Welcome to my Royalty in History site, a site about non-Royal behaviour of Royals in history!
In history Royal persons were raised with the idea of being a representative of God on earth. The Roman Emperor Caligula (12-41, to the right) even thought he was a God: he set up a temple with a life-sized statue of himself in gold,
dressed each day in the clothing such as he wore himself. One of his successors, the splendour-loving Emperor
Domitian (51-96), insisted on being addressed as "master and god".
Because Kings and Emperors were absolute rulers, they stood above the law. They could rape whoever they liked and torture and kill whoever they disliked. Of course, most Kings didn't have to rape: women crowded around them. They chose the most beautiful women of their country and made them their mistresses. King George I of Great-Britain (1660-1727), however, managed to choose the most ugly ones, nicknamed the "Elephant" and the "Maypole". The "Elephant" was most likely his illegitimate half sister! One of the favourite mistresses of August II " the Strong" of Poland (1670-1733) was his own bastard daughter. King João V of Portugal (1689-1750) was so religious that he chose nuns to be his mistresses.
Although King Philip V of Spain (1683-1746) had the notorious Bourbon sexual appetite, he didn't want to sin, and remained faithful to his Queen. While she lay dying, he wanted to "enjoy her delights" until the last minute and had to be torn from her deathbed. One of his descendants, Crown Prince Don Felipe (1747-1777), was a particularly distressing imbecile. who used to indecently assault any woman with whom he came in contact. It was rumoured that Queen Juana "The Mad" of Castile (1479-1555) embraced her husband even after his death. When Pedro "the Severe" (1320-1367) was crowned King of Portugal, he had the remains of his late mistress dug up to be crowned as well. The first King of Prussia, Frederick I (1657-1713), loved his second wife dearly. Nevertheless, he took a mistress because he thought it the correct thing for a monarch to do.
Other rulers disposed as easily of their wives as they disposed of their mistresses: King Henry VIII of England (1491-1547) had 2 of his 6 wives beheaded. In the night after his 7th wedding, Ivan IV the terrible of Russia (1530-1584) discovered that his new bride was not a virgin anymore. He had her drowned the next day. Sultan Ibrahim I "The Mad" of Turkey (1615-1648) had even less scruples. Once, in a rage, he had his entire harem of 280 women cast into the Bosporus, tied up in weighted sacks. Only one of them managed to escape.
The marriage policy of the European Monarchs caused the spreading of hereditary diseases and defects among European Royalty.
Around 1900, some Princes of the Royal Houses of Spain, Russia, Prussia and England suffered from haemophilia, a disease of the blood. They were all descendants of the English Queen Victoria (1819-1901). Victoria's grandfather, King
George III (1738-1820) went mad as a result of porphyria, a hereditary blood disorder, that causes agonizing painful, gout-like attacks, and sometimes even mental derangement.
One of George's ancestors, King
Charles VI of France (1368-1422)
suddenly killed 4 of his own men before he could be overpowered. Other times, Charles thought he was made of glass and about to break.
The Habsburg Kings of Spain descended from Queen Juana "The Mad" of Castile, who was hysterical and prone to fly into rages. Her ancestors increased her inheritance by inbreeding: they preferred to marry their own niece. These incestuous marriages resulted in the mentally and physically handicapped King Carlos II of Spain (1661-1700, to the right). He was sadly degenerated with an enormous, misshapen head, the heavy Habsburg chin exaggerated to almost caricature-like proportions, rendering him unable to chew and barely able to speak.
Although a wrong choice of wife could affect the health of a King's children, a wrong choice of mistress could affect the King's own health. The Dukes of Gonzaga suffered from both options; they had either a hump, inherited from Paola Malatesta of Pesaro (1393-1453), or syphilis. Syphilis has long-term neurological effects from severe lesions, decay, unbearable pain and blindness to senility and death. It was "treated" with mercury and sulphur. From 1500 onwards, many Princes suffered from it.
While the male Royals played with their mistresses, the females were supposed to enter the marriage bed as a virgin and to remain faithful to their husbands.
The Belgian Princesses Louise (1858-1924) and Stephanie (1864-1945) both ran weeping from their marriage bed because no one had ever told them what their "marital duties" implied. Tsarina Catherine II "the Great" of Russia (1729-1796) was still so innocent that on the eve of her marriage she did not know the difference between a man and a woman. Nine years after
her wedding she was still a virgin and took a lover. She got away with it by deposing
her husband. Most Princesses were less lucky. When Nicholas III of Este (1383-1441), Marquis of Ferrara, was informed that his young wife was intimately involved with his eldest son, he didn't ask for proof and had them immediately incarcerated and beheaded the next day.
Frederick William II of Prussia (1744-1797) was a great lover of women, but he neglected his first wife, Elisabeth of Brunswick (1746-1840). Cheerfully, she took some lovers herself. Soon afterwards, she found herself divorced. Frederick William II remarried a more submissive Princess and later contracted bigamous morganatic marriages with 2 of his mistresses. While the British King George I amused himself with the ugly "Elephant" and the "Maypole", his wife and count Philip of Königsmarck (1665-1694?) exchanged some love letters. George divorced his wife and had her banished to a remote castle, while the count mysteriously disappeared. His sister, Aurora, crossed Europe in search of her brother and ended up as mother of one of the 354 bastards of the Polish King August II the Strong (to the right).
Princesses' feelings were usually ignored. The unhappily married Louise of Belgium tried to run off with count Geza Matacic. The count was imprisoned, and Louise was declared insane and locked up in an asylum. After 4 years, Matacic was finally released and managed to rescued his Princess. At the age of 15, the British Princess Caroline Mathilda (1751-1775) was married to the deranged Christian VII of Denmark (1749-1808). The poor Queen befriended the Prime Minister and they enlightedly ruled Denmark together, until the "wicked stepmother" of the King had them arrested on the accusation of adultery. Caroline Mathilda was divorced and banished.
For years, Jakobe of Baden (1558-1597), had been in love with a "mere" count, whom she was not allowed to marry. Instead, she was forced to marry Johann Wilhelm (1562-1609), the last mad Duke of Cleves. Johann Wilhelm's elder sister, Maria Eleonore of Cleves (1550-1608), had been married to the last mad Duke of Prussia, Albrecht Friedrich (1553-1618, to the right). Although Albrecht Friedrich was clearly deranged, they were bedded, and she gave birth to 7 children. In the 19th century, the mentally handicapped Ferdinand of Austria (1693-1875) was married to a crying Maria Anna of Sardinia (1803-1884). His uncles had to inform him about what he was supposed to do in his wedding night, but he preferred to wedge himself in a wastepaper basket and roll over and over like a ball.
The main task of female Royalty was giving birth to as many male heirs as possible. The English Queen Anne (1665-1714) gave birth to at least 17 children, but none of them survived childhood. Elisabeth Juliana of Sayn-Wittgenstein (1634-1689), countess of Lippe, gave birth to 20 children in a period of 24 years. The Polish Marie Leczinska (1703-1768) described her marriage to Louis XV of France (1710-1774) as "forever bedded, forever pregnant, forever in childbed". Thus she began to "deny him her favours" on miscellaneous obscure Saints' Days and finally the day came when Louis bedded the first of a long succession of mistresses, among them 4 sisters of the Nesle family.
Many Queens died in childbed: the birth of Margaret The Norse Maid (1283-1290), Queen of Scots, caused her mother's death. Robert II Stuart (1316-1390), King of Scots, was born by caesarian section after his mother's death, following a riding accident. In Spain, it was not allowed to touch the Queen, so physicians were forced to examine the Queen from a distance. It didn't matter anyway; the doctor of The French "Sun King", Louis XIV (1638-1715), managed, in the course of about 20 years, to help most of the French Royal family into their grave with his incapacity.
The Spanish Queen Maria Luisa of Bourbon-Parma (1751-1819) preferred her favourite courtier to her children and especially loathed her eldest son, Ferdinand VII (1784-1833). She even asked Napoleon to send Ferdinand to the scaffold. He sent them both in exile.
Maria Eleonore of Brandenburg (1599-1655), Queen of Sweden, had given birth to the future Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-1689), she cried: "Take her from me, I will not have such a monster!" In her early childhood Christina met with several near-death "accidents".
Marie Auguste of Thurn und Taxis (1706-1756, to the right), Duchess of Wurttemberg, was so fond of her second surviving son that she tried to have her eldest son declared illegitimate. He locked her up for life.
The Byzantine Empress Irene (†830), whose name means "peace", was regent during the minority of her son, Constantine VI (†797). When Constantine had taken over the government, his mother did not like his policy and had his eyes put out. Sultan Süleyman I "the magnificent" of Turkey (1494-1566) was persuaded by his concubine Roxelana (†1558) to have his 2 elder sons by another wife strangled. In 16th century Turkey regicide was one of the first acts of a new Sultan, so these murders were the only option for Roxelana to ensure the survival of one of her own sons. Sultan Mohammed III of Turkey (1566-1603), for example, had all his 19 brothers executed the day after their father died. They were all minors.
The people of Europe didn't tolerate every whim of their spendthrift, cruel or deranged monarchs.
In 1302 the French King Philips IV "The Fair" (1268-1314) was driven out of Belgium by the Flemish peasants in the Battle of the Golden Spurs. He was lucky; another French King, Louis XVI (1754-1793), lost his head under the guillotine.
The British had the head of King Charles I Stuart (1600-1649) chopped off. In 1661 his son, Charles II Stuart (1630-1685), was back on the throne.
Mircea of Walachia (±1428-1446), Vlad Dracula's elder brother, was buried alive by the magnates of Tîrgoviste. Tsar Alexander II of Russia (1818-1881) managed to survive 6 assassination attempts before he was finally blown to pieces. King Alexander I Obrenovic of Serbia (1876-1903) and his unpopular wife were butchered in their bedchamber and afterwards their naked bodies were thrown out of the window. The Portugese Royal Family was riding in an open carriage, when King Carlos I (1863-1908, to the right) and his eldest son were killed. While the assassin was aiming at the younger son, the Queen thrusted her bouquet in the assassin's face and thus saved her younger son's life.
After World War I a lot of Monarchies became Republics. Belgium, Denmark, Great-Britain, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Monaco , Spain and Sweden still support a Royal family.
Copyright © 1996-2008 by J.N.W. Bos. All rights reserved.
"Remember, to be a King, all you need to know is
how to sign your name, read a manuscript and mount a horse."