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Surprisingly Romantic Historical Figures


Churchill was a bulldog in politics, but to his wife, he was affectionately known as “Pug.” Want to know more romantic secrets about prominent figures from recent history? Then read on…

By Laura Schaefer

e’ve all heard about the epic love lives of couples like King Edward and Wallis Simpson, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, and Heloise and Abelard. You might be tempted to think that kind of passion was unusual, but when it comes to the love lives of celebrities and authority figures from recent history, romance was always in the air. Some of
The bulldog known for piloting England through World War II was also devoted to his wife.
history’s hard-charging political leaders, generals, authors and adventurers had a softer side of their own that only appeared in private. If you’re curious to know which figures that appeared in the pages of our history books were surprisingly lusty or even head-over-heels in love, read on…

Winston Churchill
“The bulldog known for piloting England through World War II was also devoted to his wife, Clemmie,” says Cheryl Mahoney, a Sacramento book review blogger. “I read a book of their private letters, Winston and Clementine, and suddenly found myself gushing words I never would have previously applied to Churchill — like ‘sweet’ and ‘adorable.’” Churchill’s wife called him “Pug,” and he didn’t even mind: “My precious and beloved Clemmie, my earnest desire is to enter still more completely into your dear heart and to curl myself up in your darling arms. I feel so safe with you & do not keep the slightest disguise. You have been so sweet and good to me that I cannot say how grateful I feel to you for your dear nature, and matchless beauty. Not please disdain the caresses of your devoted pug.”

General Custer
“My favorite person in this category is George Armstrong Custer,” says Janice M. Sellers, a professional genealogist in Oakland, CA. “He is most known, of course, for the Battle of Little Big Horn, but he was an adoring husband who wrote a letter to his wife every day they were apart. She also traveled with him on many of his military campaigns. From all accounts, they were truly devoted to each other.”

Margaret Mitchell
According to her contemporaries, the Gone With the Wind author was just as charming and flirtatious as her heroine, Scarlett O’Hara. Mitchell shocked society in Atlanta by dancing a scandalous tango in public, and she had a whole pack of men chasing her. A gossip columnist said of Mitchell in 1922, “...she has in her brief life, perhaps, had more men really, truly ‘dead in love’ with her, more honest-to-goodness suitors than almost any other girl in Atlanta.” After a disastrous first marriage to an alcoholic bootlegger, Mitchell settled down as the wife of copy editor John Marsh. He bought her the typewriter on which she composed her masterpiece.

Amelia Earhart
The famous aviatrix’s first love was, of course, flying. Reluctant to marry, Earhart nevertheless had a special relationship with husband and manager George Putnam — based on a mutual lust for adventure. Earhart wrote for Redbook magazine in 1932, “My husband, George Palmer Putnam, is a publisher. He also writes and explores. His enthusiasm for aviation complements my own; and with many common interests we contrive to have a very good time.”

James Joyce
Much of the Irish novelist’s missives to his wife, Nora Barnacle, are too filthy to quote for our readers, but one thing’s for sure — there was no shortage of passion in their tumultuous
No list of passionate lovers would be complete without mentioning the legendary Napoleon.
relationship, based on this excerpt from a love letter written by Joyce in 1909: “…my true love for you, the love of my verses, the love of my eyes for your strange luring eyes, comes blowing over my soul like a wind of spices…”

Catherine the Great
“Catherine the Great, Russia’s most successful and powerful Tsarina, has long been accused of promiscuity, but historical evidence points to a passionate woman who could not live without love,” says Eva Stachniak, author of The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great (Bantam, January 2012). “Her early partners — including her greatest love, Prince Potemkin — were her emotional equals, but her later relationships with much younger men — Platon Zubov was 20 when he became the imperial favorite to the 60-year-old empress — pointed to her need for dominating and mentoring her lovers. Since being chosen by Catherine meant recognition and power, Russian noble families were quite eager for her to notice their handsome sons, hoping they might be chosen as favorites.”

John and Abigail Adams
The original American power couple, their mutual passion and respect for each other’s minds is admirably preserved in over one thousand letters containing passages such as this one from Abigail to John early in their relationship: “My Dearest Friend,…should I draw you the picture of my Heart, it would be what I hope you still would Love; tho it contained nothing new; the early possession you obtained there; and the absolute power you have ever maintained over it; leaves not the smallest space unoccupied.”

J.R.R. Tolkien
Tolkien’s wife, Edith, who was both his true love and his muse, was often referred to as “my Luthien” by the author. The two enjoyed a long, happy marriage until Edith’s death in 1971. She served as the inspiration for this beautiful love poem:
Lo! Young we are and yet have stood
like planted hearts in the great Sun
of Love so long (as two fair trees
in woodland or in open dale
stand utterly entwined and breathe
the airs and suck the very light
together) that we have become
as one, deep rooted in the soil
of Life and tangled in the sweet growth.
Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte
No list of passionate lovers would be complete without mentioning the legendary Napoleon. He was as eloquent in his letters to his wife as he was determined to conquer Europe: “Oh, my adorable wife! I don’t know what fate has in store for me, but if it keeps me apart from you any longer, it will be unbearable! My courage is not enough for that...” Napoleon’s love for Josephine was anxious and full of worry over losing her: “My one companion, you whom fate has destined to travel the sorry road of life beside me, the day I lose your heart will be the day Nature loses warmth and life for me.”


Laura Schaefer is the author of Why We Fall Out of Love. Follow her on Twitter: @teashopgirl.
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