10 Bizarre Divorces

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A Brief History

On May 17, 1536, King Henry VIII of England had his marriage to Anne Boleyn annulled, although she had borne him the future Queen Elizabeth I. He then had her decapitated two days later for treason and adultery, which even then was a pretty harsh parting of the ways. Divorce is rarely a happy and light hearted thing, but some divorces are stranger or more vicious than others. Here are 10 more divorces or break-ups that were either shocking or particularly acrimonious. Of course in Anne Boleyn’s case, one is left asking how she could have committed adultery if she was not married to her husband in the first place?!

Digging Deeper

10. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, 1974 and 1976.

Apparently one divorce between them was not enough, so the royal couple of the movies got married and divorced twice. Both British actors, this pair was the toast of the tabloids in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and their marriages and divorces were front page news. They were both  alcoholics, and Taylor later became addicted to pain pills and sleeping pills. Cracked fact: Taylor had 20 major surgeries and was hospitalized more than 70 times. Cracked fact: Incredibly beautiful before she became overweight and an addict and a smoker, Taylor had violet colored eyes.

9.  John McCain and Carol Shepp, 1980.

John began an affair with Cindy Hensley in 1979 while Carol was recovering from surgery as a result of a severe car wreck in 1969. Carol, once a runway swimsuit model, lost 4 inches in height and had gotten fat, usually getting around in a wheel chair. McCain meanwhile was having affairs although he to had suffered injuries while a prisoner of the North Vietnamese for 5 ½ years. Cracked fact: The billionaire, H. Ross Perot paid for Carol’s medical care. Perot is among those critical of John’s callous treatment of his first wife.

8.  Newt Gingrich and Jackie Battley, 1980, Marianne Ginther, 2000.

Newt Gingrich, conservative, family values, draft dodger married his high school teacher as soon as he turned 19 (she was 26), but dumped her after starting an affair with his second wife. Not surprisingly (except to his first wife), Gingrich denies that he went to the hospital to tell his wife, recovering from surgery, that he was divorcing her. Gingrich was later quoted as saying his first wife was “not young enough or pretty enough to be a president’s wife and besides, she has cancer.” Of course, Gingrich denies that as well. In 1993, Newt began an affair with Callista Bisek, 23 years younger than him. He divorced his second wife (Marianne Ginther) in 2000 and married Callista. Marianne later claimed that Newt wanted to have an “open” marriage where they could have sex with whomever they wanted. Gingrich denies this allegation as well.

7.  Ken and Barbie, 2004.

Yes, Barbara Millicent Roberts and Ken Carson, the Mattel dolls. America’s iconic boyfriend and girlfriend since 1961 “broke up” in 2004 when Barbie became enamored of Blaine, an “Australian” surfer. Luckily for the sensibilities of people who believe in happy endings, the plastic couple reconciled starting in 2006.

6.  Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, 2008.

Rock and roll royalty marries a one legged beauty, but things did not go well and the divorce was one of Britain’s most public and vicious ever. Because of the fame of ex-Beatle McCartney and the devoted fan base he commands, many people were angered by Heather’s audacity at talking smack about their idol in court and trying to march off with his riches. Of course, plenty of people took her side as well, and the divorce was an international sensation.

5.  Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren, 2010.

When news of Tiger’s rampant infidelities became public, a violent incident happened between the world’s greatest golfer (and probably a billionaire) and his drop dead gorgeous Swedish wife. They claim it was a verbal argument, but it may well have been the outraged wife beating the hapless Romeo with a golf club. The public was treated to a bruised and battered golf legend and Elin profited immensely from the divorce.

4.  Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, 1954.

America’s Sweethearts! The most popular baseball player (which meant the most popular athlete) and Hollywood’s top sex symbol united in a storybook wedding of celebrity royalty. Unfortunately, Joltin’ Joe apparently wanted a conventional homemaker type wife, and that would never do for Marilyn. Many people in America were heartbroken that the fairy tale marriage ended.

3.  King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, 1531.

Henry, he of 6 marriages, wanted to dump his first wife, Catherine, because she did not bear him a son. Since he engaged in other affairs anyway, that may have been only part of the reason. This divorce was not granted by the Pope (Catholic Church) so Henry rejected the Catholic Church and started the Church of England (Anglican) to be the official religion of England.

2.  Napoleon Bonaparte and Empress Josephine, 1810.

In 1796 the most written about man in history (after Jesus Christ) married the widow six years his elder. Josephine had engaged in several affairs after her widowhood, but Napoleon was captivated by her like no other woman before or since. Sadly, when Josephine failed to bear him a child, Napoleon felt he had no choice but to divorce the love of his life and remarry to Marie-Louise, saying “I am marrying a womb.” One of history’s greatest love affairs ended because of politics, and Napoleon’s last word on his deathbed was “Josephine.”

1.  Charles, Prince of Wales, and Princess Diana, 1996.

The fairy tale wedding of the heir to the British throne to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 captivated the world. Charles was going to be king, and Diana by marrying him became a princess and would someday be queen. Popular with the British public (more so than Charles or other members of the royal family) Diana was graceful and elegant, seemingly a genuinely good person who bore Charles 2 healthy boys. Then the stories of a loveless marriage leaked out, as well as Charles’s affection for Camilla Parker Bowles.  She only first got divorced from her husband two years before Diana’s death. So, during the actual scandal, Camilla was still a married woman, which is even more shocking.  The public was clearly on Diana’s side and when the royal couple divorced in 1996 the public was shocked and outraged that Charles would treat their princess badly. Princess Diana died in a car wreck in 1997 conspiracy theorists emerged claiming the royal family had the lovely 36 year old murdered. This fairy tale did not have a happy ending!

Question for students (and subscribers): Should any of these marriages have happened in this first place?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Kitchin, S. B. (Shepherd Braithwaite).  A History of Divorce.  BiblioLife, 2009.


About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.