History is rampant with tales of monarchs and rulers who suffered from absurdity. Although it may be more appropriate to say that their people writhed from their recklessness. In some cases it is difficult to tell if these leaders’ actions were truly the result of insanity, or if events were exaggerated.
It also seems that denunciations of irrationality were often used to coup royals. Nonetheless, there are cases in which a member of a royal family has been unquestionably insane. The following royals represent very different specimens of insanity. Some were cruel and vicious, while others were alarmingly cold-blooded.
The matter of their madness really depends on how you define futility. Why so many royals of old times went insane is anybody’s supposition. It could have been the pressure of being forced into being a sovereign. Maybe it was incest or meagre medical attention. Whatever the cause of their senselessness, it is certain that a number of nations have been reigned by madmen. Let’s have a look at the top 10 categorically ridiculous rulers.
10. Empress Anna
Anna, who ruled as Empress of Russia from 1730 – 1740, was not born to command – she was made Empress by the Supreme Privy Council of Russia. The council had anticipated that she would feel indebted to them for her position and act as a puppet ruler – but, little did they know, Anna had other plans in mind.
One of her first acts was to reinstate the secret police, to do her behest. Finding favour with the Royal Guards, her supremacy became overwhelming, and she began a ten year reign tormenting the aristocrats who made her ruler. In the most famous instance of her absurdity, Anna hooked up one of the old princes with her maid, because she had discovered that his, now dead, wife had been Catholic.
This seems rather bland, but what happened next is not: Anna organized the wedding and had an unusual palace made of ice for the occasion. She made the wedding party dress as clowns and spend the night in the ice-palace, in the middle of one of the severest winter Russia had seen in ages. Fortunately for Russia, her rule was cut short by her demise at the age of 47.
9. King George III
George III of England is perhaps the well-known ridiculous ruler in history, mainly due to the famous movie, “The Madness of King George.” King George III sat on the throne of England from 1760-1820, and it was on his guardian that the American colonies were lost – perhaps his paramount legacy. He most likely suffered from the hereditary disease of porphyria, which also plagued Mary, Queen of Scotland.
The monarch’s illness presented England with a difficult delinquent: What do you do when a ruler becomes irrational? When the king became inimical in 1788, his prime minister, William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806), and the queen ran the government on his behalf – and, later, his son ruled as regent.
In his later years, as his insanity grew, he spent his time in quarantine, and was often kept in strait jackets and behind bars in his secluded apartments at Windsor Castle. In recent times there has been some speculation that King George was driven crazy by the treatments he received for his alleged insanity.
8. King Charles VI
King Charles VI was crowned King of France in 1380, when he was only eleven years old. Seemingly, he was a virtuous king before insanity took over, because he was formerly known as Charles the Well-Loved. It later became evident that he was irrational, so his moniker was changed to Charles the Mad.
Accounts of the king’s first fitting of madness state that King Charles VI became restless at the sound of a dropped spear, while wayfaring with his men. He then slayed one of his own knights and, allegedly, a few other men too, although accounts vary. After this incident the king fell into a coma.
The symptoms of the king’s insanity advanced in later years and were much speckled. There were times when King Charles VI did not know who he was, and could not identify his wife and children. Several months of his life were marked by his negation to bathe. He even spent some time under the impression that he was made of glass. King Charles VI of France died, a madman, in 1422.
7. Justin II
Justin II was Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor from 565 to 578 AD. His hegemony encompassed war with Persia and the loss of large parts of Italy. After two catastrophic campaigns, in which the Persians invaded Syria and captured the strategically important fortress of Dara (Mesopotamia), Justin apparently lost his mind. The temporary spasms of insanity into which he fell advised to name a successor – Tiberius II Constantine.
According to John of Ephesus, as Justin II slid into unbridled madness of his final days, he was pulled through the palace on a wheeled throne, biting attendants as he passed. He purportedly ordered organ music to be played continuously throughout the palace in an attempt to soothe his frantic mind, and it was rumoured that his taste for attendants extended as far as eating a number of them during his reign.
6. Ludwig II
Ludwig II became king of Bavaria, in 1864. During his reign, Ludwig II spent all of his personal funds on the edifice of fairy tale castles. He was painfully shy, and ill-equipped for his duties as king. He spent hardly any time governing his people, and had a robust hatred to public appearances.
In 1866, Ludwig was accused of being insane. Whether his eccentric behaviours were caused by insanity is unknown. The man who affirmed him insane had never observed him. He was deposed on the grounds of insanity at the request of his uncle, who may have wanted control of the government. The day after the king’s deposition, he was found dead in a pond, along with the very doctor who had confirmed him insane.
5. Sultan Ibrahim I
One of the most renowned Ottoman Sultans, Ibrahim was released from the Kafes (a special prison for potential heirs to the throne), and succeeded his brother, Murad IV (1623–40), in 1640, though this was against the wishes of Murad IV, who had ordered him killed upon his own death. Ibrahim I was permitted to live because he was too senseless to be a threat. Ibrahim brought the empire almost to breakdown in a very short time space. He is known to have had a fascination with obese women, commending his agents to find the fattest woman possible.
A contender was tracked down in Georgia, or Armenia, who weighed over 330 pounds, and was given the pet name Sheker Pare (literally, “piece of sugar”). Ibrahim was so delighted with her that he gave her a government annuity, and the title of Governor General of Damascus. When he overheard a rumour that his concubines were compromised by another man, he had 280 members of his harem drowned in the Bosporus Sea. He was seen feeding coins to fish living in the palace’s pool. These acts earned him the nickname “mad” – for rather apparent reasons.
4. Ivan IV
Ivan IV, or Ivan the Terrible, had a childhood that was blemished by the loss of both of his parents, and abuse at the hands of the Russian government. After the death of his mother, when Ivan was seven, he was left to be tormented by the elite members of the Russian government. He was harshly abused and wronged by them in the very palace that was rightfully his. Abuse gave way to insanity, and Ivan began voicing his frustrations by torturing small animals.
In 1544, when Ivan IV was fourteen, he seized control of Russia by feeding the head of the government to a pack of dogs. After that it appeared that Ivan IV had reformed his ways. He made a public confession of his cruel acts to his people by way of an apology. It only later became clear that he was dangerously insane.
Ivan IV was a very good Tsar in many ways. He formed laws that were aimed toward class equality. However, when he began slaughtering his people, he showed the same ignorance of class distinction. Ivan IV was also guilty of killing his oldest, and most beloved, son by his own hand. You may or may not believe that acts of cruelty constitute insanity, but if you consider the likes of Hitler and Saddam Hussein to have been ludicrous, then Ivan the Terrible certainly was among them.
3. Queen Maria I of Portugal
Maria’s lunacy was first officially noticed in 1786, when she had to be carried back to her apartments in a state of hallucination. The queen’s mental state became gradually worse. The year of 1786 saw her husband lose his life, in May. Maria was upset and prohibited any court entertainments and, according to a contemporary, the state festivities resembled religious ceremonies.
Her state deteriorated after the bereavement of her eldest son, aged 27, with smallpox, and of her confessor, in 1791. After the end of 1791, her mental state looked to be becoming even poorer. In February, 1792, she was judged mentally insane, and was treated by John Willis, the same physician that attended George III of the United Kingdom. He wanted to take her to England, but that was declined by the Portuguese court. The young prince John took over the government in her name, even though he only took the title of Prince Regent in 1799.
When the Real Barraca de Ajuda burnt down, in 1794, the court was obligated to move to Queluz where the ill queen would lie in her apartments all day, and invitees would complain of dreadful cries that would reverberate throughout the palace. Maria died at Carmelite convent in Rio de Janeiro in 1816.
2. Prince Sado of Korea
Prince Sado was born in 1735, and was married nine years later. It is thought that his father, the king of Korea, began despising his son when Sado was very young. Sado had a son of his own when he was seventeen. After the birth of his son, Sado became sick with measles. He recovered from his disease, but it appeared to have generated an innate insanity that waited within the prince. The king became even more repulsed with his son. The king was said to have washed out his mouth, cleaned his ears and changed his clothes whenever Sado talked to him.
Prince Sado’s insanity first presented itself as nightmares and delusions. These episodes were soon tailed by violent attacks. By 1757, Sado was substantially abusing his servants, and raping any woman who repudiated him. Sado massacred and raped on impulse. He even took to stalking his own sister.
The king ultimately got tired of the terror his son inflicted. The king ordered Sado into a rice sack, and the prince obeyed. The king then had the rice sack nailed shut. Sado spent eight days in it before he finally died. Perhaps the king’s hatred contributed to Sado’s insanity. Either way, the cruel prince died a cruel death or, in the king’s eyes, integrity was attended.
1. Emperor Caligula
Caligula certainly needs to be on this list and justifies number one spot. Here is a summary of some of the many activities in his life as ruler of arguably the greatest empire in history. He attempted to instate his favorite horse, Incitatus meaning ‘Galloper’, as a priest and consul, and ordered a stunning marble stable built for him, complete with chairs and couches, on which Incitatus never sat.
Once, at the Circus Maximus, the games ran out of criminals, and the next event was the lions, his penchant. He ordered his guards to drag the first five rows of spectators into the arena, which they compliantly did. These hundreds of people were all devoured for his amusement.
A citizen once disrespected him to his face, in a fit of rage, and Caligula responded by having him tied down and beaten with heavy chains. He made this last for 3 months, having the man carried out from a dungeon and beaten, until Caligula, and the whole crowd that congregated, were too upset by the smell of the man’s festering brain, whereupon he was beheaded.
Caligula’s preferred torture was sawing. The saw blade filleted the spine and spinal cord, from crotch down to chest, and the victim was unable to pass out due to excess blood to the brain. He also relished munching up the testicles of victims, without biting them off, while they were restrained, upside down, before him.
He had another insult from one of his subject, and his entire family, publicly executed, one after another, in front of a crowd. The man and wife were first, followed by the oldest child and so on. The crowd became irritated and began to scatter, but many stayed in gloomy captivation. The last of the family was a 12 year old girl, who was weeping uproariously at what she had been forced to watch. A member of the crowd shouted that she was exempt from execution as a virgin. Caligula smiled and ordered the executioner to rape her, then strangle her, which he did.
He publicly had sex with his three sisters at banquets and games, occasionally on the table, amid the food. He was finally murdered by the Praetorian Guard and some senators, while leaving the Circus Maximus after the games. His body was left in the street to rot, and dogs ate it. He had ruled for 4 years.