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History's Maddest Kings
by Adam Powell

1. 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 George’s 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 who’d listen.

2. Nabonidus king of Babylon (r. c. 562 - 539 BC)
Nabonidus’s mind seriously declined towards the end of his reign. He believed he was a goat, and enjoyed crawling around fields, eating grass.

3. 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 father’s 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.

4. 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 halfwit’s 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 father’s deathbed advice was “don’t change anything”. The power of Ferdinand’s 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 one’s own name.” On hearing that the people were having a revolution in 1848, Ferdinand’s 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.

5. 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 family’s standards, he found talking and writing intellectually challenging activities. His jaw was so misshapen he couldn’t 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.

6. Christian VII of Denmark (r.1766- 11784)
I am confused, there is a noise in my head”” Christian VII
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 he’d 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 didn’t 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, Christian’s 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 window.

7. Gian Gastone de Medici, Duke of Tuscany. (r. 1713 - 1737)
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.

8. 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 wouldn’t inherit the throne.
As a child he enjoyed torturing servants and animals. He bit the heads off snakes and dog’s 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 he’d ordered because they didn’t come up to scratch. Food, as well as cruelty, was a passion and he ballooned in size.
Frustrated by having no political role, the porky prince schemed to break up his father’s 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.

9. 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 daughter’s marriage to Henry V of England might have been responsible for some of the later British monarchs’ eccentricities.

10. Ludwig II of Bavaria (r. 1863 - 1886)
Ludwig’s 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 his psychiatrist.