11 Monarchs Who Went Insane

Giuseppe Troni, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Giuseppe Troni, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

With election season in full swing, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and be glad that neither candidate makes out with corpses or thinks they have bones made of glass. Whether they were born with mental illness or slowly descended into lunacy as a result of leading tragic lives, these 11 rulers definitely make most U.S. presidents look better.

1. Queen Maria I of Portugal

Queen Maria (1734-1816) exhibited some eyebrow-raising behavior prior to her husband/uncle’s death in 1786, but it was that sad event that really set her on the road to madness. When her eldest son and only daughter followed soon after, Maria’s already fragile mental state took a nose dive. The religious fanatic became convinced she was going to hell and reported visions of her deceased father’s blackened corpse being tortured by demons. Visitors to her apartments would complain that they were tired of her constant screaming and wailing. According to some reports, she also became rather fond of wearing children’s clothing.

2. Charles VI of France

Charles (1368-1422) had many manic episodes, including one in 1392 where he slaughtered four of his own men after being startled when a page dropped a lance. After the massacre, Charles fell into a comatose state for two days and had to be carried home on a cart. But the most interesting delusion King Charles had was that his bones were made of glass. To prevent himself from shattering, the king had iron rods sewn into his clothes.

3. Otto of Bavaria

Joseph Albert, Hofphotograph, Munich, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Otto was brought in to replace his insane brother, King Ludwig II of Bavaria. No one was banking on the fact that Otto (1848-1916) was actually in worse mental shape than his sibling. The New York Times reported on November 5, 1913, that Otto was replaced after being found in a “pathetic” condition: “He stammered some inarticulate words. When [members of the delegation] withdrew from the room they heard a great crash, and on going to see what had caused it they found that Otto had dashed to the floor a tea tray, which had been set for the Deputies, and had smashed all the costly porcelain.”

Recent theories state that both of the brothers were in perfect mental health; the “insane” behavior was completely fabricated to make it easy to overthrow them.

4. Vlad the Impaler

Anyone who tortured people to the extent and numbers that Vlad of Walachia (1431-1476) did had to be insane as well as cruel. His favorite form of torture, impalement, wasn’t just used as capital punishment; he took pleasure in it to the point of complete and total obsession. When Vlad and his evils were finally brought to an end via house arrest in Hungary, he obsessively continued to torture and impale any living thing that had the misfortune to cross his path—birds, rats, mice.

5. Joanna of Castile

Although Joanna’s marriage was arranged by her famous parents, Ferdinand and Isabella, she fell completely and totally in love with her husband, Philip the Handsome (you be the judge) of Austria, a Habsburg duke. Joanna (1479-1555) was so in love, in fact, that when Philip died of typhoid fever in 1506, Joanna had his tomb reopened several times so she could gaze at her husband’s face, which surely was no longer quite as handsome as it once had been. When she had to flee town to escape the plague, she demanded to take Philip with her and had the tomb opened once again to make sure he was still inside. He was still there, and presumably still decaying, but that didn’t stop Joanna from kissing and caressing the corpse.

6. Erik XIV of Sweden

Domenicus Verwilt, Nationalmuseum, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The paranoia of Erik (1533-1577) completely consumed his life and his sanity. It wasn’t unusual for people caught laughing, smiling or whispering within Erik’s earshot to be sentenced to death for treason. He had an entire family imprisoned in his castle and later murdered simply because he believed they were too influential. After the executions, Erik wandered outside to the woods and disappeared for three days. He believed himself to be his own brother for a period of time, and in 1568, that brother really did take over the throne after advisors deemed Erik too compromised to wear the crown. Though Erik took his paranoia to the extreme, he may have been justified: when he met his end in 1577, it was the result of poisoned pea soup.

7. Fyodor I of Russia

Fyodor the Bellringer (1557-1598), son of Ivan the Terrible, wasn’t thrilled about ruling and left most of it up to his brother-in-law, Boris Godunov. Known for his “vacant gaze,” Fyodor’s undoing seems to have happened when his only daughter died at the age of 2. He took to wandering up and down Russia, obsessed with ringing all of the church bells in the land.

8. Princess Alexandra Amalie of Bavaria

By all accounts, Alexandra of Bavaria (1826-1875) was a lovely, charming princess who became convinced that when she was a child, she had swallowed an all-glass piano. It's said she also had an obsession with cleanliness and would wear only white clothing. Too bad she never made it across the sea to meet Emily Dickinson—the two of them could have compared notes (through a door, of course) on how to get their whites whiter.

9. Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg

After Michiel van Mierevelt, Nationalmuseum, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maria Eleonora (1599-1655) was desperate to give her husband a son, but after a couple of miscarriages and stillbirths, she kind of lost it when the baby she finally delivered in 1626 was a girl, screaming, “Instead of a son, I am given a daughter, dark and ugly, with a great nose and black eyes. Take her from me, I will not have such a monster!”

She tried several times to kill baby Christina, “accidentally” dropping her or shoving her down the stairs. Though King Gustavus Adolphus was happy to have a daughter, he was killed in battle less than two years later. Maria Eleonora responded with hysterical grieving that included keeping her husband's body above ground for 18 months so she could periodically touch it. Additionally, she made Christina sleep under a golden casket that contained her father’s heart.

Miraculously, Christina grew up to be a completely functioning woman and queen.

10. Mustafa I of Turkey

You can’t really blame this guy for being crazy: being locked in a room for 10 years at your own brother's behest might cause a screw or two to come loose. After his brother died, Mustafa (1591-1639) was released from his “golden cage,” but was sent back after just a few months when his brother’s son took the throne instead. When his nephew was assassinated just four years later in 1622, Mustafa was again dragged from the safety of his cage to have the crown plopped on his head. He was frequently found running through the palace, knocking on doors and screaming for his dead nephew to come back and rule Turkey again.

11. Ferdinand I of Austria

The product of inbreeding—his parents were double first cousins—Ferdinand (1793-1875) had epilepsy and encephalitis, rarely talked, and had problems doing simple tasks. As emperor, it's been alleged that the only words he uttered were, “I am the emperor, and I want dumplings.” However, Ferdinand did keep a perfectly coherent diary, suggesting that he wasn’t crazy at all, just a guy with the misfortune to be born to a family obsessed with keeping the bloodline "pure."

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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The Queen’s Guard May Have to Give Up Their Iconic Bearskin Hats

Can you tell that this is real bear fur?
Can you tell that this is real bear fur?
Defence Images, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) has given its leaders the chance to negotiate new trade deals and maybe even ban the sale of certain products—like fur. It’s something animal rights activists have long been pushing for, and a recently publicized letter from UK environment secretary George Eustice suggests that the government will indeed investigate the possibility.

As The Independent reports, Eustice wrote to the chief executive of the British Fur Trade Association that “once the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU has been established, there will be an opportunity to consider further steps it could take in relation to fur sales.” It’s far from a definitive proclamation, but since Eustice has seemed open to banning fur in the past, the letter has been taken as a positive sign for the anti-fur movement.

If the UK does eventually prohibit the sale of fur, this could mean the end of the authentic bearskin hats worn by the Queen’s Guard, who are most often seen stationed outside Buckingham Palace. According to Londonist, the 18-inch hats are created with fur from black bears killed during Canada’s annual black bear cull—a large-scale hunt that helps keep the population under control—and the UK Ministry of Defence purchases up to 100 new hats for the famously unflappable infantrymen each year.

The tradition of donning such eccentric headgear dates back to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when Napoleon’s Imperial Guard wore similar hats to make them seem taller and more intimidating. After the French were defeated by the Duke of Wellington and his British army, Britain adopted the hats as a symbol of victory.

But even if the UK does prohibit fur in the future, the Queen’s Guard could still keep the custom going. After all, there are plenty of convincing kinds of fake fur on the market these days. And as for what Queen Elizabeth II might think about the shift, we’re guessing she’d condone it; she herself gave up wearing fur products in 2019.

[h/t The Independent]