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Two Great Love Stories
What is love? After all that I have read and assimilated, it seems to me to be a relationship that
allows the other to grow emotionally and spiritually and any other way they want to grow. It does not seek to possess. It is trusting. It is unconditional. It is that which endures after the first flush of lust has worn off. No wonder true love is so hard to come by.
The Love Between Queen Noor and King Hussein
They were the king and queen of hearts, the world’s most romantic royal couple. She was an American, a Princeton graduate designing airports in Arabia and he, the king of Jordan. He was 42 when they met, thrice-married and she was 26.
Yet their love never succumbed to the official pressures that hound other royal marriages or to the fatal illness of King Hussein who died at age 63 in Februray 1999 of cancer. He was diagnosed with a cancer of the lymphatic system in 1998 and his hair thinned with the chemotherapy, his weight diminished. But Queen Noor, then 47 was as always by his side.
“I am very fortunate to have Noor by my side,” he said. “The most wonderful part of our relationship is the amount of care, concern and support in this rather difficult time.”
This royal couple broke away from traditions in more ways than one. After a short engagement, Noor married in person rather than having a male relative represent her, as was the royal custom. On that first night the new queen dined with her king alone, overlooking the Red Sea at Aqaba. And his eight children (the eldest almost as old as Noor) joined them on their honeymoon.
Noor said that they became a family of ten and she wanted to embrace all of them at once.
She adopted the religion, the language and the concerns of the Jordanian people. The king was proud of her role in Jordan and said that they had grown together. Noor agreed: “We are terribly blessed that we have grown so well together…we are best friends and trusted confidants.” She adds, “He has always had the most extraordinary loving and faithful spirit he shares with everyone. It defines his greatness as a leader.”
Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett
One of the world’s greatest literary correspondences took place between the poet couple Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning.
Since her teenaged years Elizabeth suffered from a mysterious illness that caused her uncontrollable spasms, breathing difficulties and a general weakness that prevented her from leaving her home. In fact, she rarely even left her room. To add to this torment, she lived in fear of a tyrannical father who forbade his 12 children to marry. Elizabeth, the eldest, was his favourite. She believed she would remain a sickly shut-in spinster all her life.
Then Robert Browning wrote to her on January 10, 1845 after reading her volume of poetry. He was then a 32 year old little-known poet and playwright and she at 39 a poet of international renown.
“I love your verses with all my heart dear Miss Barrett – I do, as I say, love these verses with all my heart”, he wrote. The letters they wrote to each other comprise one of the greatest literary correspondences of all time. Their love spawned some of the most beautiful poetry ever written.
Although Elizabeth enjoyed Browning’s letters she was rather suspicious of his intentions, and agreed to meet him only after five months of regular correspondence. They married secretly in September 1846 because of her fear of her father. However, he found out and disinherited her as he did his other children who dared to defy him.
The couple left for Italy a week after their wedding and spent fifteen years there. They inspired each other. She wrote the well-received verse-novel ‘Aurora Leigh’ besides a couple of volumes of poetry. He published among his many poems, “Men and Women” dedicated to her and considered to contain some of his finest poetry.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in her husband’s arms on June 29, 1861 leaving behind for lovers her famous oft quoted line “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” The sonnet is about her dramatic romance with Browning and how he helped her save herself from a life of sickness and isolation.