1. John and Isabella of Gloucester
In 1176, King Henry II found a good match for his youngest son John in Isabella, daughter and sole heir of the Earl of Gloucester. The marriage met with resistance from the church, since the two were second cousins. Unfazed by religious narrow-mindedness, John fought tooth and nail for his bride-to-be, and eventually love won the day. A few years later, however, John’s prospects changed, when his brother died and he became king. He successfully sought an annulment of his marriage, and married a French countess instead. On what grounds you ask? Dude, she was like, his cousin! That shit is just sick.
2. Edward II and Isabella of France
When Isabella of France married the young, handsome King Edward II in 1308, it seemed like a match made in heaven. Problems started to emerge already at the wedding banquet, however. Edward spent all his time with his friend Piers Gaveston, and practically had to be dragged kicking and screaming to his marriage bed. Thing didn’t improve when some nice gentlemen took it upon themselves to cut Gaveston’s head off; Edward simply hooked up with another strapping young lad called Hugh Despenser. To get some privacy, he sent Isabella off on a diplomatic mission to her brother, the king of France. Here she found herself a lover, gathered an army, and invaded England. After the king had relinquished power to his son, no-one ever heard from him again.
3. Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou
Margaret of Anjou was only fifteen when she married the twenty-three-year-old Henry VI in 1445. She soon realised, however, that she was the grown-up in this relationship. Henry’s reign of bumbling idiocy and incompetence was only interrupted by periods of incapacitating madness. Gradually, the idea of deposition began to gain popularity among the nobility. Margaret probably couldn’t care less about the fate of her idiot husband, but she also realised that the future of her son Edward was at stake. The queen, nicknamed “The She-Wolf of France”, reacted as any she-wolf would when her cubs are threatened: by killing everybody and everything in sight. After kicking off the Wars of the Roses, only the bloodiest war ever fought on British soil, she had to give up once her son and husband were both killed. After that she made a career as a madwoman in Shakespeare plays.
4. Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville
After deposing Henry VI (see above), the future looked bright for nineteen-year-old Edward. He had the free pick of every princess in Europe, and every piece of ass in the country. Problems arose when he met widowed MILF Elizabeth Woodville. She wasn’t giving it up for free, and Edward just had to hit that, so he married her. Elizabeth was below the king’s status, so the marriage was a true love match. Someone who didn’t see it that way, however, was Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Also known as “The Kingmaker”, Warwick was furious that the king though he had any say in affairs of the state, such as his own marriage, so he re-started the Wars of the Roses, which everyone thought was over. Once Warwick was killed, the two lived happily ever after. Then Edward died, and his brother killed his sons and took over the crown.
5. Henry VIII and everybody
Henry VIII was a good Catholic. Witnessing the heresy of Luther and his followers on the Continent, he wrote a book in defence of the seven sacraments in 1521, for which the pope awarded him the title “Defender of the Faith”. Then things started to get icky. His wife, who was a hand-me-down from his late brother, stubbornly refused to deliver anything but dead baby boys. As any man would do in such a situation, he broke off England’s thousand-year-old connection with Rome, put himself as head of the church, and got a divorce. Things didn’t stop there, however. His next wife was as bad at birthing sons as the first one, and seeing how this obviously had to be the women’s fault, Henry just kept going. His second wife he killed, the next one died in childbirth. Then he divorced another one, cut off the head of the next, before the last one mercifully survived him. Out of all this he did manage to produce one son: the sickly Edward VI, who died at age fifteen.
6. Charles II and Catherine de Braganza
Charles II really loved his wife, Catherine de Braganza, and was the proud father of a dozen children. Only problem is, he loved at least seven women besides Catherine, and none of those children were by her. Yeah, I know what you’re saying: “The lying, cheating bastard didn’t really love her; he only said he did, just like my ex Ronnie!” But see here’s the thing: practically everyone else in the country hated her, and told him to divorce her, but he refused. In 1678, she was accused of murder, but the king stood by her. Later she was implicated in a plot to poison Charles himself, but the king still stood by her! Now that’s love. Still though, twelve kids with seven women…
7. Anne & George of Denmark
In the name of gender equality, it should be said that not only male monarchs make shitty marriage choices. Queen Anne married Prince George of Denmark in 1683, and that’s about it. The poor guy didn’t accomplish anything in his entire life; he has been called a “boneheaded nonentity”, and that’s by his friends. His wife’s uncle, Charles II (see above), said about him: “I have tried him drunk, and I have tried him sober; and there is nothing in him.” At his funeral, not even his own chaplain could think of anything nice to say about him. All of this would have been perfectly fine, if he had only performed the one duty expected of a prince consort: to put babies into his wife’s uterus. George did manage to impregnate the queen, eighteen times in fact. But of these only one survived infancy, to die of smallpox at eleven. Now, even for the seventeenth century, those were pretty shitty odds, so how did he do it? Well, we don’t know for sure, but good money says old Georgie boy had syphilis.
8. George IV and Caroline of Brunswick
The marriage between George and Caroline of Brunswick was based on the same thing as any good marriage: an ultimatum by the bridegroom’s father to pay his gambling debts. The prince was drunk out of his skull during the wedding ceremony, and had to be propped up by his best man. The wedding night he spent incapacitated on the floor of the bedroom. In spite of these good auspices, the marriage didn’t last long. A few days after the princess had given birth to the couple’s first child, George re-wrote his will, leaving his wife one shilling. Then he got a separation, denied her seeing her own daughter, and hired spies to pick up dirt on her. And after all of that, the English people still sided with Caroline! Fucking plebs…
9. Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson
Edward (Colin Firth’s brother) became king in 1936. The only problem was that the woman he loved, Wallis Simpson, was not only a commoner and an American, she was (gasp!) a divorcee… The narrow-minded theocracy of old England couldn’t have that, so Edward was given the choice between the crown and the woman he loved. He chose Wallis. It’s a beautiful story of the triumph of love over dogma, and the triumph of the individual over destiny. Oh, and the guy was a fucking Nazi. No, really. I don’t mean it in the sense that Obama is a Nazi; Edward VIII was really a Nazi. The couple spent their honeymoon in the Third Reich, where they were caught on camera doing the Nazi salute. Maybe the old guard weren’t that far off anyway.
10. Charles and Diana
You guys already know this one.