Throughout history, there have been many good leaders and bad rulers; too many to start counting. There have been dictators, and there have been benevolent kings. This list is about the rulers in history that people really did not want to mess with.
10. Suleiman I:
Also referred to as Suleiman the Magnificent, Suleiman I was born on April 27, 1495 in Trabzon. He reigned the Ottoman Empire for 69 years; longer than any other Sultan in Ottoman history. His reign coincided with the golden age. Throughout his rule, he had many military successes, and the empire was at its greatest, encompassing most of Middle East, South-eastern Europe and Rhodes. Suleiman I also believed in change, reforming much of the educational system, legislature, taxation and criminal acts. Historians argue that he resembled a lion with his majestic bearing and had a handsome and clear voice. He was also viewed as heroic, determined, and powerful, and was blessed with good fortune and luck for both for himself and for those around him.
9. Friedrich Wilhelm I:
Frederich Wilhelm I was born in 1688 and became the King of Prussia and Elector of Brandenberg 1713, a title he held until his death in 1740. Prussia under Friedrich Wilhelm I enjoyed a peaceful tenure. His rule was absolutist and he was a firm autocrat. The king encouraged farming, reclaimed marshes, stored grain in good times and sold it in bad times. However, the king is most remembered for his affection for the military. He loved having the military march before him, even when he was feeling under the weather and confined to his bed. He made it his goal to see the Prussian army become one of the glorious in all of Europe.
That obsession did not exclude family. He hoped that his son would one day be a good soldier. The boy would awake every morning to the sounds of cannon firing upon the king’s request. The boy decided to run away, but was soon captured and imprisoned by his father.
The King’s oddest behaviour was his obsession with creating the Potsdam Giants, an army regiment, comprised of just the tall and strongest soldiers. The king would go about in recruiting them by all means necessary.
8. Genghis Khan:
Genghis Khan was the founder of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest empire in history after his death, and often nicknamed the “ruthless warrior”. He rose to power after he united various nomadic tribes of north-eastern Asia. After founding the empire and being proclaimed Genghis Khan, he began the Mongol invasions that resulted in the conquest of most Eurasia.
He wasted no time in capitalizing on his divine power. Food and resources were becoming scarce as the population of the Mongol empire expanded. In 1207, Genghis Khan led his armies against the kingdom of Xi Xia, which they ended up winning after a two year battle. In 1211, Genghis Khan’s armies struck the Jin Dynasty in northern China, lured by the great rice fields and easy pickings of wealth.
Before his death, Genghis Khan gave supreme leadership to his son Ogedei, who controlled most of eastern Asia, including China. The rest of the empire was divided among his other sons: Chagatai took over central Asia and northern Iran; Tolui, being the youngest, received a small territory near the Mongol homeland; and Jochi, who unfortunately died before Genghis. Genghis died at the age of 63 from his injuries sustained from his fall off a horse. The empire’s expansion continued and reached its peak under Ogedei Khan’s leadership. Mongol armies eventually invaded Persia, the Song Dynasty in southern China, and the Balkans. Just when the Mongol armies had reached the gates of Vienna, Austria, leading commander Batu got word of the Great Khan Ogedei’s death and was called back to Mongolia. Subsequently, the campaign lost momentum, marking the Mongol’s farthest invasion into Europe.
The empire began to split due to wars over succession, as the grandchildren of Genghis Khan argued over the royal line and whether it should follow from his son and initial heir Ögedei, or one of his other sons such as Tolui, Chagatai, or Jochi. The Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260 marked the high point of the Mongol conquests and was the first time a Mongol advance had ever been defeated in direct combat on the battlefield. In 1368, the empire was overthrown by the Han Chinese Ming Dynasty and the Mongol Empire was official liquefied.
7. Isabella I:
Isabella I was born on April 22, 1451 in Madrigal de las Atlas Torres, Spain. Today, she is referred to as “La Católica” (the Catholic), a “title” that was given to her by the Spanish Pope, Alexander VI. This is a title that the Kings and Queens of Spain still hold.
One of Isabella’s most famous acts was the Spanish Inquisition. Because she was a devout Catholic, she felt that she should rid Spain of anyone who was not Catholic. Or at least get them to convert. For such reason they got Pope Sixtus IV to begin the Spanish Inquisition in 1478. The Spanish Inquisition, which lasted until 1808, was not the best time period for Spain. It was particularly bad during the reign of Isabella and her husband Ferdinand. Anyone who was not a Catholic was suspected of being against the church.
The second known act of Isabella I was the funding of the Columbus Voyage to find the route to India. They planned a route not by sailing east around Africa, but rather west across unknown waters. As we all know, Columbus never arrived in India. He was the first to discover the Americas, and landed in what is now known as the Bahamas.
6. Vlad of Walachia:
Vlad of Walachia was a member of the House of Drăculeși, also referred to as Dracula. Anyone who enjoyed torturing people to the extent that Vlad the Impaler did had to have been insane as well as vindictive. His favorite form of torture, impalement, wasn’t just used as corporal punishment; he took pleasure in it to the point of complete and total satisfaction. When Vlad and his evils were finally brought to an end via house arrest in Hungary, his obsessions continued to torture and impale any person that had the misfortune to come near him and that included birds and rats. Romanian and Bulgarian portray Vlad as a hero, a true leader, who used harsh yet fair methods to reclaim the country from the corrupt and rich people. He was also hailed for standing up to invaders – the Ottoman Empire.
Supposedly, Vlad the Impaler’s reputation for cruelty was actively encouraged by Matthias Corvinus, who stained Vlad’s reputation and credibility for political motives: as an explanation for why he had not helped Vlad fight the Ottomans in 1462, for which purpose he had received money from most Catholic states in Europe.
Louis XVI was born as Louis-August, Duc de Berry, the grandson of King Louis XV. Although he was a good student with particular interest in Science, he wasn’t prepared to become King. He was probably a little too shy, too irresponsible and mostly interested in hunting and locks. His grandfather was often blamed for his lack of commitment into his grandson’s political education.
When crowned King, Louis XVI decided to build a strong, efficient, capable of rivalling the English, maritime arsenal. He sent his forces to America where the independence war was intensifying. This act was a key point in the independentist’s naval victory.
He may have been loved by the French people but wasn’t respected by his own ‘court’. He wasn’t protecting them and their interests in light of how bad the economic crisis was at the time. They quickly pictured him as a hoodwink, an unprepared, introverted and stupid man who was incapable of using common sense. This was a terrible mistake from Louis XVI to underestimate the power of his people.
His tax reform was abandoned and his advisers were fired. Louis XVI then choose Necker as his new minister of finance, As the tax chapter seemed very sensitive, Necker’s solution was to take out huge loans from other supportive nations. This was a mistake. Nothing seemed to work for Louis XVI and his ministers.
In May 1789 he had no other choice but to call for the meeting of the estates general.This assembly, made of representatives of the tree estates (Clergy, Nobly and the third estate) meet and try to find a solution to a severe political, military or economical issue.
It was the first time in more than 150 years that the King had to call for such a meeting. This was the first of many events that led to the French Revolution and Louis XVI’s overthrow.
4. Ivan the Terrible:
Ivan IV, or Ivan the Terrible, had a childhood that was scarred by the loss of both of his parents, and abuse at the hands of the Russian government. After the death of his mother, when Ivan was seven, he was left to be tormented by the elite members of the Russian government. He was severely abused and mistreated by them in the very palace that was rightfully his. Abuse gave way to insanity, and Ivan began venting his frustrations by torturing small animals.
In 1544, when Ivan IV was fourteen, he seized control of Russia by feeding the head of the government to a pack of dogs. After that it seemed that Ivan IV had changed his ways. He made a public confession of his cruel acts to his people by way of an apology. It only later became clear that he was dangerously insane.
Ivan IV was a very good Tsar in many ways. He created laws that were aimed toward class equality. However, when he began massacring his people, he showed the same ignorance of class distinction. Ivan IV was also guilty of killing his oldest, and most beloved, son by his own hand. You may or may not believe that acts of cruelty constitute insanity, but if you consider the likes of Hitler and Hussein to have been insane, then Ivan the Terrible certainly was as well.
3. Alexander the Great:
Alexander was designated as ‘Alexander the Great’. Alexander simply means ‘a man who helps others’ in Greek. This great emperor was same as his name. He was the emperor of Macedon and had succeeded the empire from his father Phillip .He had very fierce and intelligent military strategies that he conquered much of the world by himself and sometimes made the entire nation surrender to him without killing one person. By the time he was 30, he developed a great empire starting from the Lonian sea to the Himalayas. He discovered many cities and named them after himself. The predominant one is the Alexandria in Egypt. Unfortunately, in June of 323 BC, Alexander the Great died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon, at the young age of 32. In 2003 Dr Leo Schep from The New Zealand National Poisons Centre proposed in a BBC documentary investigating his death that the plant white hellebore may have been used to poison and kill this fierce leader.
2. Napoleon Bonaparte:
Napoleon di Buonaparte was born on the island of Corsica a year after it was handed from the Genoese rule to France. This is the reason why he changed his name to more a French one later in life. Napoleon came from a family of minor Italian nobility. His father was Corsica’s representative in the court of Louis XVI. The main influence in his life was his mother; she was the one who kept him in check. In 1786, he took his commission as second lieutenant of artillerary. He served on duty in Valence and Auxonne until after the Revolution broke out in 1789.
Over the years Bonaparte’s skills as a tactician ascertained his rise through the military ranks. He had an ability to apply his knowledge of conventional military thought to real life situations. He made use of spies to spring surprise attacks on his enemies.
Bonaparte joined a coup d’etat, which purged the royalists in Paris. Leaving the republicans in firm control, he proceeded with peace negotiations with the Austrians. When he returned to Paris himself he was greeted as a hero and a dominant force in the government.
During the next eighteen months, Bonaparte proposed and undertook a military expedition to seize Egypt and a province of the Ottoman Empire to protect French trade interests and undermine Britain’s access to India.
His expedition was mostly successful but extremely brutal. With an army weakened by plague and poor supplies, he led 13,000 French soldiers to victory over the coastal towns of El Arish, Gaza, Jaffa and Haifa. In Jaffa, French soldiers slaughtered 2,000 Turkish troops as they tried to surrender. The French spent the next three days slaughtering the inhabitants of the city. Then Bonaparte ordered the execution of a further 3,000 Turkish prisoners.
The weakness of his army, caused by the plague, prevented Bonaparte from conquering the fortress of Acre. He returned to Egypt. In order to speed his retreat, he ordered the killing of prisoners and plague stricken soldiers en route.
On his return from Egypt, Bonaparte discovered that the French Republic was bankrupt. He supported a coup to overthrow the constitution. He traveled his way to being made First Consul In charge of France and later was declared First Consul for life!
Later that year, Bonaparte sent an army to reseize Haiti. Yellow fever and fierce resistance from the supporters of Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines prevented them from doing so. It became apparent that the French possessions on the mainland could not be defended, and, knowing that he was facing a war with Britain, Bonaparte sold the French interest to the United States for less than three cents an acre……the Louisiana Purchase!
In 1803, Britain declared war on France. After discovering an assassination plot against him, sponsored by the Bourbons, Bonaparte ordered the execution of the Duc d’Enghein, declaring himself Emperor of France to prevent the recreation of an hereditary monarchy. He was crowned on December 2, 1804.
In the end, Napoleon Bonaparte went tet to tet with the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard Leberecht at Waterloo in present day Belgium on 18 June 1815. His defeat, led to his imprisonment and exile by the British to the island of St Helena. He was ill for much of his exile, although he was able to dictate his memoirs. He died in 1821, while in exile.
Napoleon is a significant inclusion on this top ten list – he ended lawlessness and disorder in post-Revolutionary France. He was and still is criticized by historian for his tyranny and cruellness. His critics charge that he was not significantly troubled when faced with the prospect of war and death for thousands, turned his search for undisputed rule into a series of conflicts throughout Europe and ignored treaties and conventions that were in place during that time. His role in the Haitian Revolution and decision to reinstate slavery in France’s oversea colonies were controversial and tarnished his reputation in many ways.
1. George III:
George III was born on June 4, 1738 and was the King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1760 until his death in 1820. His reign was marked by a series of military conflicts involving his kingdom – in places like Africa, Asian and North America. He helped defeat France in the Seven Years’ War, helping Great Britain become a dominant European power in North America and Asia…but not for long.
In the later part of his life, George III suffered from recurrent, and eventually permanent, mental illness. He is well known in history books as the mad king who lost America. The mental illness has now been attributed to a genetic blood disorder known as porphyria. Symptoms include aches and pains and blue urine. His illness caused him to withdraw from his duties and move away from public eye. Each time he secluded himself, the country was thrown into a crisis.
Honorable Mention: Herod the Great:
Herod the Great, also known as Herod I, was a Roman ruler of Judea, modern day Island. In history books he is often described as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis” as well as”the evil genius of the Judean nation”. He is known for his colossal building projects throughout Judea, including his expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, the construction of the port at Caesarea Maritima, the fortress at Masada and Herodium. Important details of his life are recorded in the works of Roman–Jewish historian Josephus.
Many scholars today argue that Heroid suffered throughout his lifetime from depression and paranoia. The Roman-Jewish historian Josephus stated that Herod was so concerned that no one would mourn his death, that he commanded a large group of distinguished men to come to Jericho, and he gave an order that they should be killed at the time of his death so that the displays of grief that he craved would take place.