When we think of royalty, beautiful princesses and charming princes come to mind. History reveals that, sometimes, real-life rulers were more akin to villains in storybooks: deformed hunchbacks, crazed witches, sleazy morons, and murderous families. Whether these weird royals were born that way or the job drove them to it, a number of leaders throughout history exhibited signs that something wasn't right. For some, it was just a strange quirk here or there. For others, a debilitating problem that left them unfit to rule.No one can deny that, despite the perks, being a royal is complicated. You have access to massive riches that could corrupt you. You have to decide the well-being of an entire nation. All the while, there are people out there who probably want you dead. This could lead anyone to become a little bit weird. Here's a list of the weirdest royals and weirdest royal families throughout history, what made them that way, and how it might have affected the country they ruled.
Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg
Royal Title: Queen of Sweden
Crazy Quirk: She tried to kill her daughter when she couldn’t give the king a male heir.
Maria Eleonora’s goal as queen was the same as many other women of her era: give her husband a male heir. When she didn’t achieve her goal, she went crazy. Maria Eleonora bore her husband, King Gustavus Adolphus, a girl named Christina in 1626, and she immediately rejected her daughter, calling her a monster. More than once, she tried to kill Christina, pushing her down stairs and dropping her. When the king died, Maria Eleonora's insanity went next level. She refused to bury Gustavus's body, and slept below a hanging casket that contained his heart.
Royal Title: Emperor of Russia
Crazy Quirk: A child in a man’s body, Peter may have never consummated his marriage because he was too busy playing toy soldiers in bed.Catherine the Great’s husband, Peter III was much more unhinged and much less successful than his wife. Poor treatment by a sadistic tutor left Peter in a state of arrested development, making him unfit to rule. In 1742, when he was 14, his aunt, the Empress of Russia, brought him from Germany to Russia with the intention of making him her heir. Peter hated Russia and the Russian people hated him just as much.
When Peter married Catherine at 17, it was clear from the start they were a bad match. Catherine was intelligent and driven, while Peter was a stunted man-child. Peter and Catherine’s sex life was not much better. It is unclear whether they ever consummated their relationship, as Peter was more content to play toy soldiers in bed and make his wife dress up in military gear to run drills. He was also a means-spirited drunk who called Catherine a stupid whore in the middle of a banquet. One story about Peter contends that when a rat bit the head off one of his beloved toy soldiers, he gave the rat a proper court martial and trial, followed by hanging up from tiny gallows that he constructed.
Royal Title: Emperor of Rome
Crazy Quirk: Elagabalus was a hedonist who delighted in watching people suffer.Elagabalus, who took the throne in 218 AD, was a lesser-known Roman Emperor whose behavior rivals that of the most vicious, cruel, and self-indulgent rulers of all time. Here’s a list of some of Elagabalus’s weirdest royal activities:
- He chained naked women to chariots, like horses, and whipped them as they pulled him around.
- He released snakes into the audience of the gladiator games, and gleefully watched panic and injury ensue.
- He tied dinner guests to a water wheel to watch them slowly drown.
- He tossed gold and silver from the balcony of a tower and reveled in commoners fighting and dying over the money.
- He let loose lions and tigers during a feast.
- He filled positions in the government based on penises size.
- When his chief advisor warned him that he should live a moderate life to prevent revolt over the effects of his taxation, he murdered his advisor.
The full catalog of his perversity deserves a list unto itself, but there might not be enough room for all of his eccentricities and atrocities to fit.
Royal Title: Emperor of Rome
Crazy Quirk: A narcissist and sadist, he had his mother killed and let Rome burn to the ground.
When it comes to Nero’s rule, it’s clear he got his Machiavellian inclinations from his mother. Nero’s mom, Agrippina, orchestrated Nero’s rise to the throne in 54 AD by marrying her uncle, Claudius, and convincing him to install Nero as Emperor instead of his own son, before poisoning Claudius to death. When Nero came to power, he took a lesson from his mother’s playbook and set about taking down everyone who threatened or even bothered him, including his mom. He also dispatched with his cousin and his wife when they got in his way.
Despite instituting some positive social and political forms, Nero’s hedonism continually got the best of him. He took multiple wives and lovers, spent massive amounts of money on personal sexual pursuits, and murdered anyone who dared to criticize his ways. In 64 AD, a great fire struck Rome, taking out 75% of the city. Many Romans contended that Nero himself started the fire to make way for a new castle. Even if he didn’t, he did nothing to stop it, blaming Christians and initiating a period of oppression and torture of Christians in Rome.
Nero also married a man he randomly saw on the street who looked like his wife (the one he murdered), and made the man dress in his wife's clothes and act like a woman, while having a separate relationship with a slave in which Nero played the role wife.