BY CHRISTINE-MARIE LIWAG DIXON
Rich people are just like the rest of us… except for, you know, having big houses, fancy cars, and piles of cash. Their lives of glitz and glamour might seem totally unrelatable to those of us who don’t have massive fortunes, but having a huge net worth doesn’t exempt you from human emotion. Like everyone else, rich people fall in and out of love, and their relationships are just as complicated as any other human being’s.
In many cases, their marriages are even more stressful, as the money and fame that often accompanies it can add a lot of additional pressure to a relationship. Some of the richest couples in history have had blissful, fairy tale romances, while others have faced turmoil and heartbreak. Their wealth might set them apart, but rich people have hearts too. To prove it, we’re going to take a look at the marriages of some of history’s richest couples.
Andrew and Louise Carnegie
Today, Andrew Carnegie is better remembered for the money he gave away than for the money he earned. Born in 1835, the industrialist made a fortune in the steel industry before dedicating himself to philanthropy and giving more than $350 million away — the equivalent of more than $5 billion today.
He married Louise Whitfield in 1887. She was 30; he was 51. They had entered a secret engagement years earlier, but Carnegie, who was devoted to his mother, didn’t want to marry until after her death. The Carnegies signed a prenuptial agreement, which wasn’t a common occurrence at the time. After Carnegie’s death, his widow was left with a small amount of cash, a Manhattan townhouse, and a castle in Scotland. Their daughter, Margaret, was left a small trust. The townhouse was eventually sold as its upkeep was too expensive for them. Far from being upset at how little she was left, it was Louise who encouraged her husband to focus more on giving away money than making it.
John and Laura Rockefeller
The name Rockefeller is still synonymous with wealth and is recognizable around the world thanks to New York City’s Rockefeller Center. The self-made industrialist John D. Rockefeller became one of the world’s richest men as the head of the Standard Oil Company, and is remembered as a generous philanthropist who donated more than $530 million by the time of his death in 1937.
He married high school friend Laura Celestia “Cettie” Spelman in 1864. Cettie had a keen mind for business and encouraged her husband’s business efforts. She was a positive influence on her husband, and it’s likely that her strong social conscience helped motivate John’s generosity. John himself credited her with his success. “Her judgement was always better than mine,” the business tycoon once said of his spouse. “Without her keen advice, I would be a poor man.”
Cettie passed away more than 20 years before her husband. He never remarried and, at his request, was buried next to her when he died.
John Jacob Astor IV and Madeleine Astor
John Jacob Astor IV was born into a rich influential family, went to Harvard, and helped build the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. But he may be most known for scandalously marrying 18-year-old Madeleine Talmage Force in September 1911, shortly after his divorce from his first wife, Ava Lowle Willing. Astor was 30 years older than his bride, who was only one year older than his elder son. In order to escape the gossip that erupted around their union, the Astors embarked on a lengthy honeymoon tour around Europe and North Africa, hoping that the scandal would have abated by the time they returned home.
Sadly, their marriage was short-lived. They decided to head home in April 1912, booking passage on the Titanic, the infamous luxury liner that hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage. Madeleine survived the disaster, but her husband did not. The pregnant bride gave birth to their son, John Jacob Astor VI (an older relative beat him to the name John Jacob Astor V), four months after the tragedy. Madeleine remarried four years later, relinquishing all claims to the multi-million dollar Astor fortune, including a $5 million trust fund left to her by her husband.
Henry and Clara Ford
Industrialist Henry Ford was 22 when he proposed to his future wife, Clara Jane Bryant. His bride-to-be was only 20 at the time, and her mother insisted they wait two years before tying the knot. The couple were finally wed on April 11, 1888, Clara’s 22nd birthday. “The greatest day of my life is when I married Mrs. Ford,” Henry told The New York Times in 1938 (via History).
In the first years of their marriage, the couple lived on a farm given to them by Henry’s father. Soon, they moved to Detroit, where Henry worked on building a gasoline-powered horseless carriage in his spare time, while employed as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company. Eventually, he started the Ford Motor Company and began mass assembly of the first Ford car, the Model A. His cars and his business acumen would eventually make Henry one of the country’s leading businessmen.
Throughout his career, Clara supported her husband’s business ideas, and would accompany him on business trips around the world. Her confidence in him led Henry to nickname her his “great believer.”
Jackie and Aristotle Onassis
In 1968, five years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his widow, Jackie, married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. Many Americans who had adored the handsome young president and his glamorous first lady were appalled by the match. Jackie was only 39 at the time, while Aristotle claimed to be 62 (although an old passport listed his age as a few years older). The fact that America’s sweetheart had married a much older man, even one worth millions, seemed like a tragic turn of events in a life that had already been marked by heartbreak.
The marriage was, by most accounts, an unhappy one. “After the honeymoon, the marriage was filled with what one intimate of Ari’s called ‘the nights of long silences,'” read Aristotle’s 1975 obituary in Time. “Jackie loved concerts, ballet and theater; Onassis preferred raucous bouzouki music, belly dancers and at times the company of roistering Greek businessmen. Much of the time they lived separate lives.”
Bill and Melinda Gates
Microsoft founder Bill Gates has billions of dollars to his name, but he and his wife, Melinda, aren’t hoarding it for themselves. The couple are famous for their philanthropic contributions and, together with fellow billionaire Warren Buffett, created the Giving Pledge which encourages billionaires to give the majority of their wealth away.
The couple have raised their three children modestly, not even allowing them to have cell phones until they turned 14. Their kids will also have to make their own way in the world. Bill and Melinda only plan to leave them enough to be comfortable, but not so much that they don’t have to work. In the 2018 annual letter for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is the world’s largest philanthropic foundation with a trust of more than $40 billion, the couple wrote: “We think [philanthropy is] a basic responsibility of anyone with a lot of money. Once you’ve taken care of yourself and your children, the best use of extra wealth is to give it back to society.”
Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos
Jeff Bezos became the richest man in history with a jaw-dropping fortune of over $100 billion. The Amazon founder and CEO has had an inspiring career, but even more impressive was his strong marriage to MacKenzie Bezos — keyword was, considering news broke of their split in January 2019. Despite the demise of their marriage, we can’t discount the fact that MacKenzie was with him through it all, and was by his side when he founded Amazon and built it into the powerhouse company it is today.
The novelist met her future husband when she interviewed with him at a New York hedge fund. Within three months of their first date, they were engaged. They married in 1993 and moved to Seattle the following year after Jeff had the idea for the company that would eventually become Amazon. “I have no business sense whatsoever, but I saw how excited he was,” MacKenzie told Vogue about the decision to uproot their lives. The business mogul is as supportive of his wife’s career as she is of his. “Jeff is my best reader,” she said, adding that he will happily clear his schedule to read her manuscripts and give her notes.
Decades later, the couple have four kids and 25 years of marriage together — and even though it ended in divorce, they revealed in a joint statement that they “remain a family” and “would do it all again.”
Kanye and Kim Kardashian West
One of the most iconic power couples of modern times, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West are also among the richest with a combined net worth of $600 million. The rapper and the TV personality were married in 2014 and have three children together. West is Kardashian’s third husband, after music producer Damon Thomas and NBA player Kris Humphries.
While the Wests appear to still be going strong, Kim admitted that motherhood has put a strain on their marriage. The reality star said in a September 2018 episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians that Kanye feels that she neglects him in favor of their kids. Kim has also said that she’s lost a lot of her independence since marrying the rapper. “I’ve always been so independent and working, and [had a] schedule, and when you get married and have a husband that has their career and then have kids, your independence… you have to let it go” she said on the Alec Baldwin Show (via People).
David and Victoria Beckham
David and Victoria Beckham have been together since 1997, when the former Spice Girl met the soccer player in the Manchester United players’ lounge. Since then, Posh and Becks have become an international power couple, each bringing roughly $450 million into the relationship. In a world where celebrity marriages are often doomed from the start, the Beckhams have managed to stay together, raising four children in the limelight. While there have been rumors that the couple are headed towards a split, a spokesperson in June 2018 denied them, saying that the couple is nothing but rock solid.
David, however, admitted a couple months later that things aren’t always picture perfect in the Beckham household. “When you’ve been married for the amount of time that we have, it’s always hard work,” David said in an October 2018 appearance on Australian TV show The Sunday Project (via the Daily Mail). “It becomes a little more complicated.”
Warren Buffett and Astrid Menks
Warren Buffett is one of the richest men in the world, but lives well below his means. The billionaire resides in a home that he purchased in 1958 for $31,500. He married his second wife, Astrid Menks, in 2006 in a no-frills ceremony. The ring was purchased at a discount from his own jewelry company, and the couple dined at the Bonefish Grill, a casual dining franchise.
Warren’s first wife, Susan, passed away in 2004, but his relationship with Astrid dates back to the 1970s. Warren and Susan separated in the 1970s, although the two still maintained a romantic relationship. For decades, Warren was involved with both Susan and Astrid, with the knowledge and approval of both women. It seems his family also signed off on the relationship. “Unconventional is not a bad thing,” Warren’s daughter with Susan, Susie Buffett, told The New York Times. “More people should have unconventional marriages.”
Susie added that her mother and Astrid had a close friendship and that they “really loved each other.”