We are conditioned into thinking that our significance amounts to nothing next to how vast, marvelous and infinite the universe is. But we often forget that each single one of us leaves behind a certain story to be told. Sure, we’re just specks floating around in a planet made up by dirt and water, but have you ever thought of how many lives have been lived in each and every possible alternative universe, not just ours? And what do you think makes a story worth remembering? Personally, my answer to that has always been love. Don’t get all sappy on me, I’m not talking romanticized tragedies with a ‘forever and always’ utopia design. I’m talking chaotic tenderness and calms before storms.
Granted, if you’re not a believer of love, I doubt you’d even be surfing the relationships column. But either way, you don’t have to believe in love to be a believer of its stories/tragedies. So here you have it: love stories in history that you probably haven’t heard of.
- Cupid and Psyche.
Once upon Greek mythology, a king and a queen of an unnamed land gave birth to a girl so beautiful that it enthralled everyone to the point where they started worshipping her instead of Venus. The goddess took offense to that, so much so that she ordered her son, Cupid, to make her fall in love with someone so hideous that you’d mistake him for a monster. But when Cupid actually saw Psyche, he was so taken back by her beauty that he accidentally scratched himself on one of his arrows and fell in love with her instead.
He couldn’t pursue her because of who he is, and she never got married.
Her parents were confused, why did she never get any suitors? Was it because of the wrath of the Gods? Her father consulted Apollo’s oracle and was then told that his son-in-law couldn’t be a mortal and that she was destined to marry a monstrous creature. Psyche, knowing that she had no other choice, made her way to the tallest cliff and was whisked away by the wind to her new home where every night a faceless stranger would come to make love to her.
Until one night she decided that she wanted to see his face, so she lit up a candle as he slept and crouched close enough to see him. Expecting a hideous creature but meeting someone as beautiful as Cupid, she was struck with awe and accidentally burnt him with the candle. Cupid then ran away and Psyche had to go through hell and back (quite literally, Venus gave her three seemingly impossible tasks and that was the final one) to get him back.
- Lancelot and Guinevere.
Lancelot was your textbook knight in shining armor who not only won a seat on the Round Table by winning King Arthur’s trust, but also won Queen Guinevere’s heart. Their affair was driven by maddening passion, but much like every other affair, it was sloppy enough to not stay in the dark for so long. When King Arthur found out, he was furious. Lancelot had to flee, but upon hearing the King damning his beloved to burn at the stake, he came back to rescue her. It was a blood bath that ended the round table once and for all. The ending was the real tragedy though: they both lived, but apart. Guinevere became a nun and Lancelot retired to become a hermit.
- Napoleon and Josephine.
Once upon France, Napoleon was invited to Paul Barras’ party, who at the time had a mistress that he wanted to get rid of. Knowing Napoleon was looking for a wife, he decided to marry his mistress off to him; that’s not what he told her though, what she thought she was doing was just entertain Napoleon for the night—take an interest in him, commend his military talents, that kind of thing. And all of that was enough to have Napoleon pursue Rose—yes, her name was Rose, but he hated that name and started calling her Josephine instead— and she always kept him on the edge of his seat. That is until Barras strongly advised her to may Napoleon, considering now he has a new mistress and couldn’t afford having both of them around. And so, she did.
Napoleon worshipped Josephine, Josephine despised him.
As soon as he was gone on a campaign in Italy, her string of lovers flourished. Napoleon begged her in a million love letters to join him in Italy, but she went all the way to lying about a pregnancy just to avoid being there with him. At the end, Barras ordered her to go and she obliged. When Napoleon asked her about the pregnancy, she told him she had a miscarriage. Truth is: Josephine was too old to bear a child.
Napoleon found out about the affairs later on and was devastated. He never loved a woman the same way he loved Josephine. But he only went through the divorce because he needed an heir, at that time Josephine had fallen in love with him but it was too late.
The best part of the story is this: France, armée, tête d’armée, Joséphine. Those were Napoleon’s last words. He loved her, despite everything, until his dying breaths.
There are so many more love stories and tragedies that are engraved in history but are often overlooked. What’s your favourite?