In 2013, the unveiling of the first official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge caused an international response fit for, say, an actual important international event. People all over the world went crazy with judgment and jeers, critiquing every aspect of the painting. But Kate Middleton's portrait looks like a Rembrandt compared to some of the heinously ugly royal portraits that came before it. The historical artists who crafted many of these horrendously unflattering royal portraits are lucky they aren't alive to experience the wrath of the Twitterverse. If they were, their paintings, and they themselves, would probably be torn to shreds for the travesties they committed to canvas.
To be fair, it isn't always the fault of the artist that a painting comes out looking like the stuff of nightmares (we're looking at you, Habsbergs). Sometimes, a royal is just plain ugly, and an artist has to grit his teeth and muscle his way through. Perhaps that's why a few monarchs make their way onto the list numerous times...by numerous different artists...
There are also artists throughout history who created intentionally bad portraits, as a means of criticizing a royal individual or family. Ultimately, whether the result of bad artistry or royal inbreeding, these royal embarrassments are our enjoyment. Want more? Take a look at our roundup of written, firsthand descriptions of historical royals.
1. King Henry VIII by Peter Isselburg and Cornelis Metsys, 1646
2. Archduchess Maria Anna of Bavaria by an Unknown Artist, c. 1600
3. King Charles II of Spain by Luca Giordano, 1693
4. Queen Elizabeth I of England by William Rogers, 1595-1603
5. King Charles II of Spain by Juan Carreño de Miranda, c. 1677-1679
6. King James II of Scotland by an Unknown Artist, 15th Century