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  • Writer's pictureFiona Prior

How do I love thee?

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

Would I love thee big and bold but oh so romantically as did the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in his 1632 commission of a marble tomb to house the body of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal; and eventually his own … We still gasp at the beauty of both monument and Jahan's devotion.

Of course, fabulous gestures of devotion are not confined to heterosexual couplings. Another of my favourite love affairs was that of Roman Emperor Hadrian and his Greek lover Antinous. When Antinous died, Hadrian had him deified and initiated a formal cult in his honour. He also named a star in the heavens after his past lover and announced that a city, Antinoopolis, should be built on the site of his death. Seriously bereft was poor Hadrian.

Forbidden love is always intoxicating. Take Abélard and Heloise, a flaming passion of the 12th Century. Abélard, a leading philosopher and teacher became smitten by the much younger and precociously bright Heloise – and vice versa, by all accounts. What followed was an illicit love affair resulting in pregnancy, then the castration of poor old Abelard. Ouch! Today we can read some of the most extraordinary, erotically charged and intellectual correspondence owned by history. Or, consider the Spanish Infante Peter of the 14th Century, and his illicit love affair with his wife’s lady-in-waiting, Inês de Castro. His father, King Afonso IV was so incensed by their devotion he had Inês assassinated. In heart-broken retaliation Peter led an uprising against his father, had the hearts of the assassins ripped from their bodies and then made his lost love recognised as queen of Spain. Now that was a gesture!

Can’t imagine any of the above signing a pre-nup can you?

image: 'The Death of Cleopatra' Reginald Arthur (1892)

Unfortunately, there does seem to be a recurring pattern of death and violence in many of these love affairs and of course there were many love affairs that were nowhere near as tragic but maybe not quite so memorable. Death and, dare I say it, personalities and pockets that were prone to bigger than life displays were behind these fabulously overt gestures. Surely, it doesn't get much more histrionic than Cleopatra slipping an asp down her cleavage at the news of Mark Antony’s death. Total Hollywood!

Favourite modern love stories? … Nothing appears to come near the melodrama of more ancient times but I do have a favourite that shows that love has no boundaries. ‘Him’? Handsome, thoughtful in a green and understated sort of a way. ‘Her’? A very attractive, fetchingly voluptuous and (extremely modest) Mega-star Goddess. They’ve been together now for over 40 years and no, cynical readers, I do not believe the spurious statements that have been circulating social media about their separation.

"At the time of their 2015 split, Miss Piggy shared on social media, "After careful thought, thoughtful consideration and considerable squabbling, Kermit the Frog and Moi have made the difficult decision to terminate our romantic relationship ... Kermit went on to share the same statement on his social media accounts.

Don't believe a word of it! Nor has Miss Piggy had plastic surgery! Don't you hate those jealous trolls!

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