Some Love Stories Transcend Time

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There's something about a royal romance that makes hearts flutter and mouths gape. As the wedding of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton draws closer, we look other great royal romances.

Antony and Cleopatra. She was the Ptolemaic Queen of Egypt and he was Marcus Antonius, a Roman general who served under Julius Caesar. They met when Antony journeyed to Egypt to enlist the queen's support during his military campaigns. He granted land to Cleopatra and her family, and rumors spread in Rome that the fierce and cunning war hero had fallen under Cleo's spell. The two committed suicide after Antony was routed by the forces of his Roman rival, Octavian. It's telling that Antony is remembered chiefly for his ill-starred romance with Cleopatra, rather than for his military and political achievements.

King Arthur and Guinevere. They're the original royal lovers, even if their romance was wrecked by Sir Lancelot and their very existence is still debated by historians. Regardless, the legend promoted the notions of chivalry and knights in shining armor that have fueled a million Hallmark cards and appalling, self-penned wedding vows. The Arthurian myth is based partly on historical accounts of a Celtic chieftain who united the warring tribes of Britain to fight the invading Saxons around 500 A.D.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The longest-reigning English monarch married her German cousin, Albert, in 1840, when she was 18. The Victorian era is often associated with sexual repression, but by many accounts, these highnesses had a vigorous and satisfying physical relationship. The two were staunch allies, with Albert proving a canny political and financial adviser as a well as a devoted husband. This harmonious union produced nine children. When Prince Albert died in 1861, Victoria was so grief-stricken she did not show her face in public for three years. She wore black for the rest of her life to mourn her lost love.

Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. He was the dapper and charismatic Prince of Wales, first-born son of King George V. She was a divorced American socialite who had been seen in public with the prince while still married to her second husband. Because the Church of England forbade divorced persons to marry in the church while the ex was still alive, Edward was faced with a choice -- renounce his mistress or vacate Buckingham Palace. He announced his decision on Dec. 10, 1936, when he became the first British monarch in modern history to voluntarily relinquish the throne. When he married Simpson the following year, no members of the royal family attended. The couple retired from public life, where Edward reportedly came to regret his decision. He became bitter and touchy during his years of exile, insisting that his staff address his wife as "Your Royal Highness," even though the royal family had refused to confer this title.

Queen Elizabeth and King George VI. The younger brother of Edward VIII became king after his brother abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson. He's been rescued from obscurity thanks to "The King's Speech," which won an Academy Award for Colin Firth for his portrayal of the stuttering king, who died in his sleep in 1952. Because the future queen mum outlived her husband by more than 50 years, many forget their loving and mutually supportive marriage, which is depicted in the film.

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles. These two are an example of how love truly can conquer all. Charles and Camillla met at a polo match in 1970 and developed a deep mutual affection, but each ended up marrying other people. Their romance persisted through Charles' marriage to Lady Diana Spencer, and Camilla was widely and unfairly blamed for the breakup of their marriage. The public forgave Diana's peccadillos but did not extend the same courtesy to Charles and Camilla, neither of whom possessed much personal magnetism. Charles and Camilla finally wed in a civil ceremony on April 9, 2005. Camilla became Her Royal Highness, Duchess of Cornwall. She says she has no desire to be queen.

Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco. Every girl's fantasy of marrying her Prince Charming came true for Grace Patricia Kelly, a girl born into a wealthy Irish Catholic family in Philadelphia. Kelly had forged a career as an Oscar-winning actress known for her coolly elegant blond beauty before she met Prince Rainier Grimaldi III in 1955 during a photo shoot. The fairy tale wedding took place about a year later. It was hardly happily ever after, however. Princess Grace chaffed at her opulent isolation, missed her American friends and longed to return to acting. Yet she was as good as her name in the way she adapted to the demands of her newfound royalty and managed her often difficult children. She was a beloved figure in Monaco when she died in a car accident in September 1982.

Queen Noor and King Hussein of Jordan. The future queen of Jordan was born Lisa Najeeb Halaby in Washington, D.C., the daughter of an affluent family of Lebanese and Syrian descent. She studied architecture and urban planning at Princeton University. Her field of study led to a meeting with the king when she traveled to Jordan to work on the building of the Amman Intercontinental Airport. According to her biography "Memoirs of an Unexpected Life" (Miramax $ 25.95), the king courted her by singing an ABBA song, "Take a Chance on Me." She became Noor al-Hussein when she converted to Islam upon marrying the king on June 15, 1978. She was a fierce defender of her husband, whose reign was plagued by conflicts. When her husband died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma on Feb. 7, 1999, she left the hospital and walked out into the rain to offer solace to the crowds gathered there.

Diana, Princess of Wales and Dr. Hasnat Khan. He might not be a boldface name, but the modest Pakistani cardiologist reportedly was the great love of Diana's life, according to those who knew her. She met Khan in 1994 shortly before her divorce from Prince Charles, when she visited a sick friend in the hospital. So smitten was the princess that she journeyed to Pakistan to visit a cancer hospital in order to learn more about his culture and profession. But the romance was doomed from the start, say insiders, because Khan's family would never approve of his marrying a divorced, non-Muslim woman. The famous tabloid photo of her kissing millionaire Dodi Al Fayed is said to have been a calculated effort on Diana's part to make Khan jealous. Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris Aug. 31, 1997. Kahn was among the mourners at her funeral.

Source: William Loeffler, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW