The Victorians are known for their weirdness. Though the era might seem “boring” to some today, the people who lived during this historical time period were actually very strange. Even Queen Victoria had some peculiar habits during her reign. One of these quirks included becoming obsessed with a “giant” couple after the death of her beloved Prince Albert.
“The Love Giants”
The couple in question was known to everyone as “The Love Giants” due to their large stature. Martin Van Buren Bates was born on November 9, 1837, in Kentucky. By the time Martin was 12 years old, he was already over 6 feet tall! By the time Martin stopped growing at the age of 28, he stood at a whopping 7 feet, two-and-a-half inches (though he was advertised as 7 feet, 8 inches).
Martin fought during the Civil War for the Confederate army. After the War, he capitalized on his height and joined the circus. While in the circus, Martin met Miss Anna Swan of Nova Scotia – the tallest woman in the world at the time.
Anna Swan was born on August 6, 1846, in Nova Scotia. By the time Anna was six, she already stood 5 foot 2 inches. When she turned 10, Anna was 6 feet, 1 inch tall. By the time she was 15, she had grown to 7 feet. She eventually grew to be 7 feet, 6 inches tall and was considered to be the tallest woman in the world.
Anna Swan was visiting a circus in Halifax, Canada, when she was introduced to Martin Van Buren Bates. The two hit it off eventually married on June 17, 1871. The two were dubbed “The Love Giants” and set off on a highly publicized world tour that stopped in England.
Queen Victoria loved The Love Giants
Queen Victoria demanded an audience with the couple when The Love Giants were in England. Anna and Martin Bates were summoned to Buckingham Palace, where they gave personal performances for Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales.
Queen Victoria presented the couple with beautiful gold watches while in London. Martin’s watch was said to weigh four pounds and was set with diamonds. They became the couples’ most prized possessions, and Martin wore his for the rest of his life.
It also seems that Queen Victoria was very invested in the couple’s wedding. She supposedly gave Anna a diamond cluster ring and paid for the fabric to make her wedding dress. One newspaper from 1889 noted that 65 yards of material were required to make Anna’s wedding gown. If Queen Victoria did pay for the wedding dress, it would have been extremely costly!
Some accounts claim that Queen Victoria also played a role in securing St Martin-in-the-Fields, a church in London, for the couple’s wedding. The couple announced their engagement only six weeks before they were set to be married. We assume securing a church on a Saturday in June was no easy feat, especially with only six weeks’ notice, so perhaps Queen Victoria made it known that the church should be available for the couple.
A quiet life
Despite gaining worldwide fame and becoming friends with the Queen of England, Anna and Martin Bates went on to live relatively quiet lives. In 1872, they purchased 130 acres of land in Seville, Ohio, where they built a house filled with custom-made furniture to fit their tall statures.
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The couple had two children, but tragically, neither survived infancy. Their first child, a daughter born in 1872, weighed 18 pounds when she was born, but died at birth. In 1879, the couple had a son weighing 23 pounds, 9 ounces at birth but sadly only lived 11 hours. It was estimated when Anna’s water broke, she reportedly lost six gallons of fluid. Their son posthumously received a Guinness World Record for Heaviest Birth.
The couple went back on tour in 1878, 1879, and 1880 with the W.W. Cole Circus. Anna died suddenly and unexpectedly of heart failure in her sleep on August 5, 1888, one day before her 42nd birthday. Martin van Buren Bates remarried in 1889, and lived out the rest of his life on his farm in Seville. He died on January 19, 1919, when he was 81. He is buried beside Anna in Seville, Ohio.