The Top 5 Most Remarkable Marriage Proposals

So today we’ll be discussing some of the most remarkable marriage proposals of all time. That does not, however, mean talking about elaborate betrothals involving flash mob dance routines, sports arena jumbotrons or anything like that. Each of these proposals is noteworthy not because of gimmicks or extravagance, but rather because it had (or could have had) an actual impact on history. Very much so, in some cases. Even though this may be hard to believe, in the past many marriages were about power and influence more than they were about love. Now that things have changed and you can basically marry who you want, it seems a good time to reflect on proposals of the past. Just look how much things have evolved from the ancient proposal process to the modern question “pop!”

5 Ancient Arranged Marriage

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In the Ancient World, marriage was a business deal, not a bond of love. This held true in Ancient Greece and Rome, where land and title came along with matrimony. It was true in Ancient Jewish communities, where dowries were carefully negotiated before marriage of a daughter. But no culture matched Ancient China for the rigidity of the proposal and engagement process. First, a boy’s family decided on a potential match (he played no part in this process). The parents of both prospective spouses would meet in the company of a matchmaker (a negotiator, essentially) and a fortune teller. If the fortune teller saw portents of a fine marriage—e.g. was paid well—they would bless the union, at which point the boy’s family would shower the girl’s family with gifts. Then the fortune teller would pick the wedding date. Then more gifts. On the wedding day, the girl’s parents would send a large dowry to the boy’s parents, the type and amount of gifts established by the matchmaker. This sealed the deal, and then the couple could finally meet for the first time. Ah, romance.

4 Young Mozart and Marie Antoinette

If only Marie Antoinette had said “Yes” to Mozart, she wouldn’t have had all that trouble during the French Revolution. In fact, perhaps the entire history of 18th century France would have been different! But when the young musical prodigy proposed to the young spoiled brat, both were only seven years old, and thus in no position to actually wed (that would have to wait until Marie was 14). Legend has it that young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was brought to Vienna to perform before the Imperial Family, of which Marie was one of the youngest children. While horsing around with a group of kids after the concert, Mozart slipped and fell right into Marie’s arms. He looked up at her and immediately proposed they wed. This, of course, was not to be. Both went on to die in their 30s—he of disease, she of beheading.

3 Capt. Matthew Phelps: Love and Courage

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On December 15th, 2012, Marine Captain Matthew Phelps took a huge leap of faith, in himself, in his partner and in his country: Phelps took a knee and proposed marriage to Ben Schlock in one of the most iconic locations worldwide, the White House. Capt. Phelps may not have been the first openly gay serviceman to propose, but he was surely the first to do so in such a hallowed place. And at the time of his proposal (which of course was accepted!) the infamous Defense of Marriage Act had yet to be repealed. Fortunately for the happy couple, the legislation of the country caught up with them the following year.

2 King Edward VIII Chooses Love

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King Edward VIII proposed to an American woman named Wallis Simpson over a quiet candlelit dinner. And in doing so, he made one of the greatest sacrifices in the history of proposals: he was choosing marriage to Wallis over wearing the Crown of England! As Wallis could never be recognized as the queen, as she was a divorcée and thus frowned on by the Church of England, King Edward chose to abdicate the throne in order to marry her. We’re sure that, for love, you too would relinquish the British crown, but we’re also pretty sure that it won’t come to that. Bonus points: King Edward’s full name was Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David (yes, really).

1 Archduke Maximilian and the Diamond Ring

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Archduke Maximilian of Austria is widely credited with being the first guy to use a diamond ring during his marriage proposal. The year was 1477, and as Maximilian knelt and asked for the hand of young Mary of Burgundy, he presented a ring bearing an “M” crafted from carved diamonds. Needless to say, she said yes. And thus was set a precedent that would have men throughout the ensuing centuries pouring their bank accounts out in exchange for tiny, shiny stones. Thank you, Max, for rendering the mere pledge of undying devotion insufficient.