cruelest monarchs

Top 10 of the Cruelest Monarchs Ever

These rulers were not known for their kindness.

by The Dope Lists

We all know that power in the wrong hands is the most dangerous and scary thing that can happen. Unlike in the past, today, we can control who rises to the top of power. For centuries, however, this was not the case, and rulers inherited the throne. We at the Dope Lists have gathered the Top 10 of the cruelest monarchs history has ever seen.

Attila the Hun

The name of Attila is perceived as synonymous with the ruthless “scourge of God”. The mere mention of his name terrified the Eastern and Western Roman Empires. When he ascended the throne in 434, Attila ruled with his brother Bleda. 

The first thing he did was to make peace with the Eastern Roman Empire for 700 kg of gold annual compensation. A few years later, Attila began to attack Roman cities on the pretext that they had violated the treaty. At the same time, he was no longer satisfied with the divided power and killed his brother, which made him the sole ruler.

cruelest monarchs

The only defeat that Attila suffered was the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, where he fought against the combined forces of the Romans and the Visigoths. Despite all his efforts, he failed to conquer either Rome or Constantinople. 

Attila was expected to die on the battlefield because of the way of life he led, but he took his last breath during his first wedding night with his new wife. It is unknown where Attila’s tomb is because all those who took part in his funeral were killed to avoid revealing his last home. According to one of the theories, the leader of the Huns was buried in Bulgaria.

Genghis Khan

In 1206, the chiefs of the Mongol tribes designated Temujin as ‘Genghis Khan’ – a title meaning strong lord. This decision changed history. Under his command, the Mongol Empire was founded – the largest state that ever existed in the world.

Genghis Khan conquered Khorezm (in Persia and Afghanistan) by opposing the Sultan’s army, twice his size. In Urgench, apart from the craftsmen and women, they killed all the others. 50,000 of the inhabitants of Samarkand surrendered, the remaining 30,000 who resisted were slaughtered. The men of the cities who voluntarily gave up were enslaved.

cruelest monarchs

During the siege of Hanbalik (Beijing), the devastation that Genghis Khan’s army brought with it was so great that the Mongols began to eat their dead brethren. Thousands were killed, and the looting lasted a whole month. The bones of the slain inhabitants of the city were so many that the hill turned white and for years startled the foreign envoys.

The only defeat of the Mongol army was inflicted by the khan of Volga Bulgaria – Gabdula Chelbir. Deserters, thieves, and adulterers were punished by death. However, drunkenness was tolerated as long as it occurred up to 3 three times a month. 


Also known as Tamerlane or Timur Lang, he was the founder of the Timurid Empire and the dynasty of the same name. His greatest aspiration was to restore the Mongol Empire. Ironically, he was a patron of the arts, and at the same time, his army destroyed everything in its path.

Timur took military action in Persia, and within four years, almost the entire empire was under his control. The city of Isfahan surrendered voluntarily to Timur, and he showed mercy. When the city revolted against excessive taxes, Isfahan witnessed a brutal massacre that killed more than 70,000 people.


During the conquest of Armenia and Georgia, they enslaved about 60,000 people, and large regions were depopulated. In Damascus and Aleppo, they killed the entire population except for the artisans. Evidence shows that on the territory of today’s Afghanistan, Timur ordered the construction of a tower of living people stacked on top of each other and poured cement on them.

In Baghdad, each soldier was appointed to return with two severed heads. When the population of the city is killed, the soldiers kill the captives. However, soon they have no choice but to start wearing the heads of their own wives.

Ivan the Terrible

He was the first Tsar of Russia. During his time, they conquered large territories, and they established many state institutions. But his rule was also characterized by mass terror. That is why he gets his nickname, The Terrible.

Shortly after ascending the throne, Ivan fell ill. He wanted the boyars to swear allegiance to his son. Many of them refused to do so precisely because they thought the King would die. The boyars quickly realized they had made a big mistake, but it was too late. Ivan healed, and all those who disobeyed him to were killed.

cruelest monarchs

It is believed that after the death of his first wife, the King completely lost his mind. In a few years, Ivan married six times. The fate of his wives is strikingly reminiscent of the wives of Henry VIII, although the English King at least provided them with quick death.

Several of his wives are suspected of being poisoned, but his last one has the saddest fate. Her mouth was closed, and her body was wrapped in ropes. Then she was buried alive. The reason was Ivan thought she had looked coquettishly at one of his boyars. In addition, Ivan kicked his pregnant daughter-in-law because she was dressed indecently. She swept and then killed his own son.

Mary I Tudor

Mary is the only surviving child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Thanks to her notorious father and his mania to have a male heir at any cost, she had a very difficult childhood. After her parents divorced, she was declared illegitimate, and they revoked all her titles.

She witnessed the frequent change of her stepmothers, two of whom were beheaded. Henry VIII severed ties with the Pope and founded the Anglican Church to legalize his marriage to Anne Boleyn. No wonder she remains in history with the nickname Bloody Mary given the example her father was for her.

cruelest monarchs

After her only brother died, her path to the crown was open. There was only one problem. By the time she reached the capital, the throne had already been usurped by her cousin. However, her reign lasted only nine days, and Mary made sure that all those involved in the betrayal were sentenced to death.

Mary’s marriage to Prince Philip of Spain provoked numerous riots, which were suppressed with unprecedented cruelty. Meanwhile, the Queen tried to eliminate the Anglican Church, resulting in hundreds of Protestants being burned at stake.

Leopold II of Belgium

Leopold is the second king of Belgium. The tiny state was not a significant factor in politics. To become a great power, he believed that it must have its own colonies. But in the 19th century, the world was long divided. 

He introduced himself as a philanthropist whose sole purpose was to civilize Africa. The free state of Congo was founded, which was directly subordinate to Leopold. Soon the King showed his true face. 

cruelest monarchs

He built roads and cities, but his goal was to seize as much of the Congo’s wealth as possible. The army called Force Publique enslaved the local population and raped the women. Anyone who did not deliver enough rubber was tortured or killed. Leopold did not stop there. 

He forbade the shooting of animals to make sure that every bullet killed a man. The soldiers had to prove they had shot the appropriate number of people by handing over the severed arm to the dead man. However, the army continued to kill animals, and in order not to provoke the King’s wrath, the mercenaries began to cut off the limbs of living people. They soon exposed the atrocities, and this caused a great scandal. Leopold was forced to hand over control of the Congo to the Belgian government.


Although his reign lasted less than four years, legends are surrounding his name. The cruelty and perversion of the Emperor reached such levels that it is not known which of the allegations about him are true, as every sunrise was met with another madness. Who would believe that the Romans could not wait for Caligula to become Emperor?!

During the first months of his rule, Caligula carried the remains of his relatives, provided bonuses to the army, and abolished some taxes. But after he fell ill, everything changed. The Emperor went mad, behaved hostilely and inadequately, and the reign of brutality began.


He declared himself a living god, eliminated all his rivals, and forced their parents to watch the executions. Caligula turned the palace into a brothel where senators were to lead their wives. Not only did he sleep with them in front of their husbands, but he also encouraged the sale of their sexual services. 

His sisters were no exception. Caligula incest with them and even took away the virginity of one of them, Drusilla. When she became pregnant, he waited for the birth of the child-God, and then with his own hand, he ripped open her belly and took out the baby. Caligula worshiped only his horse, which he wanted to make a senator, but he was murdered before achieving this weird ambition.

Vlad the Impaler 

Vlad Dracula is the ruler of Wallachia, who inspired the novel of the same name by Bram Stoker. There are many legends and superstitions about him. For his notorious punishment of impalement, he received the nickname Impaler.

The first thing he did when he inherited the throne was to avenge his murdered family. He arrested all those involved in the betrayal. The adults were impaled, and the young were forced to walk 80 km without a break. According to the testimonies of the neighboring peoples, impalement was not the only brutal punishment. 

Vlad the Impaler

Dracula ordered people to be flayed alive, beheaded, blinded, burned, fried, boiled, branded, or nailed. Sometimes even that was not enough for him, and he ordered to be cut off the noses, ears, tongues, or genitals of the victims. It was not uncommon for him to express a desire to do it alone. 

The impalement was even more brutal than it sounds. It was not carried out after the victim had already been beheaded. On the contrary, the executioners received special training to carry out the punishment in the most sadistic way possible. The stake was pierced through the convict’s genitals until it appeared through his mouth so that he could stay alive and suffer.


During the first half of his reign, Nero pursued a moderate policy that contributed to the prosperity of the Roman Empire. But in the second half, he radically changed his behavior. When rumors surfaced that his mother Agrippina was trying to overthrow him, Nero decided that the only way out was to kill her. 

Her son tried to poison her three times, dispatched a slave to slaughter her, appointed the walls of her bedroom to be torn down on her, and shipped her on a boat trip that crashed into the sea. Finally, he ordered a soldier to kill her and sent a letter to the Senate on her behalf admitting that she wanted to kill him and therefore committed suicide.


His first wife had a similar fate. When his mistress became pregnant, he divorced Claudia Octavia, declaring her infertile. Besides, he slaughtered her servants and ordered her veins cut to make it look like suicide. Octavia was so terrified she had to be drowned to be killed more quickly. Then her head was cut off and taken to Nero’s mistress.

One of the most common theories is that Nero himself commanded Rome to be set on fire to inspire him to write a new Iliad because he considered Homer an amateur.

Ibrahim I

He was the son of the most influential woman in the history of the Ottoman Empire, Kösem Sultan. For years he was locked in a large windowless building called the Cage. When the then Sultan was on his deathbed, he ordered the killing of Ibrahim because it was better to end the dynasty than the state to fall into the hands of his mad brother. Kösem Sultan did not allow this to happen.

When he ascended the throne, Ibrahim indulged in debauchery, and the harem was regularly stocked with virgins to satisfy him. Yet, the Sultan preferred women he could not have. So he began to commit adultery with the wives of the viziers in front of their eyes.

Ibrahim I

After a rumor spread in the harem that one of the girls had sinned with another man, the Sultan became so enraged that all 280 girls had to be tied up in sacks of weights and thrown into the Bosphorus.

Even his own son sometimes endured his madness. Ibrahim snatched the baby from its mother and threw it into the pool in a fit of rage. Years later, in the case of the concubines, the Sultan was so angry that he threw a dagger at his son and left a scar on his face for life.

It turns out that history hides many more secrets than we think. If these rulers’ cruelty, brutality, and perversion are not enough for you (though we doubt it), you can read about Qin Shi Huang.

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