Great Love Stories Throughout History
Sweetheart’s Day is upon us, and I can think of no better way to celebrate than looking at some of the greatest Valentine’s (“Love”) wishes men and women have made through history.
Perhaps one of the greatest wishes came from Saint Valentine himself, a Roman priest who was executed on February 14, 269 A.D. for refusing to give up his Christianity (or so one story goes). The Roman emperor Claudius had refused Christians the right to marry as punishment, and believed that if he could take away the family from men, they would be much more inclined to join his army. Saint Valentine defied the emperors wishes, continuing to marry people, and making his own wish for couples to have the right to be together as they pleased. Every February 14, we honor this courageous patron of love, youth and happy marriage, by spreading messages of love to our friends, sweethearts and families, just as he would have wanted.
Charles Darwin, most known for his work The Origin of Species, had a pragmatic view of marriage. He would eventually come to long for romance and love, but only after carefully weighing the pros and cons. On a piece of paper, Darwin penned “marry” on the one side, drew a line down the middle and penned “not marry” on the other. Under the benefits of getting married, he included “constant companion” and “better than a dog.” Under the benefits of not marrying he could think of only one, “conversations with clever men at the clubs.” Needless to say, he went on to marry his first cousin, raised ten kids and remained a happily married man for the rest of his years.
Love is not always between two people, as the story of Cleopatra proves. She was in love with her country and people when she wrapped herself in an ornate carpet and was delivered before Julius Caesar as a gift. Her intentions were to gain the favor of the Roman empire, so she could regain her throne which had been stripped from her, leaving her people in anarchy and famine. The fifty-two year old Caesar instantly fell in love with the young, unattractive, yet very seductive Egyptian queen, and with his help restored her to the throne. The two fell in love, which would last until Caesar’s death by conspirators. Egypt fell into hard times again, bringing her to make the decision to seduce the Roman general and politician Mark Anthony in order to restore peace to her beloved Egypt for a second time.
Shah Jahan is the ruler known for building one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal. While many rulers have built such grand monuments in celebration of their own strength, immortality and wealth, Jahan’s greatest wish was to commemorate his beloved third wife, Mumtaz Mahal (“Jewel of the Palace”), who died giving birth to their fourteenth child. Legend has it that the Queen asked Jahan to build a mausoleum to symbolize the embodiment of their love before she died, and in order to bring tangible evidence to his emotions, he built the most breathtaking palace the world had ever seen. The monument took twenty-three years to complete. Its walls were constructed of solid marble. Its beauty has taken the breath of millions of visitors, and its message still rings true—love is truly the greatest wonder of the world.
President John Adams
While known for his independent views on politics, Adams was also known for his relationship with his wife and soulmate, Abigail Adams (a.k.a. Miss Saucy). The greatest longing for his own personal life would have been to offer his beloved wife an everlasting and affectionate marriage. He would go on to satisfy this wish, sharing his deepest sentiment through a collection of silly, daily love notes. “Dear Miss Saucy,” Adams once wrote. “I hereby order you to give me as many kisses and as many hours of your company as I shall please to demand—and charge them to my account.” Abigail would always follow with her own note, and the two became known for their tender and playful partnership, both in public and private.
While the commercialization of Valentine’s Day creates expectations that love is bought and managed through the right gift, the true wish for men and women is to experience love as these historical figures have. Whether you place your heart into your family, country or significant other, love is like a carefully planned garden—in that you get back only what you put into it.