Top 10 Strangest Monarchs

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17:13   |   Jun 13, 2019


Top 10 Strangest Monarchs
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  • Thanks to their sheltered lives and the adverse effects of inbreeding, a lot of history’s
  • kings, queens, and other royals became known for their eccentricities.
  • There was Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who delighted in torturing her servants and was
  • even rumored to bathe in the blood of virgins; there was Gian Gastone of Italy, who was so
  • lazy that he spent the latter part of his reign bedridden; and there was Anna of Russia,
  • who so enjoyed humiliating others that she was known to ridicule her underlings by making
  • them marry one another while dressed as clowns.
  • But these rulers were normal compared to some of their counterparts, and in many cases the
  • cruelty, vanity, and insanity of those in power would go on to have dire consequences
  • for the countries they led.
  • Here are ten of history’s strangest monarchs:
  • 10.
  • Zhengde of China Reign: 1505-1521
  • The Ming Dynasty’s strangest emperor, Zhu Houzhao, aka the Zhengde Emperor, took to
  • the throne of China at the age of 14.
  • Not long after becoming Emperor, Zhengde became drunk with power.
  • He neglected his duties as ruler, and instead chose to spend his time drinking and visiting
  • brothels, which he filled with women of his choosing.
  • He built lavish palaces to store exotic animals like tigers and leopards, and he would often
  • have them turned loose so that he could hunt them down for his own amusement.
  • Even weirder, Zhengde would have his servants go to great lengths to dress up the inside
  • of his palace like a city block.
  • He would then command all the court employees to pretend to be vendors and passersby, so
  • that he could stroll down the “street” and pretend to be an everyday person.
  • This kind of childish behavior made Zhengde notorious within the court, and some historians
  • have credited him with starting a trend of dissipation and indolence among emperors that
  • would ultimately lead to the fall of the Ming Dynasty.
  • Strangest Behavior
  • Zhengde died rather comically in 1521, supposedly as a result of infections he contracted from
  • falling into a canal while drunk.
  • But his strangest exploit took place a few years before his death in 1518, when the Emperor
  • suddenly decided that he would like to be in the military and declared himself a General.
  • He personally led an expedition to the Jiangxi province in order to catch a Prince who had
  • revolted against his authority, only to find that the man had already been rounded up.
  • Angry at having his chance to play soldier ruined, Zhengde ordered the man released,
  • just so he could experience the thrill of hunting him down and capturing him himself.
  • 9.
  • Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia Reign: 1713-1740
  • Although he enjoyed a peaceful tenure as king, Prussia’s Friedrich Wilhelm I is most remembered
  • today for his enduring affection for the military.
  • He would frequently drill his army units himself, and enjoyed having them march before him,
  • even when he was sick and confined to bed.
  • An ascetic man who was known to enjoy sleeping in the soldier’s barracks, he made it his
  • personal goal to see Prussia’s army become the most glorious in all of Europe.
  • This obsession even extended into his own family.
  • He wished to make his son Friedrich II into a good soldier, and had the boy awoken each
  • morning with the firing of a cannon.
  • He even gave Friedrich II a small arsenal and a complement of child soldiers to command,
  • and had the boy beaten whenever he failed to perform well in his training.
  • Not surprisingly, Friedrich II eventually tried to run away, but was captured and briefly
  • imprisoned by his father.
  • Strangest Behavior
  • The King’s strangest behavior was undoubtedly his obsession with creating the Potsdam Giants,
  • a special army regiment comprised of only the tallest and strongest soldiers.
  • The Giants were a pet project of Friedrich Wilhelm’s, and he went about recruiting
  • them by any means necessary.
  • Mercenaries were hired (one Irish soldier of fortune stood some 7 feet tall), and neighboring
  • kingdoms were known to send the Prussians their tallest fighters as a means of encouraging
  • friendly diplomatic relations.
  • In his efforts to gather as many suitable recruits as possible (the cut off was 6’2—very
  • tall for the era), Friedrich Wilhelm I even resorted to ordering that all tall young boys
  • be conscripted into the unit, and tall men and women were encouraged to have kids together.
  • 8.
  • Ludwig II of Bavaria Reign: 1864-1886
  • One of Bavaria’s most beloved and eccentric monarchs was Ludwig II, who became famous
  • for his strange personality and his obsession with building enchanting and whimsical castles.
  • Ludwig had a troubled family life, and as a child he would lose himself in arts, music,
  • and elaborate fantasy worlds.
  • This behavior carried over into his reign as king, which began when he was only 18.
  • He disliked public appearances, preferring instead to stay inside his castle alone, where
  • he would frequently have operas and plays performed for only him.
  • This is not to say that Ludwig was a shut-in.
  • He was known to travel about Bavaria, and would even stop and chat with any subjects
  • he met along the way.
  • The King’s unassuming nature earned him the adoration of the people, but it drew the
  • ire of his high-ranking court employees, who planned to have him removed from power.
  • The conspirators provided a list of Ludwig’s eccentricities—among them talking to imaginary
  • people, poor manners, shyness, and even a penchant for moonlight picnics with naked
  • male dancers—and used them as proof that the King was insane.
  • While the veracity of these claims is debatable, in 1886 Ludwig was declared unfit to rule
  • and removed from power.
  • In a mysterious twist, the king was found floating dead in a lake the very next day,
  • prompting many to argue that he was murdered by his rivals.
  • Strangest Behavior
  • Today, Ludwig II is best remembered for the many fairy tale castles that he built around
  • Bavaria.
  • He was obsessive about their construction, and frequently travelled abroad to consult
  • architects and builders.
  • One of the most elaborate is Schloss Neuschwanstein, a stunning fortress inspired by the works
  • of Richard Wagner that Ludwig had built on the edge of a cliff.
  • Ludwig invested considerable time and money in his castles, and at one point he nearly
  • bankrupted the Kingdom with his architectural habits.
  • Ironically, today the castles are some of the most famous—and lucrative—tourist
  • attractions in all of Bavaria.
  • 7.
  • Charles VI of France Reign: 1380-1422
  • Also known as “Charles the Mad,” Charles VI was the ruler of France during the Hundred
  • Years’ War.
  • Charles exhibited signs of psychosis and paranoia early in life, and modern historians have
  • postulated that he may have been schizophrenic.
  • His mental illness first manifested itself in 1392, when he had a “fit” while travelling
  • through the forest on horseback.
  • According to accounts from those present, the King became disoriented and frantic, and
  • attacked several of his own men, even killing one knight before his servants were able to
  • subdue him.
  • From then on, Charles’s behavior only worsened.
  • He would frequently forget who he was, and have to be reminded that he was king.
  • During another episode, he refused to bathe or change his clothes for several months.
  • Charles VI was also known to run wildly through the halls of his palace for no reason, and
  • for his own safety the doors eventually had to be boarded up.
  • Strangest Behavior
  • Charles’s strangest bout of madness was noted by Pope Pius II, who wrote that the
  • King once became convinced that he was made out of glass and could break into pieces.
  • Fearful of shattering, Charles took to wearing padded clothing and commanded that he not
  • be touched.
  • The middle ages saw several different cases of this disorder, which has since become known
  • as the “Glass Delusion.”
  • 6.
  • Qin Shi Huang of China Reign: 246 BC-221 BC (King of Qin), 221 BC-210
  • BC (Emperor of China)
  • While he was a capable (albeit brutal) administrator, in his personal life China’s first emperor
  • Qin Shi Huang had some serious issues.
  • Chief among them was a crippling fear of death that led him to spend the majority of his
  • life searching for the key to immortality.
  • Qin Shi Huang was forever wary of the possibility of his enemies making an attempt on his life,
  • to the point that he never slept in the same place twice, and regularly carried a massive
  • crossbow at his side when travelling.
  • Revealing the Emperor’s whereabouts was deemed a capital crime, and after a while
  • underground passageways were constructed that allowed him to travel unseen between his different
  • palaces.
  • Later in life, Qin Shi Huang began construction on a massive tomb that, in the event of his
  • death, would protect him from his enemies.
  • The monument contained over 8,000 life-sized terra cotta “soldiers,” along with a miniature
  • city for the king to rule over in the afterlife.
  • Of course, for Qin Shi Huang all of this was only precaution, and in the meantime the Emperor
  • consulted soothsayers, apothecaries, and other spiritualists in the hope of finding some
  • kind of elixir that would extend his life or make him immortal.
  • Strangest Behavior
  • Qin Shi Huang’s paranoia wasn’t completely unwarranted—during his reign there were
  • three attempts on his life—but his suspicions were often directed in completely nonsensical
  • directions.
  • For example, one of the Emperor’s most enduring fears was the threat of being killed by a
  • sea monster.
  • He claimed to have dreamed that the creatures were on the prowl for him, so he never left
  • his palace without a posse of guards.
  • This paranoia eventually led to his death in the most ironic way possible: after going
  • on the hunt for one of these sea beasts and “slaying” a beached whale, Qin Shi Huang
  • developed an illness and died only a few days later.
  • 5.
  • Emperor Norton I Reign: 1859-1880 (unofficially)
  • In the 19th century, the United States was unofficially “ruled” by Emperor Norton
  • I, a San Francisco native who declared himself “Emperor of the United States” and “Protector
  • of Mexico.”
  • Emperor Norton’s real name was Joshua Abraham Norton.
  • A British national, he came to the U.S. in 1849 as a wealthy man, but a string of poor
  • investments soon left him nearly broke.
  • His financial troubles supposedly lead to him developing a number of eccentricities
  • and delusions of grandeur, and in 1859 he officially declared himself the ruler of America.
  • Local newspapers originally published Norton’s claim as a joke, but he became beloved by
  • San Francisco’s locals, who gave him a regal uniform and addressed him in public as “your
  • highness.”
  • Norton spent much of his early reign issuing edicts to dissolve the “corrupt” U.S.
  • congress and officially declare himself Emperor.
  • But when his efforts were ignored, he turned to local matters.
  • He was known to stroll through the city streets inspecting roads and buildings, and he even
  • issued his own money, which was widely accepted by local merchants.
  • Norton was a poor man, but he was allowed to eat in San Francisco’s finest restaurants
  • and was given seats to any new play that opened.
  • In exchange, he would place an imperial seal of approval by the establishment’s front
  • door.
  • Norton I died in 1880 after collapsing in the street.
  • Grand obituaries were written in all the local papers, and his funeral was supposedly attended
  • by as many as 30,000 people.
  • Strangest Behavior
  • Despite his obvious mental problems, Norton I often demonstrated remarkable foresight.
  • He proposed that a “League of Nations” be formed years before the U.S. government
  • considered it, and he decreed that a bridge be built linking Oakland and San Francisco,
  • which also eventually became a reality.
  • But this doesn’t mean that all of his edicts were completely rational.
  • In 1872, he declared that anyone who referred to his fair city by “the abominable word
  • ‘Frisco’” would be fined the sum of $25.
  • 4.
  • Ibrahim I of the Ottoman Empire Reign: 1640-1648
  • Also known as “Ibrahim the Mad,” Ibrahim I was the most mentally unstable of a series
  • of insane and cruel Turkish sultans that ruled the Ottoman Empire during the 16th and 17th
  • century.
  • Ibrahim is believed to have suffered from a host of mental illnesses, all of which were
  • no doubt encouraged by “the Cage,” a windowless building where he was kept for most of his
  • youth.
  • When his brother died in 1640, 23-year old Ibrahim was released and declared sultan.
  • Ecstatic and more than a bit unhinged, he immediately made up for lost time by building
  • up a harem of virgins to satisfy his voracious sexual appetite.
  • Ibrahim supposedly enjoyed having his concubine gather in a palace courtyard so that he could
  • gallop around them while “neighing like a stallion.”
  • He also had a fetish for fat women, and at one point sent his servants on a quest to
  • find the heftiest lady in all the land.
  • They returned with a 350-pound woman nicknamed “sugar cube,” who became a favorite member
  • of his harem.
  • Ibrahim’s excesses didn’t end with sex.
  • The Sultan was also greedy, and his agents frequently looted houses to provide him with
  • perfumes, clothes, and anything else he desired.
  • He was also notoriously violent.
  • In addition to ordering executions and torture at will, Ibrahim once threw his baby son in
  • a pool of water, and later stabbed the boy in the face out of anger.
  • This kind of debauchery and wanton cruelty won Ibrahim his fair share of enemies, and
  • in 1648 a coup was staged.
  • After being captured, the Sultan was briefly put back into “the Cage” before being
  • strangled to death by a gang of assassins.
  • Strangest Behavior
  • Ibrahim was known for his impulsive, terrifically violent behavior.
  • For example, when the Sultan received information that a member of his harem had been “compromised,”
  • he proceeded to have a number of the women tortured.
  • When he couldn’t get any of them to give a name, Ibrahim had 280 members of the harem
  • thrown into a lake and drowned.|
  • 3.
  • Juana I of Spain Reign: 1504-1555
  • Also known as “Juana the Mad,” Juana de Castile became the first Queen of the Hapsburg
  • dynasty when she married Philip of Burgundy in 1496.
  • The couple started out madly in love—unusual for an arranged royal marriage—but things
  • soon became complicated.
  • Juana was as jealous as Philip was promiscuous, and his infidelities soon drove her into a
  • state of extreme paranoia.
  • Because her husband would chase after any attractive lady of the court, Juana took to
  • only including old and ugly women in her retinue, and in one case she even have attacked a woman
  • she believed to be her husband’s mistress.
  • Desperate to for Philip to be true to her, Juana started consulting sorcerers and using
  • love potions, and when her husband ignored her she even briefly went on a hunger strike.
  • Whether or not Juana was actually “crazy,” is debatable, but this kind of erratic behavior—along
  • with the desire of the men around her to usurp her power—eventually led to her being locked
  • away in a castle for the latter part of her life.
  • Strangest Behavior
  • Queen Juana’s eccentricities ramped up considerably in 1506, when Philip died after a brief illness.
  • Utterly distraught, Juana constantly wore black and wept uncontrollably, and she even
  • had the coffin opened on several different occasions so that she could kiss the feet
  • of her husband’s corpse.
  • Worried that her husband would cheat even in death, Juana forbid any women from coming
  • near his coffin, even nuns.
  • 2.
  • George III of England Reign: 1760-1820
  • Perhaps the most famous case of royal madness involved England’s George III, who suffered
  • from recurring bouts of mental illness throughout the latter part of his life.
  • Modern historians have theorized that the King probably suffered from porphyria, a blood
  • disease, but George’s doctors were forever at a loss to diagnose his condition.
  • The King would rant, rave and insult and curse at his servants to the point that his caretakers
  • were often forced to gag him and confine him with a straight jacket.
  • A team of doctors was enlisted to help King George, but their primitive treatments, which
  • included everything from purging and blistering to bloodletting, only seemed to make his condition
  • worse.
  • Soon, the King began to become delusional.
  • He developed the belief that London was flooding, gave orders to imaginary or long-dead court
  • officials, and once even tried to sexually assault one of his servants.
  • In a bizarre episode on Christmas Day, the King named his pillow “Prince Octavius”
  • and celebrated that it “was to be new born this day.”
  • The King did have moments of clarity, and for a time his illness abated.
  • But with age the delusions returned, and after losing a good deal of his sight and hearing,
  • George III was kept in seclusion until his death.
  • Strangest Behavior
  • One of King George’s more bizarre delusions occurred during his first outbreak of illness,
  • when he met and developed an obsession with a woman named Elizabeth Spencer.
  • In the heat of his infatuation, George began to believe that he and Elizabeth were married,
  • and he even claimed that his own wife, Queen Charlotte, was an impostor intent on killing
  • him.
  • 1.
  • Caligula Reign: AD 37-AD 41
  • Caligula only served as Rome’s emperor for four years, but in that short span he managed
  • to establish himself as one of the cruelest and weirdest rulers in history.
  • He was only 25 when he rose to power, and while for the first two years of his reign
  • he was well liked and seemed a capable leader, those in the know rarely doubted that the
  • emperor was stark raving mad.
  • These psychotic tendencies would eventually come out in some of Caligula’s laws.
  • For one, he made it illegal for anyone to look him in the face, an offence that was
  • punishable by being thrown into a lions’ den.
  • He also delighted in torture and executions, and took great pains to think up new ways
  • to dispatch his enemies (one of his personal favorites was said to involve covering the
  • condemned in honey and setting loose an army of wasps).
  • Of course, today Caligula is best known for his deviant sexual behavior.
  • This involved everything from bisexuality and bestiality to even incest (he was rumored
  • to have slept with all three of his sisters).
  • He was fond of great excesses, and along with declaring himself a demigod and frequently
  • holding gluttonous feasts and parties, Caligula turned the Imperial palace into a veritable
  • whorehouse, complete with days-long orgies.
  • Not surprisingly, Caligula’s insanity and cruelty eventually drew the ire of his political
  • rivals, who successfully murdered the emperor and his family in AD 41.
  • Strangest Behavior
  • Some of Caligula’s weirdest exploits involved his favorite horse, Incitatus.
  • The emperor dressed the animal in lavish blankets, and had it housed in a marble stable and tended
  • to by a small army of handlers.
  • Caligula even let the horse eat from the table during dinner parties, and guests were frequently
  • invited to the palace at Incitatus’s behest.
  • Still, the most ridiculous extravagance came when Caligula announced his intention to make
  • Incitatus an official citizen of Rome, and later a Consul and
  • even a priest.

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Text version: https://www.toptenz.net/top-10-strangest-monarchs.php

Coming up:

10. Zhengde of China
9. Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia
8. Ludwig II of Bavaria
7. Charles VI of France
6. Qin Shi Huang of China
5. Emperor Norton I
4. Ibrahim I of the Ottoman Empire
3. Juana I of Spain
2. George III of England
1. Caligula

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