Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal
Romance in the Mughal courts of 17th- century India didn't come more romantic than the love between Prince Khurrum Shihab-ud-din Muhammed and his third wife, Arjuman Banu Begum. The pair are better known by their titles. On acceding to the Peacock Throne in 1627, Prince Khurrum became Shah Jahan or "King of the World". When he married Arjuman, he called her Mumtaz Mahal or "Jewel of the Palace". The pair had met when they were barely older than Romeo and Juliet: he was 15, she 14. They became betrothed, but couldn't marry for five years. In the meantime, he took two other wives, for political reasons, but, as a court chronicler noted, his relationship with them "had nothing more than the status of marriage". He famously adored Mumtaz and insisted she went everywhere with him, even on military campaigns. She was his adviser and confidante, as well as wife and baby-machine: historians of the period go out of their way to suggest the intense and erotic connection between them, while poets rhapsodised over her beauty, gracefulness and kindness. In 19 years of marriage, they had 14 children, of whom eight died young. She herself succumbed, tragically, while giving birth to the 14th. Inconsolable, Shah Jahan went into private purdah of melancholy for a year and emerged white-haired and crook-backed. He commissioned the building of the Taj Mahal for his jewel, and they both lie buried there.