The royal family has a bit of a sordid history – its lineage began in 1066 when William the Conquerer invaded England. As his name was THE CONQUERER, we can assume he wasn’t the kindest of chaps – since that time, there’s been 42 monarchs from eight houses, all bringing with them a great deal of scandal.
However, some have also brought love. And while that love often resulted in scandal and drama of it’s own, throughout British history the romantic escapades of the royals have fascinated us all, from Henry VIII and his many wives and Charles II with his curvaceous orange seller, Nell Gwyn to Edward IV and “The White Queen” – we are simply enthralled.
Edward IV and Elizabeth
Kings can’t marry who they choose –at least without bringing a whole host of drama to their house. But one of our favorite romantic royals, Edward IV, broke all the rules to wed Elizabeth. They were in married bliss – with the exception of a few mistresses along the way – but Edward’s uncle, the Earl of Warwick, plotted rebellion. There was a mess that ensued, forcing the king off his throne for a brief bit. A temporary exile did not extinguish their love, though, and she and the king had many children including two sons who were to be heirs. History’s sore losers have another version of the romance – claiming the king only married a non-royal widow because she was a witch and had put a spell on him. Whatever. We believe in the magic of love!
King Henry VIII and His SIX Wives
Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.
We all know this tale of King Henry, but many of us do not know the whole story. King Henry VIII was arguably a great monarch – but perhaps a terrible man. It was his fervent pursuit of a son to be his heir that led to him marrying six different women.
His first wife, Queen Catharine of Aragon gave him a daughter who was to one day be Queen Mary I, also known widely as Bloody Mary. Obviously not the nicest of people, but you know – we can blame it on her upbringing. The marriage resulted in a divorce after the King fell in love with Anne Boleyn, my favorite (misunderstood) queen.
Anne gave the king one daughter – who went on to be the golden “virgin” queen, Queen Elizabeth I, but not the son the king wanted. Anne was ultimately falsely accused of adultery and was beheaded. Seems fair. The King already had his eye on Jane Seymour and married her shortly after Anne’s death.
Jane Seymour gave King Henry VIII a son – but so much for HER good karma – she died shortly after the child’s birth. (Not Henry’s fault, it was common in those days.) He went on to marry Anne of Cleves, who divorced her soon after because the king claimed his new wife SMELLED. (Perhaps it was his own festering body sores? Men.) Next was his teenage bride, Catherine Howard, who DID cheat on him, unlike her cousin, Anne Boleyn. So, he had her beheaded too.
His final wife, Queen Katherine Parr, stayed with him till he died. Probably because he was old and obese and couldn’t get it up anymore anyway.
Elizabeth I “The Virgin Queen” And Dudley
Who isn’t a sucker for forbidden love?
If you saw Cate Blanchett in the title role of Queen Elizabeth I in the film Elizabeth, you probably were totally obsessed with the story of her and Dudley.
Elizabeth never married – look what marriage did to her mother, Anne Boleyn! – but indeed Robert Dudley may have been Elizabeth I’s one and only true love. Her father’s daughter – perhaps — Robert Dudley’s wife died under “questionable circumstances.” Robert Dudley pined for Elizabeth for decades, and eventually remarried – Elizabeth never forgave him.
Charles II (and everyone in a skirt)
Much like the men many of us encounter of today, Charles II was dangling quite a few women – of all walks of life. From princesses to country girls to actresses, he GOT AROUND. He did his royal duty and married Catherine of Braganza, a shy, plain Portuguese princess who really did love her husband, but gave him no sons. He had many mistresses though, including Nell Gwynn, an actress who was formerly an orange seller and was actually born behind her mother’s brothel in an alley. Sexy. Charles II had many children with his mistresses, but as none were legitimate, none could follow him to the throne. His brother, James II, ultimately succeeded him.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
The Queen and her prince are among my favorite romances of this era — together they produced nine children. Theirs was one of the original royal “power couples” – first cousins who were sexually infatuated with each other, yes, but beyond that -and they were clearly madly in love. Sadly, this was Victoria’s downfall. When Albert died young – at 41 in 1861, Victoria spent the next forty years of her life an reign mourning him in relative seclusion.
Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson
Aww…the ultimate W/E = WE!
Edward much like a royal Edward of generations past – was all about breaking all the rules in the name of true love. He forever changed the blueprint of the British monarchy when he married Wallis Simpson, a divorced American! Obviously, there’s no way she’d be able to be a British queen, so when Edward became King of England in 1936, he abdicated the throne to be married to the woman he loved. The two spent the rest of their days in exile, which while endlessly romantic, had to result in SERIOUS leverage in all future romantic and sexual interaction. I GAVE UP THE THRONE FOR YOU.
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh
When the young and beautiful Princess Elizabeth Prince Phillip of Greece, they never could have imagined how they’d become the dashing stalwart royal couple of the century. Their marriage – and her reign – has outlasted 12 prime ministers and 10 American presidents!!! Through various wars, civil and personal strife, and family tragedies, they’ve stayed together – an example to the world of what true love – and commitment – is all about.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall
WE SO WANT THIS TO BE ABOUT DIANA. But, get over it – she wasn’t the woman he loved and never was. While we’re super grateful that this union gave us Princes William and Harry, the story of Prince Charles is all about Camilla, now Duchess of Cornwall. While both were once married to other people – and had ensuing very painful, very public, divorces – this is a love story (albeit a bit disturbing) that has remained tried and true. Unconventional love has its worth, even in the British royal family.
And finally, our beloved Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
It’s a modern-day romance told against the royal background — best friends become roommates become a couple, together for years before William FINALLY proposes – and then they get married in front of the entire world in a lavish ceremony fit for a prince and princess. (OK, that part isn’t relatable but the rest is!) Will and Kate are all about the public affection – something their predecessors would have never indulged in – and she has perfect hair – we love them, and we love little baby Prince George!