married in 1937. They spent the rest of their lives in retirement in France.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning Sonnets for Robert Browning
The marriage of the poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning is one of the great romances of literature, and the mutual love of the couple often extended to their work. The most famous example came in 1850 with the publication of Barrett’s book “Sonnets from the Portuguese”, a series of love poems composed when the couple began their courtship for the first time. Barrett only revealed the work to her husband after hearing him speak out against the thematic deficiencies of what he called “personal poetry.” To counter his argument, he admitted that he had once written a series of 44 sonnets about his love for him. Impressed by the beauty of the poems, Browning encouraged his wife to publish them; He finally agreed, but insisted that they present themselves as supposed translations of Portuguese sonnets to hide their personal nature. “Sonnets of Portuguese” contains what many consider some of Barrett’s most exquisite verses and includes the immortal phrase: “How do I love you? Let me count the forms.”
Horace Greasley prison escapes
The prisoner of World War II Horace Greasley not only escaped from a prison camp to be with his lover, but he did it more than 200 times. A British soldier, Greasley was captured by the Nazis in 1940 and sent to a detention center in Germany. While there, he began a passionate relationship with Rosa Rauchbach, a German-born German who worked as a translator. Just as their romance began to blossom, the couple separated when Greasley was sent to a new camp 40 miles away. Desperate to see Rauchbach and too deep in Germany to escape completely, Greasley began to leave jail until four times a week, walking to where he was working and returning before his absence was noticed. At each meeting, Rauchbach would give Greasley food and supplies for his fellow soldiers at the camp. The couple even had the help of other prisoners in the field to coordinate their appointments, which continued until the release of Greasley in 1945. The two tried to keep in touch, but Rauchbach and a baby possibly fathered by Greasley died in childbirth shortly after from the war.
Joe DiMaggio’s flowers for Marilyn Monroe
The famous baseball player Joe DiMaggio and the actress Marilyn Monroe were only married during volatile 274 days in 1954, but “Joltin ‘Joe” remained in love with the legendary blonde bomb for the rest of his life. It was DiMaggio who ensured Monroe’s release from a psychiatric ward when he suffered an emotional breakdown following his divorce from playwright Arthur Miller, and was reportedly considering proposing to him before his death in 1962. DiMaggio never remarried and he refused to comment on Monroe’s death to the press. In a famous romantic gesture, he sent red roses to his grave in Los Angeles three times a week for the next 20 years.