Off with yer head! You didn't want to get on the wrong side of these villainous rulers...
1. Vlad the Impaler
Born in Wallachia, which is now modern-day Romania, Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler, had three reigns, 1448, 1456-62 and 1476. And some say his reigns were reigns of terror.
He was known by his nickname, Dracula, and his rumoured practice of impaling his enemies on spikes then eating bread dipped in their blood inspired Bram Stoker’s classic vampire novel.
Following his death at the hands of Turkish soldiers, popular pamphlets and woodcuts from Western Europe portrayed him undertaking various sickening deeds, which ranged from roasting children and feeding them to their mothers, to cutting off women’s breasts and eating the entrails of those he impaled.
2. Henry VIII
Henry VIII has gone down in history as a cruel, vicious and tyrannical king. When he ascended the throne in 1491 he was fit and sporty, however a jousting accident in 1536 left him with serious leg problems, which contributed to his severe obesity at death in 1547.
A 2009 history documentary suggested he may have also had a brain injury which aggravated personality changes.
He’s remembered for having six wives, two of whom, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, he had beheaded. Henry was also well-known for sending confidants he felt had betrayed him to the Tower of London for imprisonment and execution. It’s believed 70,000 people were put to death during his reign.
3. Elizabeth Bathory
A countess who lived in Hungary between 1560 and 1614, Elizabeth Bathory is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most prolific female murderer of all time!
While her husband, Ferenc, a Baron, was away at war in 1578, she was responsible for ruling over the Hungarian and Slovak people in her region, and had a kind reputation. However, in the early 1600s rumours of her crimes began to spread, and she was investigated.
Witnesses claimed Bathory had mutilated and tortured servant girls, as well as daughters of the lesser gentry, sent to her care. When she was arrested in 1610, women were found dead, wounded and locked up. After her death in solitary confinement in 1614, rumours spread she’d killed the girls to bathe in their blood in order to seek eternal youth. However, historians today believe she was a sadist.
Caligula’s favourite saying was reported as being ‘Let them hate, so long as they fear.’ His rule of Rome from 37-41 AD was characterised by reports of extravagance, extreme cruelty and sexual perversion.
His early acts were generous, such as recalling people who were exiled. However, following an illness in 37 AD, he turned into one of history’s most tyrannical rulers, killing or exiling those he saw as a threat – even close family members. He spread a rumour that his mother had been born as a result of incest, and during a financial crisis in 39 AD he began falsely accusing people of crimes and killing them in order to obtain their estates.
He forced parents to watch their children’s executions, forced people to build temples to worship him (he had a God complex, and would often dress up as a Roman god) and enjoyed dining while watching his victims be sawed alive.
One of Caligula’s most madcap plans was to send his army to war against the god of the sea, Neptune. He was finally assassinated by his senate in 41 AD. They’d clearly had enough.
5. Richard III
Tyrant or victim of unfair propaganda? Richard III, who ruled from 1483-85, has gone down as British history’s quintessential villain, and there’s even a society devoted to clearing his name.
In Shakespeare’s play he’s portayed as a tyrant, who murders and threatens his way to the throne. His biggest act of tyranny was his links to the ‘Princes in the Tower’, Edward and Richard, the sons of Richard III’s brother Edward IV. Richard III was entrusted to look after them, instead locking them up in the Tower of London, in preparation for Edward’s coronation as king. The boys mysteriously disappeared, believed to be murdered, with Richard claiming the throne for himself.
After he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, his remains were slung over a horse and paraded for three days, to much celebration. More recently, his skeleton was found in a Leicester car park, and he was reinterred on 26 March 2015.
6. Genghis Khan
Founder and ruler of the Mongol Empire from 1206-1227, Genghis Khan was a fearsome warrior with a reputation for being one of the most tyrannical rulers. He conquered China in a merciless way, going through their weaker ranks first.
His system was to surround a city, putting up a white tent to signify that if the city did not surrender by the next day, he’d put up a red tent, which meant all men of fighting age would die. If the city did not surrender, he’d put up the black tent, meaning all living things would be killed in cold blood, regardless of age. Northern China lost a third of its population in this way.
Captured royal officials were killed slowly and brutally by having molten silver dripped into their eyes and ears. As he rampaged and built his empire, he flattened crops, levelled cities and hacked to death everything in sight.
So, which tyrant would you have least liked to be ruled by? Let us know…