Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary famous for his daring attacks, loved women so much, he couldn’t limit himself to one wife or even two. To conquer his latest love, he would fake a marriage ceremony to hasten the sexual progress of the relationship. Villa would bribe a judge to conduct a phony ceremony, consummate the forged marriage and move on to his next adventure, leaving broken hearts and illegitimate children behind him.
Marry or Die
In 1918, the Imperial Household Ministry of Japan chose Princess Nagako, the 14-year-old daughter of Prince Kuniyoshi Kuni, for Prince Hirohito of Japan. Then officials at the Japanese court learned that colour blindness ran in Nagako’s family and it was believed that there was a 50/50 chance of passing this trait on.
Court circles demanded that Prince Kuni withdraw his daughter from the betrothal. He refused and issued a horrible ultimatum. If Princess Nagako was rejected and the royal engagement broken, he would protect his family’s honour by stabbing his daughter to death, then turning the knife on himself.
The frenzy of national interest intensified. Horrified, Emperor Taisho insisted the wedding take place as planned.
Desperate to strengthen his political ties, His Holiness Pope Alexander VI forced his son, Cesare Borgia, to renounce his role as a cardinal, give up his clerical vows and take a wife. Already no stranger to the pleasures of the flesh, Cesare hired an herbalist to concoct an aphrodisiac forthe night he would marry Charlotte d’Albret in 1498. Bride and groom consumed large amounts of the brew only to ultimately realize they’d been given a strong laxative by mistake.
Strange circumstances frequently surrounded Borgia weddings, like the marriage between Jofré Borgia and 16-year-old Sancia of Aragon. The couple was followed into the marital bedchamber by the entire wedding entourage. The bridesmaids and serving women undressed the bride and groom and placed them on the marital bed. When the king and papal emissaries came in, the young couple was uncovered down to the navel and the groom embraced his bride and consummated the marriage. (Talk about performance anxiety.) Throughout, the king and consul members stayed in the room casually conversing.
Dowager empress Tzu Hsi arranged the marriage of her nephew, Kuang Hsu, in 1889. He loathed his cousin and fiancée, and she returned his scorn, but the Empress wanted an heir. In a desperate attempt to stop the wedding, Kuang Hsu set fire to the wedding canopies. The weather was so damp, the marital candles could not be lit a bad omen. When the ceremony was over, Ksuang Hsu refused to set eyes on his bride, let alone consummate their ill-fated marriage. No heir was forthcoming.
In the media frenzy leading up to Grace Kelly’s marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco, several guests in the bridal party discovered their jewellery worth over $60,000 U.S. had been stolen from the luxurious Hôtel de Paris. International interest in the story reached a fever pitch when it was learned Prince Rainier’s divorced mother was escorted by a man with a shady past. Her paramour, Rene Girier, was a paroled jewel thief.
Leo Tolstoy began courting the youngest daughter of a Moscow doctor. The young woman, though 16 years his junior, was thrilled; Tolstoy was a Count, and a famous author with a worldwide reputation. They waited only one week before getting married.
Tolstoy was determined his new bride should know everything about him, and presented her with stacks of his diaries for her to read. The sordid tales described in the diaries made Sonya cry throughout the week preceding the wedding.
On the wedding day, Tolstoy broke with tradition by seeing Sonya before their ceremony to cross-examine her about the strength of her love, causing Sonya to dissolve into tears. She cried on the drive to the cathedral and wept openly throughout the lengthy religious service. Sonya was again overcome as she left her close-knit family in Moscow for the remote Tolstoy estate. It was a dismal start to a marriage that would be happy, and last 48 years.
In 1589, Anne of Denmark was nearly widowed before she even met her husband. She married James VI of Scotland (later James I) of England through a proxy ceremony, with a stand-in by the King’s side. Her new husband, eager to see her, ordered her to set sail for Scotland at once. Dangerous storms forced Anne to land in Norway. The King impetuously decided he couldn’t let a Scandinavian winter stop him from seeing his bride. He braved the tossing sea barely escaping a watery grave and travelled to Norway to meet his wife.
With his uncle, the Pope, footing the bill, Girolamo Riario could afford to be generous with his betrothal gifts for Caterina Sforza. She was given a solid 14-karat gold brocade dress, a gown embroidered with over 2,000 pearls, a gold purse, hundreds of loose diamonds and three strings of precious pearls. Not a bad haul for a 10-year-old girl.
When the time finally came for the wedding ceremony, the Pope rewarded Caterina for her long journey to the Eternal City with a jewel necklace worth 25,000 ducats hundreds of thousands of today’s dollars.
Caterina’s jewels would serve her well in the future, when she sold her wedding necklace to finance her escape from political enemies.
Also over the top: Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, married Kamala Kaul in 1916 at a ceremony in Delhi. The wedding festivities continued for over six weeks There were badminton and tennis marathons, dozens of dinner parties, musical performances and kavi sammelans, or poetry readings.
Then the men of the wedding party trekked into the mountains of the Zojila Pass for a month-long hunting trip.