How does the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton compare to other great weddings and marriages of history? The answer depends on what happens afterward. Will William actually ascend to the throne? What will the monarchy be like in his lifetime? What will happen in the world and how will he and his queen impact the events of their generation? All of that will determine whether historians return to the wedding and declare it a moment of history or just another famous event of entertainment for the masses.
Here are seven of the most famous marriages in world history.
1. Mark Antony and Cleopatra. He was a Roman general who co-ruled the world’s greatest empire as part of a triumvirate. She ruled Egypt, the greatest empire of the antiquities. Their marriage was a huge political event that set off endless and deadly conspiracies by rivals. This romance and strategic alliance towers above all others like it in history.
2. Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. This English King and French Queen united two kingdoms which greatly complicated The Hundred Year War. Not to mention that they produced three more kings of their own. Henry the young, Richard I, the Lion Hearted, and John Lackland. (The famous, evil Prince John of Robin Hood lore.)
3. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. He was one of England’s greatest monarchs but his wife, Catherine of Aragon, could not produce a male heir. Henry fell for her maid of honor, Anne Boleyn, who unlike all of the other maidens of the court, resisted his overtures, driving him mad with, well, with lust. Henry’s desire to have Anne led to the great break with Rome and the wars between Catholics and Protestants. Anne, as well, did not give birth to a male heir. But she did present her husband with a daughter, Elizabeth, who would eventually ascend the throne as England’s greatest Queen.
Like Kate Middleton, Anne was a commoner. She would be beheaded three years after the wedding. Hopefully, Kate will do better. And Henry would famously have six wives but it was this first divorce that would define his kingdom and impact history forever.
4. Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. He was the Mughal emperor. She was his third wife who bore him 14 children. The last one killed her. In his grief he built her a magnificent mausoleum in Agra, India. It is the Taj Mahal and it stands as an eternal testimony to their love.
5. Peter III and Catherine. He was the Russian heir to the throne, she a sixteen year old, German speaking Prussian bride. No one would call it a great romance. Catherine’s father did not even attend the wedding. But Peter died within six months of ascending the throne and young Catherine wrestled power for herself and built the Russian Empire, ruling for thirty-four years. History calls her Catherine the Great.
6. Napoleon and Josephine. He was 26, she was a 32 year old widow. She could produce no heir for him, nor was she faithful. But Napoleon’s love sick passion for her, expressed in letters that fell into enemies hands, made their frustrating relationship world famous forever. Some suggest that Napoleon’s unrequited love inspired his conquests on the battlefield.
7. Albert and Victoria. He was a German marrying an English Queen but eventually the people began to appreciate his integrity and his steady influence on his bride. When he died she went into mourning, wearing black for the rest of her life. But it was the longest reign in English history, the Victorian era, and the English built their Empire that arguably ruled the world for a hundred years.