As children, we’re conditioned to see kings and queens as romantic figures that belong in fairy tales rather than as real individuals.
Disney movies made me believe that most of them were kind, fair people who were dedicated to doing what was best for their kingdoms. However, as I grew up and learned more about the various monarchs throughout history, I couldn’t help but think that some of them were just plain terrible human beings.
These 10 horrible royals will make you glad that you didn’t live under their monarchies.
1. Empress Wu Zetian started out as a concubine. After the king died, she married his son, and when he died shortly after, she became the first and only female emperor in China. She ruthlessly protected her position, and she tortured, exiled, and executed her enemies. Allegedly, she even strangled her own baby.
2. King Richard II was a victim of his circumstances according to Shakespeare, but in reality, he was an extremely vain and self-important man. He had no prowess in war tactics or administration, and only associated with people who parroted his views. His only notable actions were political maneuvering with his uncle and killing or exiling those he held a grudge against.
3. Pope John XII began ruling the Papal States on the Italian Peninsula in 955, and it didn’t take long for his subjects to realize that he was a complete sex fiend. He had sex with both men and women in the papal palace, and was said to rape anyone who refused his advances — even nuns.
He was overthrown and replaced with a new pope when he betrayed Otto I, the German emperor who had pledged complete loyalty to him. However, he wasn’t finished just yet — he came back and mutilated the new pope’s supporters. He reportedly died while engaging in sexual relations with another man’s wife.
4. Depicted as a villain in Robin Hood stories, King John of England attempted to steal the throne from his brother, Richard I, while Richard was fighting in the Crusades. Nothing got in the way of his hunger for power, as he even killed his nephew while trying to obtain it. He did eventually become king, but he was responsible for the collapse of his empire after he signed the Magna Carta and immediately went back on his word.
5. Prince Ivan IV Vasilyevich was known as “Ivan the Terrible” for good reason. Growing up in the dangerous court of Moscow conditioned him to be a violent and cruel young man who loathed the nobles — he even had one of them eaten alive by his dog.
When he was crowned Tsar of all Russia, he took away his enemies’ lands, gave them to his own followers, and forced millions of people into a permanent state of serfdom. He also turned a large area of Russia into a police state and violently massacred any city that stood in his way. His ruthlessness knew no bounds, as evidenced by his beating of his pregnant daughter-in-law and killing of his own son.
6. One of the more famous names on this list is Henry VIII of England, the man who went through six wives, two of whom he had beheaded. He caused conflict in many ways — he attempted to get his first marriage annulled, broke away from the Church, executed those who got in his way, and banished his own daughter.
7. Despite having incestuous relations with his sister, Gaius Caligula’s reign as Roman Emperor started off well in 37 A.D. But as time went by, he did cruel and sadistic things, such as poisoning his own family members. He didn’t tolerate others making fun of his (supposedly bad) looks and outlawed the mention of goats around him. He was stabbed to death by the Praetorian Guard in 41 A.D.
8. Queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar took the throne after her father saved the king’s life; the king adopted her and married her to his son as a show of thanks. She was the first of his wives, so her children would have been the rightful heirs to the throne. But after she couldn’t produce any children and her husband died, she forced her way to power by using a military force to hold down the palace.
She killed her mother-in-law and some of her late husband’s relatives after her position as queen was secured. She was also said to have stabbed her lover when she caught him having sex with another woman.
9. Elizabeth Báthory, a countess from the Kingdom of Hungary, was supposedly a serial killer who mutilated, burned, starved, imprisoned, and cannibalized hundreds of girls in her castle.
10. During his reign from 1865 to 1909, King Leopold II of Belgium obtained territory in Congo. He called it the Congo Free State to make people think he had eliminated slavery there, but in reality, he forced its people into slave labor and used mutilation as punishment. Around 10 million Congolese natives died before he was forced to hand over control of the land to the Belgian government.
(via All Day)