Burns Mary

Our top ten Scottish doomed love affairs

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’ according to Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Although we’re not sure that all of these couples would agree, romance certainly can be a difficult path to navigate.

Here’s 10 of our favourites.

1. Madonna and Guy Ritchie

The Queen of Pop married director Guy Ritchie at Skibo Castle in Scotland in 2000 in a ceremony attended by Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul McCartney’s daughter Stella. They had a son together, Rocco, and adopted another boy, David Banda. But did anyone think that living with a global superstar would be easy? The pair eventually split in 2008 with Ritchie complaining the paparazzi and drama became ‘too much of a soap opera’. Madonna later admitted ‘there were cracks in the veneer’.

2. Mary, Queen of Scots and any of her husbands

Mary, Queen of Scots, never had much luck with love. She was fond of her fi rst husband Francis II but he died just over a year after becoming the King of France. She returned to Scotland and fell in love with Lord Darnley but he was murdered, probably by Mary’s third husband, the Earl of Bothwell. Shortly afterwards Queen Mary was imprisoned by the English and any chance of love was forgotten.

3. Chris Guthrie and Ewan Tavendale

The heroine of Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Chris Guthrie finds love with a local farmer Ewan Tavendale. It seems the young couple’s happy union will overcome their bleak existence and they have a young son. But history intervenes and Ewan has to go away to the Great War. The moment Chris sees the boy with the telegram coming with news of her husband’s death is one of the most moving in Scottish literature. She later hears Ewan was shot as a deserter, but he died thinking of her.

4. Lucia di Lammermoor and Edgar Ravenswood

The opera Lucia di Lammermoor is based on the novel by Sir Walter Scott. The pair declare their love for each other and manage to persuade their warring families to reconcile. But while Edgar is away in France Lady Ashton, the villainess of the story, manages to persuade Lucy that her love has abandoned her. Lucy reluctantly marries another but when Edgar returns she goes mad and stabs the new husband, then herself. Edgar, meanwhile, dies in some quicksand. Scott indicated the plot was based on an actual incident.

5. The lovers of Loch Maree

Legend has it that two lovers are buried on an island on Loch Maree. The Danish prince and his princess had an arrangement whereby when he returned from voyages, she would raise a white fl ag if all was well and a black flag if something terrible had happened. One day after a long voyage she raised the black fl ag to see what her lover would do. He was so distraught he stabbed himself and she then did the same. The story could be a Scottish forerunner of Romeo and Juliet.

6. Robert Burns and Mary Campbell

The Scots bard first saw Mary Campbell in church while he was living near Tarbolton, Ayrshire. Although already involved with Jean Armour, the mother of his legitimate children, the couple embarked on a brief affair. Burns dedicated The Highland Lassie O and Highland Mary to her. The song ‘Will ye go to the Indies, my Mary, And leave auld Scotia’s shore?’ suggests that they planned to emigrate to Jamaica together. However, before they could leave Mary went north to nurse her brother. She contracted fever and died. Burns was devastated and later wrote Mary in Heaven for her.

7. Claire Beauchamp Randall and Jamie Fraser

The heroine of bestselling novel and TV series Outlander Claire Beauchamp is a World War II nurse married to Frank Randall. But on honeymoon in Scotland Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is transported back to 1743, where she encounters civil war and the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan – click here to read our exclusive interview). Claire falls in love with Jamie but can she ever be with him when she is caught between two worlds?

8. Dexter and Emma in One Day

The protagonists of David Nicholls 2009 bestseller One Day meet in Edinburgh as students. She is a serious young woman from a working class northern background who wants to save the world. He is a feckless southerner who just wants to have a good time. Over 20 years their friendship grows. But will they ever get together?

9. Queen Victoria and John Brown

The widowed queen had a close relationship with her Scottish servant. The pair spent time together at Balmoral and the contemporary press nicknamed the Queen ‘Mrs Brown’ and suggested they were lovers. The 1997 film also claims there was more to their relationship. But would society really let the Queen love again?

10. William Wallace and Murron MacClannough

According to the Mel Gibson Braveheart school of history William Wallace was motivated to fi ght the English to avenge the death of his one true love, Murron, whom he married in secret. In reality no one knows if the great Scottish patriot had a wife or lover, but if he did her name was more likely to be Marion Braidfute. Either way, the love affair was doomed, Wallace went on to be hung, drawn and quartered by the English.

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