The world is full of some weird characters, and interestingly, some of them were rulers.
This is a list of people who weren't fit to be leaders by any standards; some were too ruthless for humanity, while others had brow-raising quirks. These are the weirdest royals in the history of humankind.
King Charles VI of France
You know that you're pretty eccentric when you have a nickname like "Charles the Mad." We're not making this up; this is the moniker King Charles VI of France was given way before he even assumed power. During his younger days, Charles VI had constant bouts of delusional and paranoid behavior.
The King was convinced that his body was made of glass and that he could shatter at any moment. That's quite an interesting proposition; weirdly enough, he was not the only royalty to think that. Later, it was determined that Charles VI suffered from schizophrenia. Now it all makes sense as to why he'd come up with all these strange ideas about having a glass body.
Oh, the great Nero. The Roman emperor was famous for a lot of good things that he did, like initiating positive political reform, but he was also pretty insane and homicidal. He got rid of anyone he thought threatened his power, including his mother and his wives.
As if that wasn't enough, Nero was polygamous and married different people simultaneously, including a slave boy whom he forced to dress as a woman because he resembled his second wife, whom he'd also terminated. Nero didn't also spare the Olympic games; he introduced poetry and singing so that he could participate.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria
Without this guy, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, any list of weird royals wouldn't be complete. The royal developed a penchant for music and arts as a way to escape his tough childhood, and when he ascended to power when he was 18, he couldn't stop consuming the art.
As such, he neglected military and politics and chose to build magnificent castles and have operas and plays curated just for him. After a while, his peers removed him from power by reason of insanity, and a few days later, his remains were found floating in a river. Coincidence? Your guess is as good as ours.
Anyone who has followed world history knows who Vlad III is. The ruler is one of the most violent leaders, with his eccentricities earning him the nickname Vlad the Impaler. He redefined what gruesome meant, getting rid of anyone who stood in his way by hunting them like trophies with spears.
In what is maybe one of his memorable, ruthless events, after defeating the Ottomans at war, Vlad ordered that the 200,000 victims be impaled on wooden stakes outside the village as a show for the incoming Ottoman army. That's pretty vile and we don't think it gets any more vicious than this.
Sultan Ibrahim I of the Ottoman Empire
Speaking of the Ottomans, they also had a peculiar leader of their own, Sultan Ibrahim I of the Ottoman Empire. During his reign, he also earned the nickname "Mad" owing to his frequent tirades, which are believed to have stemmed from several mental illnesses. Growing up, the royal was locked up in a dark room, which we bet contributed to his unstable state.
Ibrahim was more often than not quite erratic, many people would be tortured under his watch, and whenever he wanted, the residents' houses were looted for clothing and other goods. Apart from that, he also had many concubines who were not spared from his violence.
Ivan the Terrible
Sometimes, people start developing their quirks when they're young, and Ivan IV is the perfect example. Ivan, the first and the most renowned Russian tsar, is speculated to have had some strange habits in his childhood, torturing and killing small animals.
It seems like the ruthless habit didn't stop in his younger years, and as soon as he assumed power, anyone who stood in his way was never heard from again. When his wife passed on, Ivan the Terrible fell into depression, and it is said that the grief led to the most memorable period of his reign, unleashing terror in Europe for two decades.
Tsar Peter III of Russia
Tsar Peter III of Russia was a stark comparison to his wife, Catherine the Great. While Catherine was courageous and would take leadership head-on, Peter was very different, and some describe him as a child in a man's body. The tsar was obsessed with his toy soldiers, and Catherine's memoir sheds more light on the weird infatuation.
Apparently, a rat bit off the head of one of Peter's soldiers, and he held a military court martial for it before hanging it on tiny gallows for treason. Historians speculate that Tsar Peter III was so into his toys that he and Catherine the Great never consummated their marriage.
By virtue of their stature and powers, in the old days, if a person from the royal family had some bizarre habits or personality, it made the life of those around them very difficult. One such was Princess Amalie of Bavaria. Otherwise a gorgeous lady, she had an eccentric personality, to say the least.
Much like King Charles VI, Princess Amalie had glass delusion. People with this condition tend to believe they are made of glass and can shatter into pieces. On top of that, she also suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder, and things could never be clean enough for her. Since it is easier to spot dirt on it, she always wore white.
Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known by his nickname, Caligula, was the third Roman Emperor whose rule lasted only four years. Despite his short rule, he established himself well as an extremely weird ruler. What was so bizarre, you ask? Brace yourself.
He was ruthless beyond all thinking and took pleasure in finding new ways to inflict pain on the people around him, ultimately killing them. Yet, torture and killing wasn’t his only interest, as he even had a special "fondness" for animals. It was so hard to put up with him that his own guards ultimately put an end to his life and everyone’s misery.
King George IV
The journey of King George IV towards bizarre was a slow ascent. While he had his issues from the onset, it was the later part of his rule that stood out the most for its weirdness. Firstly, when George became king after his father, he had back-shattering debt from his Prince Regent days. He also married a Catholic woman, though the law prohibited it.
Afterward, he married his cousin, Caroline. Yet, the couple ended up hating each other to the core, as George went to great lengths to keep her from becoming a crowned queen. Towards the end of his rule, he became truly eccentric, having an obsession with wars against Napoleon. He even started believing that he had fought in those wars.
Qin Shi Huang
From finding new ways to shorten the lives of their cupbearers to pursuing immortality for themselves, royals have had all kinds of unsettling obsessions. Qin Shi Huang, the first ruler of China, was the kind who indulged himself in the latter and went to great lengths to achieve immortality.
Qin was so fascinated by the idea of longevity that he convinced himself he could outrun his demise. He was always slurping potions that would allegedly prolong his life, but the reality was completely different because these potions were rich in mercury and eventually led to his demise. His tomb was then filled with terracotta replicates of his army and other advisors.
Tsar Paul I
There have been many weird royal characters in history; however, very few reached a level that made commoners snap and become the harbinger of their end. It seems that eccentricity ran in Tsar Paul's family because all members of the Romanov clan were weird.
He was extremely erratic and had an obsession with the uniforms of his royal guards. He would mercilessly condemn his guards to flog for minor imperfections in their uniforms. On top of that, he would throw unnecessary military parades whenever he was in the mood for one, making the lives of those in a uniform a living hell. Ultimately, he was served with a painful demise while his eight-year-old son was downstairs.
Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg
When it's your job to produce an heir, having a female child isn't something you can celebrate. For Maria Eleonora, the queen of Sweden, her daughter Christina was a disappointment. When the latter came into the world in 1626, Maria Eleonora had already been married for six years with no surviving kids, and rejected her newborn baby girl.
Nonetheless, Gustavus Adolphus, her husband, recognized little Christina as his heir apparent before riding into the battle that year. At the time of his eventual passing in 1632, the queen took custody of his heart. She also stayed beside the lifeless body for days, delaying its burial for eighteen months.
Princess Alexandria of Bavaria
Since childhood, Alexandra of Bavaria believed she had a glass grand piano lodged in her body. The princess was so convinced of this fact that she would walk sideways through doors and corridors, afraid of shattering this instrument. Scholars held that the young woman suffered from what Robert Burton called "the glass delusion" in his psychological study The Anatomy of Melancholy.
Back then, Burton established that people living with the mental condition were concerned about their bodies being too fragile for everyday tasks. Interestingly, this disorder was popular only among monarchs or nobles raised with a certain level of delicacy and finery.
Elagabalus was the Roman Emperor from 218 to 222 AD, and his reign was one of the most bizarre in all of history. He was a minor who only came to power at 14 after the assassination of his predecessor. Right off the bat, the teenage king started showing signs that he had a different attitude toward rulership.
At first, he ditched his wife in favor of Aquila Severa, a sacred virgin. Later on, Elagabalus frequently called for gladiator games, during which he released serpents to bite the unsuspecting crowd. His rule lasted just four years before the palace guards eliminated him.
Prince Sado learned the most brutal tactics from his domineering father, King Yongji. From a tender age, the former had begun to have terrifying nightmares, which made it harder for him to go about his daily activities. To top it all off, there was the need to sacrifice youthful happiness in order to satisfy the monarchy's demands.
As expected, Sado reached his breaking point soon enough. The heir's rebellion went from purchasing outrageously expensive clothes to drinking alcohol and encouraging others to join him. At the height of it, Yongji locked his son in a huge chest where he crossed the border of eternity.
Joanna of Castile
'Juana la Loca,' also known as 'Joanna the Mad,' is one of the most fascinating figures from the Middle Ages. She was born in 1479, her father being King Ferdinand of Aragon, while her mother was Queen Isabella of Castile. The family tree gets pretty complicated from there, so we'll skip to 1496, when Joanna married Philip I, Duke of Burgundy.
Even in death, the love between the couple was so strong that it was considered insane. After her husband's sudden passing, she refused to be separated from his body. She kept it in her room and even traveled with it to Castile in 1506.
Erik XIV of Sweden
As a crown prince and good-looking man, Erik attempted to marry Elizabeth I of England, but his plan didn't work out. Also known as the butcher king, Erik was immoral and a perpetrator of numerous infamous acts in royal history. We could say his bloody reign was sufficient to justify his tragic end. He was crowned in 1560 and dedicated his early years of kingship to marking his territory and fighting his brother.
Erik was a power-hungry man who thought of only himself. Due to his insecurity, he imprisoned his brother together with his bride and eliminated John's loyal servants. Eventually, John was released, himself and Eric wept at the sight of each other. Slowly, Erik's mind began to fade as he started showing signs of schizophrenia and went out of control.
Justin II was the successor who took over the Eastern Roman Empire in 565 AD. As a member of the imperial family, Justin got thorough education and enjoyed lots of benefits. Sadly, his reign was known for stress-induced madness, and he would act insanely around the palace, during which he attempted to bite others who came near.
The emperor was aware of his failure and would always demand organ music be played to calm his nerves. He was pulled through the palace on a wheeled throne and held down during his rage. The last four years of Justin II were spent in tranquil obscurity while empress Sophia took over political office.
Christian VII Of Denmark
In 1766, Christian VII succeeded the throne after his father's death. Shortly after becoming the monarch, it became apparent that Christian VII was quite abnormal. According to royal physician John Friedrich Struensee, Christian's consistent masturbation was another factor that contributed to his mental illness.
Soon, the royal physician saw his illness as an opportunity to usurp power from Christian VII. He manipulated the king to make him a privy cabinet member. Struensee got the real power and restructured the whole administration in the kingdom. He had an adulterous affair with the queen (Christian's queen) but was later overthrown and executed in 1772.
In 1505, he took the throne at only fourteen years old and became the eleventh emperor, starting the Zhengde era. Despite being privileged to have high-level education and preparedness to rule, the emperor had little or no interest in power, let alone handling the Ming Dynasty. At a young age, he showed much potential and intelligence but didn't carry out most of his responsibility.
The dynasty's affairs went smoothly with or without the young ruler's presence. Officials and administrators like the eunuchs would make decisions on his behalf, even standing in for Zhengde while he would fulfill his pleasurable desires. Often, the young emperor would spend his time hunting, fishing, meeting women, and partying. Eventually, his passing away was caused by an illness he contracted in the waters of the Yellow River.
Mustafa I was the perfect example of an Ottoman ruler who lived a toured existence from childhood. He had an elder brother; hence, Mustafa probably knew the fate awaiting him after the passing away of their father. Eventually, the long-awaited moment came, and Ahmed ascended the throne of the Ottoman Empire in 1603; he strayed away from Ottoman tradition and did not have his brother executed to satisfy the public. Instead, Mustafa was held captive in a cage within the Sultan’s residence and ensured nothing happened to his brother.
When Ahmed passed away in 1617, Mustafa was able to ascend the throne, but his mental illness had gotten out of hand, and he could not manage the dynasty. Sultan Mustafa I was dethroned three months after his ascension and was replaced by the eldest son of Sultan Ahmed I.
Whether Insane or Inept, Murderous or Malfeasant, These Are the Worst Rulers in World History
The lengthy timeline of human history has been littered with bad rulers. Whether they were bloodthirsty or insane, the world has suffered many times over from horrible leaders. Some killed for no reason. Some completely ignored their duties and instead focused on immoral activities. Some had no leadership ability and relied on harmful advice to combat their own ineptitude. And some were just downright insane.
Either way, they all were a disaster waiting to happen to their countries. But, many of these horrible rulers have been forgotten about and a majority of people don’t realize how bad they really were. So, let’s take a trip back through time and learn about the crazy and ruthless leaders who were more than likely not in your high school history textbooks.
When you think of Roman emperors who were decadent and crazy, you usually think of Caligula or Nero. But another less-known Roman emperor who fits the bill is Elagabalus. Elagabalus was fourteen years old when he took the throne and to say that he was sexually confused would be putting it lightly. Soon after he took the throne, he realized that he could engage in all kinds of behaviors without repercussions.
He began to have sex with strangers of both genders as often as he liked. Most of the time, he would usually find his next sexual partner by dressing up in a disguise and pretending to be a whore at brothels. Elagabalus married five different women and later divorced each one. It is also said he married two men and many believe that he was transgender. There is even a rumor that one of his wives was a Vestal Virgin who was supposed to be celibate for 30 years. Needless to say, he didn't get much ruling done.
Commodus is pretty well-known thanks to the movie Gladiator. However, even though the movie portrayed him as evil, he might have been even more ruthless than Gladiator let on. Much like Elagabalus, Commodus loved to indulge in his desires. However, instead of sexual desires, Commodus indulged in bloody desires. In fact, he thought of himself as an incarnation of Hercules and made sure to show off how great of a fighter he was.
In the arena, he would fight exotic animals, but from an elevated tower to ensure his safety. Even worse, Commodus would fight injured soldiers and people with disabilities or who were amputees. It is said that Commodus always won his fights (we wonder why) and would even charge the city of Rome an excessive amount for his fights. He said it was because watching his fights provided the people with “pleasure.”
Like the two before him on this list, Ibrahim loved to indulge. However, his indulgence came from being imprisoned for most of his early life. Ibrahim was the younger brother of the ruler of the Ottoman Empire, Murad IV. Murad was mad and believed that his family bloodline was cursed. So, he killed all of his brothers except for Ibrahim. He only imprisoned Ibrahim based on their mother’s pleading.
Later, Murad died in 1640, and Ibrahim became the next ruler where he was finally allowed to indulge in the pleasures of life. It is said that he spent his time entertaining hundreds of concubines while his Gran Vizier actually ran the empire. Unfortunately, he almost completely bankrupted the Ottoman Empire with his extravagant lifestyle. When he entered the empire into a war with Venice, there were no funds for the army and the people began to retaliate, and a few of his once-supporters had Ibrahim executed.
Charles VI of France
Charles VI of France was actually pretty well-liked at the beginning of his rule. He was even called Charles the Beloved. Unfortunately, by the end of his time on the throne, he was called Charles the Mad. He didn’t start acting odd until he was in his 20s. During that time, he began to have selective bouts of amnesia where he would forget who he was, as well as who his wife and children were. He even stopped bathing and would wear clothes for many months at a time.
Charles VI was also very paranoid and suffered from a glass delusion - thinking he was literally made of glass. Charles VI would go through great lengths to make sure he would not shatter. He even had iron rods sewn into his clothing at one point.
Joanna of Castile
Juana la Loca became the Queen of Castile after she married the King of Castile, Philip I. Their marriage was an arranged one, but Joanna quickly fell in love with Philip. That makes sense considering he was also known as Philip the Handsome. Philip eventually died a sudden death that Joanna never got over. It is said that she would get people to reopen his tomb so she could spend time with him. It is even said that she would touch and kiss his dead body.
When her son was old enough, he took power from her and then sent her to spend the rest of her life at a nunnery. However, while she was there, she ended up thinking that all of the nuns were out to kill her. Charles once sent a letter to his mother's caretakers that said, “It seems to me that the best and most suitable thing for you to do is to make sure that no person speaks with Her Majesty, for no good could come from it."
Justin II of Byzantine
Justin II ruled over the Byzantine Empire right after his uncle, Justinian I, who had done such a good job as a ruler that he was known as Justin the Great. During his reign, Justinian had taken back most of the territory lost by the Roman Empire and used diplomatic tactics (like money) to keep Persia happy. However, instead of following his uncle’s lead, Justin II decided to fight with Persia instead.
Not only did Byzantium lose its fight with Persia, but Justin was preoccupied the entire time with his throne on wheels. That’s right, Justin was wheeled around on this throne everywhere he went. It is said that his servants built the wheeled throne because it kept him busy and made him less likely to attack or bite them. Justin even referred to his throne with wheels as his “racing throne.”
Farouk of Egypt
King Farouk of Egypt liked to eat. You can even look at a picture of him and tell that. That’s how he got the nickname of a “stomach with a head.” Farouk quickly gained weight and weighed in at over 300 pounds at one point. It is said that he would constantly be eating caviar and chocolate. He even flew in 600 oysters every week from Copenhagen. With this kind of lifestyle, it is no wonder that Farouk died in the middle of eating a meal and collapsed into his plate of food.
Not only was Farouk a glutton for food, but it is also said that he was glutton for items and was rumored to be a kleptomaniac. That is how he earned his second nickname, “the Thief of Cairo.” One time, he stole a pocket watch from Winston Churchill, and another time, he stole a sword from the shah of Iran. It is even said that he would pick-pocket the poor people he ruled over.
Christian VII of Denmark
Christian VII of Denmark was another sexual deviant like many other rules on this list. He was only 16 years old when he took the throne and started down his path of questionable sexual activity. It is said that Christian masturbated so much that his own physician told him that his habits would soon make him infertile. And upon noticing how little work Christian was doing to rule the country, said physician slowly began to take control over Denmark.
If his masturbatory hobby wasn’t bad enough, Christian also enjoyed taking strolls through Copenhagen to stab random people he passed with a spiked club. He was also childish enough to leapfrog off of dignitaries’ backs when they bowed to him during their visit and would slap people in the middle of a conversation for no reason whatsoever.
Eric of Sweden XIV
Eric of Sweden XIV would possibly have been a good ruler with all of his intelligence and skills if it weren’t for his own extreme paranoia. While he ruled during the 16th century, his paranoia grew and grew until it was too much. First, he arrested his own brother and tried him for treason. Later, he would do the same thing to the entire Sture family, a prominent family in Sweden who were definitely not committing treason. He sentenced everyone to death. Another time, he even killed one of his own family members himself.
After killing them, he went on a nice, long walk in the woods to do some soul searching. They found him many days later. He was in a remote village, dressed up like a peasant. The nobility of Sweden had enough of Eric after that and rebelled to dethrone him after he murdered the Sture family. Eric died by poison after he had spent a few years in prison.
Alexandra of Bavaria
Two monarchs on this list actually share a rare condition that not many people have. Like Charles VI of France, Princess Alexandra of Bavaria suffered from a glass delusion. In fact, Alexandra’s delusion went a step further than Charles’s because she thought she had swallowed a grand piano that was made of glass as a child, and that the whole thing was still intact inside of her.
To keep the piano from shattering, she would always walk sideways through doors. It also appears that Alexandra had a touch of OCD and was obsessed with being clean and would only wear white clothes. Instead of going into Bavarian politics like a princess normally would, the Bavarian citizens got lucky because she decided to devote her life to literature.
Prince Sado of Korea
Prince Sado of Korea had it rough right from the start. His father, King Yeongjo, was not nice to his son. He shunned him starting at an early age and admitted that he never liked him. It makes sense that this was the beginning of Sado’s mental troubles. Later in his life, Sado had an odd obsession with his clothes and thought that whenever something bad happened, it was his outfit’s fault. To counteract this, he had to be given a choice of 30 brand new suits every time he was getting dressed.
Sado would make his choice and then have the remaining 29 suits burned. This was to be his offering to the spirits. However, his quirks went much further than this. Prince Sado loved to torture, rape, and murder people. In fact, it is said that dead bodies had to be taken out of the palace almost every day because of Sado’s habits. Finally, his father had enough and deposed the prince. Then, he had him thrown into a rice chest where he was to starve to death.
Henry VI of England
Everyone knows that royals have had an obsession with maintaining their bloodline for as long as royalty has been a thing. Henry VI is a prime example of this obsession. Henry VI was the King of England, as well as the maternal grandson of Charles VI of France. Knowing of the glass delusion that Charles VI suffered from, it makes sense that Henry inherited his mental illness, perhaps schizophrenia, from his grandfather.
In fact, Henry went through a mental breakdown in 1453 and remained in a catatonic state for an entire year. He didn’t even react when his son was born. This went on to the point that his wife, Margaret du Anjou, had to take charge and rule. Many people were not happy with that and the Duke of York was just about to take over when Henry snapped out of his stupor. When he did, he immediately started a war between dynasties that ended only when the House of Lancaster fell.
Qin Shi Huang of China
Qin Shi Huang, also known as Qin Shihuangdi, was the first emperor of the Qin dynasty. He united China in 221 B.C and was known for killing scholars who voiced ideas that he didn’t like, as well as burning “critical” books.
While he reigned, he had a huge wall built (which was a prequel to the Great Wall of China) and started construction on a ginormous mausoleum. It even had over 6,000 terra-cotta soldier statues which were all life-sized. During the construction of both the wall and the mausoleum, numerous people were killed. Not only due to the dangerous construction but also to keep the emperor’s secrets. He even had the people he captured from other countries castrated and turned into slaves.
Caligula of Rome
Caligula, or Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, was pretty popular at the beginning of his reign. People loved him because he set citizens who were imprisoned without cause free and removed a harsh sales tax that had been imposed.
However, he changed after suffering an illness. He began executing his political rivals and forced their parents to watch. Caligula even stated that he was a living god, declared his horse was a priest, and killed and raped people as he pleased. Even worse, it is said that he forced his sisters to have sex with him as well as sold their sexual services to other men. Eventually, everyone had had enough of his wild ways and a group of guardsmen ganged up on him and stabbed him 30 times.
Attila the Hun of Hungary
Attila started leading the Hunnic Empire after he killed his brother. Eventually, he would become known as one of the most feared enemies of the Roman Empire.
While he led the Huns, he expanded the empire to the Balkans, Russia, Germany, and Ukraine. When he went to invade and conquer Gaul, he was defeated at the Battle of Catalaunian Plains. Once, he said this about his time as a leader: “There, where I have passed, the grass will never grow again.”
Wu Zetian of China
Before becoming the empress of China, Wu Zetian was a junior concubine at 14 years old. As empress, she would eliminate anyone who opposed her by dismissing, exiling, or even executing them. She even did this to members of her family that opposed her.
During her reign, she expanded the Chinese empire very far. Her tactics were brutal, but many historians state that she had a great decisive nature and a natural talent for government. One of the more notable things that happened during her reign was when her handpicked military leaders took control of many large portions of the Korean peninsula.
Genghis Khan of Asia
Before he was the leader of the Mongol tribes, Genghis Khan was a teenage slave. He was enslaved after his father was poisoned and killed when Khan was just nine years old. After he united the Mongol tribes, he conquered many areas within Central Asia and China.
Khan is mostly known for his brutal warfare. In fact, it is proven that he would slaughter large numbers of civilians at a time. One of the more notable times this happened was when he killed all of the aristocrats of the Khwarezm Empire and used unskilled workers as human shields.
Tomas De Torquemada of Spain
Tomas de Torquemada was the Grand Inquisitor during the Spanish Inquisition. He did many things to further the Inquisition including compiling 28 articles telling other inquisitors what to do, setting up tribunals in multiple cities, and even authorizing torture as a way to get confessions.
In fact, it is reported that he told King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to make the Spanish Jews choose between baptism or exile. Because of this, many Jews left Spain. Historians believe that Torquemada alone was responsible for burning approximately 2,000 people at the stake. Because of that, it is quite ironic that Torquemada himself might have come from a family of people who converted from Judaism.