King of Hearts
Lady in Black
Long before Kate and William, there was Victoria and Albert. The young British queen married her German cousin Albert in 1840, making him the Prince Consort. “He possesses every quality that can be desired to make me perfectly happy,” she wrote. The father of her nine children, Prince Albert was also among Victoria’s shrewdest and most trusted advisers. When he died suddenly of typhoid in 1861, the queen was devastated. She built Albert a grand mausoleum and kept one of the rooms in Windsor Palace as his shrine, complete with changes of clothes for him and fresh water for his basin. She traveled with a giant portrait of him and kept a smaller likeness by her bed, so she could wake to the sight of his face. As a widow, Victoria, famed for her longevity, wore black every day until her death in 1901.
A Marble Teardrop
At the end of his life, Shah Jahan was confined (by his own son) to a tower across the Yamuna. But his prison had a view of the beautiful tomb, which Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore would later describe as “a teardrop on the cheek of time.”
I Love Desi
Don't Exile My Husband, Argentina
“To Peron. . . I shall never finish paying my debt, not until I give my life in gratitude for the kindness he has always shown me,” she told the tearful audience. “Nothing that I have, nothing that I am, nothing that I think is mine; it is Peron’s.” She begged the people to be loyal to him in her absence.
On the operating table a few weeks later, she even shouted “Viva Peron!” before succumbing to anesthesia, one newspaper reported. But his presidency couldn’t survive without her: she died in 1952, and “her General” was later ousted.
Disposing of Drudgery
When Roses Just Won't Do
Though a number of ancient sources describe the gardens, modern academics aren’t completely sure they really existed. Other scholars, perhaps romantics at heart, haven’t given up hope.
Wake up, Mrs. Wagner
On Christmas morning in 1870, composer Richard Wagner secretly assembled 17 musicians on the stairs leading to the bedroom of his wife, Cosima. As she slept, they started to play (with Wagner conducting) a piece he had written just for her, inspired in part by the birth of their son, Siegfried, and incorporating details of their domestic life.
The composition (today known as “Siegfried’s Idyll”) was never meant for outside ears, but a few years later cash-strapped Wagner had no choice but to sell it. Cosima wrote in her diary that she wept.
A Romantic (State) Dinner
But when McKinley took office in 1897, he didn’t hide Ida from view. Instead, defying the protocol of the day, he insisted that his wife be seated beside him at state dinners, so he could help if a seizure struck, or cover her face with a hankerchief to ward off an impending attack.
And when President McKinley was fatally shot in 1901, his thoughts were of fragile Ida, whispering to his secretary: “My wife—be careful…how you tell her.”