According to Russian legend, Ivan the Terrible was so impressed when seeing the completion of the Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, that he kindly ordered its architect PostnikYakovlev, to be blinded, so as to never build anything as beautiful again. Whether or not Yakovlev had any choice in this matter we are unsure, but there was little room for question when you were ruled by a ‘mad’ King, and history has been full of them, whether driven by a love of cruelty, or cases of mental illness.


mad Kings Ivan IV having killed his sons (wikimedia commons)Ivan the Terrible grew up ill-treated during bitter struggles for power. Often he would vent his anger like any other young aspiring ruler would: by blinding birds and dissecting them alive. When he was later Tsar,during a sack of the city of Novgorod, he had the cities inhabitants impaled, roasted, and even fried. Later on in his life, after beating his pregnant daughter in law leading to her miscarriage, he retaliated to his son’s anger by striking him with his staff, eventually killing him, an event succumbing him to grief until his death a few years later.


Another ruler who took pleasure in cruelty was Vlad‘The Impaler’Tepes of the early Romanian Kingdom, whose main interest was the ordering the impaling of his own people. The reasons for impaling ranged from severe treason, to simply stealing a loaf of bread. One event showing Vlad’s love for torture occurred during the invasion of the Ottoman Empire on Vlad’s lands, where Vlad impaled almost twenty thousand captured Turkish soldiers. The ‘forest of death’as it was perceived was so terrifying that the Ottoman army swiftly turned and fled the country.


Charles VI of France, or Charles ‘the Mad’lived up to his name, beginning to suffer from mental illness early in his reign, made by apparent when he killed four of his bodyguards unknowingly. He would at times believe that his name was George, deny that he was King, and flee with horror whenever he saw his wife. A particular story is of Charles claiming to others to be made from glass; that none should approach him out of fear of him shattering and ordering iron rods to be inserted into his clothing so that he would not break. His regular impressions of a wolf, howling and running around the castle, would exhaust his wife Isabeau of Bavaria. She swapped her place with another woman, who Charles did not even notice was not Isabeau.