From the Taj Mahal to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Fiona McClymont tells the heart-breaking stories behind the world's greatest monuments to love
Boldt Castle (1) Boldt Castle is a multi-million-dollar monument to love in the Thousand Islands Region of the St Lawrence River. It stands on Heart Island, so named because the island, formed from landfill, is in the shape of a heart. The castle was built by George C Boldt as a display of his love for his wife, Louise. Boldt, the millionaire proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, set out in 1900 to build a full size, six-storey, 120-room replica of a Rhineland castle on the island. Over 300 workmen, stonemasons, carpenters, and artisans were employed and almost $2m spent in its construction. It was to remain unfinished, however, as in 1904 Louise died suddenly, and Boldt stopped work on it. He couldn't bear to live in the place he had created, without his wife, and never returned to the island, leaving the castle behind as a monument of his love. Coral Castle (2) Jilted on the eve of his wedding to his 16-year-old sweetheart, Edward Leedskalnin moved from his native Latvia to America and in 1918 bought a rocky acre of land in Homestead, south Florida. He then spent over 20 years building a bizarre monument to his lost love, a castle carved out of huge blocks of coral taken from his land. He never married, or saw the woman who inspired his creation again, and died in 1951. His sweetheart finally learnt of his project in 1980 when the staff at Coral Castle, by now a tourist attraction, were alerted to her existence by a group of Latvian visitors. (Billy Idol's song "Sweet Sixteen'' was inspired by his visit there.)

Albert Memorial (3) The restored Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens was erected by Victoria in memory of her beloved husband, who died from typhoid in 1861 aged 42. Married for 20 years, they seemed to have enjoyed the kind of domestic bliss their great-great-great-grandson Prince Charles can only dream of. The architect, George Gilbert Scott, was inspired by the Eleanor Crosses built by Edward I in memory of his wife Eleanor (see below, right). The Queen was to live the remainder of her life in mourning for Prince Albert.

Caesareum (4) The red granite obelisk, Cleopatra's Needle, which stands on the Embankment in London, was originally one of two (the other is in Central Park, New York) which stood in front of the Caesarium in Alexandria. This lavish temple was built on the orders of Cleopatra in honour of her "Herculean Roman" Mark Antony. Some say it was also the place of her suicide. Her wish for a lasting monument to their love was not to be, however, as the temple was rededicated to Caesar Augustus, Mark Antonio's conqueror, and nothing remains of her tribute to him today.

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (5) The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus is another wonder of the ancient world to have been built as a monument to love. When Mausolus, the ruler of the Persian region of Caria, died in 353BC, an enormous monument was ordered to be constructed by his wife Artemis, who was also his sister. The word mausoleum originates from this creation for this, its namesake. The widowed Artemis was so distraught at her husband's unexpected death that she is said to have drunk his ashes mixed with wine. She died, some say from grief, two years after her husband's death and her amazing monument to this incestuous marriage now lies in ruins.

Abu Simbel (6) The Pharaoh Ramesses II bestowed the greatest honour upon his favourite wife, Nefertari, elevating her to the status of a goddess by dedicating a temple to both her and the Egyptian goddess of love, Hathor. The temple is one of a set of two at Abu Simbel, on the Egypt/Sudan border. This husband and wife are forever immortalised in 33ft-high figures, which stand at the entrance to the Temple. Interestingly, the other temple at this site, which was dedicated to Ramesses himself, bears witness to another man's love for his wife. Near the temple's left entrance is some Victorian graffiti, engraved on the orders of one Lord Charles Murray. Murray, who in 1851 was honeymooning in Egypt with his wife Elizabeth, had his wife's maiden name, place of birth and the year of their marriage ("Wadsworth, Geneseo, N.Y., 1851") etched into the rock. Murray courted Elizabeth for 17 years and was sent packing by her father on a number of occasions, before finally winning her hand after a chance meeting on a train reunited them. Perhaps seeking some confirmation of his union after this arduous romance, he decided to record his love for her on one of the most enduring monuments in the world.

Mussenden Temple (7) In County Derry stands the Mussenden Temple, a library built by the Bishop of Derry to commemorate his cousin Mrs Friedwide Mussenden, who died at the age of 22 in 1785. According to the Bishop's biographer William S Childe-Pemberton, it was built as "a memorial to a lovely woman cut off in her prime and of the Bishop's romantic tribute to her perfection". Surprisingly, considering the Bishop's reputation as a notorious womaniser, and the rumours which were flying around at the time, his love for her seems to have been entirely platonic. Nevertheless, she was the light of his life, and this is reflected in the beautiful, round domed temple dedicated to her memory.

Lady Lever Art Gallery (8) Soap millionaire William Hesketh Lever commissioned this Art Gallery in 1913 which was to become a memorial to his recently deceased wife. Much of the last years of his life were spent supervising the completion of this imposing neo-classical building, and arranging its displays. It was finally named The Lady Lever Gallery and opened in 1922. It retains an important Pre-Raphelite collection, but remains a somewhat hidden treasure in Port Sunlight.

Taj Mahal (9) The most famous monument to love is of course the Taj Mahal. This palatial building was built 345 years ago by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a monument to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. On her deathbed (she fell ill after giving birth to their 14th child) she asked her husband to show the world how deep their love had been. His response was to ignore the running of his empire and instead devote his energies to building the magnificent Taj Mahal. The building took 22 years to complete becoming, as the late Diana, Princess of Wales, was all too well aware, the ultimate symbol of lost, romantic love.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon (10) Legend has it that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, were created to cheer up a homesick wife. Nebuchadnezzar II's Queen, Amytis, originated from the green, rugged landscape of the Iranian mountains and found flat, dry Mesopotamia (thought to be 55 miles south of what is now Baghdad) depressing. To alleviate her homesickness the king decided to recreate her homeland by building an artificial mountain containing gardens full of the native vegetation of her old homeland. Described by ancient historians as an awesome leafy mountain arising from a desert, this monument to a sympathetic king's love has now crumbled to ruins and is lost for ever.

Eleanor Crosses (11) Hardly noticed by passing commuters on the Northern Line platform at Charing Cross is a mural depicting the poignant journey of remembrance made by Edward I in memory of his Queen, Eleanor. She died while in Nottinghamshire in 1290, and as her funeral cortege made its way back to London, it made 12 stops along the way: at each of these resting places Edward ordered a monumental cross to be built to her memory. These came to be known as The Eleanor Crosses, the last of which was built at the village of Charing - which is now Charing Cross railway station. The ornate cross outside the station today, with its kneeling angels at the feet of eight statues of the queen, is a replica of the original which was demolished by the Puritans in 1647.

Kilmorey Mausoleum (12) One of the strangest monuments ever to love is recounted in Lucinda Lambton's A to Z of Britain (published by HarperCollins). A granite mausoleum in the grounds of Gordon House in Twickenham was built by the Earl of Kilmorey for his adored mistress, Priscilla Host. The Earl moved twice after her death and insisted that the monument be moved with him so he could remain near to his loved one. Some might say too near: he built an underground tunnel between his house and the temple and would occasionally visit the mausoleum dressed in a white, shroud-like garment, and lie in a prepared coffin which was placed alongside that of Priscilla. He rehearsed his funeral in this way for 26 years, until he was finally reunited in death with his mistress, lying next to her in the mausoleum which he had so lovingly built in her honour, wearing a dressing gown made of rat's fur.