Appalling Facts About Ruthless Leaders From History
There has been no shortage of bad, ruthless or simply inept leaders throughout history. From insane monarchs to power-hungry Roman emperors, many rulers had reigns that were damaging to their lands and people.
Whether these leaders were crazy, incompetent or just downright evil is a matter for some debate. In this article, we break down some of the worst leaders our world has ever known and the terrible acts they committed.
Farouk of Egypt
Farouk, the last king of Egypt, loved to party and gamble, and his gluttonous lifestyle pushed his weight up to 300 pounds. Farouk was also a pickpocket and hired professional thieves to teach him the skill. He practiced on diplomats, politicians and other guests he encountered.
Zhu Houzhao was only 14-years-old when he took the throne as emperor of the Ming Dynasty. His ministers hoped he would mature into the role, but that is not what happened. Houzhao's interests were reserved for women and brothels. He even converted a former zoo into his own personal brothel.
John, King of England
When Richard the Lionheart of England went on a crusade, his brother John was supposed to watch over the kingdom. However, John saw his brother’s absence as an opportunity to seize power. He had his closest competition to the throne, his nephew, murdered as well.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria
King Ludwig II of Bavaria didn't like to spend too much time in the public eye. He chose to spend his time and money building fairytale castles rather than governing his people. Two years after taking the throne, his uncle had him removed from power on the grounds he was insane.
Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim I
Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim I was nicknamed Ibraham the Mad. Ibrahim's upbringing likely led to his paranoid nature. He spent his infancy locked in a windowless building fearing he could be murdered at any minute. Ibrahim's brother attempted to order Ibraham's assassination, but their mother put a stop to it.
Emperor Qin Shi Huang
Emperor Qin Shi Huang of China is credited with creating the first unified Chinese Empire. He did this, however, by dismantling China's education system and working his loyal subjects to the bone. He also had an odd habit of issuing nonsensical orders and speaking in opposites.
Roman Emperor Rudolph II
Roman Emperor Rudolph II broke a religious settlement which had been keeping German Protestants and Catholics from fighting each other. He also attempted to wipe out Protestantism from Germany by force. This backfired for him, however, as the Protestants organized a self-defense league even as the Ottoman Empire also threatened his rule.
Ranavalona I of Madagascar
Ranavalona I of Madagascar kept her country free from British rule during a period of European colonialism. However, she was also a ruthless leader who imposed a period of forced labor on her subjects in lieu of taxes.
Henry VI of England
Henry VI of England was 9 months old when he was declared King of England. When his grandfather Charles VI died, he also became King of France. However, at no age was Henry fit to be king. He gave out titles to unqualified people he liked, and his advisors are thought to have had too much control.
Ferdinand I of Naples
Ferdinand I of Naples was a ruthless leader who governed by oppression, which eventually inspired a revolt against him. He often promised his defeated enemies amnesty only to later have them killed.
Emperor Sun Hao
Sun Hao was the emperor of the state of Eastern Wu during China’s Three Kingdoms era. In the beginning of his reign, he lowered taxes and increased grain payments, but things took a turn due to his paranoid and superstitious nature. He killed his cousins, forced an aunt to kill herself and set out to conquer the Jin state.
Eric XIV Of Sweden
Eric XIV of Sweden was initially thought to be a good ruler in the 16th-century. Then his paranoia took hold, and things took a turn. He had his brother arrested and tried for treason, and he ordered the death of a prominent Swedish family without cause. Eric even committed one of the killings himself.
Pope John XII
Supported by Germany's Otto I, Pope John XII was elected to the position at 18-years-old, at which point the Holy See became decidedly debauched. The pope liked to have sex in the papal palace and didn't distinguish between men and women. He forced himself on anyone who refused him, including his sisters.
The one and only woman to rule in China on her own was a ruthless and sadistic leader. She had her rivals executed, including members of her own family. She even ordered the death of her own newborn daughter.
Fat′h Ali Shah
Fat′h Ali Shah served as the second shah of Iran’s Qajar dynasty. Early in his reign, Georgia, which had been ruled by Iran since 1555, was taken over by Russia in the Russian-Persian war. Fat′h Ali Shah tried to gain allies, but Britain and France both refused.
Maria I of Portugal
The first Queen of Portugal, Maria I, was known more for her mental instability than her governance. In 1786, she had to be carried back home in a delirious state. Her husband had also died that year, which may have contributed to her deteriorating condition.
King James III
Scotland has had many Kings with the name James — nine of them, to be exact —but none quite like King James III. He ascended to the throne at only nine years of age and was dead by 28. He was unpopular amongst his subjects due to his seeking an with England, and his subjects even had him arrested at one point.
King Leopold of Belgium
King Leopold of Belgium is credited with creating the Congo Free State, which saw rubber and ivory resources extracted from Africa's Congo region. Between 8 and twelve million people were thought to have been enslaved, killed or tortured under his rule.
Farrukhsiyar ascended to the Mughal throne after he murdered his predecessor, Jahandar Shah. He is said to have lacked any ability to rule at all. Farrukhsiyar and was heavily manipulated by his advisors, the Sayyid brothers.
The emperors of the Liu Song Dynasty made a habit out of killing people, even their own family members. Emperor Qianfei was held prisoner by his uncle and didn't become free until his father killed his captor. Despite owing his freedom to his father, Qianfei despised him and even had portraits of his father defaced.
Mir Jafar made a deal with the British in 1757 to overthrow the nawab of Bengal in exchange for becoming ruler himself. Things didn't work out as planned, however. Jafar was basically a puppet for the British, which allowed them to take over all of India.
Charles II of Spain
Generations of inbreeding led to Charles II of Spain having many birth defects. Charles was physically and mentally disabled and had a large tongue, which made understanding his speech difficult. A short and thin man, he suffered from numerous health problems.
Czar Nicholas II
Czar Nicholas II was not one to change with the times or let go of the past. While he had little interest in ruling, he also fought to suppress democratic reforms and often broke his promises to nobles and peasants alike. He had a poor understanding of military theory and lead Russia to disaster in World War I.
King Naser Al-Din Shah Qajar
Shah Naser al-Din of Persia’s Qajar Dynasty ruled for over 50 years. Despite the length of his reign, he ended up with little to show for it. One of his few accomplishments was being the first modern Iranian monarch to visit Europe.
Manuel Mariano Melgarejo Valencia
On December 28th, 1864, Manuel Mariano Melgarejo Valencia seized power in Bolivia. He had almost been executed by the previous president for treason after participating in a rebellion against the government, which he blamed on alcohol. His rule was defined by incompetence and needlessly giving away land to Chile.
The Roman Emperor Elagabalus was more interested in sexual exploits than ruling his people. Having taken the throne at age 14, Elagabalus had sex with all the women he wanted and even married and divorced 5 times. He took male lovers as well. He also allegedly offered money to any medical professional who could give him female body parts.
Out of all the Roman Emperors, Caligula might have been the worst ruler. He declared himself a God was alleged to have engaged in incest with his sisters, both of which offended the Romans. At one point even declared war on the God of the Sea, Neptune.
King Herod the Great
King Herod the Great is the ruthless monarch who wanted to have baby Jesus killed. After ascending to power, he began to see Jesus as his biggest threat. The three wise men, Mary and Joseph were informed of Herod's intentions, however, and fled to safety. In response, Herod ordered the execution of all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem.
King Christian VII
At first, King Christian VII of Denmark limited his eccentricities to throwing food at dinner guests. Then things took a turn when he started masturbating so often that it impacted his ability to govern his people. He also leapfrogged over people who bowed to him and slapped them in the face for no reason in the middle of conversations.
Juana La Loca
Also known as Joanna the Mad, Juana la Loca ruled as queen of Castile from 1504 to 1516. After the death of her husband in 1506, Juana entered a deep depression and was reported to open his tomb frequently to kiss and caress his corpse. After her father buried the body, she ordered it exhumed, jumped in the coffin and kissed its feet.