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.
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.see more on Elagabalus
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.see more on Nero
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, earned his nick name fair and square. Prone to wild rages from a young age, he suffered from the deaths of both parents by age 8, and the constant threat of usurpers to his throne. In 1847, he became tsar of Muscovy. From there, he expanded outward, snatching up land and taking down anyone in his way.
After his wife’s death, Ivan sunk into a depression that inspired his 24-year-long Reign of Terror. He seized absolute control, murdered any noble who spoke against him, beat his daughter-in-law so badly she miscarried, murdered his son in one of his rages, and blinded the architect of St. Basil’s Cathedral so that he could never create another beautiful building again. He died a broken man, much like the country he left behind.see more on Ivan the Terrible
Royal Title: Prince of Wallachia
Crazy Quirk: The real life namesake of Dracula, Vlad loved to impale his enemies.
Vlad III was, appropriately, born in modern day Transylvania in 1431. That same year, Vlad’s father, Vlad II, became a member of the Order of the Dragon, a group devoted to the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. This Order bestowed upon Vlad II the surname “Dracul,” meaning dragon. Vlad III, as the son of Dracul, went by “Draculea."
Turks captured Vlad III and his brother, and kept them captive throughout childhood. When Vlad III finally returned home, a usurper sat on his father’s throne. He took the throne back and set out to consolidate his power. He invited hundreds of noblemen to his palace for dinner and had his guests stabbed and impaled on stakes. His other atrocities included nailing turbans to Ottoman envoys’s heads when they refused to take them off, and impaling dozens of merchants and masses of Ottoman prisoners of war, proving the truth behind the nickname.
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