(See also PCs 242 and 244)
Maybe a common thread of these tales of forbidden love is two powerful families? As a teenager I loved the ‘forbidden love’ stories from the English author Noel Barber (1909-1988). Nothing better than to sit in a summer’s garden and read ‘Tanamera’ based in Singapore, ‘A Woman of Cairo’ based, surprisingly, in Egypt (!) or ‘A Farewell to France’. Barber had started his first novel when in his seventies, after a career as a leading foreign correspondent for the Daily Mail.
One of the classical romances, Tristan & Isolde, is the tale of a princess who, pledged to marry a king, instead becomes involved with his nephew. Tristan travels to Ireland to bring back Isolde for his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall. On the C12th ferry back to England they drink a love potion, which ensures that Isolde, although married to Mark, still has the hots for Tristan! The ménage à trois continues until the love potion wears off! Richard Wagner wrote the opera of the same name in 1859 – well, not quite the same; the ampersand became ‘und’!
Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (1847) is among the most dramatic of romantic tragedies in literature and deserves a mention here. I have never read it but a flash of some film version enters my brain, as does Kate Bush’s melodic song. Some story about Heathcliff and Cathy, right? Societal constraints and personal pride prevent Cathy from being with Heathcliff and she eventually marries another man. Heathcliff remains bitter through the rest of his life.
Then I go on Google and read a synopsis of the story, which started: “Many people, generally those who have never read the book (that’s me!), consider Wuthering Heights to be a straightforward, if intense, love story — Romeo and Juliet on the Yorkshire Moors. But this is a mistake. Really the story is one of revenge.”
So replace the warmth and sun of Verona with wild, windy and wet Yorkshire? To be honest, the synopsis was confusing, complicated and incomprehensible. The names of the main characters come and go like horses on a merry-go-round, at speed and in a hurry. Kate Bush’s lyrics from her 1978 song went like this:
“Bad dreams in the night, They told me I was going to lose the fight, Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering, Wuthering Heights!”
“Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy. I’ve come home, I’m so cold. Let me in your window.”
It follows the life of Heathcliff, a mysterious gypsy-like person, from childhood to his death in his late thirties. Heathcliff is raised in his adopted family and then runs away when the young woman he loves decides to marry another. He returns later, rich and educated, and sets about gaining his revenge on the two families. In ‘This Charming Man’, a novel by Marian Keyes, Dad scornfully remarks: “Gothic bollocks! Doesn’t anyone remember that Heathcliff was a psychopath. He killed Isabel’s dog.’” It’s a view!
When Edward VIII, crowned King on 20 January 1936 in London, fell in love with American divorcée Wallis Simpson the affair shocked the nation – due to strong opposition from the church and government over their proposed marriage. Edward chose to abdicate the throne: “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.’ His abdication in December 1936 forced his brother George, not a very healthy individual, to become king. George died in 1952 at the young age of 56 and his wife Elizabeth forever blamed Edward – or more likely Wallis Simpson! The couple married and settled in France. Recently it’s been revealed that both had Nazi associations and the Germans planned to re-install him as King after they successfully invaded the UK (Note 1)
Then we know the current Prince of Wales continued to see his mistress Camilla née Shand even when she was married to Andrew Parker Bowles and he was married to Princess Diana. Their lives came full circle when, after their respective divorces, they eventually married in 2005.
Elizabeth Barrett (1806 – 1861) was an accomplished and respected poet in poor health when Robert Browning wrote to her “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrrett.” They courted in secret because of her family’s disapproval. She wrote: “I am not of a cold nature and cannot be treated coldly. When cold water is thrown upon a hot iron the iron hisses.” When they married in 1846 her father disinherited her and the couple moved to Florence, Italy where, fifteen years later, she would die in Browning’s arms. Elizabeth’s work had a major influence on writers such as poets Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson. If you need to understand the strength of her writing, read Sonnet 43 published in 1845 – “How Do I Love Thee?”
There is an ancient love story which has left a mark on the history of Portugal: the tale of forbidden love between Infante (the Crown Prince) Pedro and Inês (pronounced Inaish) de Castro, lady-in-waiting to his wife Constance. Although he was married, the Infante would have secret romantic meetings with Inês in the gardens of Quinta das Lágrimas. When Constance died in 1345, Pedro and Inês lived as a married couple, a decision which angered his father King Afonso IV, who was strongly opposed the relationship, as did the court and the population.
Pedro and Inês lived at Santa Clara Palace, in Coimbra, with their three children for many years. However, King Afonso IV, who was constantly under pressure because of the growing disapproval of the union within the court, decided to order the murder of Inês de Castro in January 1355. Deranged by pain, Pedro led an uprising against the King and would never forgive his father for murdering his lover. When he finally took the crown in 1357, Pedro ordered the arrest and execution of Inês’ murderers by ripping their hearts out. This action earned him the title of “the Cruel”.
Later, after swearing that he had secretly married Inês de Castro, King Pedro demanded that she be recognized as Queen of Portugal. In April 1360, he ordered the body of Inês to be moved from Coimbra to the Royal Monastery of Alcobaça, where two magnificent tombs were built so that he could rest next to his eternal lover forever. Thus, the most overwhelming Portuguese love story would be immortalized in stone.
Richard 22nd October 2021
PS Coincidentally Romeo & Juliet was in the papers on 21st July this year. In these ultra-sensitive times, The Globe Theatre in London apparently issued a warning to those wanting to watch the play, as it contained themes which some might find disturbing! Go figure!
Note 1 See Widowland by CJ Carey