Perhaps if there is one Victorian love story that comes to mind, it is that of its namesake.
Young Victoria truly succeeded in ruling her people once Prince Albert became her consort. With his partnership, Victoria came to trust her instincts over the flawed advice from Lord Melbourne. Together, the royal couple held each other’s hearts, and their English subjects’.
Testimonies, letters, and the monarch’s diary document their affection from courtship to Albert’s death. But they weren’t the only Victorians to marry happily.
Even the queen herself is speculated to have found love again.
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John Brown and Queen Victoria
Known as Prince Albert’s favorite servant, no doubt, the relationship with his sovereign assumed from a felt need. In light of her grief, Scotsman John Brown struck a playfulness. The banter between them livened her spirit.
With time, Victoria promoted “the most trusted, the most dear friend” to be her personal servant. Even his billet changed to be the room adjoining hers. Scandalous but not surprising considering John was charged with keeping her secrets as well as insuring her safety.
Contrary to the well-preserved correspondence with the prince, the royal family expunged much of what transpired between the queen and her servant from record. A forbidden affair, no matter how platonic, would do the crown no favours.
Always though, there will be the ring.
The Highlander gifted Victoria with his mother’s wedding band which Queen Victoria wore to her grave.
Harry Houdini and Bess Rahner
For Harry Houdini, the magic happened after one of his shows.
He met Bess in the audience. A mere two weeks later, he made her his beautiful assistant not only on stage but in life. Harry was quite besotted with her and took to writing love letters regardless of whether or not she shared the room. But that didn’t stop him from whispering sweet nothings in her ear on occasion.
After being shaken from a trick that went awry, Bess took comfort when Harry assured her that magic “is something that happens when we’re together.”
Unfortunately, the Houdinis could never have a child of their own. However, that didn’t prevent them from making one up. Through the exchange of letters, their son’s epistolary life is documented, following his growth until his presidency.
Ever playful, squabbles were no match to the Houdini’s good humor. Given a disagreement, Harry would leave their quarters for a walk. At his return, he’d lob a hat into the bedroom. If she didn’t throw it out, Harry followed to make up.
Whatever your beliefs of the supernatural be, the Houdini’s love was no illusion.
Charles Darwin and Emma Wedgwood
Darwin’s marriage to Emma Wedgwood was nothing short of a miracle.
She, a devout believer. And Charles, a Doubting Thomas.
They’d known each other a fair spell before Charles courted Emma. His father, aware of Darwin’s religious suspicions, cautioned him to secret his misgivings. It would only burden his bride. Seeing as the pair kept such close confidence with one another, it is no wonder that Charles shared his concerns with Emma.
Instead of shaming or distancing herself from him, Emma was only more endeared by his candor; albeit, grieved that their “opinions on the most important subject should differ widely.”
Ever the scientist, Darwin scrawled a pros and cons list as to whether he should indeed wed, but they ultimately did—and quite happily so.
Emma supported her husband in his research. It is to her credit that The Origin of Species was strengthened by her editing pen. Likewise, Charles subscribed to church charity and escorted his family to service in spite of his absence in the pew.
Blithe as they were, a melancholy strained their devotion. Emma wrote to her dear Charley of how she feared they’d not “belong to each other” eternally. His own distress is documented in a letter home.
He wrote, “When I am dead, know that many times, I have kissed & cryed over this.”
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Milton Hershey and Kitty Sweeney
No one thought the confectioner likely to take a wife, and Milton Hershey was as surprised as anyone by his choice in Kitty Sweeney—pleasantly so at that.
Kitty was. . . buoyant. She held court with a kind smile which made her a relatable yet untouchable wonder. Though Kitty was light in heart, supporting her immigrant family weighed upon her heavily. For this reason, she became a lady of the night.
But Milton only knew her as a lady.
Hershey was quite tender with his wife, delivering fresh flowers every day. He shielded her from his disapproving Mennonite mother and gawking society as her pains worsened. Despite the effects of her muscular disease, Kitty saw fit to poke fun at her “clumsiness.” But soon drew weary of looks.
To save her from embarrassment, Milton surrounded her with strangers overseas. She never allowed her illness to keep her from living or let a cold day keep her from riding in a top-down convertible.
Their variances made for a complimentary marriage and bittersweet adoration.
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Nicholas II and Alexandra of Hesse
It was summer when first they met. Arranged marriages most assuredly lay in their future, but not that summer, not then.
To the world, Nicky was the next emperor of Russia. To Alix, he was unattainable. His parents would never consider a German for their son. Even if they should, her grandmother, Queen Victoria, had her own thoughts for a suitable match in planning for Alix to become her successor.
Nothing mattered more or so little. That first summer, Alix carved their names in a sill. Their second Nicky chronicled, “It is my dream to one day marry Alix H.”
Matchmaking on the parts of relatives proved unavailing. Nicky rebuffed other princesses while Alix declined proposals. They knew who their hearts belonged.
Once the tsar took ill, he conceded to Nicky’s choice bride and gave his blessing. Although, it seems to be the beginning of their cursed union.