The Worst Royal Wedding Nights in History
In the ideal world, wedding night is seen as the best night possible for the newly married couple. Unfortunately, this is not often the case, especially for royal couples. There have been quite a number of stories about very disastrous royal nuptials in history. Perhaps this is primarily because the soon-to-be couple hardly had any chance to get know each other before their big day. Or perhaps it had to do with the unrelenting pressure of having a male heir that was so characterized of those eras.
One should not also forget the fact that many of the royal weddings in the past were simply aimed at sealing political alliances. There was also the huge pressure that came from the royal bedding ceremonies of those days, which in so many ways took out the life from wedding night.
From wedding nuptials of Catherine the Great and Peter III of Russia to Chinese Emperor Puyi and Gobulo Wan Rong, World History Edu presents the most disastrous stories to come out from the nuptial chamber of royal couples in history.
Attila and Ildico
Popularly known as the “Scourge of God”, Attila the Hun completely dominated the battlefield with his fierce hordes of Hun warriors, devastating large parts of Asia and even Europe. Similarly, when it came to taking wives and concubines, the fierce conqueror was prolific. Unfortunately, his luck is said to have run out in 453 AD, when he tied the knot with a woman called Ildico.
Attila’s marriage to Ildico is shrouded in mystery and speculation. According to some historical accounts, Attila married Ildico on the night of his death in 453 AD. It is said that he had been celebrating his marriage with a feast when he suddenly fell ill and died. Also, there were no visible wounds on the body of conqueror to reveal the exact cause of death. Some sources suggest that Attila may have been assassinated, possibly poisoned, by his own wife or by her family, although there is no concrete evidence to support this theory.
The widely accepted view is that Attila the Hun’s death was caused by a nosebleed, which caused him to choke on his own blood while he laid beside Ildico.
Other accounts suggest that Ildico was not Attila’s wife at all, but rather a concubine or a servant. Some historians believe that the story of Attila’s marriage to Ildico was invented or embellished by later writers, who sought to add a romantic or tragic element to Attila’s already legendary story.
Did you know?
Attila the Hun was such a fierce conqueror that in the entirety of his conquests, he only lost one battle – the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains which came at the hands of the combined armies of Rome and the Goths.
In the year that Attila the Hun died, it is said that the conqueror was readying his army to attack the Eastern Roman Empire (i.e. the Byzantine Empire).
Prince Charles and Lady Diana
On the back of a very splendid wedding ceremony, an event that was almost close to a fairytale union, the marriage between Prince Charles (now King Charles III) and Princess Diana began with what the former described as “nothing special”. To the public, the royal couple looked very happy; however, beneath all of that pomp and smiles, laid a union that was fraught with problems after problems. The then-Prince of Wales described his newly married wife as “painfully naïve”.
Lady Diana’s view of the nuptials wasn’t far off from Charles’ as she described her husband as being too robotic and disinterested. It’s no wonder the marriage ended up in a divorce less than a decade and a half later.
Throughout the rocky marriage, Charles allegedly maintained a romantic relationship with his former girlfriend and now wife, Camilla Parker Bowles. Diana reportedly felt isolated and neglected by Charles, who was often away on official duties, leaving her to cope with the pressures of royal life on her own.
Read More: 10 Longest-Reigning British Monarchs
Mary II and William of Orange
The wedding ceremony between William III, the Prince of Orange, and Mary II of England was indeed a very interesting one. This was because there were some bit of speculation about the sexual orientation of William, the Dutch monarch best known for invading England and toppling Catholic monarch James II of England, who was his father-in-law and uncle.
There are some historians that have suggested that William was gay or bisexual, citing his lack of interest in women and close relationships with several male friends and advisers. However, other historians argue that these relationships were purely platonic and that William’s lack of interest in women may have been due to his focus on his political and military career.
Regardless of his sexual orientation, William III married his cousin, Mary (later Mary II of England), and they ruled jointly as king and queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland. At the time of the marriage, Mary, who was only 15, is rumored to have wept bitterly. Making matters even more awkward was the apparent lack of interest William showed toward Mary during their nuptials. Another even more awkward moment of the night came when the couple’s uncle, Charles II of England, completely drunk on the night, watched the bedding ceremony while making loud cheers.
Read More: Female Rulers of England and Great Britain & Their Years on the Throne
Their marriage, which took place at St James’s Palace on November 4, 1677, was reportedly a political alliance rather than a love match, but they were said to have had a close and affectionate relationship. The marriage, however, was rocked by a number of misfortunes that permanently affected her chances of giving birth. This explains why the royal couple never gave birth.
William III’s reign is known for his successful military campaigns and his role in the Glorious Revolution (1688), which not only prevented the establishment of a Catholic dynasty in England but also led to the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in England.
Catherine the Great and Peter III of Russia
Born Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, Catherine the Great is believed to have dazzled the Russian imperial court with her beauty and willingness to adapt to Russian life. In 1745, the German princess tied the knot with Peter (later Peter III), then heir to the Russian throne. The couple’s marriage was arranged as part of a political alliance between Russia and Prussia.
Peter was not well-liked by the Russian nobility, who saw him as weak and ineffective. He also had a fascination with Prussian culture and military tactics, which made him unpopular with the more traditionalist elements of the Russian court.
Catherine, on the other hand, was intelligent, ambitious, and well-educated, and she quickly gained the support of many influential figures in the Russian court, especially by Empress Elizabeth who took a strong liking to the German princess.
Right from the get-go, Catherine was disillusioned with Peter, whom she, like Empress Elizabeth, saw as a lazy and good-for-nothing womanizer. On their wedding night, Catherine is believed to have waited several hours for Peter’s arrival. And when he arrived, he was drunk and went straight to sleep. In the nights that followed, Peter continued to not take notice of his wife’s beauty; instead, he preferred to amuse himself with little wooden soldiers and models of fortresses and canons.
Related: Major Accomplishments of Catherine the Great, Russia’s Longest-Reigning Empress
There even some claims that Catherine and Peter never consummated their relationship. Despite their differences, Peter and Catherine had two children together, and they remained married for several years. However, their marriage was not a happy one, and both of them had affairs outside of the marriage. Therefore, it is not unlikely that Catherine’s children may have been fathered by other men.
Seeing her husband as a weak ruler, Catherine brought Peter’s reign to an end in July 1762. The Russian queen received the backing of many Russian nobles who had come to loath Peter for his pro-Prussian policy. That same month, the deposed monarch died under very strange circumstances, with many believing that Catherine had a hand in his death. However, there are some that claim that the unpopular monarch was the result of a drunken brawl he had with one of the guards.
Catherine of Aragon and Arthur, Prince of Wales
One won’t be far off to attribute England’s schism with the Catholic Church in the 16th century to the marriage between Catherine of Aragon and Arthur, Prince of Wales.
Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) was the first wife of King Henry VIII of England, but she was originally married to his older brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales. Catherine and Arthur were married in 1501, when Catherine was 16 years old and Arthur was 15. However, their marriage was short-lived, as Arthur died just five months later, likely due to an illness, possibly tuberculosis.
After Arthur’s death, Catherine remained in England for several years, and there was much debate about whether she should marry Arthur’s younger brother, Henry, who later became King Henry VIII. The issue of whether Catherine and Henry could legally marry became a matter of great controversy, as Catherine had previously been married to Arthur, and there were questions about whether their marriage had been consummated.
As Henry was genuinely interested in his former sister-in-law, he beseeched the Pope to allow him marry Catherine of Aragon. He and his advisors made the case that Catherine’s marriage to Arthur could be dissolved as the marriage was not consummated in the first place. Therefore, the Pope complied with the request, stating that Henry and Catherine had no kinship relationship as the latter’s marriage was not consummated.
Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII proceeded to tie the knot on June 11, 1509, about seven years after Arthur’s death. About a decade later, the English monarch would grow fed up with Catherine due to her inability to produce a male heir. Although the royal couple had a daughter, Mary (later Mary I of England), they suffered a number of miscarriages. Reasoning that Catherine’s chances of conceiving grew dim with each passing year, Henry sought to wiggle his way out of the marriage. Besides, he had begun to take deep interest in a noblewoman called Anne Boleyn, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine.
Believing that his inability to bear a male child was a punishment from God for marrying his brother’s widow, Henry VIII tasked his advisors to make a case before the Pope. They argued that the English king’s marriage to Catherine had violated God’s law because Catherine consummated her marriage to Prince Arthur. Therefore, the marriage between Henry and Catherine was void and had to be annulled immediately.
Catherine carried herself in a very elegant manner but she was no pushover. The queen consort of England fought back, staying true to her initial statement. Henry’s insistence on annulling the marriage ultimately led to the English king taking the bold decision to sever ties with the Catholic Church as Pope Clement VII refused to comply with his request. Armed with a number of Acts of Supremacy (in 1534 and 1537) passed in the 1530s, Henry proceeded to make himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, replacing the pope. In 1533, The English king had Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, annul the marriage, paving the way for Henry to marry Anne Boleyn. Catherine was then designated as dowager princess of Wales and then banished from the king’s court.
Read More: Lives and Deaths of the Six Wives of Henry VIII of England
Did you know?
In the few years after the death of her first husband, Arthur, Catherine of Aragon held the position of royal ambassador of the Aragonese crown to England. This made her the first known female ambassador in Europe.
Alexander the Great and Statira
Coming in at number 6 on WHE’s list of the most infamous wedding nights in history is the wedding ceremony of Alexander the Great of Macedon and a woman called Statira (also called Stateira).
Considered one of history’s greatest military generals, the Macedonian conqueror is believed to have tied the knot with Statira in Susa around 324 BC, which was about a year before his death. The young lady knew very well what she was getting herself into. Typical of many monarchs, Alexander the Great had his fair share of lovers – both female and male, including his favorite companion and general Hephaestion.
It turns out that Hephaestion also tied the knot around the same period – marrying Statira’s sister, Drypetis.
According to the generally accepted account, on the day of Alexander and Statira’s nuptials, the Macedonian ruler preferred being in the company of his male lover, Hephaestion. If there were any doubts of Alexander the Great’s sex orientation, then his decision to spend his wedding night with his male companion completely confirmed it.
Furthermore, Alexander’s decision is believed to have infuriated his first wife, Roxanne, to the extent that some say the Macedonian queen proceeded to plot the downfall of Alexander and Hephaestion.
While there is no definitive evidence that Alexander and Hephaestion were lovers, there are many accounts of their close relationship that suggest an intense emotional connection. For example, Alexander is said to have been inconsolable when Hephaestion died suddenly at the age of 32, and he reportedly ordered that funeral honors be given to Hephaestion on a scale reserved for kings. Alexander himself died just a few months later, and many historians believe that he never fully recovered from the loss of his friend and companion.
Maria Josepha of Saxony and Louis Ferdinand, Dauphin of France
Marie Josèphe (1731-1767) was a princess of Saxony, while Louis Ferdinand was the eldest son of Louis XV of France. The couple’s marriage was arranged by Marie Josèphe’s father, Augustus III of Poland, in an effort to strengthen the political alliance between Saxony and France. It also received the support of Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV.
The marriage took place in 1747 when Marie Josèphe was just 15 years old and Louis Ferdinand was 18. Despite their youth, the couple appeared to be genuinely fond of each other, and they had a number of children together over the course of their marriage, including three French monarchs – Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, and Charles X.
On their wedding night, the Dauphin of France was overwhelmed by memories of his first wife, Infanta Marie Thérèse Raphaëlle, who died on July 22, 1746 giving birth to their only child. The princess of Saxony handled the situation with a lot of maturity by comforting her husband. Under the watchful eyes of guests, the couple ultimately consummated their marriage.
However, tragedy struck in 1765 when Louis Ferdinand was killed in a hunting accident. The news of the Dauphin’s death reportedly devastated Marie Josèphe, who was pregnant with their fourth child at the time.
After Louis Ferdinand’s death, Marie Josèphe remained in France, where she lived a relatively quiet life. She never remarried, and she dedicated much of her time to charitable causes. She died in 1767 at the age of 35.
P’u Yi and Gobulo Wan Rong
Aside from being known as the last Chinese emperor, P’u Yi is known for quite number of things, including his disastrous wedding night with his spouse Gobulo Wan Rong. Beneath the highly publicized and extravagant wedding ceremony lay a lot of irreconcilable differences. Per Chinese tradition, the newly wed royal couple were transported in an exquisitely designed chair to the Palace of Earthly Peace. Once there, the couple were expected to seal their union by consummating the marriage.
Manchu tradition also dictated that the groom fires three arrows over the bride’s head in order to ward off evil spirits. As the teenage emperor had a poor eyesight he chose not to do so, fearing for the safety of his bride. He could also not wear his glasses as those weren’t allowed during the marriage ceremony. Therefore, Puyi completely disregarded the tradition.
When Puyi entered the royal bedchamber, which had been decorated in a way befitting the royal couple, the young emperor was consumed by panic and quickly made haste to exist. Apparently, Puyi had been startled by all the red decorations, describing the room as something akin to a “melted red wax candle”.
Ferdinand VII and Maria Josepha Amalia of Saxony
Maria Joepha Amalia (1803-1829) was a princess of Saxony, while Ferdinand VII (1784-1833) was the monarch of Spain who ruled in the early 1800s.
On the day of their nuptials on October 20, 1819, it is said that Josepha was so freaked out by the whole affair that she ended up defecating and urinating before the act could even begin. As a result, the marriage was not consummated. Louis Ferdinand did not treat his bride with the gentlest of touch as he was a kind of person who could descend into fits of sexual outburst. Besides, he seemed too eager to produce a male heir as his first two marriages were childless.
Feeling insulted by the events that happened on the wedding night, the Spanish monarch refused sleeping in the same bed with Josepha. That only changed after the Pope intervened. Pope Pius VII’s letter managed to convince the very pious young queen that sexual relations in marriage were sanctioned by Church and God.
The marriage ended up being childless, and Maria passed away on May 18, 1829, aged 25. A heartbroken King Ferdinand VII derived a bit of peace from the fact that his fourth wife, Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies, bore him two children – Isabella (later Queen Isabella II of Spain) and Luisa Fernanda.