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14 February 2006

BE MY VALENTINE?


Y

es friends, today is Valentine's Day the world over. In that spirit, I decided to give you just a paragraph of the most famous love stories of all times. Some stories, in their entireties are quite powerful.

Antony and Cleopatra
One of the most famous women in history, Cleopatra VII was the brilliant and beautiful last Pharaoh of Egypt. Although she is often portrayed as a femme fatale, Cleopatra was deeply religious and studied to be a nun. An accomplished mathematician and gifted linguist fluent in nine languages, Cleopatra was also skilled politician popular with her people.


She married her younger brother, Ptolemy, and she became the mistress of the Roman general Julius Caesar. Following Caesar's death, Roman general Marc Antony went to Egypt to advance the growing power of Rome. Cleopatra captivated Antony. Their affair scandalized Roman society and bothered Roman politicians, who were suspicious of Egypt's power.

Yet despite the risks, Antony and Cleopatra married in 36 B.C. The couple planned to conquer Rome. But in 31 B.C. the Roman general Octavian destroyed the combined forces of Antony and Cleopatra in the battle of Actium. Hearing a false report that Cleopatra was dead, Antony fell on his sword. With no hope left, Cleopatra induced a poisonous asp to bite her.

Four thousand years of glorious Pharaonic rule was finally finished. Egypt became a Roman province. Octavian (later Augustus) became the first Roman Emperor, launching a new era in history.

Abelard and Heloise
The tragic story of Abelard and Heloise has resonated through the ages. Around 1100, Peter Abelard went to Paris to study at the school of Notre Dame. He gained a reputation as an outstanding philosopher.


Fulbert, the canon of Notre Dame, hired Abelard to tutor his niece, Heloise. Abelard and the scholarly Heloise fell deeply in love, conceived a child, and were secretly married. But Fulbert was furious, so Abelard sent Heloise to safety in a convent.

Thinking that he intended to abandon Heloise, Fulbert had his servants castrate Abelard while he slept. Abelard became a monk and devoted his life to learning. The heartbroken Heloise became a nun. Despite their separations and tribulations, Abelard and Heloise remained in love. Their poignant love letters were later published.


Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal
In 1612, a teenage girl, Arjumand Banu, married 15-year-old Shah Jahan, ruler of the Mughal Empire. Renamed Mumtaz Mahal, she bore Shah Jahan 14 children and became his favorite wife. After Mumtaz died in 1629, the grieving emperor resolved to create a fitting monument.

It took 20,000 workers and 1,000 elephants nearly 20 years to complete this monument, the Taj Mahal.

Built of white marble, the Taj sits on a sandstone platform. A 137-foot high dome tops the mausoleum. The interior is lavishly decorated in lapis lazuli, turquoise, agate, jasper, and colored marble. The exterior is paved with semiprecious stones that sparkle in the sun. The surrounding garden contains four water channels representing the four rivers of Islamic paradise.

Shah Jahan was never able to complete a black marble mausoleum he planned for himself. Deposed by his son, Shah Jahan was imprisoned in the Red Fort of Agra, and spent lonely hours staring across the Jamuna River at the monument to his beloved queen. He was eventually buried beside her in the Taj Mahal.


Abigail and John Adams
Although she lived at a time when many women were not educated, Abigail Adams learned to read, developing an appreciation of current events. Her intellect attracted her to a young lawyer, John Adams, and they were married in 1764. It was an intellectual and romantic relationship that would last for more than 50 years.


The Revolutionary War and other events often forced Adams to be away from home for long periods of time, so they wrote each other long affectionate letters.

When she did join her husband, on diplomatic missions to Paris and London, and later in Washington, DC, Abigail was a valued partner, entertaining with style and observing people with interest.

In 1801 the Adamses left the White House and retired to their farm in Quincy, Massachusetts, where they remained in contented companionship, for the next 17 years.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
Victoria was a lively, cheerful girl, fond of drawing and painting. She ascended the throne of England in 1837 after the death of her uncle, King William IV. In 1840, she married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.


While at first Prince Albert was unpopular in some circles because he was German, he came to be admired for his honesty, diligence, and his devotion to his family. The couple had nine children. Victoria loved her husband deeply. She relied on his advice in matters of state, especially in diplomacy.

When Albert died in 1861, Victoria was devastated. She did not appear in public for three years. Her extended seclusion generated considerable public criticism. Several attempts were made on Victoria's life. However, under the influence of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, Victoria resumed public life, opening Parliament in 1866.

But Victoria never stopped mourning her beloved prince, wearing black until her death in 1901. During her reign, the longest in English history, Britain became a world power on which "the sun never set."

Robert and Elizabeth Browning My personal favorite!
Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her husband, Robert Browning, led lives suited for leading Romantic poets. Their story contains all the elements, a secret courtship, elopement, love poems, and the beautiful Italian landscape.


Writing poetry as a child, Elizabeth published a book, Poems, in 1844. The work impressed Browning, a poet himself, and he began a correspondence. The two later met and fell in love.

Opposition from Elizabeth's father forced them to elope in 1846. They later fled to Italy, where they lived and worked for 15 years. Much of their work was inspired by their own long romance, including Elizabeth's Sonnets from the Portuguese. After Elizabeth's death in 1861, Browning returned to England, where he continued to write until his own death in 1889.

Annie Oakley and Frank Butler
Annie Oakley (Phoebe Anne "Annie" Oakley Mozee) of Darke County, Ohio, was a tomboy from the start, and soon became known as a skilled rifle shot. In 1881, the famous Baughman and Butler shooting act was performing in Cincinnati. Star of the show, champion shot Frank E. Butler, boasted that he could beat any local marksman.


Butler was amused when told a young woman had accepted his challenge. But Phoebe Ann won the contest. She also captured Butler's heart. They were married in 1882.

Butler abandoned his career to manage hers. As "Annie Oakley" she joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, performing into the 1920s.

Annie died in 1926. Her heartbroken husband died 18 days later. Their happy marriage had lasted 44 years. Irving Berlin immortalized this most American of love stories with his 1946 musical Annie Get Your Gun.

Observations and Questions
Which do you like the best? Or do you want to share your Valentine story with us?

Birth Announcements and Dusty Death Notices
Born this date in 1948, Raymond Joseph Teller Philadelphia PA, magician (Penn & Teller). And in our Valentine's Day death notes we find in 1996 Eva Hart, Titanic survivor, dies at 90.
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