On the cover of nearly every celebrity tabloid magazine, you’re sure to see some dramatic, high-profile celebrity divorces. Often, millions of dollars, not to mention intense feelings, are at stake in these settlements, but I think it’s safe to say that a breakup between, say, Chris Pratt and Anna Faris isn’t about to start any literal wars. Not so with these divorces from history, where the stakes of a split reached heights far beyond “who gets which mansion.”
CHARLEMAGNE AND DESIDERATA
In 770 A.D., Charlemagne, King of the Franks, married Desiderata, the daughter of the Lombards, a key enemy of his people. The goal was to form a truce between the battling groups, but unfortunately, Charlemagne quickly grew to dislike Desiderata and sent her packing back to her family after only a
year. This souring of relations between the two parties, coupled with Charlemagne’s sister-in-law fleeing to the Lombards, resulted in the war of 774. Charlemagne’s victory in the conflict laid the foundation for the Holy Roman Empire.
KING HENRY VIII AND CATHERINE OF ARAGON
It’s the classic tale of old-school political intrigue: King Henry VIII grew tired of his wife Catherine of Aragon after she failed to bear any male heirs to the throne, instead opting for the young and beautiful Anne Boleyn. When the Catholic church, headed by Pope Clement VII, refused to annul the marriage, Henry broke with Rome altogether and declared himself the head of the brand-new Church of England. Later, Boleyn was convicted of treason and a whole mess of other offenses and was beheaded. Ironically, Henry’s Church of England soon came out strongly against divorce, forbidding it in any circumstance.
JULIUS CAESAR AND POMPEIA
This historical divorce has perhaps the goofiest lead-up, but it still managed to sever a legendary couple. Way back in 62 B.C., Caesar’s wife, Pompeia, threw a wild, women-only, religious shindig at her home, to which only vestal virgins were permitted access. But a troublemaker politician known as Publius Clodius Pulcher snuck in dressed as a woman — apparently with the intent of seducing Pompeia. When he was discovered, a scandal broke out across Rome, with everyone wondering whether he’d succeeded in his dastardly goal. Though nothing had happened (probably), Caesar divorced his wife with the famous statement, “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”
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