Historical Happily-Ever-Afters

Valentine’s Day is the time to celebrate love, and what better way than to look into the past for examples of true love?

Lessons of sacrifice and committed love can be learned from lovers’ tales that did not end so well. If tragic stories are your cup-of-tea, here are some doozies to look up–
Mark Antony and Cleopatra
Salim and Anarkali
Abelard and Eloise
Tristan and Isolde
Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker

I am the “happily-ever-after” gal, as you all should know by now, so prefer lovers’ tales with at least some degree of enduring happiness! The following four real-life love stories are ones I particularly adore. I hope you are inspired by these tales.

Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal

Shah Jahan, ruler of the Mughal Empire, wed Mumtaz Mahal – “Beloved Ornament of the Palace” – when they were but 20 and 19. She reigned as queen alongside him and bore fourteen children before her death in 1629. The emperor was so grieved that he insisted on creating a stupendous monument to be her resting place. Constructed of white marble, decorated with uncountable precious stones and gold, and requiring 20,000 workers nearly 20 years to complete, the Taj Mahal was built to commemorate the enduring power of love. Shortly after completion, Shah Jahan was deposed by his son, and imprisoned in the Red Fort of Agra where he spent the final years of his life staring across the river at the monument for his beloved queen. Eventually he was buried beside her, the lovers eternally together in the Taj Mahal.

This story came to my awareness while researching my upcoming novel, The Passions of Dr. Darcy, and is another reason why I am thrilled with the painting of the Taj Mahal on the cover!

Robert and Elizabeth Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning by Thomas Buchanan Read (1852)

Suffering from a spinal disease beginning when 15, an invalid Elizabeth Barrett spent her days writing poetry. In 1844 her first book was published, simply titled Poems, and the work so impressed poet Robert Browning that he wrote to her. Over the course of the subsequent two years they corresponded, met, fell in love, and eloped when her father refused to grant them permission to marry. For fifteen years they lived happily. Their love inspired many of their joint poems as well as the individual poems that were written to each other. After Elizabeth’s death in 1861, Robert continued to write, but he never remarried.

Pierre and Marie Curie

Maria Sklodowska was a Polish chemistry student who came to the Sorbonne in Paris to study. Young and beautiful, Marie (as she was known in France) caught the eye of Pierre Curie, head of a university lab. He fell in love and proposed many times, but Marie refused. Independent and profoundly dedicated to her work, Marie didn’t marry the ardent chemist until sure his passion for chemistry was as intense as his passion for her! Eventually he did, and as a team they uncovered the uncharted world of radioactive materials, and won a Nobel prize. Their love endured, as did their love for chemistry, even after Pierre’s death in 1906. Marie never remarried, continued their research, and became the first person to win a second Nobel Prize in 1911.

John and Abigail Adams

The future second president of the United States was a young lawyer when he fell in love with Abigail. Unusual for most women of that time, Abigail was educated and extremely involved in current events. There’s was a true relationship blending intellect and passionate love. Together for over fifty years, they were partners in every way possible. Abigail joined her husband on numerous diplomatic missions and was an active First Lady. When forced apart, the many letters exchanged, often addressed to “My Dearest Friend,” vividly prove the intense nature of their love. They had five children together, one of whom was John Quincy Adams, the 6th President of the United States.

My Dearest Friend, 

…should I draw you the picture of my Heart, it would be what I hope you still would Love; tho it contained nothing new; the early possession you obtained there; and the absolute power you have ever maintained over it; leaves not the smallest space unoccupied. I look back to the early days of our acquaintance; and Friendship, as to the days of Love and Innocence; and with an indescribable pleasure I have seen near a score of years roll over our Heads, with an affection heightened and improved by time — nor have the dreary years of absence in the smallest degree effaced from my mind the Image of the dear untitled man to whom I gave my Heart…

Abigail to John, December 23, 1872

Those are only four of so many empowering stories of true love and enduring romance that I could share. What about Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson? Adam and Eve?  Queen Victoria and Prince Albert? Johnny Cash and June Carter? Annie Oakley and Frank Butler? The list goes on and on! I would love to hear your thoughts on the four I noted above, your personal favorites, or best yet, your own love story!



Sharon Lathan

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga, a ten-volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

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Ann Myers

Katherine is the love story behind the great John of Gaunt and Katherine de Roet Swynford. It’s by Anya Seton. I have a double major in history and a minor in English because of this novel based on a true story. His tomb was in St. Paul’s until it burned down. Her tomb is in Lincoln Cathedral.


Thanks for sharing these! I particularly liked reading about Marie Sklodowska and Pierre Curie—I’m going to look up more about her background.


The Robert and Elizabeth Browning story is new to me. I’m also happily ever after girl so I prefer my romance stories to be sweet and saccharine, not that I don’t read novels or watch movies with sad or open ended endings.


Thanks Sharon. I loved reading about these wonderfully romantic and loving couples. Thanks for a beautifully uplifting passage. I love nothing more than a happy ending too and these are on a very grand scale.
My hubby and I have shared 31 years of marriage. There were some very rough times which we helped each other through and there are also many happy times which we treasure and much more in between. Main thing is I love the way we know each other inside out but also learn new things about each other all the time.

Kimberly Sooy

I didn’t know that about Robert and Elizabeth Browning. When I was reading all 4 examples, I was thinking how as humans we so often compare ourselves to others and think we come up lacking. Of course, there’s always room to be more giving and loving. But I venture to say, many of us, show such love and romance to our mates even in the little things, a smile across the room, a touch when we walk by them or a phone call during the day just to hear their voice:-)


Wonderful stories, I did not know some of them. I think I should write poetry to my husband

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