Royalty has always seemed to hold a place in the realm of insanity whether it be due to intense pressure and stress, past traditions of inbreeding to achieve noble blood or any number of other factors. Over the centuries, from ancient Roman emperors to even some new rulers, there have been many notable examples of sadism, cruelty, and simple, sometimes harmless, lunacy, throughout history.
Before modern medicine, many mental illnesses went unnoticed, and absolute power was passed down to hallucinatory and even schizophrenic heirs who went virtually unchallenged in some of the most psychotic endeavours known to mankind. Below are some of the most insane members of royalty in history.
5 Farouk Of Egypt
Although described as charming and possessing a good sense of humour, Farouk of Egypt (1920-1965) was a noted kleptomaniac and glutton with a, particularly disrespectful attitude. As a child, he was lonely and disinterested in his studies.
His boredom led to one instance in his childhood where he caught a cat and smashed its head against a wall until it died. He took the Egyptian throne in 1937 and before long, became despised by his people and those abroad, especially the British, who had put Farouk's family on the throne in the 1920's. His mischievous behaviour included playing pranks on foreign dignitaries, throwing food at people when he ate out, and burping in the company of guests to annoy them.
His kleptomania extended to him stealing from his people, other men's wives, pick-pocketing Winston Churchill's watch, and swiping treasures from the Shah of Persia's tomb, increasing tensions between Egypt and Persia. By the end of his life in 1965, he was severely overweight and collapsed while treating a young woman to dinner. It's speculated that he was poisoned, but this has never been confirmed.
4 Emperor Domitian
Given the chance, Emperor Domitian of Rome (81-96) was determined to outshine his father Vespasian and brother, Titus, in splendour and military achievement. Domitian was a mild-tempered and popular ruler at the beginning of his reign, but as avarice and power overwhelmed him, he began displaying cruel and narcissistic behaviours.
After his brother's death, a mystery-shrouded event, he immediately took the position of emperor and embarked on unimpressive military campaigns in an attempt to prove that he was as good, perhaps better than his brother and father. Cruel behaviours began with him catching flies, stabbing them with pens, and ripping off their wings. Soon, this escalated to random executions of those he suspected were plotting against him. He also threw lavish dinners that left the guests content and full, and then promptly had them murdered the next day.
One of his most famous acts of sadism were his black dinners where the guests dined in an entirely black room with black-dyed food served by men painted black. The guests were terrified since they had heard of Domitian's often executions and had to be carried home on stretchers. They weren't killed, though, and received lavish gifts the next day from the emperor. The consequences of Domitian's cruelty was his gruesome assassination in 96, a conspiracy that included his wife.
3 Erzsebet of Transylvania
With the initial spread of vampire lore after Erzsebet (1561-1614) death, much of the woman's infamy is questionable due to her cruelty being exaggerated by later writers and the rumours of her being a vampire and witch.
It is known that the Countess, especially after her husband's death, severely mistreated her servants. With a large inheritance from her husband and many influential friends, Erzsebet got away with torturing her servant girls for many years before finally being arrested for her crimes. One controversial story is that the Countess bathed in the blood of virgin girls as she became obsessed with staying young and beautiful.
Even if this isn't true, Erzsebet committed such atrocities as sewing the mouth of a talkative servant girl shut. After daughters of nobles had begun disappearing, the Countess came under suspicion and gained an infamous reputation throughout Transylvania for killing 650 girls. She died in prison in 1614.
2 Ivan The Terrible
A familiar name, Ivan IV of Russia (1530-1584), certainly earned the title "Terrible". The Tsar became famous for several acts of cruelty, including the sacking and burning of Novgorod, whom he believed the citizens of, with no evidence, were committing treason against him.
While the city burned, residents were tied to sleighs and pushed into the frozen Volkhov River, which overflowed with the corpses. Ivan's childhood was riddled with abuse by the heads of government after his parents' deaths, and a war between two powerful families ensued in his palace. Murders took place commonly, and Ivan's room was often, almost nonchalantly, assaulted by raids in which the furniture was broken, and his personal effects were stolen.
To release his stress, the young Tsar would often torture and kill small animals. At age thirteen, he claimed the throne and fed the head of the head of government to a pack of dogs. He was smart and manipulative. This was displayed when he announced his abdication, which he soon renounced after he was brought back by demand from the people, proving his popularity since, despite his cruelty, Ivan had ushered in an age of prosperity in Russia.
As Ivan aged, his outbreaks of rage and signs of mental illness worsened. Executions and crimes against the people continued until his death in 1584 when he died during a game of chess due to mercury poisoning.
1 Emperor Caligula
Notoriously cruel, Emperor Caligula of Rome (12-41) has made a name for himself and become more infamous than Nero even. With most of his family murdered, exiled, or starved by Emperor Tiberius, Caligula was practically the emperor's prisoner until he took rule.
It's speculated that the near extinction of his family and his mistreatment as a young man led to his insanity, but he was a popular and gentle emperor who showered his people with gold coins until he fell dangerously ill, concerning his citizens, who adored him. Epileptic and seemingly changed for the worse by his illness, Caligula recovered only to announce the return of gruesome treason trials that had marked Tiberius' dark reign. He tortured his people and executed his closest friends, including his right-hand man, Macro.
It's said that he waged war on Neptune by having his soldiers stab the sea after resolving that he was a god. He supposedly lost the war after his soldiers and horses drowned. He also tried to name his horse senator, cross-dressed frequently, and often threatened to murder his many lovers, both men, and women. Eventually, he was assassinated along with his entire family.