It takes a hell of a woman to be in the middle of a love triangle. It’s not every female who can handle being at the center of an intense game of tug of war with hearts (and sometimes lives!) at stake. Take Mary, Queen of Scots, for example. Her tempestuous love triangle is central to the plot of Reign, a new CW drama premiering tonight at 9/8c. In it, a ravishing, teenaged Mary is betrothed to would-be king, Prince Francis, yet Francis’ bad-boy illegitimate half-brother has feelings for Mary. And while the triangle in Reign is strictly made for TV (and is certainly juicy enough to fit the bill), there were plenty of other real-life love triangles throughout history that were just as scandalous. Here we count down our top five…
1. Cleopatra, Mark Antony & Julius Caesar
First off, there’s the extraordinary Cleopatra. What she and Mark Antony had was more of a quadrangle than a triangle, considering they carried out their passionate affair in spite of not one, but two of Antony’s wives. Here’s how it went down: Cleo first met the married Antony in Rome while mourning the death of another lover, Julius Caesar. Antony was so captivated by the exotic Egyptian queen that he followed her back to Egypt, where he became her love slave. Meanwhile, back in Rome, Antony’s jilted wife, Fulvia, was raising hell with the current administration, now headed by the Roman general Octavian, to punish Antony for leaving her. Antony returned to Rome to try to smooth things over with Fulvia and the general, but she up and died before he could, leaving Antony in kind of an awkward spot with Octavian. So Antony did what any good Roman soldier would do, he married Octavian’s sister, Octavia, and promptly impregnated her. Coincidentally, back in Egypt, Cleopatra was giving birth to Antony’s twins, and was also mad as hell at being left. Antony, regretting his hasty marriage to Octavia, hastened to return to his beloved’s arms. Unfortunately, Octavian followed close behind, and determined to defend his sister’s honor, brought all his military forces to bear on the lovers. Separated and fearing capture by the Romans, Antony and Cleopatra took their own lives, each mistakenly believing the other was already dead. Shakespeare could not have written it any better.
2. Helen of Sparta, Menelaus & Paris of Troy
Helen of Sparta (now Greece) was another gutsy woman who became entangled in a passionate triangle. Said to be extraordinarily beautiful, she was married at 17 to a much older man named Menelaus, whom she was not too fond of. So when handsome, young Paris of Troy (now Turkey) showed up and told Helen that she had been promised to him by the Gods, young Helen was beyond thrilled. As soon as her husband left town, the two escaped to Troy, where they lived happily ever after, until the day a very pissed-off Menelaus came to retrieve Helen—and brought an army as back-up. Soon Troy was engaged in a brutal war with Sparta that lasted ten years. Helen of Troy, as she will forever be known, is pretty much universally blamed for the conflict and the horrendous loss of life, but some historians say she really didn’t give a fig because, in the end, she got her man.
3. Martha Ray, Earl Of Sandwich & Reverand James Hackman
Then there’s a woman named Martha Ray, a British commoner who was the longtime mistress of the Earl of Sandwich, a high mucky-muck in the court of England’s King George. The third person in the triangle was the Reverend James Hackman, a learned man who was crazy in love with Martha. Things took a decidedly tragic turn for the three when Hackman, rebuffed by Martha, blew her brains out one night as she left the theater (the Earl was working late). The whole thing was an ugly mess, but the powerful Sandwich, ever mindful of his royal reputation, hushed the story up Poor Martha was eventually forgotten, but Sandwich’s and Hackman’s legacies live on: Sandwich for, well, you know, and Hackman for being the first patient with a documented case of erotomania—love’s madness. Keep reading...
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