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5 Mentally Ill Monarchs

Throughout history, kings and queens typically inherited their positions. Therefore, it's not surprising that some royals were not really up for the job. Here are five monarchs who suffered mental illnesses that affected their ability to rule.

1. Charles VI of France (1368-1422)

Charles' peculiar behavior started around 1392, after he'd suffered from a fever and seizures. Thereafter, he experienced periodic attacks of insanity lasting several months. During his bouts of madness, Charles would forget his name, the fact that he was king, and that he had a wife and children. At times he also believed he was made of glass, and that he'd shatter if someone approached him. He even ordered that iron rods be put in his clothing so he wouldn't break. He ran around the castle howling like a wolf. Charles' strange behavior exhausted his wife Isabeau of Bavaria, so she found him a mistress to keep him busy. Her name was Odette de Champdivers and she resembled Isabeau so much that Charles couldn't tell them apart even when he was sane. Meanwhile, Isabeau gallivanted with Charles' younger brother, Louis of Orleans, and probably bore at least one of his children.

It's now believed that Charles probably suffered from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). His doctors tried to cure him by drilling small holes into his head. They accomplished this through the element of surprise "“ group of men with blackened faces hid in Charles' room and jumped out at him. Inevitably, the treatment didn't work and Charles' son-in-law was declared regent.

2. Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584)

ivan-terrible.jpgIt's uncertain if Ivan's cruel behavior was the result of a traumatic childhood, mental illness, or his way of maintaining control over Russia's rebellious factions. Both his parents died when he was young, so he was raised by two aristocratic families who used him as a political tool. Ivan was often starved, terrorized, and exposed to all types of violence, including executions. This clearly took a toll on him; even at an early age, he took delight in throwing cats and dogs over the Kremlin walls.

While Ivan's behavior was never really stable, he seemed to become completely unhinged following the death of first wife, Anastasia. He rampaged against boyars who had disagreed with him in the past. He sent the oprichniki (secret police) to wreak havoc in cities that wanted to break away from his control. Men would be rounded up into buildings that would be set on fire while women were stripped naked and used as target practice. Ivan utilized typical medieval punishments including decapitation, hanging and impaling, but he also devised new methods like roasting his "enemies" over a spit or throwing them into bear pits.

Some argue that Ivan showed signs of schizophrenia because his behavior swung from one extreme to the other. He would dress like a monk and preach to his officials about the importance of leading a moral life, but hours later take part in drunken orgies with them. He would personally torture prisoners, but then go to church where he would bang his head on the ground and beg for forgiveness.
His most egregious act was killing his own son. It happened when Ivan saw his pregnant daughter-in-law dressed too provocatively, and started to beat her. When his son came to her defense, Ivan struck him in the temple causing his death. Ivan's act changed the course of Russian history as his second son, Feodor, who became tsar was mentally deficient. Contrary to legend, however, Ivan did not blind the architect who designed St. Basil's Cathedral, the colorful, onion-domed structure located in Moscow's Red Square.

3. Joanna the Mad (1479-1555)

joanna-mad.jpgShe was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Spanish monarchs who funded Columbus' journey to the New World. Mental illness ran in Joanna's family "“ her grandmother, Isabella of Portugal, was prone to depression and hysterics. Joanna was an attractive and educated woman when she married Philip the Handsome, son of the Holy Roman Emperor. Although their marriage was arranged, Joanna fell hopelessly in love with him. Philip found her appealing enough to father six children. However, he was not ready to give up the life of a philandering monarch.

Joanna's clinginess caused much resentment. Philip flaunted his affairs shamelessly, causing Joanna to lash out at one of his Flemish mistresses by cutting off her hair. Philip realized his jealous wife was cramping his style, so he kept her under house arrest when they lived in his kingdom of the Netherlands. On a trip to Spain, her mental illness became evident when she stayed out in the cold, barely dressed, for almost two days, crying outside the castle gates. What caused her to lose it completely was when her beloved Philip died. Joanna refused to leave his body, and she opened his coffin everyday to embrace his rotting corpse. She was finally convinced to bury her husband after three years. She was confined from 1509 until her death.

4. George III of England (1738-1820)

king-george-iii.jpgGeorge was the English king who lost the American colonies. One of the most famous stories about his insanity is that while he was being driven through a park by carriage, he mistook an oak tree for Frederick the Great, the Prussian king. He got out of the carriage, and shook one of the tree's branches and began a conversation with it. (Some claim that this story was fabricated by anti-monarchists). The truth is that George really did have mental problems that manifested themselves during several periods of his life, beginning around 1765. During these times he suffered from insomnia and talked incessant nonsense for hours. It is now suspected that King George suffered from porphyria, a genetic metabolic disorder that causes depression, hallucinations, constipation, red or purple urine, and severe abdominal pain.

The attempts to cure George were more interesting than his actual illness. Besides being restrained in a chair with iron clamps for hours, he was also bled, forced to vomit, and starved. A recent study based on the examination of King George's hair shows high levels of arsenic, which was administered to him as part of the cure "“ but probably just worsened his condition. In the last ten years of his life, his son and heir, George IV, served as regent

5. Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845-1886)

ludwig.jpgThe Mad King of Bavaria was eccentric, sensitive, escapist, flamboyant and most likely schizophrenic. As a teenager, he heard voices in his head and enjoyed dressing up as a nun. When Ludwig became king, his first order of the day was to seek out his beloved composer, Richard Wagner, who had been in hiding from his debtors. Ludwig paid off Wagner's debts, put him up in a swank apartment in Munich and awarded him a hefty salary. Bavarian ministers didn't like how Wagner manipulated the king and they forced the composer to leave.

Ludwig then focused his attention on building fantastic castles. The most famous is Neuschwanstein "“ the later inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle. He paid for the castles with his own money and soon found himself in debt, but still wanted to build more. Nobody knew that a century later, Ludwig's extravagant hobby would pay off in the form of tourism.

Over time, Ludwig became a hermit, living only with his servants, and occasionally inviting his horse to dine with him. He loved Marie Antoinette, the French queen executed during the French Revolution half a century before his birth, and set up chairs to entertain deceased members of the French royal court.
Ultimately, the Bavarian ministers and members of the Wittelsbach family realized Ludwig needed help, as he was both an embarrassment and a great expense for Bavaria. Psychiatrist Bernhard von Gudden declared him insane and Ludwig was ordered to step down. Ludwig was taken to Berg castle. That same evening, he and Dr. von Gudden went for a stroll around the gardens. Hours later, the two men were found dead, their bodies floating in the lake on the castle grounds. To this day, no one knows what really happened to them.

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11 Things You Didn't Know About Dolly Parton
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images

Over the past 50-some years, Dolly Parton has gone from a chipper country starlet to a worldwide icon of music and movies whose fans consistently pack a theme park designed (and named) in her honor. Dolly Parton is loved, lauded, and larger than life. But even her most devoted admirers might not know all there is to this Backwoods Barbie.

1. YOU WON'T FIND HER ON A DOLLYWOOD ROLLER COASTER.

Her theme park Dollywood offers a wide variety of attractions for all ages. Though she's owned it for more than 30 years, Parton has declined to partake in any of its rides. "My daddy used to say, 'I could never be a sailor. I could never be a miner. I could never be a pilot,' I am the same way," she once explained. "I have motion sickness. I could never ride some of these rides. I used to get sick on the school bus."

2. SHE ENTERED A DOLLY PARTON LOOK-A-LIKE CONTEST—AND LOST.


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Apparently Parton doesn't do drag well. “At a Halloween contest years ago on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the guys were dressed up like me, I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage," she told ABC. "I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think.”

3. SHE SPENT A FORTUNE TO RECREATE HER CHILDHOOD HOME.

Parton and her 11 siblings were raised in a small house in the mountains of Tennessee that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. When Parton bought the place, she hired her brother Bobby to restore it to the way it looked when they were kids. "But we wanted it to be functional," she recounted on The Nate Berkus Show, "So I spent a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it! Even like in the bathroom, I made the bathroom so it looked like an outdoor toilet.” You do you, Dolly.

4. SHE WON'T APOLOGIZE FOR RHINESTONE.


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Parton is well-known for her hit movies Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5, less so for the 1984 flop Rhinestone. The comedy musical about a country singer and a New York cabbie was critically reviled and fled from theaters in just four weeks. But while her co-star Sylvester Stallone has publicly regretted the vehicle, Parton declared in her autobiography My Life and Other Unfinished Business that she counts Rhinestone's soundtrack as some of her best work, especially "What a Heartache."

5. SHE IS MILEY CYRUS'S GODMOTHER, SORT OF.

"I'm her honorary godmother. I've known her since she was a baby," Parton told ABC of her close relationship with Miley Cyrus. "Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) is a friend of mine. And when she was born, he said, 'You just have to be her godmother,' and I said, 'I accept.' We never did do a big ceremony, but I'm so proud of her, love her, and she's just like one of my own." Parton also played Aunt Dolly on Cyrus's series Hannah Montana.

6. SHE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS FROM THE KU KLUX KLAN.

A photo of Dolly Parton on stage
Getty Images

In the mid-2000s, Dollywood joined the ranks of family amusement parks participating in "Gay Days," a time when families with LGBT members are encouraged to celebrate together in a welcoming community environment. This riled the KKK, but their threats didn't scare Dolly. "I still get threats," she has admitted, "But like I said, I'm in business. I just don't feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody."

7. TO PROMOTE LITERACY, SHE STARTED HER OWN "LIBRARY."

In 1995, the pop culture icon founded Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with the goal of encouraging literacy in her home state of Tennessee. Over the years, the program—built to mail children age-appropriate books—spread nationwide, as well as to Canada, the UK, and Australia. When word of the Imagination Library hit Reddit, the swarms of parents eager to sign their kids up crashed the Imagination Library site. It is now back on track, accepting new registrations and donations.

8. PARTON'S HOMETOWN HAS A STATUE IN HER HONOR.

A stone's throw from Dollywood, Sevierville, Tennessee is where Parton grew up. Between stimulating tourism and her philanthropy, this proud native has given a lot back to her hometown. And Sevierville residents returned that appreciation with a life-sized bronze Dolly that sits barefoot, beaming, and cradling a guitar, just outside the county courthouse. The sculpture, made by local artist Jim Gray, was dedicated on May 3, 1987. Today it is the most popular stop on Sevierville's walking tour.

9. THE CLONED SHEEP DOLLY WAS NAMED AFTER PARTON.

In 1995 scientists successfully created a clone from an adult mammal's somatic cell. This game-changing breakthrough in biology was named Dolly. But what about Parton inspired this honor? Her own groundbreaking career? Some signature witticism or beloved lyric? Nope. It was her legendary bustline. English embryologist Ian Wilmut revealed, "Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn't think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton's."

10. SHE TURNED DOWN ELVIS.

After Parton made her own hit out of "I Will Always Love You," Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, reached out in hopes of having Presley cover it. But part of the deal demanded Parton surrender half of the publishing rights to the song. "Other people were saying, 'You're nuts. It's Elvis Presley. I'd give him all of it!'" Parton admitted, "But I said, 'I can't do that. Something in my heart says don't do that.' And I didn't do it and they didn't do it." It may have been for the best. Whitney Houston's cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992 was a massive hit that has paid off again and again for Parton.

11. SHE JUST EARNED TWO GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.

Parton is no stranger to breaking records. And on January 17, 2018 it was announced that she holds not one but two spot in the Guinness World Records 2018 edition: One for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart (she beat out George Jones, Reba McEntire, and Elvis Presley for the honor) and the other for Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist (with a total of 107). Parton said she was "humbled and blessed."

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