Greatest romantic gestures in British history

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Take some inspiration from these historic figures, who went to extraordinary lengths to prove the depth of their affection…

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

Queen Victoria’s adoration for her husband, Prince Albert, is well documented. During his lifetime they were inseparable and had nine children so it came as a surprise to few that when Prince Albert died of typhoid in 1861, Victoria did not stop declaring her feelings of love. The Albert Memorial in Hyde Park and the Royal Albert Hall opposite it in South Kensington were created in his memory, her final romantic salutes to her beloved partner. At the Hall’s opening ceremony on 29 March 1871, Queen Victoria was still in mourning and had to let her son, the Prince of Wales, take over the official opening.

Leaving the throne for love

Edward VIII was a reluctant king but his job was made all the more difficult when he met Wallis Simpson. The twice-divorced American woman was not the ideal love interest for the monarch, however in pursuit of love he was determined to marry her and he soon realised that this would mean choosing between the Crown and Mrs Simpson. He abdicated the throne in December 1936 after a reign of just 325 days. He married Wallis Simpson in France the following year and they spent the rest of their days together abroad.

Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Brownings were one of the most romantic literary couples of the Victorian period. After Robert Browning read her poems, he wrote to Elizabeth telling her of his love for her verses. They exchanged nearly 600 letters during their 20-month courtship before marrying in secret in Marylebone, London, in 1846 – much to the disapproval of  family members. The marriage cost her her relationship with her father, who did not approve of her choice of husband. The couple lived in Italy after leaving London until Elizabeth died in 1861. Their literary displays of love became immortal with the renowned line, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

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A very public affair: Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton

The hero of Trafalgar, Lord Nelson, was also renowned for his passionate love affair with Lady Emma Hamilton. Emma’s husband was as much of a fan of Nelson too, in the beginning, and the three friends shared a house together in Palmero for a time. Speculation developed about the closeness of Hamilton and Nelson and they became embroiled in a scandalous affair, which resulted in Emma falling pregnant with Nelson’s child. The affair lasted six years and transformed their positions and reputation in society. The affair ended in 1805 as Nelson was killed in battle but Emma was left in despair and ruin, as debt was piled upon her and the sacrifice she made for her relationship with Nelson became a heavy burden.

Royal mistresses

Did you know that the River Thames, and indeed London, is scattered with stately homes constructed for the mistresses of the monarchy? Marble Hill House, in Twickenham, is one such example and was built for Henrietta Howard, mistress of King George II when he was the Prince of Wales. The house was intended as a retreat from London, which was busy and crowded in the 18th century and the beautiful Georgian villa also provided the privacy the couple sought for their budding romance.

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