It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History

by Jennifer Wright

It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright

Buy It Ended Badly by Jennifer Wright

It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright

It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright
It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright

A history of heartbreak—replete with beheadings, uprisings, creepy sex dolls, and celebrity gossip—and its disastrously bad consequences throughout time

It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright

Read an Excerpt from It Ended Badly by Jenifer Wright

Spanning eras and cultures from ancient Rome to medieval England to 1950s Hollywood, Jennifer Wright's It Ended Badly guides you through the worst of the worst in historically bad breakups. With a wry wit and considerable empathy, Wright digs deep into the archives to bring these thirteen terrible breakups to life. She educates, entertains, and really puts your own bad breakup conduct into perspective. It Ended Badly is for anyone who's ever loved and lost and maybe sent one too many ill-considered late-night emails to their ex, reminding us that no matter how badly we've behaved, no one is as bad as Henry VIII.

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Quiz

Photos from It Ended Badly by Jennifer Wright

  • Emperor Nero

    Nero has one of those busts that you immediately want to punch in the face.

  • King Henry II

    King Henry II—no beard or niceness; super smart.

  • Giovanni Sforza

    Giovanni Sforza’s fur coat hides his dumb heart.

  • King Henry VIII

    No, I swear, Henry VIII was definitely hot.

  • Anna Ioannovna

    Anna Ivanovna had cheeks like Westphalian ham.

  • Timothy Dexter

    He claimed he was the 'first in the East, the first in the West, and the Greatest philosopher in the Western world.' None of that is true, but his crazy antics make him first in my heart.

  • Caroline Lamb

    This portrait of Caroline Lamb’s head does not demonstrate her vigorously hacking off her pubic hair, which is a pity.

  • John Ruskin

    John Ruskin: Handsome! But awful!

  • Alfred Douglas

    Alfred Douglas will always look like a bea­gle to me.

  • Morton Fullerton

    Look at the mustache on Morton Fullerton—just look at it. Are you weak at the knees yet?

  • Gustav Mahler

    You can tell Gustav Mahler was smart because he had smart-­person wire-­frame glasses.

  • Norman Mailer

    Not pictured: Norman Mailer, because he doesn’t deserve any more attention.

  • Elizabeth Taylor

    Interesting fact: Elizabeth Taylor never had a bad hair day in her entire life.

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Fun Facts
  • William S. Burroughs shot and killed his wife in 1952. Supposedly it was because he was attempting to recreate William Tell at the time, which is the worst party game a human being could play.   (Source)

  • Ovid cautioned the heartbroken from taking long trips alone, claiming it would only depress them more, and to instead surround themselves in a crowd of friends, in 18BCE. Still holds up.

  • In 1770 lipstick, high heels and perfumes were banned in England, as they were thought to be a kind of witchcraft used to trick men into marriage.   (Source)

  • George Sand ended her relationship with Chopin by writing a kiss and tell memoir about “what happens to all the rapture of love when he who is the object of it behaves like a raving madman.” It wasn’t considered a very balanced take.   (Source: Lucrezia Floriani by George Sand)

  • There was almost a ban on lipstick in the early 1900s because New York’s Board of Health suspected that women could use it to poison men.   (Source)

  • Abraham Lincoln jokingly told Mary Owen’s sister that he’d marry her if she’d move to Illinois. She agreed to, and he had to send her a series of letters explaining that he didn’t mean it.   (Source)

  • In 1851, the purchase of arsenic by women was almost banned by the House of Lords because so many were using it to poison their husbands.   (Source)

  • Vera Renczi, one of history’s most prolific female serial killers, supposedly only murdered for love. She killed 35 men, mostly her lovers, including her two husbands, due to her consuming jealousy. Don’t be like Vera!   (Source)

  • The painting The Scream is thought to have been influenced by the end of Munch’s affair with a woman named Millie Thaulow. He wrote, “I had the misfortune to suffer passionate love… and for several years I was close to insanity.” And screaming, just screaming all the time (not really).   (Source: The Little Book of Heartbreak: Love Gone Wrong Through the Ages By Meghan Laslocky)

  • After breaking up with Regine Olsen, his heartbroken former flame asked Kierkegaard if he thought he’d ever marry. He replied “Yes, in ten year’s time, when I have had my fling, I will need a lusty girl to rejuvenate me.” The correct answer to that question, for future reference is, “I just don’t think I’m that kind of person. If I was, I’d definitely marry you.”   (Source)

  • In Ancient Rome, the fertility festival Lupercalia, a kind of precursor to Valentine’s Day, was celebrated by naked women lining up to be whipped with animal hides. Candy hearts seem more okay now, even though they’re gross.   (Source)

  • Just because there can never be enough Ancient Roman fertility facts, during Lupercalia there was also a “matchmaking lottery” where two names would be drawn out of a hat. Those people would then be expected to celebrate their fertility (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) thoughout the festival.   (Source)

  • George Eliot’s husband dove out a window and into the Grand Canal on the night of their honeymoon. People often claim that this is because of George Eliot's extreme ugliness, but I think he probably already knew that and it might have been some other issues on his part.   (Source)

  • The clothing designer Oleg Cassini once dismissed “hand holding in public is so bourgeois” explaining, “Jack and Jackie [Kennedy] never did that.” Maybe that was because of the constant philandering, and not so much their sophistication.    (Source: What Would Jackie do by Shelly Branch and Sue Callaway)

  • George Orwell proposed to his wife, in what might be the most unromantic way ever, by suggesting that she, “learn to make dumplings.”   (Source)

  • After their estrangement, Hemingway stole his wife Margo Gellhorn’s war reporting job for Collier’s. She beat him to D-Day anyway.   (Source)

  • The first divorce in America happened on January 5th, 1643. Celebrate it this year with chocolate and whisky!   (Source)

  • In 1613 the Countess of Essex demanded an annulment from her husband because, as her father quipped, “the Ear has no ink in his pen.” Essex and the court decided that he was impotent as a result of witchcraft, which is probably not how that would go today.   (Source)

  • Taylor Swift didn’t originate the break-up album. That honor might go to Frank Sinatra, whose album In The Wee Small Hours was written during his difficult split from Ava Gardner. It’s a really good album!   (Source)

  • Caesar divorced his wife after a man in drag snuck into one of her all female gatherings. Nothing happened between that man and his wife, but he claimed, “My wife ought not even to be under suspicion.”   (Source)

  • Dickens left his wife of 20 years, with whom he had ten children, most likely to pursue an affair with the 17 year old Ellen Ternan, but not before he, weirdly, had his marital bedroom remodeled into two separate rooms.   (Source)

  • In 1825, when Harriette Wilson wrote her memoirs about her love affair with the Duke of Wellington, the publisher first tried to blackmail Wellington, suggesting that for enough money he could stop them from being printed. Wellington famously replied, “publish and be damned!” They did, and it caused a sensation, but both the publisher and Harriette were financially destroyed by libel suits.   (Source)

  • If men broke off an engagement with a woman in 19th century England she could initiate a “breach of promise to marry” lawsuit. Approximately a hundred a year did, and the men in question had to pay the modern equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars.   (Source)

  • Mere weeks after his wedding to Jackie Kennedy, Aristotle Onassis was back at his former lover Maria Callas’s apartment, where he stood outside screaming for her to let him back in.   (Source)

  • After meeting his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII exclaimed, “I like her not! I like her not!” and it was claimed that she gave off “evil smells.” She won out in the end though. After the divorce, she was considered the “sister” of Henry VIII, which left her with a house and her own income. Supposedly she and Henry even became good friends.   (Source)

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About Jennifer Wright

Jennifer Wright

Credit: Eric T White

Jennifer Wright is a contributor to the New York Observer and the New York Post, covering sex and dating. She was one of the founding editors of TheGloss​.­com, and her writing regularly appears in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Maxim. Her breakup cure is gin, reruns of 30 Rock, and historical biographies. She lives and loves very happily in New York City.

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