by Adam Powell
George III of Great Britain (r.1760 - 1820)
George seems to have been a normal child with no
sign of any mental abnormalities. He was a slow
learner but that was hardly unusual for the
British Royal family. In fact, in his early
reign, he was possibly the most boring monarch in
Europe, no hobby was too tedious for George and
he was at his happiest discussing farming
techniques or his model ship collection.
His first attack of madness came on in 1788, and
he suffered from reoccurring bouts for the rest
of his life. Doctors now believe the cause to be
Porphyry - a rare, hereditary disease that has
affected members of his family, though never with
quite such severity.
During his attacks Georges moods would
swing wildly from deep gloom to ecstatically
manic. He imagined London was drowning, or spoke
to people long since dead. He mistook a tree in
Hyde Park for the King of Prussia. Public
engagements became sources of embarrassment or
amusement depending on your attitude to the
monarchy. George once started an address
with the words My Lords and Peacocks.
At the end of his life George cut a pathetic
figure, wandering around his apartments without
purpose, unbuttoning and buttoning his jacket,
and talking nonsense to anyone whod listen.
Nabonidus king of Babylon (r. c. 562 - 539 BC)
Naboniduss mind seriously declined towards
the end of his reign. He believed he was a goat,
and enjoyed crawling around fields, eating grass.
Frederick William I of Prussia (r. 1640 - 1688)
The most beautiful girl or woman in
the world would be a matter of indifference to
me, but tall soldiers - they are my weakness.
Frederick William I
Frederick William was a highly effective,
if cruel, ruler, but his weird and obsessive
behaviour still qualifies him for this list.
His ambition was to make Prussia a first-rate
European power. In order to do this he wanted
Prussians to be as hardworking, frugal and
disciplined as he was.
So he would walk around Berlin with a stick,
beating anyone who he felt was too lazy. He would
rip the clothes off women he felt were too
expensively dressed. He was so mean that he made
the Queen do the washing up. His moods grew
darker with age: he would lash out at anyone for
the slightest mistake, particularly his eldest
son Fritz (who later became Frederick the Great).
He would make him grovel on the floor in front of
people and kiss his fathers boots. The king
was sometimes seized by terrible depressions when
he would sit alone and cry.
Frederick William's one extravagance was his army.
He built up a force of 83,000 troops (huge for
the size of Prussia at the time) taking
particular pleasure in recruiting tall soldiers.
He named then his blue boys because
of their bright uniforms, and would kidnap anyone
lanky enough to serve in his regiment. So
bewitched was he with his giants that he refused
to deploy them in battle in case they were killed.
He preferred having them painted, or marching
them around his bedroom.
As soon as Fritz inherited the throne he sent the
blue boys off to war.
Ferdinand of Austria (r.1835 -1848)
The Habsburgs of Austria have produced their fair
share of lunatics due to a habit of interbreeding.
First cousins got hitched and uncles married
nieces. Prospective brides were sized up at
family reunions, resulting in a history of mental
and physical abnormalities. Few were as badly
affected as Ferdinand I. He managed the feat of
combining madness with extreme stupidity, along
with the Habsburgs badly misshapen jaw.
This harmless halfwits favourite hobby was
jamming himself into a wastepaper basket and then
rolling around the room. Ferdinand would have
been an excellent village idiot had he not
inherited the Austrian crown. His fathers
deathbed advice was dont change
anything. The power of Ferdinands
intellect can be gathered by some of his remarks:
I am Emperor - I want noodles, so get them
and It is easy to govern, but what is
difficult is to sign ones own name.
On hearing that the people were having a
revolution in 1848, Ferdinands response was
to ask are they allowed to do that?
Shortly afterwards he was asked to step down from
the Imperial throne. He readily agreed.
Charles II of Spain (r. 1665- 1700)
Charles father, Philip IV, continued the
long Habsburg tradition of keeping it in the
family - by marrying his niece. This might
explain the physical and mental problems that
were to afflict poor Charles II throughout his
life. Deformed and imbecilic, even by his familys
standards, he found talking and writing
intellectually challenging activities. His jaw
was so misshapen he couldnt eat solid foods.
In the hope of continue the family line in Spain,
a marriage was arranged with a French royal,
Marie Louise of Orleans. The marriage proved
childless and she took to overeating, eventually
gorging herself to death.
Charles end came in 1700. Not yet 40, but
already senile, he brought Habsburg rule to a
close in Spain.
Christian VII of Denmark (r.1766- 11784)
I am confused, there is a
noise in my head Christian
As a boy Christian already showed signs of being
disturbed. He would foam at the mouth and roll on
the floor after being chastised. With a gang of
other hooligans hed walk around Copenhagen
armed with clubs beating up strangers. This was
possibly to compensate for his sense of physical
inferiority, as he was short and puny.
He became king in 1766 but his behaviour didnt
improve. He liked to leapfrog over people when
they bowed, or suddenly slap courtiers on the
cheeks. Between manic bouts of masturbation,
whole apartments in his palace were smashed,
leaving room after room empty of furniture. As
the years passed, Christians mood swings
grew wilder. No one was safe from attack. He
suffered from delusions that he was about to be
assassinated, or that he was really the son of
Catherine the Great.
He finally stepped down when his son reached 16,
much to the relief of the court, but Danes could
still be treated to the spectacle of the retired
royal making faces at them from his apartment
Gian Gastone de Medici, Duke of Tuscany. (r. 1713
The last Medici to rule Florence, Gian Gastone,
was a drunk who spent most of his last 7 years of
his reign in bed. Visiting him required a strong
stomach: his boudoir was filled with excrement,
puke and the smell of the dogs he slept with. On
the rare occasions he ventured out, he made a
spectacle of himself by vomiting or uttering
obscenities. The Oliver Reed of European royalty.
Don Carlos of Spain (b. 1545 d. 1568)
Back to the Habsburgs, this time the Spanish
branch. Don Carlos was the heir to the most
powerful monarchy in 16th century Europe, whose
vast lands stretched from Holland to Italy, Spain
to South America. However, his behaviour became
so impossible*, his father, Philip II, had him
poisoned just so he wouldnt inherit the
As a child he enjoyed torturing servants and
animals. He bit the heads off snakes and dogs
testicles, or he roasted rabbits alive. In
adulthood he bullied servants and counsellors at
the slightest provocation. Don Carlos once made a
cobbler eat the shoes hed ordered because
they didnt come up to scratch. Food, as
well as cruelty, was a passion and he ballooned
Frustrated by having no political role, the porky
prince schemed to break up his fathers
empire and rule the Netherlands. He may have even
plotted to kill Philip as well. When his father
discovered what was happening he had his son
arrested and locked in a tower. Hopes that he
would eat himself to death failed to materialise
(though not from a lack of effort on Don Carlos
part, in one sitting he stuffed down a salted pie
big enough for 8 people), so poison was applied.
Exit Don Carlos to general relief.
* For the usual Habsburg reason, interbreeding
had left him with 6 great grandparents instead of
the usual 16.
Charles VI of France (r. 1380 - 1422)
Until 1392 he was a likeable youth without a hint
of the insanity to come, but while out riding one
day he suddenly attacked and killed 5 of his men.
His mental state never fully recovered. He
started believing he was made of glass and that
iron rods were holding up his body. His
treatments could hardly have helped matters. They
included boring a hole through his skull, or
having his servants dress as demons and leap out
at the king to scare him back to sanity.
His daughters marriage to Henry V of
England might have been responsible for some of
the later British monarchs eccentricities.
Ludwig II of Bavaria (r. 1863 - 1886)
Ludwigs attempt to make Bavaria into a
major European power was a hopeless failure. He
then retreated from the real world into a fantasy
existence, building fairy tale castles that
almost bankrupted his country. He also enjoyed
rowing in a seashell shaped boat inside his own
private grotto, while a lackey read poetry to him.
His orgies with young soldiers and actors did not
endear him to the Bavarian court. He was placed
under house arrest and deposed. He later drowned
in mysterious circumstances while swimming with