5 Bittersweet Real-Life Love Stories

5 Real Life Bittersweet Love Stories blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Valentine’s Day, the romantic holiday with pagan roots, just passed. While I hope it was a sweet day for you, it’s worth remembering that love isn’t always sunshine and roses– sometimes it’s rejection and struggles. Here are 5 love stories from history that are equal parts romance and tragedy…

Cleopatra and Marc Antony

cleopatra and antony
Cleopatra greeting Antony, A.M. Faulkner

She was Queen of Egypt, he was co-ruler of the Roman Empire. He envisioned himself as  Dionysus, Greek God of wine (and drama), and she captured his heart by presenting herself as Aphrodite, Goddess of love. Their relationship was based on passion and ambition, and it reached mythic proportions. Their twins were named Alexander Helios (the Sun) and Cleopatra Selene (the Moon). Circumstances kept them apart much of the time, and Antony was even forced to marry his rival Octavian’s sister, but Antony and Cleopatra met when they could and celebrated triumphs (and failures) together. Unfortunately, their actions led to war, invasion, and ultimately, defeat. Anthony fell on his sword in an honourable suicide. Cleopatra, knowing she would be paraded through the streets of Rome in humiliation, arranged to have an asp (an Egyptian symbol of divine royalty) smuggled to her. With a bite from the snake she committed what is possibly the world’s most famous suicide, while at the same time attaining immortality for her and her love.

Héloïse and Abélard

heloise and abelard
Abélard and his pupil Héloïse by Edmund Leighton

In 12th century Paris, an intelligent, inquisitive young woman named Héloïse was introduced to Abélard, a philosopher and teacher enlisted by Héloïse’s uncle to tutor her. Their intellectual bond soon deepened into love and passion. Héloïse became pregnant, and to avoid a scandal they secretly married after she had the baby (a son named Astrolabe, which goes to show that geeks have always existed). Unfortunately, scandal found them anyway (mostly thanks to her infuriated uncle). Héloïse was sent to a convent, while Abélard was viciously attacked and forcibly castrated. He went on to become a monk, and she a nun. Although they never saw each other again, they did resume a correspondence, and their letters stand as testament to their feelings. After they died, their bones were moved so that they could finally be together (there’s a dispute as to whether they’re buried at The Oratory of the Paraclete, or in their famous tomb in Père Lachaise Cemetery).

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas

wilde and douglas

Lord Alfred, or ‘Bosie,’ as he was known, was Wilde’s love and muse at a time when LGBTQ rights were not only nonexistent, homosexuality was illegal. Their relationship was tempestuous, and marked by arguments, separations, and reunions (the latter, thanks mostly to a forgiving Wilde). Bosie’s father (the Marquess of Queensberry), angry about the relationship, denounced Wilde publicly. When Wilde’s libel suit against the Marquess failed, he was arrested and ultimately sentenced to two years of hard labour for “gross indecency.” Wilde and Bosie were reunited after Wilde was released, but it should be no surprise that their friends and families forced them apart. Then again, Bosie was a selfish and reckless person, and it’s debatable how much he really returned Wilde’s feelings. Interestingly, the phrase “the love that dare not speak its name” was coined by Bosie, not Wilde, as most people believe. Maybe a better love story was the one between Wilde and Robert Ross, who was possibly his first male lover and also a lifelong friend. Ross was with Wilde at his deathbed, and later commissioned Wilde’s tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Ross asked the artist to include a small compartment in the tomb for his own ashes, which were transferred there in 1950.

Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley

elizabeth and dudley
Robert Dudley and Queen Elizabeth I

Sometimes genuinely loving someone isn’t enough. Elizabeth and Dudley’s story is a complex one, further complicated by rumours that have persisted through centuries. Dudley earned Elizabeth’s love early in her life, when he stood by her at a time when she was in trouble and it would have been easy to abandon her. Although Dudley wanted to marry her for many years, she could never allow it. As Queen, Elizabeth was averse to marriage, not least because marrying would have transferred her power as monarch to her husband, while she would have been relegated to quietly producing heirs. But even if she had wanted to marry, she couldn’t have married Dudley. There was no strategic political advantage to marrying him, he was generally unpopular, and he was a commoner (whatever position he had in society was directly thanks to her). He was also already married. After his wife died under mysterious circumstances, he was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing, but belief persisted among many that he’d had her killed. Eventually, Dudley accepted that Elizabeth would never marry him, but since he wanted heirs he went on to (secretly) marry twice more, for which Elizabeth never entirely forgave him. Still, he was her clear favourite and she gave him titles, prestige, and power; in turn, he gave her companionship, support, and devotion. They shared an emotional bond that even most married couples at that time could only dream of.

Dante and Beatrice

Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_Salutation_of_Beatrice_-_2
Salutation of Beatrice 2 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Alighieri and Beatrice Portinari’s story is one of unrequited love. Dante claimed he fell in love when he met Beatrice at the age of 9 (she was 8). Despite his intense feelings for Beatrice, Dante married Gemma Donati when he was around 20, while Beatrice married Simone de Bardi when she was 21. She died three years later. Although they barely knew each other and met only a handful of times, Beatrice would be Dante’s idealized love and muse for the rest of his life. She was his inspiration for Vita Nuova, and his guide to heaven in his Divine Comedy. Despite the lack of any real relationship between the two, the love Dante had for Beatrice has sparked imaginations to this day. There are paintings of the pair and poems written about them, references in books and on TV, and even an asteroid named after Beatrice.

Some of these stories may be more bitter than sweet, but perhaps that’s why they continue to inspire. Love isn’t love without a touch of the tragic. Or as the immortal Shakespeare put it, the course of true love never did run smooth.

Do you have a favourite historical couple (or a bittersweet love story of your own)? Share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw

(This article is a re-post, with a few alterations. It was originally posted here on 14 February 2019.)

Read More:

Cleopatra and Marc Antony

Héloise and Abélard

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas

The Life of Elizabeth I

Dante and Beatrice

 

Sunshine Blogger Award

sunshine blogger award, aspasia s. bissas

Peter Wyn Mosey nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger Award! Even though sunshine and vampires don’t usually mix, we’ll make an exception this time. Thank you, Peter– for the nomination and your kind words about me 🙂

How this Works

Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you and link back to their blog.

• Answer 11 questions the blogger asked you.

• List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your blog post.

• Nominate 11 new bloggers & their blogs. Leave a comment on their blog to let them know they received the award [I’ll be honest, I’m not going to do this. The Sunshine Blogger Award Rules and Standards Committee can take it up with me. Hopefully word will find its way to the nominees] and ask your nominees 11 new questions.

I'm a Sunshine Blogger Award winner! Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Peter’s Questions and My Answers

1.If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

I’d love to fly and sing on key (both superpowers, as far as I’m concerned), so I’ll pick a songbird (preferably in an alternate universe where humans treat animals with respect and compassion).

2. What was the first ever creative effort that you remember really being proud of?

I wrote and illustrated a “short story” (it was probably two sentences) when I was very young (can’t remember exactly how old, but under 6). It was about a flower that killed you if you picked it. Clearly, I was honing my literary style right off the bat.

3. If you could choose between true happiness, or a greater creative skills, what would you pick?

Happiness is very tempting, but it’s also very empty. What’s to strive for if you’re already truly happy? Where’s your motivation to grow, learn, improve? In the end, I’d rather have greater creative skills while I keep seeking happiness.

4. Does politics have a place in the arts?

All art is political.

5. What gets you out of bed in the morning?

One of my cats, usually.

6. Where and how do you do most of your writing/ art?

Right now I do about two thirds of my writing on my laptop in the family room and the other third in my head while I’m busy with other things.

7. What famous work do you wish you had created?

Harry Potter. Or pretty much any painting or sculpture because I have no talent for it and I wish I did.

8. Is there anyone in the world that you actually hate?

I wouldn’t say hate, but close, and not an individual but a type of person– the ones that  actively work at making the world worse, usually for their own gain (sometimes because they enjoy it). I also have no use for those that enable them.

9. Where is the furthest you have been from home?

Geographically, Greece. Culturally, I think Cuba.

10. Would you prefer to wake up early, or stay up late?

I do both anyway, so I’d prefer to be able to do it without getting tired.

11. If you could give a new writer who was setting up a blog one piece of advice, what would it be?

Get to know your fellow bloggers 🙂

I'm a sunshine blogger award winner, aspasia s. bissas
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

My Nominees

These 11 blogs represent a sample of the many great sites I follow. I have eclectic tastes, so the list ranges from writing/author blogs, to travel blogs, to food, spirituality, history, environmental, and pop culture. Thanks, everyone, for giving me something to look forward to reading every week!

A Dollop of History

All Wit No Brevity

Annelise Driscoll

Blackwings666

Bon Repos Gites

Cheche Winnie

Gather Victoria

Honor the Gods

In Diane’s Kitchen

Margaret & Neal, Wandering Together

Michael Seidel

Bonus: Alex L. Weston, whose blog has been quiet for a while, but who I wish would start writing again.

I'm a Sunshine Blogger Award Winner, Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My Questions to My Nominees

1. What (or who) is inspiring you lately?

2. What’s making you angry?

3. What did you have for breakfast?

4. What creative skill or talent do you wish you had?

5. Do you believe in magic?

6. What fictional character do you relate to?

7. The last book you loved?

8. If you could live anywhere for a year, where would it be?

9. What do you wish would come back in style?

10. A favourite line from a book or movie (I’ll also accept plays, songs, and TV shows)?

11. Who’s your favourite vampire (if you say Dracula, you have to specify which version)?

Feel free to share your answers in the comments even if you’re not a nominee 🙂 If you were nominated, please comment with your link once you’ve posted (I really want to read your answers!)

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Writing Collab #16: Passing By

Writing Collab #16: Passing By, Aspasia S. Bissas and Peter Wyn Mosey
Photo by Ismael Sanchez on Pexels.com

I took part in another writing collaboration with Peter Wyn Mosey:

She saw him. She hadn’t been expecting it. He was walking along the street, hands in his coat pockets, face turned up to the bright autumn sun. He looked happy. Happier than anyone should look. Happier than anyone had a right to in this world.

Read the rest: Writing Collab #16: Passing By

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas