6 Most Famous Affairs That Changed History

For many people, the newest gossip surrounding a steamy love affair of the rich and famous can provide a good chunk of entertainment. Famous affairs often lead to scandalous divorces with every sordid detail broadcast to the public. This is not a recent development for society, however, as people have been enthralled by these sordid stories for centuries. Some famous affairs in the past have been so prominent that the stories are still known even today, inspiring storytellers to add their very own take to the events of legend.

While many tales are altered over time, the events depicted in these famous affairs still may have had a bearing on history. These six famous affairs are great examples of scandalous drama that made the history books.

1. Napoleon and Josephine

As a young soldier with a high level of ambition, Napoleon Bonaparte had his sights set on his career. That seemed to change a bit once he met the woman known as Marie-Josephe-Rose de Beauharnais when he was 26. He was infatuated with Josephine almost immediately, despite the fact that she did not really feel the same way.

Napoleon was an up and coming man, though, and she could see the potential in his future. Therefore, she reluctantly gave in to his marriage proposal. Reluctance in agreeing to a marriage rarely ends well, and it certainly did not in this case. When Bonaparte began his war campaign in Italy, he was far from home. This gave Josephine plenty of chances to stray from the loyalty of marriage, and she took the opportunities repeatedly.

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Of course, the truth does come out, and Napoleon did uncover the truth behind his wife’s adultery in time. It is said that he had a deep well of love for her, so the findings obviously hurt him badly. This could have very well led to a string of military losses that ultimately ended with his exile to Elba island in 1814.

2. Paris and Helen of Troy

It is said that nothing can stand in the way of love. Love is wonderful, but sometimes it simply doesn’t end well. The famous love affair between Paris and Helen of Troy is a great example of romance that was ultimately not worth the trouble.

According to legend, the young couple eloped together in secret, which was a big issue, as Helen was already married to the king of Sparta. Paris, a Trojan prince, was visiting Sparta when he first met the beautiful Helen. Upon finding that the two had run away together, the entire Spartan army was ready for action.

@ Wikimedia Commons

One of the most famous affairs in history had set motion to a series of events that ended with a hard war between Sparta and Troy, as well as thousands of casualties on both sides. However, the story is mostly left at the hands of legend, and the true events of the Trojan war may never been fully uncovered. Either way, the incident left behind a story for the ages.

3. Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson

Throughout history, there have been many questions asked that simply have no correct answer. Among them lies the inquiry of what a person would give up for love. It’s a difficult issue to address, but there have been plenty of people who have been forced to answer it at some point. Prince Edward gave his answer on December 11, 1936.

“I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.”

@ National Media Museum // Wikimedia Commons

Prince Edward was referring to a woman by the name of Wallis Simpson, a married woman. The two fell for each other quite hard, and Edward decided that he could simply not continue his life without her. This problem worsened upon the death of King George V, leaving Prince Edward as the next in line for the throne. However, Simpson could never be his queen, even if she did have a divorce.

He abdicated the throne in the name of forbidden love. Not many people would give away such a life for romance, but Prince Edward did it proudly.

4. Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn

Henry VIII had a reputation for getting around. While he was married to his first wife, he had an ongoing affair with a woman named Mary. After all, famous affairs happen on a frequent basis, especially when it comes to men of power. The king wasn’t quite satisfied yet, though, as he eventually met Mary’s younger sister, Ann.

Ann Boleyn was the partner he desired, and he was adamant about that, as future events would prove. He was sick of the adultery, so he presumably ended his relationship with Mary, and then went on to attempt to divorce his wife. The pope of the time had his issues with this arrangement, however, and denied the divorce.

@ bridgeman.co.uk // Wikimedia Commons

This led to King Henry VIII doing the sensible thing and forced the Church of England to break away from Catholicism. This eventually ended with the Church of England becoming its own form of religion, as well as one of the dominant offshoots of Protestantism centuries later.

5. Antony and Cleopatra

When it comes to famous affairs, Cleopatra had a particular epic tale. In fact, Cleopatra had quite the active love life during her days on Earth. As the Queen of Egypt, she was bound for power no matter what. However, she went further than that and managed to multiply that power when she became the mistress of none other than the King of Rome, Julius Caesar.

Of course, the Ides of March caught up to Caesar and resulted in his death. With Caesar’s role without a face, three men came together to create an uneasy alliance. Mark Antony, Roman politician and general, Marcus Lepidus, another general, and Gaius Octavian, who was Caesar’s grandnephew.

Three very different men sharing power can be a tricky situation, and the three began infighting pretty severely. Fearing for the future of Rome, Mark Antony entered into marriage with Octavian’s sister in an attempt to ease tensions. All in all, it was a solid political move for the general.

Unfortunately, Antony came into contact with the alluring Cleopatra, followed closely by romance. This ended up as an affair that simply could not be kept under tabs for long. As such, Antony divorced his wife and moved to Egypt in pursuit of love. Supposedly, it was a true romance and the two loved each other very much, although they did get perks from the relationship. For instance, Antony’s army could protect Egypt from invaders, and Cleopatra’s overwhelming wealth was more than enough to finance Antony’s armies. They were a true power couple.

@ Daderot // Wikimedia Commons

Such power makes people uncomfortable, especially a person like Octavian, who was weary of the things the couple could do together and who was also a bit bitter due to his sister being discarded so easily by Antony.

Octavian took up forces against Antony. During the final battle between the two, Octavian spun a vicious lie that Cleopatra had committed suicide. Upon hearing this falsehood, Antony became heartbroken and promptly took his own life. Naturally, Cleopatra was still alive and well, and eventually taken prisoner.

Her exact fate following the arrest is a bit unclear, but legend says that she managed to get a poisonous snake into her cell that ended her life following a lethal strike. Either way, the affair between the two lovers resulted in the deaths of two major world leaders.

6. Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan

Inspiration can come from many things for a writer. Anything from nature to love can be powerful inspirational tools, even if the love falls on the side of sordid. Dickens was a married man and father of nine children when he was introduced to Nelly Tennan, an actress of only 17 years of age.

@ Wikimedia Commons

The famous affair was ongoing for 13 years while Dickens’ marriage fell apart. It’s a sad story that doesn’t have much of a happy ending, but Nelly inspired some of the work that helped cement Charles Dickens in literary history, such as the character of Estella in Great Expectations.

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