When we think of royalty, beautiful princesses and charming princes come to mind. History reveals that real-life rulers were sometimes 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 do dastardly deeds, a number of royals throughout history exhibited signs that something wasn't quite right. For some, it was just a strange quirk here or there. For others, a debilitating problem that left them unfit to rule their own kingdoms.
No one can deny that, despite the perks, being a royal is complicated. Access to massive riches can corrupt you. You must make decisions that determine the well-being of entire populations. All the while, there are people out there who probably want nothing more than to see you dead. This could lead anyone to developed warped priorities. Here's a list of the weirdest royals and strangest royal families throughout history, what made them that way, and how it might have affected the country they ruled.
Charles VI Of France
Royal Title: King of France
Crazy Quirk: Charles believed he was made of glass.
Charles VI ruled France during a time of great chaos, and that turmoil existed within him as well. After his first bout of madness in 1392, when he suffered from fever and convulsions, Charles lived out the rest of his life plagued by insanity. His paranoia and violent rages made him dangerous and homicidal to anyone in his close proximity. During his spells of madness, he often had to be restrained, and he gave up on his personal hygiene to the point that he had to be cut out of his clothes.
Most famously, Charles suffered from a “glass delusion"—belief that his body was made of glass. He faded in and out of this delusion, and it caused radical changes to his character. When he wasn’t in its grips, he was an outdoorsy athlete. When the glass delusion struck, he refused to move, sitting still for hours on end.13,9782,322Is this bizarre?
Royal Title: Tsar of Russia
Crazy Quirk: He executed a Reign of Terror that left most of those around him executed.
The first, and arguably most famous, tsar of a centralized Russia, Ivan IV, also known as Ivan the Terrible, truly earned his nickname. Prone to wild rages from a young age, he faced constant threats from usurpers to his throne after the deaths of both parents by his eighth birthday. In 1847, he became tsar of Muscovy. From there, he expanded his kingdom outward, snatching up land and taking down anyone in his way.
After his wife’s death, Ivan sank into a depression that inspired a 24-year-long reign of terror. After he seized absolute control, Ivan murdered any noble who spoke against him, beat his daughter-in-law so badly she miscarried, and murdered his son in one of his rages. Legends say the tsar allegedly blinded the architect of St. Basil’s Cathedral so that he could never create another building as beautiful.9,2611,514Is this bizarre?
Royal Title: Crown Prince of Korea
Crazy Quirk: Sado was a cruel and violent son obsessed with pleasing his father, until his father put him to death by locking him in a chest.
Born in 1735, Prince Sado’s brutal treatment at the hands of his father, King Yongjo, led to a life of perversion, violence, and despair. Sado suffered from delusions and nightmares from the age of 10, and things got worse as he grew up. His constant quest to impress his father drove him to madness, especially considering his father may have been equally crazy and hell-bent on torturing his son.
Sado indulged in his vices liberally, but always hid them from his father. He was obsessed with clothes, and threw alcohol-fueled orgies, despite the fact that alcohol was illegal. He took his anger out on anyone who came near, sending dead bodies out of the palace on a daily basis. He murdered a concubine, slept with a nun, and even tried to seduce his younger sister. When King Yongjo learned of some of Sado’s misdeeds, he summoned him to court and locked him in a giant chest, where, after eight days, he starved to death.9,7471,615Is this bizarre?
Royal Title: Tsar 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, had a much less successful royal career 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 mean-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 before he had the vermin hung from tiny gallows he constructed.12,9922,219Is this bizarre?