Weird History
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The Most Ruthless Queens And Female Rulers Of All Time

Updated September 1, 2020 34.5k votes 5.3k voters 177.4k views14 items

List RulesVote up the ruthless rulers you really wouldn't want in charge of your country.

When most people picture a dictator, the first thought that comes to mind is usually of a strongman in military regalia. Seldom does one picture a dictator as a woman, and for good reason. There really hasn't been a female dictator in the modern sense of the word, but that doesn't mean that powerful women throughout history have never ruled with an iron fist. In fact, some of the most famous queens and female rulers in history have committed cruelties on par with their male counterparts.

Oppression is one of history's most depressing constants, and absolute power is known to corrupt absolute. Queens are not immune to this truth, as evidenced by the ruthless reigns of history's most cruel queens. These are the worst queens in history, who between them are charged with unnamable atrocities.

  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Born in Transylvania in 1560, Báthory was a Hungarian noblewoman and infamous serial slayer. She used her position of power to defend herself from the consequences of her actions, and she spent years slaying servants and peasants. Her husband, Count Nádasdy, went so far as to build his wife a torment chamber, Csejthe Castle. 

    She also had a habit of feasting on her prey. She would often bite and eat chunks of them while they were still alive, and in one case may have even forced someone to cook and eat some of their own body. Eventually her conduct became so appalling that a trial was held. She was convicted on 80 counts but only sentenced to solitary imprisonment within her castle. She perished three years later, in 1614.

    Was she ruthless?
  • Irene of Athens was a Byzantine empress who ruled from 797 to 802 CE, though she co-ruled with her son for nearly two decades before ruling in her own right. Her son was Emperor Constantine VI, and their familial relationship ended in a way fit for a Greek tragedy. 

    Irene was an ambitious woman, and she sought full control over the Byzantine Empire. Constantine was also an unpopular emperor, so Irene led a conspiracy against her son with the support of her political allies. Constantine was successfully deposed and subsequently blinded by gouging on his mother's orders. 

    Was she ruthless?
  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Throughout China's long history, there was only one woman who ever held supreme power. She was Empress Wu Zetian, and there is a lot of controversy surrounding her place in the history books.

    Wu was an usurper by nature, and her reign was marred by stories of political strife and slayings. She is said to have taken out many members of the Tang dynasty to protect her status as empress, as well as her siblings. It is rumored she offed her mother and even ordered two of her grandchildren to take their own lives for speaking out against her. 

    Was she ruthless?
  • Photo: Antonis Mor / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Mary I didn't get the nickname "Bloody Mary" for nothing. She was a Catholic queen in a Protestant country, ascending to the throne of England in 1553. She was the first true queen of England, but her short reign only lasted five years. 

    She announced a war against Protestantism during her rule, and hundreds of protestants were slain for heresy. The typical sentence for anyone convicted of heresy in England was to burn at the stake, and Mary was responsible for burning over 300 Protestants during her rule. This made her wildly unpopular in England, and her conflict with Protestantism became the defining legacy of her time as queen. 

    Was she ruthless?