Ruthless Facts About Some Of The Worst Rulers In History

Evil, crazy, or downright incapable of ruling, there has been no shortage of horrible world leaders throughout history. Some were downright awful! And the personal details about these people are just as appalling.

From Peter III of Russia hating his country to Vlad the Impaler’s crazy way of executing criminals, here are some grim facts about some of the world’s most notorious rulers.

King John Didn’t Know When To Quit

King John
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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There’s a reason why King John is the villain in more than one Robin Hood legend. After being asked to pretty much babysit England while his brother, King Richard, was away, he decided to start a war with France. It was his way of taking over the throne from his brother.

He lost and had to give up all of England’s French lands to King Philip II. And that was after signing a peace treaty!

Ramagupta Is Remembered As A Coward

Ramagupta
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

When a ruler is trapped by the enemy and agrees to surrender his wife over to them, there are going to be some issues. In this case, it was Ramagupta, the fifth emperor of the Gupta dynasty.

After getting trapped by the Sakas, the enemy’s king asked for Ramagupta’s wife in exchange for peace. He agreed. Now, he’s not remembered for much else but being a coward in the face of the enemy.

Emperor Qianfei Was Childish And Impulsive

Liu Ziye
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Ironically, after his father freed him from prison, Emperor Qianfei of the Liu Song dynasty was not happy. He hated his father. But instead of figuring out their differences, Emperor Qianfei ordered ugly noses to be painted on every portrait of his father.

And that wasn’t all. He wound up getting a taste for blood lust, eventually killing his family and putting his uncles on display in the town square.

Ranavalona I Didn’t Care Who Died

Ranavalona_I
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Ruthless doesn’t really begin to describe Ranavalona I of Madagascar. Under her rule, Ranavalona didn’t care who died, as long as she got what she wanted in the end. She managed to cut the country’s population in half by demanding outrageous labor work.

For example, when she went out with a hunting party, Ranavalona demanded a road be built right before her eyes. It’s said that about 10,000 people died under that one order.

Zhu Houzhao Never Grew Up

Zhu Houzhao
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Zhu Houzhao of the Ming Dynasty became the Emperor of China at the young age of 14. And while everyone thought he’d grow up to take an interest in governing, it didn’t turn out that way. He was more interested in the finer things in life.

Emperor Houzhao developed a keen interest in beautiful women, creating a harem so large that the women were starving due to a lack of supplies. He even created an alter ego for himself when he brought the military on raiding parties. To summarize his rein: Houzhao never grew up.

Tamerlane The Great Built A Tower Of Skulls

Tamerlane The Great
Tim Graham/Getty Images
Tim Graham/Getty Images

Tamerlane the Great wanted nothing more than to be like the great Genghis Khan — evil, ruthless, and the ruler of the world. While he is considered one of history’s greatest military strategists, he also destroyed cities and killed thousands upon thousands of people.

It’s even rumored that he killed 90,000 people in Baghdad, taking their skulls and building a tower out of them to claim his dominance over the city.

Czar Peter III Of Russia Angered His Entire Nation

Peter III Of Russia
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Czar Peter III of Russia wasn’t the emperor for very long. It only took a solid six months for people to rise up against him, throw him in jail, and kill him. Or so the story goes.

For a Russian Czar, Peter III could hardly speak the language, and he was all for a pro-Prussian policy. Needless to say, he wasn’t overly popular with anyone, including his wife, the popular Catherine the Great. Legend has it she’s actually the one who conspired against him!

King Naser al-Din Shah Qajar Had Nothing To Show For His Rule

Naser al-Din Shah Qajar.
PHAS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
PHAS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

After years of ruling, leaders typically have something to show for their efforts. Well, King Naser al-Din Shah Qajar of Persia can’t really say that, as, after a 50-year rule, he really had nothing to show for it.

Instead of listening to the monarchy, communities would adhere to the teachings of tribal and religious leaders. The one thing King Naser al-Din Shah Qajar had going for him was that he was the first Iranian monarch to visit Europe.

Murad IV Was A Cruel Teenager

Murad IV
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Yes, Murad IV became Sultan of the Ottoman Empire during a time of violence, but that didn’t mean he had to kill everything that moved. At 11 years old, Murad IV took the throne and began restoring the state through a series of brutal methods.

Some of his decrees included banning smoking and coffee, both punishable by death, and executing people who defied him, such as military officials and the head of the Islamic Supreme court.

King Edward II Wasn’t A Good Ruler

Edward II
The Print Collector/Getty Images
The Print Collector/Getty Images

If there was one incompetent ruler in the history of the British monarchy, it was Edward II. He not only succeeded in freeing Scotland from English rule, but he also lost the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Long story short, he was a horrible military leader in a time when Britain could have used a strong one.

In the end, his wife, Queen Isabella of France, hired an army of mercenaries to dethrone him.

Emperor Justin II Heard Voices

Emperor Justin II
Kean Collection/Getty Images
Kean Collection/Getty Images

Emperor Justin II f of the Byzantine Empire might have been a good ruler if it wasn’t for one tiny issue: he heard voices in his head. This prompted Justin II to have his servants play organ music at all times, hoping to drown out the noise.

At times, the voices would drive him so crazy that when his orderlies tried to restrain him, he’d attempt to bite their heads! Yikes.

Emperor Sun Hao Couldn’t Do Anything Right

Sun_Hao_Qing_portrait
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

At first, the people of China were happy with Emperor Sun Hao. But that happiness took a turn for the worst. He became cruel, extravagant, and even paranoid to the point of wanting to conquer the opposing Jin State.

Unfortunately, he worked the military so hard that they rebelled against him, allowing the Jin to swoop in and conquer them instead! It wasn’t exactly the best legacy to leave behind.

Czar Nicholas II Was Unwilling To Change With The Times

Czar Nicholas II
Xavier ROSSI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Xavier ROSSI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Czar Nicholas II of Russia wasn’t really keen on change. During his rule, Russia was going through a time of political and social change. Not wanting to shift anything, Nicholas held true to the old ways of ruling, not necessarily caring that change would be good for the people.

His stubbornness and inability to properly lead the military led to the Russian Revolution and the end of the 300-year Romanov dynasty.

King Ludwig II Of Bavaria Loved Fairytale Castles

King Ludwig II
DeAgostini/Getty Images
DeAgostini/Getty Images

Instead of focusing on state affairs, King Ludwig II of Bavaria was a romantic, enjoying the creation of extravagant architecture and creative composition. He actually wound up spending all of his royal revenue on the construction of two lavish palaces and the Neuschwanstein Castle.

The latter being the inspiration behind Cinderella’s fairytale castle. Two years after he ascended the throne, King Ludwig’s uncle took over. He declared King Ludwig insane for spending lavish amounts of money.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang Distrusted Education

Emperor Qin Shi Huang
Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Emperor Qin Shi Huang of China proved that not all rulers are smart. For example, this particular former leader decided China didn’t need an education system, burning all books and burying hundred of scholars alive.

While he created the first unified Chinese Empire, he did so by destroying any and everything having to do with an education system. He didn’t trust intellectuals. Thankfully, that all came crumbling down a few years after his death.

Henry VI Of England Was Seen As Weak

Portrait of King Henry VI
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Arguably the last trait a ruler would want their people to see them as is weak. Well, unfortunately, for Henry VI of England, that’s exactly how his people received him. Crowned at a very young age, Henry didn’t grow up to be a fierce warrior or hard ruler.

Instead, he kind of just wanted people to like him, appointing his court favorites with prestigious titles. This did nothing for his reign, and he wound up being a political failure.

King Ferdinand I Of Naples Had A Museum Of Mummies

King Ferdinand I
DEA / A. DE GREGORIO/De Agostini via Getty Images
DEA / A. DE GREGORIO/De Agostini via Getty Images

A ruthless liar, King Ferdinand I of Naples would commonly let his enemies know that no harm would come to them after defeating them in battle. Well, that wasn’t necessarily true. Ferdinand would actually kill them all.

And if that weren’t enough, he would mummify them in their clothing and stick them in his “Museum of Mummies.” If anyone thought to betray him, all Ferdinand did was walk them through his museum. Talk about creepy.

King Eric XIV Went A Bit Insane

King Eric XIV
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

At first, King Eric XIV of Sweden was doing a standup job as a ruler. Then, very quickly, things snowballed out of control. He became paranoid. Without cause, he not only sentenced the prominent Swedish family, the Sture’s, to death for treason but also arrested and tried his own brother!

Eric then left his palace, opting to wander the forest dressed as a peasant. Pretty much, his paranoia led to insanity.

Vlad The Impaler Got His Nickname For A Cruel Reason

Portrait of Vlad Tepes
Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis via Getty Images
Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis via Getty Images

With a nickname like Vlad the Impaler, there has to be a little bit of crazy within the person. In this case, it was the way he executed his enemies and criminals. Instead of jail or a quick death, Vlad would impale their bodies with stakes, giving them a slow death.

While he was cruel and eventually had a story of a vampire based on him, Vlad the Impaler is considered a national hero of Romania.

Emperor Commodus Was Vain

GettyImages-1093131222
Simon Song/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Simon Song/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Rome is known to have had some of the greatest rulers in history. However, Emperor Commodus is not in that category. The people of Rome found him to be very vain, which makes sense considering he made them call him Hercules and build statues of him dressed as a god.

Eventually, he was assassinated. His reign was the mark of the end of the Golden Period of the great Roman empire.