Mismatched Monarchs and Other Royal Disasters

Article excerpt

Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella may well have lived happily ever after with their princes.

But throughout history, many of the marriages of other royals have been miserable for both spouses.

As you can see by these examples, wedded bliss can be as elusive for monarchs and their consorts as it is for commoners:

Commitment issues

English King Henry VIII (1491-1547) holds something of a record for his serial commissions of marital misery. His matrimonial woes began in earnest in 1526 when Henry was unsuccessful at obtaining an annulment from Catherine of Aragon, his wife of 17 years. Henry circumvented the pope's power by declaring himself head of a new English church, which would grant him his freedom. Banished from court, Catherine, a devout Catholic, never recognized the divorce and died a decade later, some say from a broken heart.

Henry's second marriage, to Anne Boleyn, lasted less than three years. Convicted -- possibly unfairly -- of witchcraft, incest and adultery, she was beheaded in 1536. Less than two weeks after Anne's death, Henry married Jane Seymour, with whom he had a son. Their marriage was happy but short-lived. Jane died in 1537, soon after Edward's birth.

Diplomacy, not love, was the impetus for Henry's marriage to Anne of Cleves in 1540. Henry loathed her at first sight and quickly moved to end the arrangement. This Anne fared better than her predecessor. The marriage was legally annulled. Anne got a good financial settlement and lived happily in England.

Catherine Howard came next. In 17 short months of marriage, she went from being Henry's beloved "rose without a thorn" to a woman beheaded in 1540 for infidelities.

His final wife, Catherine Parr, wed Henry in 1543 even though she was in love with another man, Thomas Seymour. She at least got some satisfaction in the end. After Henry's death in 1547, she quickly married Seymour.

Love me, love me not

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) and Josephine de Beauharnais had a relationship that was tempestuous and plagued from the beginning. Napoleon was head-over-heels in love and lust for this ambitious widow. Josephine was savvy enough to know that a woman with a past needed someone with a future to support her and her two children from her first marriage. The marriage suffered from Napoleon's long and frequent forays on the battlefield and soon succumbed to charges of adultery -- real and imagined on both sides.

In January 1810, after 13 years of marriage, Napoleon -- set on getting a male child that would follow him as Emperor of France -- divorced Josephine. Three months later, he married Marie Louise of Austria, who gave him that son within a year of their wedding.

It's not you, it's me

Much has been written about what went wrong between British Prince Charles Windsor and Lady Diana Spencer. A decade older and emotionally attached to Camilla Parker Bowles, Charles was not exactly prime marriage material to begin with. But pressured by family and the press, and feeling a genuine affection for Diana, Charles proposed. …