Friday 15 December 2017

The greatest loves of all ...

FOR Saint Valentine's day Jennifer O'Connell shares 10 real-life stories of besotted lovebirds and unconditional romantics.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

From our fascination with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's turbulent relationship, to our affection for the enduring love affair between Bono and Ali, there's nothing the public loves so much as . . . well, love itself. But not every epic romance is played out in the pages of the newspapers. One of the most memorable love stories in Irish history started on death row -- while another ended on it. Here's our Valentine's Day guide to 10 great love stories.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton Burton was married five times in all and Taylor walked up the aisle a whopping eight, but it's the turbulent romance between the girl with the violet eyes and the Welsh heartbreaker which came to define them in the public eye.

They fell in love on the set of Cleopatra in 1963, and were promptly condemned by the Vatican for their affair, which was described as 'erotic vagrancy'.

In private, however, they were refreshingly normal together. He once said: "this most beautiful woman in the world stuff is absolute nonsense. She has wonderful eyes, but she has a double chin and an overdeveloped chest, and she's rather short in the leg".

But there was always another party to their marriage: alcohol. They both drank heavily, but his health deteriorated and he became morose when he tried to stop. Eventually it drove them apart. They separated for the first time in July 1973, when she released a handwritten press statement in which she said: "Maybe we loved each other too much . . . I believe with all my heart that the separation will ultimately bring us back to where we should be -- and that's together."

They did remarry -- two years later in 1975 -- and separated again six months later, when he left her for the actress Suzy Hunt. But in early August 1984, he wrote to her and begged her to 'come home'. He wrote that no one else could know what their lives had been together. Two days later, he was dead.

In 2009, 25 years after Burton's death, she was asked if she'd marry him for a third time. "In a heartbeat", was the reply.

Ann Louise Gilligan and Katherine Zappone

Within six weeks of meeting in Boston College in 1981, the former nun, Anne Louise Gilligan, and the academic Katherine Zappone, knew they would spend the rest of their lives together. They married in Canada in 2003 and together they brought a case of same-sex recognition to the Irish High Court. Their action ultimately failed at the Supreme Court in 2011, but they have said they won't give up. Last year, Zappone was appointed to the Seanad.

In the meantime, they have shared interests in hillwalking and fast cars -- and every morning, they take turns to bring one another breakfast in bed.

Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra left his wife and the mother of his three children, Nancy, for the 23-year-old, twice-divorced Ava Gardner in 1951. Ironically, while he was savaged by the gossip columnists, Hollywood, and the Catholic Church, her career soared.

Their relationship was passionate, possessive and explosive. They would row, and she would spray the house with perfume to signal that he was forgiven and she was ready for sex.

She became pregnant twice and had two abortions. She said years later: "We couldn't even take care of ourselves. How were we going to take care of a baby?"

She bullied him relentlessly and was hardly ever faithful to him, but he adored her. After she finally left him for a Spanish bullfighter, he slit his wrist -- but she wouldn't even come to the hospital to see him. However, she did later say that he was the love of her life.

Bono and Ali Hewson

Next August, the U2 frontman and his childhood sweetheart Ali Hewson will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. They fell in love while both students at Mount Temple Comprehensive, and theirs seems to be the classic attraction of opposites.

In public, he is the loudmouth rockstar, while she is the private and always supportive partner. But back home in Killiney, he's clear who's boss.

"I feel our relationship has changed a lot. For a while I thought I was in charge. I was the hunter-protector. A few years ago it became clear somebody else was in charge and I feel I hold on a lot tighter to her than she does to me, and that slightly bothers me. She's so independent and sometimes I wish she wasn't."

Brian Keenan and Audrey Doyle

When Brian Keenan was a hostage in Beirut for four years from 1986 to 1990, he used to think "if I'm going to die here, my biggest regret is that I haven't had any kids".

When he was finally released, Keenan famously told journalists that he intended to "make love to every woman in the world".

Instead, he went on to fall head-over -heels in love with the first woman who crossed his path: Audrey Doyle, the physiotherapist who helped him get his health back.

They married in 1994 and have two sons.

In an interview last year, he said: "They'll be sitting there on the sofa opposite me, watching the television, and I see them and I think, 'how did I get all this?'"

Sonia 'Sunny' Jacobs and Peter Pringle

American Sonia Jacobs (64) and Irishman Peter Pringle (73) married in New York late last year after a long courtship.

Many couples bond over a shared history, and Jacobs and Pringle were no different: each had served a decade and a half on death row before their convictions were overturned for the murders that they steadfastly maintained they did not commit.

She served 17 years in her native USA for the murder of a police officer (she was in the car but always maintained she was in the back asleep) in 1976.

Pringle was sentenced to death for the 1980 murder of two policemen during a bank raid in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, and served 15 years before his conviction was overturned.

They met at an Amnesty conference in Galway in 1998, and he offered her a lift afterwards. The rest, like all the best love stories, is history.

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward

Actress Joanne Woodward pretended to be engaged to the homosexual author -- and her flatmate -- Gore Vidal in order to attract the attention of Paul Newman. It worked.

He married her in February 1958, just weeks after his divorce from his first wife, and they remained together for 50 years, until his death in 2008. While they worked together often, the secret of their marriage seems to have been the ability to let one another have space. Asked if he was ever tempted by his beautiful co-stars, Newman said: "Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?"

Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier

Despite her wholesome, girl-like image and her stunning self-possession, the Irish-American beauty Grace Kelly was far from the virgin princess when she married Prince Rainier.

One biographer claims Kelly -- by then one of the top actresses of her day -- had affairs with almost every one of her co-stars: Gary Cooper, Clarke Gable, Ray Milland, William Holden, Bing Crosby, Carey Grant and Frank Sinatra.

But she was also an incurable romantic. As a young child, she told her sister Peggy: "One day I'm going to be a princess."

She was one of Hollywood's hottest stars when she met Rainier III of Monaco's ruling Grimaldi family at a photo session in 1955 and began writing to him.

He came to see her in the US, and they got engaged after just three days.

Theirs was the first real celebrity wedding: it was broadcast live to more than 30 million viewers in Europe. There were rumours of infidelity but they stayed married for 25 years, until her death in a car crash in 1982.

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