Sunday January 17, 2010
love is in the air: Famous Lovers Past & Present
In addition to our featured recipes, we have assembled special guests who have shared their favorite Valentines' Day Menus to inspire your creativity, and, as we do every year, we have put together our top choices of artisinal chocolate gifts for your loved ones, and gift suggestions for him and her.
We launch this year's Valentine Extraganza with a look to famous lover, past and present, people who lived and died for love, desire and fiery passion. From Perseus & Andromeda to the Duke & Duchess of Windsor., Liz Taylor & Richard Burton, Romeo & Juliet, King Edward VIII & Wallis Simpson, Sid & Nancy, Paul & Linda, Clark Gable & Carol Lombard. Who are your favorite lovers?
Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal
Emperor of India from 1628 to 1658, Shah Jahan commissioned one of history's most spectacular buildings, the Taj Mahal, in honor of his much beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz died in 1631, after giving birth to their 14th child. (Yes that was 14!!!) Six months after her death, the deeply grieving emperor ordered construction to begin. The Taj Mahal, listed as one of the Wonders of the World, is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. .
Catherine the Great & Potemkin
One of history's greatest love stories, Catherine the Great and Potemkin is a sweeping epic of sex, love, power, conquest and extravagance on a magnificent Russian scale. Not only was their romance wildly passionate but they were also probably the most successful political partnership of all, outstripping Antony and Cleopatra or Napoleon and Josephine.
Antony & Cleopatra
One of the most famous women in history, Cleopatra VII was the brilliant and beautiful last Pharaoh of Egypt. Although she is often portrayed as a femme fatale, Cleopatra was deeply religious and studied to be a nun. An accomplished mathematician and gifted linguist fluent in nine languages, Cleopatra was also skilled politician popular with her people. As was the custom of the time, she married her younger brother, Ptolemy. She became the mistress of the Roman general Julius Caesar. Following Caesar's death, Roman general Marc Antony went to Egypt to advance the growing power of Rome. Cleopatra captivated Antony. Their affair scandalized Roman society and bothered Roman politicians, who were suspicious of Egypt's power.
Yet despite the risks, Antony and Cleopatra married in 36 B.C. The couple planned to conquer Rome. But in 31 B.C. the Roman general Octavian destroyed the combined forces of Antony and Cleopatra in the battle of Actium. Hearing a false report that Cleopatra was dead, Antony fell on his sword. With no hope left, Cleopatra induced a poisonous asp to bite her.
Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton
"Her breasts would topple empires before they withered...she was the most sullen, uncommunicative and beautiful woman I had ever seen," said Richard Burton in 1953 of his first look at Elizabeth Taylor. Nine years later, while married to others, he and she began a relationship that enraged the Vatican and caused the gainful employment of hundreds of paparazzi. On the set of "Cleopatra," what Liz and Dick called le scandale just went on and on. The public saw them in bathing dishabille, in drunken brawls and other feats of extreme behavior. There were furs, dogs, yachts, incredible cars, houses, and gigantic jewelry. When Burton died in 1984, his last wife barred Elizabeth from attending the funeral. Today she describes Burton as "one of the two great loves of my life", the other being Mike Todd, who died in a plane crash.
Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas
It was love at first sight when Gertrude Stein, 33, met Alice Babette Toklas, 29, in Paris in 1907. Like many great lovers, they met by accident. Stein's parents had gone to Oakland, California, to check on property damaged during the 1906 Bay Area earthquake, where they met Toklas and enthralled her with their stories of Paris. Toklas moved there two years later, met up with Gertrude, and the two women soon began living together. Besides being a well-known avant-garde writer, Stein was a brilliant eccentric with a heavy, unladylike presence. Alice B. Toklas, who worked as Stein's secretary and cook, was a chain smoker with a slight mustache, given to exotic dress. The pair became inseparable, with Gertrude calling Alice "Pussy" and Alice referring to Gertrude as "Lovey." Their apartment at now-famous 27 Rue de Fleurus became the foremost meeting place for artists and writers like Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Bonnie & Clyde
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were the most famous gangster couple in history, made more so by the wildly popular 1967 Oscar-winning film Bonnie and Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.. However the real couple was even more interesting than they were portrayed on film. From 1932 to 1934, during the height of the Great Depression, their gang evolved from petty thieves to nationally known bank robbers and murderers. Though a burgeoning yellow press romanticized their exploits, the gang was believed responsible for at least 13 murders, including 2 policemen, as well as several robberies and kidnappings. The spree ended when they were betrayed by a friend and shot dead at a police roadblock in Louisiana on May 23, 1934. Marie Barrow, Clyde's sister, stated, "They never worried about anything else but each other."
King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson
Edward, then Prince of Wales, met Wallis Simpson in 1931, when she was married to her second husband; they soon began a relationship that would rock Britain's most prominent institutions - Parliament, the monarchy and the Church of England - to their cores. Edward called Wallis, whom others criticized as a financially unstable social climber, "the perfect woman." Just months after being crowned king in January 1936, Edward proposed to Wallis, precipitating a huge scandal. Unwilling to give her up, Edward decided to abdicate the throne. In a public radio address, he told the world of his love for Simpson, saying that "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." Married and given the titles of Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the couple lived in exile in France, where they became fixtures of cafe society
Beethoven and his Immortal Beloved
The legendary composer, Ludwig van Beethoven, is often remembered as a gruff man who wasn't particularly easy to get along with. Nevertheless, he had his share of love interests in his time, although, he never married. Because of his commonly gruff demeanor, his friends and family were surprised when they found three love letters (often mistakenly referred to as one) among his possessions, after he died.
These love letters, which came to be known as the 'Immortal Beloved' letters were written many years before the composer's death and they were written by the composer himself. They were written to a woman whom Beethoven referred to as his 'Immortal Beloved' and 'My life, my all, my very self.' No one was ever able to discover who this woman was who Beethoven had loved so much that he kept those letters for so many years. Not only is this an obvious example of unfulfilled love, but it is also one of the most romantic mysteries of all time. No one could make up a love story/mystery as intriguing as this.
Tristan and Isolde
This was one of the more complicated love affairs with a very sad ending. Isolde was the daughter of the King of Ireland. She was engaged to King Mark of Cornwall. Isolde fell in love with her husband's nephew, Tristan. . The love affair continued after the marriage. When her husband learned of the love affair, he forgave Isolde, but her lover was expelled from the country. Her lover went to Brittany where he became attracted to a lady called Iseult. He was attracted to her because of the similarity of her name to his true love Isolde. He married her, but he could not make love to his wife because he had such intense memories of his love affair. He became ill and eventually died of a broken heart.
Napoleon and Josephine
Napoleon Bonaparte, a ruthless and ambitious soldier in the French military, was captivated the moment he saw Josephine, a charming and beautiful Paris socialite. Napoleon doggedly pursued the widowed, 32 year old mother of two, but wasn't immediately successful. Despite being a military genius, he was short, unkempt and rather homely looking. Josephine eventually had a change of heart, and the two were married in 1796.
Shortly after their wedding, Napoleon embarked on a series of military campaigns, while Josephine embarked on her own series of adulterous affairs. When Napoleon received word of this, he became enraged and demanded a divorce. But Josephine begged for his forgiveness, and he relented. As Napoleon continued to rise in power and wealth, being crowned emperor of France in 1804, he became focused on having a son to carry on his royal lineage. But he eventually came to the conclusion that Josephine was unable to conceive, and the couple divorced in 1809. Less than a year later he married 18 year old Marie Louise of Austria and had a son.
But without Josephine it seemed his destiny was cursed. After devastating military losses he was exiled to the island of Elba on May 4, 1814. Josephine, still heartbroken, wrote a letter to Napoleon and asked permission to join him. He wrote back that it was impossible, but Josephine died on May 29 before his letter arrived. In 1815, Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to Paris. The first person he visited was the doctor who treated Josephine. When Napoleon beseeched the physician as to why his beloved Josephine had died, the doctor replied that he believed she had succumbed to a broken heart. He then retrieved violets from her garden and wore them in a locket until his death in 1821.
Nelson and Lady Hamilton
Nelson's affair with Emma Hamilton was the biggest scandal of the age. Their actual liaison lasted only six years, but it transformed their lives, their respective positions in society, and the public's perception of them both. Emma Lady Hamilton was the lover of Admiral Horatio Nelson, the greatest hero that England has. She was a beauty of the day, and there are numerous paintings of her made by several artists before the time she met Nelson in Naples. They were both married to someone else when they met and became lovers in 1798. It was the rule that a high standing man in English society had a mistress, but this was always "discrete", hidden, lived in hypocrisy.
Nelson and Lady Hamilton never hid. They loved each other deeply and openly, she gave birth to the only child he ever had, Horatia. And when he was shot in the back and died at Trafalgar in 1805, his last words and his last letter --historically recorded-- were words of love for her as he begged his friends to take care of her and of little Horatia.
Ronald & Nancy Reagan
Observers described Ronald and Nancy Reagan's relationship as intimate. As president and first lady, the Reagans were reported to display their affection frequently, with one press secretary noting, "They never took each other for granted. They never stopped courting." Ronald often called Nancy "Mommy"; she called him "Ronnie". While the President was recuperating in the hospital after the 1981 assassination attempt, Nancy Reagan wrote in her diary, "Nothing can happen to my Ronnie. My life would be over."
In a letter to Nancy, Ronald wrote, "whatever I treasure and enjoy ... all would be without meaning if I didn't have you." In 1998, while her husband was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, Nancy told Vanity Fair, "Our relationship is very special. We were very much in love and still are. When I say my life began with Ronnie, well, it's true. It did. I can't imagine life without him." President Reagan's death in June 2004 ended what Charlton Heston called "the greatest love affair in the history of the American Presidency."
Clark Gable & Carole Lombard
Like many showbiz pairs, they looked too good together to be true. Tall, blonde and fiery-eyed, Carole Lombard epitomized 1930s glamor; Clark Gable, with his broad shoulders and devil's grin, seemed every inch his nickname--the King. But the queen of comedies, who swore freely and loved practical jokes, and her rough-and-ready leading man were more than just Golden Age window dressing. The love they shared for six years was that Hollywood rarity: the real thing.
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard "They had an ineffable quality in romance, the ability to have fun together," says actress Esther Williams, an MGM contract player like Gable. "They were soulmates who thought life was delicious, and they made everyone's life delicious around them."