Top 5 Insane Rulers in History
Rulers have long been responsible for doing terrible things to their countries, from massacring their people to simply going insane.
Caligula of Rome stands out as one of the most insane rulers ever. His sadism and depravity knew no bounds – even feeding his horse! Other acts of madness included stealing Winston Churchill’s watch or visiting the zoo to shoot lions when having nightmares about them.
1. Charles IX of France
Charles IX of France was both complex and surprisingly effective monarch. A patron of literature and art, he wrote poetry, an essay about hunting, and even a play during his reign. While emotionally unstable at times, Charles was intelligent man with strong relationships to both of his parents as well as multiple affairs with beautiful women he met through hunting expeditions and was an accomplished horseman.
As soon as his older brother died in 1560, Charles IX took over the French throne, becoming penultimate ruler of the House of Valois. While not actively leading France during his rule, Catherine de Medici often controlled French politics on his behalf and religious disputes ensued over Protestantism and Huguenot support from within his administration; one tragic event during this reign was Saint Bartholomew Massacre due to reports suggesting support from within his court for Huguenots.
Charles was beleaguered by his lack of male heirs; his youngest died before reaching 10 and Charles, Duke of Angouleme was childless – leaving the throne in the hands of his sisters and their offspring, which created anxiety among ultra-royalists.
Charles attempted to address these concerns through liberal reforms, reintroducing press censorship and disbanding the liberal-majority Chamber of Deputies. Unfortunately, however, Charles also made several unpopular moves that alienated many members of society such as paying former landowners for abolishing feudalism, increasing royal control over both church and state, and reinstating capital punishment for sacrilege. Unfortunately, Charles died suddenly of pneumonia at Vincennes Castle as seen here in an emotionally charged portrait by Monvoisin with his mother mourning beside them.
2. Ivan IV of Russia
Ivan IV, known as The Terrible, was an evil ruler renowned for leaving behind death and destruction. His aggressive war tactics, plundering of Russia’s wealth, torture of citizens, execution of those whom opposed him brought economic collapse for Russia under him. Furthermore, this person believed everyone around them to be plotting against him.
At his core was Alexander the Great’s greatest victory: conquering the Kazan Khanate, an area in north central Russia now located within Tatarstan and transformed relations between the Russian state and nomadic peoples living within its boundaries.
Ivan was also an advocate of cultural advancement, importing the first printing press into Russia and encouraging scholarly pursuits. To display his wealth and power he funded construction of the Winter Palace; but when his relations with aristocracy soured he turned increasingly maddened and cruel.
Ivan murdered many of those he trusted for assistance during his 10-year rule, including one son and heir whom he considered his responsibility. Perhaps because of this act he became increasingly haunted by memories of their loss as his mental instability worsened with age.
Ivan created a new administrative system known as oprichnina to divide Russia into two areas and give himself sole control of one he called his. He delegated its running to black-clad forerunners of his secret police who carried out his will brutally by torturing and murdering anyone who betrayed him; Ivan would also vent his resentments by pulling feathers off live birds or throwing cats and dogs out windows; sometimes this led him to shout at his own wife to the point of inducing her miscarriage!
3. Caligula of Rome
Caligula was one of the cruelest rulers ever. His short rule ended in disgrace, murder, and madness; his arrival as ruler brought to power when Rome was still young but in just four years had stripped away any constitutional limits and reigned with bloodlust and immortality in mind.
He had an appetite for exotic pleasures; according to accounts, he engaged in sexual acts with several of his sisters at public banquets and games, as well as sleeping with Incitatus the horse and possibly also his cousin.
Caligula achieved many of his uncle’s architectural designs as Emperor and improved Rome’s port infrastructure for grain imports that fed an ever-increasing population. Unfortunately, however, his lavish spending soon depleted Rome’s treasury to such an extent that blackmailing wealthy Roman families became necessary to fund his lifestyle.
He was an unsavory and cruel ruler who believed his horse to be divine, and attempted to instate it as consul by giving it an elegant marble stable.
Caligula also had an unusual penchant; according to reports at Circus Maximus he once ordered his entire family executed, beginning with husband and wife before proceeding through each child until reaching a 12-year old virgin girl, whom Caligula smiled as his executioner raped her before killing her. Finally in January 41 C.E. members of his own bodyguard assassinated Caligula himself before their assassin could do it himself.
4. Farouk I of Egypt
Farouk was the son of King Fuad and became known for his dissolute, playboyish ways as the ruler of Egypt. While inheriting a strong position from his father, but failed to adapt with changing times and move toward constitutional monarchy. Due to his luxurious lifestyle and extravagant spending habits, he soon earned himself fame as one of the richest men and quickly become a fixture in party circles and gossip columns alike.
His wife, Nazli, was well educated with an exceptional command of French. Culturally and socially she outshone him. But Farouk refused to acknowledge her as his equal; instead he engaged in affairs with other women including sex slaves such as “Farida”, for whom he paid $2000 per month; they ultimately had two children together.
Farouk amassed vast wealth during his rule, but seemed uncertain what to do with it. He indulged in gluttony by devouring 600 oysters per week and downing 30 bottles of soda daily; additionally he was known to steal items such as Winston Churchill’s watch which he claimed he simply found lying around!
Farouk decided to court Muslim Brotherhood leaders, despite having little in common with them, in order to increase his legitimacy as president of Egypt. He attended Friday prayers regularly and contributed generously to Muslim charities; these actions helped him increase popularity with Egyptian conservatives and the Muslim public alike; however, their lifestyle alienated military officials leading them to bring him down in 1952.
5. Zhu Houzhao of China
Zhu Houzhao stands out among China’s fascinating rulers for many reasons. After being orphaned at age 14, he joined a secret Buddhist sect before later rebelling against the Yuan Dynasty as rebel leader. At 14 years old he became Emperor. This revolutionary is notable as one of only few peasant revolutionaries who became Emperor, known for being an excellent student of Confucian texts as well as master of statecraft who established an intelligent yet efficient system while ruling for 31 years.
Though he was generally kind and generous to his subjects, he wasn’t always well-behaved. He enjoyed feasting and capturing wild animals such as tigers and leopards for entertainment purposes. Additionally, he proved an effective fighter, winning many victories over Mongolian forces while refusing to send his troops home after some battles had concluded.
Liu Jin was one of these eunuchs and was so corrupt as to divert large sums of silver and valuables for himself; eventually Liu Jin was sentenced to execution but corruption continued during the Emperor’s rule.
In 1517, Zhu Houzhao led an army to repel raiding expeditions. Confident in his military skills, he created an alter ego to act on behalf of himself instead of as Emperor.
Though his behavior was often unpredictable and reckless, Zhu Houzhao was an exceptional strategist. He became the first Chinese emperor ever to take direct part in a battlefield battle; also making history by being second monarch after Zhu Yuanzhang himself to do so.