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The List: Top 10 divorces in history
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lyudmila Aleksandrovna Shkrebneva should be celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary this week, but the couple stunned their nation last month when they announced their divorce on television. The last Russian leader to publicly split from his official spouse was Peter the Great in the late 17th century. The List this week looks at some notable divorces in history.
- 10. King Lothair II and Theutberga— In 857, King Charlemagne’s great-grandson, Lothair II, king of Lotharingia (now part of Alsace-Lorraine, France), wanted to divorce his wife Theutberga and marry his girlfriend Waldrada. Little did he know the 12-year quest for a divorce would dominate his reign. Pope Nicholas I shot down all the king’s grounds for divorce: witchcraft, barrenness, incest, unnatural sex, adultery and abortion. Finally, Theutberga, who submitted successfully to the ordeal of jumping in boiling water, entered a convent. So did the girlfriend. In 869, Lothair died on his way home after a positive visit to the Pope about splitting from his wife.
- 9. Nelson Rockefeller and Mary Clark Rockefeller — The political world was stunned in 1961 when New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller announced his separation from his wife of 31 years. His divorce and quick marriage to Margaretta Fitler “Happy” Murphy (27 years his junior) in 1963 was seen as an impediment as he unsuccessfully sought to capture the Republican presidential nomination in 1964. The divorce was a factor in helping to boost Barry Goldwater and kick-starting the conservative revolution.
- 8. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton— Two marriages, two divorces. This famous Hollywood couple fell in love on the set of “Cleopatra” in 1961. After their respective divorces, they married in 1964. They divorced in 1974 and then remarried a year later. The remarriage was short-lived.
- 7. Rupert and Anna Murdoch — This divorce between the Australian media mogul and his wife of 33-years Anna, was the most expensive to date. When the couple split in 1999, Anna Murdoch received $1.7 billion of Mr. Murdoch’s fortune, including $100 million in cash. Seventeen days after the divorce Mr. Murdoch married Wendi Deng, 38 years his junior, while Anna married investor William Mann a few months later. Mr. Murdoch filed for divorce from Miss Deng on June 13.
- 6. Mel Gibson and Robyn Gibson — It has been reported as the biggest celebrity divorce in history. Actor Mel Gibson, whose film “The Passion of the Christ” grossed more than $611 million worldwide, had to pay a fortune of $850 million in 2011 to his wife of 31 years Robyn. They had seven children together.
- 5. Paul McCartney and Heather Mills — Not only was this an expensive divorce but a very nasty one, too. The former Beatle and Heather Mills were married just four years. Miss Mills called Mr. McCartney violent, abusive and a drug taker. Miss Mills even poured water over one of Mr. McCartney’s attorneys. Mr. McCartney accused her of bugging his phone. In the end, Mr. McCartney was forced to pay out $46.6 million after the split in 2006.
- 4. Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren — Revelations about the famed golfer’s numerous extramarital affairs — at least nine — led to the couple’s divorce in 2010. There are reports that Miss Nordegren received between $100 million and $500 million in the divorce settlement.
- 3. Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger — Call it the divorce from hell. They fell in love while shooting the 1991 film “The Marrying Man.” After seven years of marriage, they were trading insults in a nasty public divorce. She branded Mr. Baldwin a “tin-pot tyrant and bully” and he responded calling Miss Basinger “dark and manipulative.” It all got worse when an angry voicemail rant from Mr. Baldwin to his then 11-year-old daughter Ireland was leaked.
- 2. Prince Charles and Princess Diana — The marriage of Diana Spencer and Prince Charles in 1981 was the fairytale wedding of our time. She was in love with the idea of being a princess, while he was two-timing her with now-wife Camilla Parker Bowles. The couple separated in 1992 after their extramarital affairs were well-publicized. They finally divorced in 1996 and Diana died in a Paris car crash the following year.
- 1. Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon — In the early 16th century, King Henry VIII of England sought to divorce the Spanish Princess Catherine of Aragon because she only bore him a daughter. Henry wanted the marriage annulled so he could marry his younger mistress Anne Boleyn. The pope denied him a divorce, so Henry abandoned the Catholic Church and made himself head of the Church of England. Henry later had Boleyn beheaded when he got bored with her. He ended up having a total of six wives — two of whom he divorced and two of whom he executed.
Source: The Washington Times, CNBC, Legalzoom.com, The Independent (London), Smithsonian, People magazine.
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About the Author
By Tom Fitton
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