9 Of The Most Messed-Up Weddings In History

May 7, 2024 | Sarah Ng

9 Of The Most Messed-Up Weddings In History


When "I Do" Is Downright Terrifying

While marrying someone is supposed to be the first step toward "happily ever after," the hard truth is that it is often a step toward utter peril. Buckle up, because these are the most messed-up weddings in history.

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Héloïse and Abelard

The story of Héloïse d'Argenteuil and Peter Abelard is one of the most harrowing tales to come out of the Middle Ages. Abelard was a French scholar and Héloïse was his student—but their professional relationship eventually evolved into a passionate romance. Sadly, it was doomed to a twisted end.

Abaelardus and Heloïse sittingJean Vignaud, Wikimedia Commons

Héloïse and Abelard

This love story took a scandalous turn when Héloïse became pregnant. The couple had a secret wedding, but once people found out about the marriage, the unthinkable happened.

Heloise   readingAppleton and Company, Wikimedia Commons

Héloïse and Abelard

Héloïse's uncle decided to take matters into his own hands. He hired a group of men to sneak into Abelard's room at night and castrate him. But that wasn't even the most heartbreaking part.

Abelard And His Pupil HeloiseEdmund Leighton, Wikimedia Commons

Héloïse and Abelard

Abelard felt so ashamed of his castration that he turned to a life of religion. He also forced Héloïse to do the same and she became a nun. Their life of passion transformed into a life of celibacy.

Now destined to lead separate lives, the couple remained in contact by sending love letters to one another.

Abelard and Heloise at monasteryH. Clerget, Wikimedia Commons

Camila O'Gorman and Father Ladislao Gutiérrez

Let's rewind to Buenos Aires in the mid-19th century. At this time, the socialite Camila O'Gorman found herself in hot water: She fell head over heels for a 23-year-old priest named Father Ladislao Gutiérrez.

Camila O'Gorman in line print dress looking at cameraUnknown author, Wikimedia Commons

Camila O'Gorman and Father Ladislao Gutiérrez

Unfortunately for O'Gorman, dallying with a priest was more than social faux pas—it was a downright sin. In a desperate to bid to be together, the star-crossed youths escaped the city together. Sounds romantic, right? WRONG.

Camila O'Gorman and Father Ladislao GutiérrezGEA Producciones, Camila (1984)

Camila O'Gorman and Father Ladislao Gutiérrez

O'Gorman and Gutiérrez never actually tied the knot but they pretended to be a married couple for five months. They even established a school in Goya, Argentina and were expecting their first child. But they were doomed from the beginning.

Camila O'Gorman and Father Ladislao GutiérrezGEA Producciones, Camila (1984)

Camila O'Gorman and Father Ladislao Gutiérrez

Sadly, O'Gorman and Gutiérrez couldn't outrun their lies. After being found out, they were brought in by authorities—and executed in 1848.

Camila O'Gorman and Father Ladislao GutiérrezGEA Producciones, Camila (1984)

Andrew Stoney and Mary Bowes 

Deception is at the heart of this messed-up wedding. It involved the Irish playboy Andrew Stoney and the unbelievably rich widow Mary Eleanor Bowes, the Countess of Strathmore.

Stoney would end up being the Countess's worst nightmare.

Mary Eleanor BowesUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Andrew Stoney and Mary Bowes

The Countess of Strathmore had the freedom to choose whichever man she wanted. Unfortunately she fell for Andrew Stoney's diabolical manipulation tactics. He organized a duel, claiming to defend the Countess's honor... and then he put on the performance of a lifetime.

John Lyon, 9th Earl of Strathmore and Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of StrathmoreUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Andrew Stoney and Mary Bowes

Stoney pretended to be fatally injured. In an effort to make Stoney's final moments as peaceful as possible, the Countess made a terrible mistake and agreed to marry him.

Andrew Robinson Bowes facing leftUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Andrew Stoney and Mary Bowes

Of course, Andrew Stoney wasn't destined for death at all. Not only did he fully recover from his "wounds," but he had also pinned down an incredibly wealthy wife. The Countess paid a huge price for her hasty decision.

The injured Count,, S' (Mary Eleanor Lyon (née Bowes), Countess of StrathmoreJames Gillray, Wikimedia Commons

Andrew Stoney and Mary Bowes

Stoney mistreated the Countess in every way. Not only did he spend her fortune but he controlled her and physically brutalized her. He almost never let her leave the house. However, the Countess eventually got a satisfying revenge.

Andrew Robinson Bowes trialBowes, Andrew Robinson Stoney, Wikimedia Commons

Andrew Stoney and Mary Bowes

With the help of her maids, the Countess eventually managed to leave the marriage—but she didn't stop there. She decided to sue her husband for divorce during a time when doing so was a downright scandal. 

Andrew Robinson Bowes on trialJames Gillray, Wikimedia Commons

Rita Hayworth and Edward Judson

Rita Hayworth was one of Old Hollywood's biggest stars, but her first wedding was downright tragic. When she was just 18 years old, Hayworth—then known as Rita Cansino—met businessman Edward Judson. He was more than twice her age.

Judson-Hayworth-1942Photoplay Publishing Company, Wikimedia Commons

Rita Hayworth and Edward Judson

Judson was Hayworth's manager but he eventually became her lover. In 1937, the couple went to Las Vegas to elope—but the wedding only led to a disappointing marriage. 

Portrait of Rita Hayworth - 1940SeBayarchive, Wikimedia Commons

Rita Hayworth and Edward Judson

Sure, Judson may have helped Hayworth with her career, but he also began dipping into her growing fortune. When this five-year marriage finally bit the dust in 1942, Rita Hayworth barely had any money to her name.

Rita Hayworth with her first husband, Edward C. JudsonBettmann, Getty Images

William Corder and Maria Marten

1827 would go down in history for a terrible reason—and it had everything to do with William Corder and Maria Marten. Their pending nuptials only led to the infamous Red Barn Murder.

The Red BarnUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

William Corder and Maria Marten

Corder and Marten met in 1826. They were both in their early twenties, and Marten became pregnant quite quickly, bearing Corder a child. The young couple planned to meet at red barn before traveling to Ipswich to elope. But this was no happily ever after.

Maria Marten, victim in the Red Barn MurderUnknown author, Wikimedia Commons

William Corder and Maria Marten

The wedding didn't even take place. Horrifyingly, Corder took his fiancée's life when he met her at the red barn—and buried her there. But Corder didn't get away with his evil deed. 

William Corder awaiting trialUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

William Corder and Maria Marten

Corder was executed by hanging on August 11, 1828. The story of this wedding gone wrong has been the inspiration a number of folk songs and artworks.

William Corder on trialBritish Museum, Wikimedia Commons

Edward Gibbon Wakefield and Ellen Turner

Edward Gibbon Wakefield wanted an heiress more than a wife—and Ellen Turner was the perfect mark. She was only 15 when he took advantage of her in the worst way. Wakefield wanted only one thing: Turner's inheritance.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield in suitBenjamin Holl, Wikimedia Commons

Edward Gibbon Wakefield and Ellen Turner

On March 7, 1826, Wakefield proved himself to be one of history's biggest creeps by taking Turner from her boarding school and manipulating her into eloping with him. He lied to her, claiming that her father's business had failed and that her family was in serious trouble.

Turner believed him.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield in suitState Government Photographer, Wikimedia Commons

Edward Gibbon Wakefield and Ellen Turner

Following this deception, Wakefield and Turner eloped in Gretna Green—and then left the country. Luckily, Wakefield didn't get away with this nefarious scheming. 

Gretna GreenNational Library of Scotland, Wikimedia Commons

Edward Gibbon Wakefield and Ellen Turner

Authorities eventually discovered the newlyweds in France. Thankfully, there was an annulment, and Wakefield ended up in his rightful place: behind bars. And the craziest part of all?

This wasn't Wakefield's first time at the rodeo. Before marrying Turner, he'd eloped with another heiress named Eliza Pattle.

Edward Gibbon WakefieldAlbert James Allom, Wikimedia Commons

Walter Raleigh and Bess Throckmorton

Sir Walter Raleigh may have been an important explorer in the history of English colonialism—but he also had a scandalous love life.

Elizabeth ‘Bess’ ThrockmortonWilliam Segar, Wikimedia Commons

Walter Raleigh and Bess Throckmorton

You see, Raleigh was one of Queen Elizabeth's favorites, but he messed up big time when he betrayed her by dallying with one of her ladies-in-waiting—Bess Throckmorton.

Sir Walter RaleighUniversal, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

Walter Raleigh and Bess Throckmorton

In 1591, Sir Walter Raleigh and Bess Throckmorton began a secret romance and married behind the Queen's back. This turned out to be big mistake.

Sir Walter RaleighUniversal, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

Walter Raleigh and Bess Throckmorton

When the Queen found out that Raleigh had married without her permission, she punished him harshly. Raleigh found himself exiled from the royal court and shut up in the Tower of London.

He'd completely lost the Queen's favor and it wasn't until years later that he clawed his way back into her good graces.

Sir Walter Raleigh portraitWilliam Segar, Wikimedia Commons

George IV and Maria Fitzherbert

Does true love ever have a place in the royal court? George IV, the Prince of Wales, was the son of King George III. He certainly got his kicks with different mistresses, but one woman stole his heart. In 1784, Maria Fitzherbert became the object of his affection.

King George Iv Of The United KingdomThomas Lawrence, Wikimedia Commons

George IV and Maria Fitzherbert

Fitzherbert was more than George IV's mistress, but he could never publicly marry. Due to Fitzherbert's religious background, there was no chance that the royal family would ever give this couple their blessing.

However, they were determined to be together.

Maria Anne Fitzherbert  portraitJoshua Reynolds, Wikimedia Commons

George IV and Maria Fitzherbert

On December 15, 1785, the Prince of Wales and Fitzherbert had a secret, forbidden wedding. It was not legally binding. As one might imagine, this did not lead to a "happily ever after,"

Portrait Of Mrs Maria Fitzherbert, Wife Of George IvUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

George IV and Maria Fitzherbert

In the end, George IV had royal duties to attend to. He would one day be king, and therefore, he had to produce an heir. By 1794, his romance with Fitzherbert had run its course... but he never truly forgot his secret love.

Portrait of the Prince of Wales (later George IV) by Sir William Beechey R.A.Sir William Beechey, Wikimedia Commons

George IV and Maria Fitzherbert

When George IV eventually passed, he made a heart-wrenching request: He wanted to be buried with Fitzherbert's eye portrait.

Mrs. Maria Anne Fitzherbert By Thomas GainsboroughThomas Gainsborough, Wikimedia Commons

Mary Stuart and Lord Bothwell

Mary Stuart has gone down in history was one of the most tragic queens—and her twisted relationships played a big role in this. 

Mary, Queen Of Scots in pink dressFrançois Clouet, Wikimedia Commons

Mary Stuart and Lord Bothwell

In 1567, her second husband was murdered. Among the suspects was the Scottish earl, Lord Bothwell. But only months later, Mary made a shocking decision.

James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, Third husband of Mary Queen of Scots in yellow clothesUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Mary Stuart and Lord Bothwell

Mary barely had time to grieve her husband's death before she married Lord Bothwell. People were suspicious of the union, and some wondered if Mary had been forced into it.

Mary, Queen of ScotsFrançois Clouet, Wikimedia Commons

Mary Stuart and Lord Bothwell

In 1567, Bothwell and his men had taken Mary—potentially against her will—to Dunbar Castle. He may have also forced himself on her. Only weeks later, they were man and wife. With such dubious and disturbing beginnings, it's no wonder that this relationship met a tragic end.

Dunbar Harbour And CastlePhillip Capper, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Mary Stuart and Lord Bothwell

Both Mary and Bothwell's popularity suffered thanks to their hasty nuptials. Those who sought to have her dethroned pointed to this marriage as ample evidence that she wasn't a fit ruler.

Mary Queen Of Scots PortraitNational Portrait Gallery, Wikimedia Commons

Mary Stuart and Lord Bothwell

Only weeks after Mary and Bothwell wed, Mary abdicated the throne. Bothwell went to France, while Mary faced a horrifying fate. In 1587, Queen Elizabeth I had her executed.

Mary, Queen of ScotsFocus Features, Mary Queen of Scots (2018)


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