Sometimes, nothing says I love you like grand, sweeping romantic gestures.
They jump off the pages of the books we consume and are baked into the reels of film that we devour. They fill up our hearts and light our eyes up with stars. And, in this way, they always feel too good to be true. Can life really imitate art?
Throughout history, there have been many beautiful and touching examples of heartfelt, romantic gestures. They have involved everything from roses, music and poetry to television shows and even a royal abdication. Here are some of the gestures we were most inspired by.
Close your eyes and let yourself be transported to a place far back in time. Imagine sun-kissed, stone terraces climbing like steps to reach the sky. See the flora of large trees and colorful, exotic vegetation that adorn them. A garden suspended mid-air, as if its flowers were dancing with the clouds. Nature elevated to the gods. And all in the name of love.
It is almost impossible to imagine the fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon as anything less than breathtaking. As one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, they’ve captured the hearts and imaginations of archaeologists, historians and scholars worldwide. And, before that, they were meant to capture someone else’s heart.
Ancient historians tell of how King Nebuchadnezzar II commissioned these planted terraces as a gift for his wife, Queen Amytis. Finding life in the arid, flat Babylonian desserts difficult to bear, Amytis grew homesick. She pined for the lush greenery and mountainous landscape of her native home of Media (now North West Iran). And so, King Nebuchadnezzar II ordered the construction of what would become her oasis.
A labor of love
“A teardrop on the cheek of time”. This eloquent line by Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore is a beautiful way of summing up the feelings evoked by the Taj Mahal. Its white marble glimmering coolly under the moonlight and blushing warmly at the rise of dawn. Symmetry, shadow, and shape all amalgamated into one of the greatest architectural feats of the Indo-Islamic world. And, behind it is one of its greatest love stories.
Commissioned around 1632 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and completed in 1648, the Taj Mahal could truly be described as a labor of love. The build involved thousands of workers and almost bankrupted the empire. But Sha Jahan’s intentions were steadfast. He intended the structure as a mausoleum for his 3rd wife, who died while giving birth to their 14th child. The 250-foot-high domed tomb, adorned with precious stones and enclosed by its distinctive minarets, was Sha Jahan’s way of mourning the loss of his favorite wife. And though only intended for her, today, it draws visitors from every corner of the world who are in awe of its stoic beauty.
Music, be the food of love
How would you feel if you woke up to the dulcet sounds of music? A delightful melody that almost felt like a beautiful dream? Growing louder and louder, and enveloping you in sense of comfort and peace. A private orchestra in your home playing music composed just for you?
This was Richard Wagner’s Christmas present to his wife Cosima. In honor of the birth of their son and the life they shared together, the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ composer was moved to pen the symphony ‘Tribschen Idyll’ (later renamed to ‘Siegfried’s Idyll’). On Christmas morning in 1870, Wagner swiftly assembled a 15-piece orchestra on the staircase of their house. They then began to play gently to wake Cosima up who was still asleep. She was deeply moved by this incredibly romantic gesture. While ‘Tribschen Idyll’ was only meant for Cosima’s enjoyment, it would later become one of Wagner’s most revered works.
For love or crown & country?
Sometimes, romantic gestures involve personal sacrifice. King Edward VIII fully understood taking the hand of his beloved would mean casting aside crown and country. But the monarch was content to pursue a simpler life in the company of his soulmate, Wallis Simpson.
When King Edward the VIII fell in love with and wanted to marry American socialite and soon-to-be divorcee Wallis Simpson, it plunged the Crown of England into controversy. Edward had ascended to the throne in 1936 following the death of his father George V. The British government vehemently opposed the marriage to Simpson as they felt her current and previous divorces made her an unsuitable match for a monarch. Furthermore, the British press sensationalized Simpson as everything from a scheming seductress to a German spy. When urged to give up their affair, Edward instead abdicated the throne to his younger brother George the VI in December of that year. Simpson then divorced her husband, so that she and Edward could marry a year later.
Roses for Marilyn
Roses. Three times a week. For twenty years. An iconic gesture for an even more iconic woman. This is how Joe DiMaggio paid his respects to one of the world’s most famous movie stars after her untimely death. One he had, and would never, stop loving.
You would think that Joe DiMaggio, the famous baseball player, and Marilyn Monroe, the legendary bombshell, would have a picture-perfect life. But their marriage was a volatile one that lasted a mere 274 days. Despite separating, ‘Joltin’ Joe’ remained enamored with the acclaimed actress for the rest of his life. And he continued to show her just how much he cared, supporting Marilyn during an emotional breakdown in the wake of her divorce to playwright Arthur Miller. It was even rumored that he might propose to her again before her tragic death in 1962. The sportsman would never re-marry and was markedly silent to the press about the passing of his paramour. Instead, he sent a bouquet of roses to her grave in Los Angeles three times a week for almost twenty years.
I love lucy loves desi
It was one of the first scripted television programs to be shot on 35mm film and in front of a live studio audience. Five-time Emmy Award-winning I Love Lucy quickly became one of the most influential sitcoms in television history. And, it may have not been the same without the real-life power couple at its center.
At the helm of the show was the magnetic Lucille Ball. Ball an already successful radio performer had earned her stripes on CBS sitcom ‘’My Favorite Husband’ as Richard Denning’s costar, making her a shoo-in for the part. CBS executives were taken aback, however, at her plucky request to have real-life husband, Cuban pop band leader Desi Arnaz, play her onscreen spouse.
The network expressed their reluctance to cast Arnaz, due to the fact they believed a 1950s American audience would have trouble relating to Arnaz’s thick Spanish accent. Ball, however, persisted and Arnaz was finally cast. The chemistry and comedic gold of the real-life couple made I Love Lucy the beloved show it was destined to be.
A poetic kind of love
Percy Bysche and Mary Shelley, Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, Virginia and Leonard Woolf. Literature has offered us many incredible real-life partnerships. One of literature’s greatest romances was, perhaps, that of Elizabeth Barret and Robert Browning. The married poets love for one another is deeply reflected in their work. The most touching example being published in 1850 as Barrett’s book “Sonnets from the Portuguese.”
Composed early on in their courtship, “Sonnets from the Portuguese” were a series of love poems penned by Barret about her love for Robert. They were, initially inspired by Robert’s criticism of ‘personal poetry’ and the limitations he perceived the genre to have. In order to prove to her husband that ‘personal poetry’ did, in fact, deserve merit, Barret wrote a series of 44 sonnets as a gesture of love for Robert. Robert’s mind was changed and he was so moved by the beauty of the poems that he encouraged Barrett to publish them. The poems were presented as alleged translations of Portuguese sonnets in order to hide their more personal meaning.
State dinner romance
Some of the most touching, romantic gestures are often the most unassuming. While roses, music, or poetry are grand and swoon-worthy, acts of kindness and compassion can truly transcend. President William McKingley and his wife offer us one such example.
President McKingley’s wife, Ida, was a beloved and lively socialite. She began to suffer from epileptic seizures following the deaths of her two young daughters. President McKingley’s political career was blossoming as she grew more frail and vulnerable. She spent most of her days aloof from high-society, crocheting slippers in a Victorian rocking chair alone in their home.
Upon taking office in 1897, McKingley was determined not to leave Ida feeling excluded. Despite protocol, he insisted on having Ida accompany him to state dinners where she would be seated beside him. He would watch over her and take care of her if a seizure struck. Ida was his pride and joy until his dying day when he was shot in 1901. His final thoughts were of Ida and her wellbeing: “My wife - be careful...how you tell her.”
What’s your favorite romantic gesture?
There are many more romantic gestures that have featured in history, these are simply some of our favorites here at Talsam. We’d love to know a story or moment that personally inspired you. So, let us know on Instagram or Twitter.
I can hardly Waite to see how beautiful the piece is in person the craftsmanship and the meaning is just breathtakingly gorgeous thank you
Erin Shoemaker on