America was shocked and saddened last week when Star magazine reported that the eldest daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin split from the father of her 2-month-old son.

“It is true that Levi [Johnston] and I are no longer together,” 18-year-old high school correspondence student Bristol Palin said in a statement, through her mom’s spokesperson, of the 19-year-old high school dropout to whom she had been betrothed since announcing her unplanned pregnancy last fall.

Not since Elvis’ daughter Lisa Marie Presley started marrying (taking her first husband at the age of 20, getting hitched to Michael Jackson 20 days after the divorce from her first marriage was finalized, then divorcing him shortly thereafter and dumping her subsequent fiancé when she met Nicolas Cage at a party, to whom she got hitched following a 10-day engagement and divorced following 108 days of marital bliss. She’s now married for the fourth time and who among us doesn’t feel in our bones that this one will stick) had the world so hoped for a fairy tale ending.

Bristol’s heartbreaking separation from Levi was one that not even the biggest cynics saw coming. The couple, after all, dated for three years before spawning. (And as everyone knows, high school dating years are like the equivalent of cat years.) Plus, when the boy of your dreams, the father of your unborn child, so eloquently pens on his MySpace page that he’s a “f—ing redneck” who “doesn’t want kids” and courageously announces, “Ya f—k with me I’ll kick ass,” well, who can blame a girl for falling in love with someone so unabashedly in touch with his emotions?

Relationship experts are bewildered that Bristol let such a hopeless romantic — who has said his interests include “hanging out with [his] buds and playing a good video game,” and whom Bristol is rumored to have called “white trash” in recent days — slip through her fingers.

Understandably, no one is more devastated by the break-up than Bristol, but she felt she had no choice. “Unfortunately … many try to ‘cash in’ on the Palin name. Sometimes that greed clouds good judgment and the truth,” she said.

“I’m just flattered that anyone thought I was smart enough to be greedy,” Johnston reportedly told family and friends, his eyes welling up with tears. “Really, I’m touched someone assumed I ever had good judgment or can spell ‘Palin’ and therefore ‘cash in’ on its good name-ness.”

The dissolution of Alaska’s Camelot sparked memories of other high-profile, star-crossed lovers such as Romeo and Juliet, Bert and Ernie and Pamela Anderson and her bevy of exes.

Like the day JFK was assassinated or Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, America will forever remember where it was on Feb. 19, 1995, when Pamela donned a bikini to wed Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee after a 96-hour courtship. Throughout the course of their three-year marriage, Tommy considerately served time in the poky for punching Pamela in the stomach while she was pregnant with one of their two sons, lovingly infected her with Hepatitis C and charmingly made a film of them, uh, coupling and then thoughtfully “lost” the tape, which was “found” shortly thereafter and sold worldwide.

The transitory soul mates filed for divorce twice and reconciled twice before calling it quits for good. After Tommy, Pamela was engaged to a model before dressing in a (presumably different) bikini to get hitched to singer/songwriter Kid Rock, to whom she remained married for less than four months. Following that Cinderella story, she married and separated from another Prince Charming in just under three months.

Like all of America did with Jessica Simpson and ‘90s boy-bander Nick Lachey, Jessica Simpson and D-list comic Dane Cook, Jessica Simpson and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, Jessica Simpson and pop prince John Mayer and Jessica Simpson and Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo, we all hoped and prayed Bristol and Levi would last and were floored when it didn’t.

But if the grand dame of relationships (or whatever it is she calls them these days), Madonna, couldn’t go the distance with Sean Penn, Warren Beatty, Vanilla Ice, Dennis Rodman, Carlos Leon, Andy Bird, Guy Ritchie, Alex Rodriguez or now a 20-year-old Brazilian model, did Bristol and Levi ever really stand a chance?

Still, as long as 27-year-old Britney Spears is given permission by her court-appointed conservator to wed for a third and/or fourth time some day, there is a flicker of hope that eventually the world will be able to aspire temporarily to at least a few more happily ever afters.

E-mail questions or comments to meredithccarroll@hotmail.com.