Titanic-sized tales of woe
We all remember Kate and Leo’s ill-fated relationship in James Cameron’s Titanic so, on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of this hugely famous ship, we look at the ten most tragic love stories of all time.
Romeo and Juliet
This tale of star-crossed lovers from warring families is so tragic it’s spawned countless retellings, most famously by William Shakespeare. When told she has to marry another suitor, Juliet fakes her own death and Romeo, thinking she is actually dead, kills himself. When she awakens, Juliet finds Romeo and stabs herself in the heart.
Cleopatra and Mark Antony
Another story adored by Hollywood and the Great Bard is that of Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen, and Antony, a married Roman general. It’s even more of a tear-jerker because it’s true. Their relationship ultimately sparked a war that led to both of them committing suicide – Cleopatra famously using a venomous snake – when they realised they couldn’t win.
Catherine and Heathcliff
The doomed relationship between the two protagonists of Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights is desperately sad. Despite having an intense and passionate connection, Catherine shuns the poor, adopted Heathcliff and marries her neighbour Edgar, eventually dying in childbirth. Heathcliff wreaks an elaborate revenge on Edgar’s family and dies several years later, haunted by visions of Catherine. They are buried together.
Orpheus and Eurydice
In this Greek tragedy, Orpheus’ songs of mourning on the death of his lover Eurydice are so beautiful, that Hades, God of the Underworld, allows him to take Eurydice back to Earth on one condition: he cannot look at her until they get there. Orpheus forgets and gazes upon his love too soon, losing her forever. Weep!
Victoria and Albert
It may have been an arranged marriage, but the love between Queen Victoria, monarch of Britain, and her husband Albert, was by all accounts genuine. Albert tragically died of typhoid very young, forty years before his other half. The Queen never re-married, wore black until her death and hardly ever appeared in public again.
Heloise and Abelard
This extraordinary love story is no work of fiction, although it inspired a poem by Alexander Pope. Heloise and Abelard were two French 12th century intellectuals whose passionate affair led to Abelard’s castration and Heloise becoming a nun. Abelard also eventually joined a monastery, at which point they starting writing poignant and emotional letters to each other about their lost love.
Bonnie and Clyde
This real-life gangster couple was most famously portrayed by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in the1960s Hollywood classic. With the police in hot pursuit, the bank-robbing duo eventually met their deaths after being riddled with bullets. Although on the wrong side of the law, the film’s loveable depiction of the notorious couple meant their demise is seen as a tragic one.
Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal
Shah Jahan was a Mughal emperor who built the exquisite Taj Mahal, now one of the Seven Wonders of the World, as an expression of his everlasting love for his wife Mumtaz, who died in childbirth. Taking 22 years to build, the famous monument also became the Shah’s final resting place, and he was buried next to his beloved wife.
Laura and Alec
Often voted the most romantic film of all time, Brief Encounter’s protagonists all too poignantly depict the anguish of thwarted love. Laura and Alec meet by chance at a train station and slowly fall in love, despite being married to other people. However, their middle-class morals mean that they eventually take the heartbreaking decision to part ways forever.
Tristan and Isolde
When the medieval Cornish King discovers the affair between his wife Isolde and his knight Tristan, he banishes the latter. Upon falling ill several years later, Tristan summons Isolde. She tells him that if the sails of her ship are white, she is coming, if black, she is not. Tristan’s wife lies and tells him they are black. He dies before Isolde can reach him and she dies of grief upon discovering her true love’s demise.