History proves that truth is not only stranger than fiction, but often more beautiful. These real-life love stories from history are better than any fairy tale or movie out there.
Grace Kelly and Rainier III, Prince of Monaco
Meghan Markle isn’t the first Hollywood actress to marry a royal. Grace Kelly was asked to visit Rainier, Prince of Monaco, in 1955 when she was attending the Cannes Film Festival. What started as a photo shoot for a French magazine blossomed into a romance. They bonded over their Catholic faith and love of art. They got engaged later that year and married in 1956. Grace was 26, and Rainier was 32.
They had three children together: Caroline, Albert, and Stephanie. Grace was a devoted mother, and her children occupied the majority of her time after she gave up acting for her marriage. Their marriage had struggles, especially with Grace striving to find artistic fulfillment without acting. They were able to work through their differences, however, mainly through their mutual devotion to their faith. Grace eventually took up poetry to fulfill her artistic desires.
Their love letters also showed their devotion to each other. In 1956, shortly before their wedding, Rainier wrote to Grace, “My darling, this to tell in a very mild way how terribly much I love you. Miss you, need you, and want you near me always. Safe trip my love. Rest, relax and think of me burning myself out with this terrible longing of you, for you! I love you so.”
Grace died of a stroke in 1982 at age 52. Her death was mourned around the world and left Rainier heartbroken. He never remarried and died in 2005 at age 81.
John and Abigail Adams
Abigail and John Adams, painted by Gilbert Stuart. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Very few presidential love stories can top the legendary marriage of John and Abigail Adams. They met in 1762, when Abigail was 15 and John was 24. He came to her house with his friend, who had an interest in marrying Abigail’s sister. It wasn’t love at first sight, but it blossomed into a romance over the next few years, and they married several years later. They had six children: Abigail, John Quincy, Susanna, Charles, Thomas, and Elizabeth, who was unfortunately stillborn.
The pair was ahead of their time, marrying for love before it was the norm. Their marriage survived the American Revolution, the founding of the United States of America, and John’s presidency. Abigail was supportive of John’s political career as he was supportive of her activism for women’s education. She was one of the first proponents of women's rights in America - and she used her relationship with her husband to push for women's rights in the foundling country.
One of their most famous letters was from Abigail to John in 1776, a few months before the Declaration of Independence was signed. Abigail wrote, “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
John was President of the United States from 1797 to 1801, and their eldest son, John Quincy, was president from 1825 to 1829. They were married for 54 years before Abigail died of typhoid fever in 1818 at age 73. John died in 1826 at age 90.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
Portrait of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the four eldest children in the Nursery, c. 1844. British Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Victoria would have never become the “Grandmother of Europe” without Albert by her side. They were married in 1840, just a few years after Victoria was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom. They were both only 20 years old. The day after her wedding, Victoria wrote in her diary, "I never ever spent such an evening!! My dearest dearest dear Albert sat on a footstool by my side, and his excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms and we kissed each other again and again! His beauty, his sweetness and gentleness—really how can I ever be thankful enough for such a husband."
Before her reign (known as the Victorian era), marrying for love was very uncommon because marriage was seen as a business deal between two families. Victoria and Albert’s marriage helped to normalize marrying for love in Western culture. They had nine children together before Albert died of typhoid fever at age 42 in 1861. Still devoted to Albert, Victoria never remarried and spent the rest of her life mourning him, making few public appearances and wearing black regularly. She ruled until her death in 1901 at age 81.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan
Their 52-year marriage is often regarded as one of the most romantic in American history. Their romance began when they met in Hollywood in 1949, where they both worked as actors. Ronald was fresh off his divorce from his first wife, Jane Wyman, and was the president of the Screen Actors Guild. Nancy came to him for help when there were rumors that she was being blacklisted for ties to communism, and Ronald helped to settle the misunderstanding.
It was love at first sight. They began dating shortly after and married in 1952. They had two children, Patti and Ron, and remained devoted to each other when Ronald entered the political arena as Governor of California, and eventually the President of the United States.
They exchanged love letters regularly. On their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, Ronald wrote, “I more than love you, I’m not whole without you. You are life itself to me. When you are gone, I’m waiting for you to return so I can start living again.”
Ronald died in 2004 at the age of 93 due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Nancy never remarried and spent the rest of her life missing him. In 2009, she said, “I miss Ronnie a lot, an awful lot. People say it gets better. No, it does not.” Nancy died in 2016 at the age of 94.
Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna
Engagement official picture of Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Having met as children, the couple fell in love years later when Alexandra visited Russia in 1889. Due to opposition from their family (including Alexandra’s grandmother Queen Victoria) and age, they didn’t marry until 1894, when Nicholas was 26 and Alexandra was 22. The first ten years of their marriage were blissful, but after four daughters, the pressure to have a son (women weren’t allowed to inherit the throne) started to weigh on them. In 1904, Alexandra finally gave birth to a son, Alexei, who joined their four daughters Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia.
The bliss from the birth of Alexei was short-lived, for he was diagnosed with hemophilia, a genetic blood disorder, after his doctor noticed him bleeding from his navel. Like many couples, having a sick child put stress on their marriage, but they loved each other through it all. Despite rumors that Alexandra was unfaithful to Nicholas with their friend Grigori Rasputin when he was away training the troops during World War I, their love letters show they were always devoted to each other.
In one of her letters to him in January 1916, she wrote, “Do not worry, that you have no time for writing, I understand it perfect well, & not for a moment am hurt - Goodbye my precious One, I bless you kiss you over & over again - ever so tenderly, all the favorite places.”
Cementing their legacy of sticking with each other through it all, they remained by each other’s side when Nicholas was forced to abdicate the throne in 1917 after the Russian Revolution began. They were murdered, along with their children and close friends, by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1918.
Even after their death, they left behind a legacy of love and devotion to family. Their youngest daughter, Anastasia, became a legend of her own after the story of her rumored survival inspired two Hollywood films and a hit Broadway musical.
All five of these couples are perfect examples of the vow “till death do us part.” None of these marriages were perfect, but each couple stuck by each other through it all, proving that true love conquers all.