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Friday, November 12, 2010


The privilege, wealth and trappings of royalty brought so much pressure and burden to European royals that some of them went on to suffer severe psychotic disorders and paranoid tendencies. 

Here is my Top Five list of Mad Royals in European Monarchy.
(This listing is just based on my research towards European royals who were gone mad. Other writers may have different list depending on how they viewed madness in the royal court, some even declared King Charles IX of France as the craziest royal in European Monarchy)

5.  HENRY VI, King of England (1421-1471) 

He was the youngest monarch in history to ascend the English throne. His father, Henry V, died when he was only nine months old. When his maternal grandfather died, he was also declared King of France. He reigned from 1422-1461 during the War of the Roses, but his reign in France was abated when Joan of Arc successfully drove out the English troops from Orleans and brought Henry's uncle, Charles VII, to the French throne.  During his infancy, his two uncles, the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Bedford, sat as regents until he was 16 years old.

Henry was the only child of King Henry V, the second of the Lancastrian monarchs in England, and his wife, Princess Katherine, daughter of King Charles VI (the mad) of France. To end the hostilities of the Hundred Years of War,  King Charles VI, agreed to a peace treaty where his daughter would marry Henry V and made him his successor, disinheriting Katherine's brother, Charles.

Henry VI was described as a pious man, deeply religious and well-mannered, but he lacked a strength of character and mind as a resolute ruler.  As a result, his Kingdom was ravaged by wars and pretenders to the throne including his cousin, Edward of York.

Henry VI married Princess Margaret of Anjou, a strong-willed woman who became the real leader in the Kingdom. Henry VI's madness began showing early on his reign, he would sit alone unmovable and refused to eat.  

Later on, he yielded to the pressures of leading a Kingdom haunted by invasion and dispute of rival claimants, the King became melancholic and preferred a life in seclusion, he would not talk to anybody including his wife, he was even surprised when he saw his son whom he claimed "conceived by the Holy Ghost". 

He was reportedly laughing and singing when his soldiers were fighting against enemies during the crucial battle in Wales. He was declared insane later on, captured and murdered by the Yorks in the Tower of London with his heir, Prince Edward. Upon his death, the English throne was occupied by the Yorks and its leader mounted the throne as King Edward IV.

4. CHARLES VI, King of FRANCE (1368-1422)

He was King of France from 1380 to 1422. He was the son of Charles V (the wise) and Princess Joan of Bourbon. Charles VI's mother suffered a nervous breakdown and was declared insane after the birth of her 7th child, his father was reportedly suffered from "severe gout" all through out his life, the bad genes unfortunately passed to Charles VI and to his grandson, King Henry VI of England.

During  the Hundred Years of War, France suffered heavy casualties against England, tired and weary, Charles VI, agreed to a peace treaty where he relented to give up his descendants' right to the French throne and allowed his daughter, Princess Katherine, to marry the English King, Henry V, he also made Henry as his successor.

His maladies ranged from mild to severe, at one point, he killed his men while pursuing  their enemies, when he was brought to the ground to calm down and informed on what had happened, he terribly wept. 

In later years, he made himself believed he was made from a spur glass and prevented people to come nearer to him, afraid that he would break into pieces. His staff would lock him in a secluded room when his insanity attacked him, he would shout and wail like a baby in the room, he would refuse to eat and change clothes.

At the end of the Hundred Years of War, he made France almost miserable when his fits of madness made him to act irresponsibly. He died in seclusion after the birth of his grandson, Henry VI of England.

3. Joanna , Queen of Castile (1479-1555) 

Joanna the Mad (older sister of Queen Catherine, the first wife of King Henry VIII of England) became the heiress presumptive on the thrones of Castile and Aragon when her two older siblings died. At the age of 16, she married Philip the Handsome of Austria, after giving birth to six children, Joanna began showing signs of madness where she would burst into uncontrollable rages and stormed her household with terrifying tantrums.Her constant bout of insanity became frequent when she found out her husband carried extra marital affairs.

But despite her mental instability, she was declared legitimate successor of her mother, Isabella I of Castile. In 1504, her mother died, so her family moved back to Spain carrying a large entourage of Hapsburg staff. Joanna crowned Queen of Castile but her increasing attack of hysteria made the government believed she could not carry her responsibilities effectively so they made her husband as regent which infuriated Joanna’s father, King Ferdinand II of Aragon, more. Joanna would often seen running and screaming along the palace corridor.

She eventually locked up in a poorly ventilated castle accompanied by her daughter, Infanta Catherine, the future wife of King John III of Portugal. Joanna temporarily recovered only to find her husband dead which many believed poisoned by her father to prevent Philip from ruling Aragon. 

Upon Philip’s death, the regency of Castile passed to Ferdinand II, Joanna became more mentally disturbed with these circumstances that when the funeral of her husband traveled to Burgos City for a burial, she suddenly ordered the entourage to snatch her husband’s coffin and refused to bury. Despite the wrangling of her staff and ministers, she successfully brought back the body of her husband to the palace. For the next years Joanna would open the casket and caressed her husband’s decaying body. But reports disputed later on that the Mad Queen’s purpose of opening the coffin of her husband was not to kiss or caress him but to make sure the body was not taken by any woman.

When Joanna died, her son succeeded both the thrones of Castile and Aragon reigning under the name of Charles I, he succeeded his paternal grandfather, Maximilian I, as Holy Roman Emperor bearing the name Charles V. He was the first monarch under the united Spain. He ruled vast of the continent that his Empire was called “at which the sun never sets”. 

Charles V married his first cousin, Princess Isabella of Portugal, daughter of her maternal aunt, Maria of Aragon and King Manuel I of Portugal. Their son Philip, Prince of Asturias married his double first cousin Princess Maria Manuela of Portugal, daughter of John III (brother of his mother Isabella) and Catherine of Castile (sister of his father Charles). This incestuous relationship produced a physically and mentally badly deformed son, Don Carlos, the future Prince of Asturias and the headache of Spain.

2. DON CARLOS, the Crown Prince of Spain (1545-1568)

His ancestors’ famous inbreeding within the family of Hapsburg and Braganza, resulted to various physical and mental deformities of this unfortunate Spanish Prince. Don Carlos was a difficult and strenuous child even at the very early stage of his life. He did not speak until the age of four, did not start to walk until the age of six and even at the age of ten still constantly attended by private nurses as he could not make bathing alone.

The Prince would bite the breasts of his nurses, five of those nearly died from severe wounds . Even beyond five years old, his language was hardly understood and could not elaborate clearly what his words meant. Finally his tutors gave up and uttered to the King that his son was hopeless to learn.

Carlos grew up an insecure and mentally deranged young boy where his past time included mutilating live animals, whipped women, terrorizing staff even government ministers and prone to violent rages, he ate voraciously and seemed didn't know the word moderation.

His mentally unstable behavior feared the King’s subjects and courtiers as he would make decisions out of nowhere. One day while attending lectures at the University, he accidentally fell and rolled several steps on the staircase, his head was smashed creating a huge hole. The prince recovered but the accident escalated his difficult behavior even more.

When he was 22 years old, he recruited some men to assassinate his father, his plan was discovered by his paternal half-brother who told the King. Don Carlos was captured and imprisoned in the dark room, he was not allowed to accept visitors and his foods were controlled by staff. He later on died, reportedly, from poisoning.

1. IVAN IV, the terrible Emperor of Russia (1530-1584)

This Russian monarch might be the exact definition of what the word “terrible” is all about. Though his reign was considered a great one in the annals of Russian political history, his terrifying behavior shrouded his accomplishments..

The Emperor was described as nearly neurotic, obsessive, sadist with horrifying rages, his very disturbing character suggests he was a psychopath. His form of entertainment was watching his subjects suffered enormously from beating, he would order people to kill at his pleasure, he would rape hapless peasant women and thrown them to lake or hungry animals or burn them alive afterwards, he was heartless, emotionless and with quick mood shifts, he was fond of torturing disloyal subjects. He had some of his friends thrown in prison and let them starve to death.

Ivan the terrible became Russia’s monarch when he was three years old, his mother, Jelena Glinsky, sat as regent, she died later on, possibly of poisoning, Ivan and his brother, Yuri, was left in the care of loyal servants, but the rising of enemies in the palace lead them to live in terror, hunger and oppression which greatly affected his behavior in later years. The young emperor could not counter-attack his oppressors so he would throw his revenge to defenseless animals by piercing their eyes, took off their feathers and slit their bodies.

He had eight wives who were mostly sent to convent when he lost his fascination, one wife was drown in lake when he discovered she was not virgin anymore. Ivan accidentally killed his son during their terrible row, he later banged his head on the coffin of his son which left a huge scar on his head. 

He was a great schemer and loved to see people begged for mercy, several times during his reign, he announced to abdicate to become a monk. He died from stroke while playing chess, he was succeeded by his son, Feodor, who exhibited the same neurotic behavior as his father.

Note: Listing of Mad Royals varies depending on one's view towards madness. Most writers even listed King George III of England as more insane than his ancestor, King Henry VI, others even included King Ludwig II of Bavaria, King Alfonso VI of Portugal and King Charles IX of France in the Top Five list of Crazy Royals in the European court. The above listing includes royals who, according to my own views and readings, had the worst cases of neurotic tendencies.

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