Many of the most compelling and heart wrenching love stories of history have been the most tragic love stories of all time too. Right from Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Romeo and Juliet to our own desi Heer and Ranjha. We take a look at 10 heartbreaking historical tales from the ancient and recent past that are sprinkled with unrequited passion, doomed lovers, and death.
We hope you find the same love and devotion that these couples found -with a much happier ending, of course.
1. Tale Of Tristan And Isolde
This one is considered a classic among tragic love stories from western literature that originated somewhere around the 12th century A.D. Inspired by a Celtic legend, it is a tale of a princess who is pledged to marry a king, but instead falls in love with his nephew, Tristan. Tristan is assigned the task of bringing Isolde to his uncle, but in a true poetic way falls in love with the charming Isolde. Different versions of the story give varying accounts of the ending but eventually the love birds die a sad death, yearning for each other’s love.
2. Romeo And Juliet by William Shakespeare
No catalog of tragic love stories is complete without this 15th century masterpiece written by none other than the eminent 16th century English writer William Shakespeare. This work was heavily inspired by a 17th century Italian tale, which could have been inspired by the tragic love story of Marc Antony and Cleopatra. What makes Romeo And Juliet stand out is its inclusion of characters that constitute the feuding families of the Romeo And Juliet. This is one quintessential tragic love story that will move you to tears.
[Read More: The Tale of Romeo And Juliet In Short]
3. The Notebook By Nicholas Sparks
Written by American author Nicholas Sparks, a modern day Oscar Wilde, and master of tragic love stories; it is a story of losing love, finding it back again for a brief moment and eventually losing it again forever. The strength of the story lies in its memorable characters that will stay with you long after you are done reading the novel.
4. Wuthering Heights By Emily Brontë
It was written in mid 19th century by the British author Emily Brontë, of the Brontë sisters, also virtuosos of tragic love stories of all time. Emily wrote the book under the pseudonym Ellis Bell. It is story of a girl called Cathy, who due to societal constraints is unable to marry a man called Heathcliff. She goes on to marry another man and dies in childbirth leaving Heathcliff shattered. Although it was not well received during the Victorian era, in modern times it is considered to be one of the most dramatic romantic tragedies in literature.
5. Madame Bovary By Gustave Flaubert
Madame Bovary was written by the French author Gustave FlaubertIt in the year 1856. The novel tells a distressing tale of Emma Bovary a bored and dissatisfied wife of a country doctor. To escape emptiness of country life she makes a foray into the world of adultery and binge spending ultimately piling up debt, which leads to her death. Despite being over 100 years old the story feels very contemporary and very much heartrending.
6. West Side Story By Arthur Laurents
It is an American musical play inspired by Romeo and Juliet but with a much modern take on the story. It tells the story of two rival teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. Between the tension of the gang blossoms the love of Maria and Tony who actually belong to rival gangs. Their love does not go much far though and eventually ends in tragedy, like all tragic love stories among the young and innocent.
7. Love Story Of Cleopatra And Mark Antony
This is also a play by William Shakespeare but based on the true life relationship between, Cleopatra the illustrious queen of Egypt, and Marc Antony, the noted military general under Julius Caesar’s rule. It is a classic tale of a woman seducing a powerful man and then eventually falling in love with him, to the point she kills herself on hearing the news of his death. This story conveys the point that nothing good begets in love, when it is mixed with politics.
8. Love Story Of Napoleon And Josephine
A tale of inspiration of sorts among real life tragic love stories, a tale that tells of true love between a despot and his short term lover. Napoléon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader and had married Joséphine de Beauharnais, a six years older widow with two children from previous marriage. After just couple of days after marriage, Napoleon had to leave for a military campaign leaving Josephine alone. She soon initiated an affair with lieutenant Hippolyte Charles. When Napoleon found out about Joséphine infidelity, he decided to have an affair of his own. Soon Napoleon found out that she cannot bear a child and thus divorced her to remarry. Despite his infuriation towards Josephine, it seems his heart continued to be bestowed to her. In fact it is said his last words were “France, the Army, the Head of the Army, Josephine.”
9. Love Story Of Shah Jahan And Mumtaz Mahal
Who can forget this tale of perpetual love, which gave the world its monument of love called Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan was a 17th century Mughal ruler and Mumtaz Mahal was his third wife. In 1631, Mumtaz Mahal passed away during childbirth leaving Shah Jahan devastated. So true was his love that he vowed to her on her deathbed that he will never remarry and will make the most expensive mausoleum for her grave. Taj Mahal became the final resting place of Mumtaz Mahal and also Shah Jahan, after his death.
[Read More: 7 Inspiring Real Life Successful Love Stories]
10. Love Story of Alexander I Of Serbia And Draga Mašin
The relationship between the young Serbian King Alexander I and Draga Mašin a widow 12 years older lead to a massive outrage in the country. But nothing stopped the 23-year old King from marrying Draga who was 35-years old. The King was so infatuated with Draga that he wanted one of the Queen’s brothers to be proclaimed the heir to the throne. The royal senate didn’t approve of this and soon a group of conspirators decided to take action. Sadly, in 1903, a group of revolting military officers invaded the Royal Palace and assassinated the couple.
These were some of the heart wrenching tragic love stories that were never meant to be. Have anything to add? Do share in the comments below