Top 10 Forbidden Loves in History
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Top 10 Forbidden Loves in History

VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton
Script written by Savannah Sher

These are the greatest love stories of all time! Edward VIII & Wallis Simpson, Alexander I of Serbia and Draga Mašin, Richard I of England and Philip II Augustus of France, Héloïse and Abelard, Napoleon & Josephine, Marc Antony & Cleopatra are the history's greatest couples! For this list, we're looking at the most romantic forbidden love stories in history, and we're excluding any that are based on myth or legend. This means that while we love the stories of Guinevere and Lancelot or Paris and Helen, they won't be featured here today.

Top 10 Forbidden Loves in History

They say love conquers all, but in the real world, that’s easier said than done. Welcome to MsMojo and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Forbidden Loves in History.
For this list, we’re looking at the most romantic forbidden love stories in history, and we’re excluding any that are based on myth or legend. This means that while we love the stories of Guinevere and Lancelot or Paris and Helen, they won’t be featured here today.

#10: Edward VIII & Wallis Simpson

What could cause a man to give up his title as King of England? A great love ,of course. In the early 1930s, before he was crowned, Edward VIII met American socialite and divorcee Wallis Simpson, with whom he would eventually begin a relationship. He wished to marry her, but because she had been divorced, it was unprecedented and forbidden. Making a monumental sacrifice in the name of love, he abdicated the throne, leaving the position to his brother, George VI. Sadly, not every tale of forbidden royal love gets a happy ending. Queen Elizabeth II’s sister Margaret was ultimately prevented from marrying the divorced man she loved, Peter Townsend.

#9: Alexander I of Serbia & Draga Mašin

Be warned: this love story ends in tragedy. Aleksandar Obrenović became king of Serbia when he was only 16 years old. In 1900, seven years later, Aleksandar shocked the court when he announced his intention to marry Draga Mašin, a widow 12 years older than himself who had previously been a lady in waiting for his mother. Because of her lower birth status, and the fact that she was deemed too old to produce an heir, they received strong opposition from both the government and wider public. Going ahead with their nuptials nonetheless, the King and Queen were killed by conspirators in 1903.

#8: Héloïse & Peter Abelard

12th century French Philosopher Peter Abelard is known for his theology, but with the passing of time, his love affair with the young maiden Héloïse d'Argenteuil has become arguably his most famous legacy. Seven letters still exist which were passed between the two lovers, and this is the basis of what historians know of their courtship. After studying under his tutelage, Héloïse became pregnant. Though married in secret, their nuptials became public knowledge, and so Héloïse was sent to become a nun. Her uncle, Fulbert, then proceeded to have Abelard castrated. Disgraced, the philosopher became a monk. Though they would never meet again, their correspondence has gone on to inspire many lovers.

#7: Richard I of England & Philip II of France

Alright, there isn’t a ton of evidence that Richard the Lionheart was gay, but we do know that he had a curiously close relationship with Philip II of France. A contemporary account stated that the two kings ate from the same dish and even shared a bed, but at the time, two men sleeping side by side didn’t necessarily have homosexual overtones. Their relationship could’ve been a fraternal bond founded in politics or a case of courtly love, but considering the fact that they wound up feuding in their later years, a bonafide romantic relationship doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Either way, Richard I has since been claimed as a gay icon.

#6: Dante Alighieri & Beatrice Portinari

Though there isn’t much concrete evidence linking these two lovers, Beatrice Portinari lived near Dante in Florence and is widely accepted by scholars as the same Beatrice referenced in his writings. Not only did Beatrice serve as Dante’s muse for his work, La Vita Nuova, but also as the heavenly guide in his Divine Comedy. Was Dante’s love an unrequited one, or was it societal pressures and proper decorum that kept these lovers apart? We’ll never know for sure. What we do know however, is that Beatrice was married to another man (and Dante to another woman) and that she died young at the age of 24.

#5: Richard & Mildred Loving

You may be familiar with this racially-charged tale of forbidden love, which was adapted into an Academy Award nominated film in 2016. But in case you missed it, allow us to fill you in. Richard and Mildred Loving were happily married in 1958 in Washington, D.C. and then went back home to Virginia. The only problem? Mildred was black and Richard was white, and while their community was notably integrated, interracial marriage remained illegal. Soon after their wedding, they were arrested for violating sections of the Virginia Code. Their case ended up in the Supreme Court and they made history when they caused the law prohibiting interracial marriage to be abolished. Talk about a love that can conquer all boundaries and obstacles!

#4: Nicholas II of Russia & Alexandra Feodorovna

For Nicholas II, it was reportedly love at first sight when he met his future wife Alexandra, formerly known as Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, the favorite granddaughter of Queen Victoria and presumed future Queen of England. The two fell for each other at the marriage of Alix’s sister to Nicholas’ uncle. Despite this history of intermarriage between their two families however, Alix’s German ancestry made her an unfit match in the eyes of Nicholas’ father, Tsar Alexander III. Though the family eventually relented, sadly, as anyone familiar with Russian history will tell you, there’s no happy ending. Nicholas, Alexandra and their children were all executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

#3: Seretse Khama & Ruth Williams

Young English clerk Ruth Williams met Prince Seretse Khama of Bamangwato in 1947 at a dance put on by the London Missionary Society. The two fell in love, but due to the freshly instated apartheid regime and customs of the time, it was considered unacceptable for a white woman to marry an African man and vice versa. Their marriage was opposed by the British government and they were exiled from Khama’s homeland of Bechuanaland. Though their love initially cost the Prince his title, he would eventually go on to become the first President of Botswana. Their story was turned into a 2016 film starring Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo.

#2: Napoleon & Joséphine

The love story between Napoleon Bonaparte and Joséphine de Beauharnais is a well documented, and tumultuous one. When the couple met, Napoleon was immediately smitten, but because Josephine was his elder by several years, already had two children and had previously been the mistress of several other prominent figures, their partnership was strongly contended by his family. They were married nonetheless and their love letters to one another will go down in history as some of the most romantic ever written. Several years into their marriage and following multiple affairs, when Josephine had still not produced an heir to the throne, Napoleon divorced her for the sake of his legacy, despite still loving her.

#1: Mark Antony & Cleopatra

Though depictions of Cleopatra have varied greatly in works of fiction, there is no doubt about the veracity of the love that the Ptolemaic Queen of Egypt shared with the married Roman General Mark Antony. Their affair was the cause of much strife between regions, with Octavian, who was his fellow Triumvir and brother-in-law, ultimately declaring war on Anthony’s mistress, Cleopatra. There is debate amongst historians as to how exactly these two lovers met their end, but the most widely accepted is that they committed suicide shortly after one another. Before the film adaptations, their story was first immortalised and made popular in Shakespeare’s famous play “Antony and Cleopatra,” which adheres loosely to the real life events.