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Royally Screwed Up

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Carlos II "The Hexed" of Spain. Most people have family trees. This guy had a family tumbleweed. Yes, his lower jaw really did jut out that far, and yes his nose really was that messed up. Also, this is a flattering portrait.

"Madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Every time a new Targaryen is born, the gods toss that coin into the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land."
Barristan the Bold, A Song of Ice and Fire

Nearly every family of a decent size has at least one relative who's a little... strange. Maybe it's Great-Aunt Enid and her collection of carefully mounted cat skeletons (no one knows where she gets them—they just appear), or second cousin Dolf's extensive research library on famous serial killers, complete with memorabilia he buys off of eBay at outrageous prices. (Those clown paintings he adores are particularly creepy.)

This isn't much of a problem, usually, as long as one is careful not to get cornered by them at family reunions. But, what happens when your family are hereditary rulers of some kind?

Kings, Emperors, High Priests, whatever you want to call it, the point is you have great power. Power that belongs to your family, and your family alone. Power that somehow meets Crazy. Due to random chance or, sometimes, not-even-remotely-random, deliberate action, Great-Aunt Enid or second-cousin Dolf will end up with the royal prerogatives.


What follows is either a reign of grotesque excess, blood, and terror, or some other form of epically bad king or queen. Rarely, you'll actually get somebody so bonkers and out there, they actually work well enough for their... little quirks (they're just paintings, for crying out loud!) to be ignorable. Eventually, however, our "At Least Painting the Throne-Room Puce and Yellow Worked" King Dolf or "Perhaps We Should Have Looked Into Those Cats More" Queen Enid will leave the throne (or be made to leave)... That should be the end of this outbreak of eccentricity, right?

Not necessarily. In fact, not even probably. Potentially dangerous insanity in the ruling line rarely appears in a single, isolated case when it comes to fiction. Nope. Chances are the whole family line is just as affected somehow, which means that sooner or later—probably sooner—along will come Queen Enid II and King Dolf III both or either of whom is painfully, obviously off their rocker enough for people to openly comment... And, the whole thing will start up all over again.


This may continue for a good many decades or even centuries, with each new generation crossing its fingers that they get one of the "good" rulers from the line and not one of the "iffy" bunch. If you are unfortunate enough to get stuck with one of the blood-drenched loonies, one common solution is to go find someone else from the same family who didn't get hit with the Ax-Crazy stick and put them on the throne instead of poor Enid or Dolf before revolution breaks out. This is where disgraced half-brothers, exiled princes/princesses and unknown sons/daughters come into play. Unless something permanent is done about the family problem, however, this is most likely just a temporary solution. Give it a generation or three of this side-branch inheriting, and it'll be back to our regular Queen Enid "Tree-Whisperer (and Agricultural Reformer)" IV and King Dolf "Bloody Insane" VI programming.

In fiction there are several common reasons why a royal family might be prone to madness.

  • Genetics: It's In the Blood in the completely literal, biological and strictly genetic sense. Often, that means excessive Royal Inbreeding, sometimes very excessive. The initial problem maybe wasn't inbreeding, but some genetic damage caused by an outside source that then becomes intensified and cemented into the royal line after the fact either through deliberate inbreeding or the sheer bad luck of not understanding biology when selecting mates. In any case, the family just has a crazy streak that's now inbuilt, and you're not getting rid of it unless your society is advanced enough to have genetic engineering (or a magical equivalent thereof) to deal with the problem. Or, becomes egalitarian enough for the high nobility to stop marrying each other so much. That last bit ought to help. Eventually.
    • Moral Lamarckism is the classical, magical version. The moral failings of your forebears express themselves in a taint on your own soul or karmic bank balance, like a kind of spiritual gene. Functionally, there isn't much difference.
  • Family Curse: Arguably, this is worse than a crappy genetic surprise. Someone, or something, has cursed the royal line... somehow and for whatever reason (most likely revenge). This can easily be a lot nastier to deal with than the problem of bad physical or moral genes, because even if you're careful about avoiding the inbreeding and taking care to select mates for brains, upstanding habits and/or governing skills, the curse really doesn't care. It may even spread out to people who marry into the royal line and cause them to go mad, even though they're only family by marriage, not by blood. It also means that you might not solve the problem by just picking a new family to rule over you—they're also likely to get swatted by the curse just as soon as they take power if the thing was either badly worded or specifically made to target those who rule a particular place, rather than just "the family of the one who wronged me". Obviously, to fix this you need to figure out who or what cursed the royal line with what words and why they did it, and then work out how to deal with the mess by whatever means necessary. You could try jumping straight to a parliamentary system to see how the curse deals with having hundreds of "rulers", but you'd better hope it just doesn't spread out to cover them all, or it will make your old problem seem laughably trivial by comparison.
    • One variant of this is a spiritual or moral imbalance brought on by upsetting the planetary or universal equilibrium or law in some way. This works just like a curse, but is the result of natural processes, rather than deliberate, magical malice. This lack of motive can make it harder to detect or uncover.
  • Cultural: The madness is the product of nurture, not nature; which means turning to exiled princes will be fine, at least for the first generation. If people don't change the culture that produced the madness, it will return, however. Possible reasons include:
    • The family has just become too used to being pampered and in power over generations, and each successive one has become a little more backstabby, corrupt, decadent and detached from general, boring, common everyday reality until finally people start to notice the extent of what has become a huge problem.
    • The culture actually expects its rulers to be "divinely touched" and requires the king or high priest to be at least a little crazy, particularly in theocracies with a Mad Oracle tradition or another culture with a particularly notable flavour of the Divine Right of Kings idea behind them — say a line of God Emperors where rampant megalomania and other quirks are considered just part and parcel of the Royalty Superpower package. Not being weird enough might even disqualify you, so you'd better learn to act the proper degree of nuts at the very least. Comes with risks attached, however.
    • The cut-throat culture itself is so hard on its rulers either politically or militarily that not being paranoid and vicious means your reign will be measured in months... if you're lucky. In this case, you only look insane to cultures or classes outside your own; within your own palace and/or while on the inevitable battlefield, behaving as if everything is out to get you is primarily a survival strategy, and not just a way to pass the resulting PTSD and Thousand-Yard Stare around.
    • The very way the royal kids are raised becomes severely detrimental to their sanity. Bring them up to specifically become sheltered, entitled, morally myopic, empathy-free Royal Brats and Caligulas are almost inevitably what you'll get once they get tapped on the shoulder by their inheritance. Unless they just become reclusive shut-ins who need helpers to do everything. Including sneeze. Be it by accident or design, the whole palace has not done anybody any favours.
  • Environmental: Some X-factor specific to the royal family's home location, diet, or environment is mucking things up.
    • Heavy metal poisoning, especially lead. (If you're looking for others to shake things up, antimony, mercury and arsenic are places to look: they've also had effects.) Seriously, it's a fashion at the moment for forensic archaeologists to imply this as the cause of most of the real world cases of mad monarchs 1500-1815, the source primarily being lead makeup. There were a few reasons for this: lead makes for an easily applied and very white pigment... which aristocrats loved to whiten their skin with to emphasis how little outside work they had to undertake, as well as not to look sweaty or smell so bad (lead pigments also can act to some extent as deodorants). These same aristocrats stopped using makeup from about 1815-1920 for fashion and decency reasons (moral decency, that is); not coincidentally, the incidence of insanity among them dropped, although they weren't entirely clear on why at the time). Although lead in the booze and water (more from the lead used in distilling equipment and pipework than the relatively negligible amounts leached from the crystal glasses) has also been implicated.note 
      • There's also a fact that for most of the Classical Antiquity and Middle Ages the lead acetate was known as "sugar of lead" and thought to be a great sweetener: it's cheap, easy to produce and much sweeter than the other alternatives. In was widely used in cider-, perry- and winemaking, and given that for much of the period the preference was for very sweet, syrupy concoctions, it exposed the drinkers to far worse doses of lead than any lead plumbing could.
      • Until the trade with India really picked up at the height of the Roman Republic, and cane sugar started to be imported, about the only sweeteners known in the Europe were honey and must — aka "boiled-up fruit juice or pressings" (see also Swiss vin cuit, a direct, northern descendant similar to apple butter and French vin cuit, a direct southern descendant which is a concentrated wine). The juice of the sweet, ripe grapes famous around the Meditetranean is rich in glucose, and boiling the water off a lot concentrated the sugar; first into the syrupy defrutum, and then into the molasses-like sapa. Given the Romans penchant for lead utensils at every stage, one shouldn't be surprised that they widely used lead-soldered, lead-lined or just plain lead cauldrons to do so, which exposed a lot of lead to the acidic grape juice, leading to formation of the aforementioned lead acetate — as well as lead malate, lead ascorbate and other lead salts that naturally went right into the syrup. In fact, the lead acetate probably got its common name, "sugar of lead", because someone tasted the whitish crystals that formed on the rim of their defrutum-making pot.
      • In East Asian, and especially Chinese, history, the main culprit for royal/imperial madness was not lead but mercury. For complicated reasons, the Chinese alchemists in particular insisted that mercury and its ore, cinnabar, were not only harmless, but key ingredients in any health tonic or elixir of immortality. Naturally, Chinese emperors were all about immortality, and so many an emperor was prescribed the elixirs. You read that right; Chinese emperors willingly ate or drank mercury to achieve immortality. What's more, the alchemists were so sure that mercury was the key to eternal life that they did this for centuries, if not millenia—emperors of practically every dynasty are recorded to have died from it, from the first emperor of Qin in the third century BCE to the Yongzheng Emperor of Qing, who died in 1735. That's almost 2,000 years of emperors poisoning themselves. To beome immortal. Yes, we can feel the irony.
    • Disease. Specifically, something like syphilis; it's an STD, so it would get passed around the court, it causes madness if untreated, and the first generally effective treatment wasn't discovered until the 20th century: Salvarsan. This links back to the heavy-metal poisoning: the common treatment before Salvarsan was mercury, and while that sometimes worked it also ran the risk of driving the patient a different kind of mad through mercury poisoning. Fun fact: syphilis can (and has) inserted its DNA into the human genome, just for that extra In the Blood sparkle you might be looking for.
    • A mysterious food, drink, drug or influential thing or place reserved for royal use, only (the crown, palace or throne are good ones to go for), with side effects. If a place or thing rather than a drink or drug, expect some form of radiation specifically attached to it of ether molecular or magical origin. If combining with magic, expect... a Curse and see further up this list.
  • They're Just Nuts: Anything and everything not covered by the above. Sometimes, mental illness just turns up both uninvited and unwanted. Rulers are no exception, for all they have a better chance of even their tiniest of foibles getting recorded and preserved (or distorted over time).

Whatever the reason, your rulers are regularly certifiably bonkers (with the likely accompaniment of minor and/or major physical deformities, because physical goes together with mental like salt does with pepper), at least as far as objective outside observers are concerned.

Note that royal/imperial insanity is Truth in Television often enough that it can be a bit frightening.

The Caligula is a singular example of this trope, leaving out the familial tendencies, although they arguably applied to him too. In the Blood doesn't apply only to royals, but is one of the many reasons why a royal family can have recurring madness problems.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • A borderline case in Dragon Ball Z: although Frieza is the most well-known member of his family, others are shown, and for the most part, they're just as crazy and evil as he is. Fan theories tend to attribute this trope to why they're essentially Lawful Evil.
  • One Piece has the World Nobles, otherwise known as the Tenryuubito (or "Celestial Dragons"), who are a perfect example of the 'Raised Wrong' cultural cause above. Because they are the descendants of the 20 kings who founded the World Government (or rather, 19 of them- Vivi's ancestor refused the invite.) Because of this, they're practically worshipped and considered above even most other royal families. They can do anything they want, from murder to enslaving anyone who catches their eye (slavery is banned otherwise), and they get away with it because they can summon an admiral any time they want. Naturally, they're complete spoiled monsters. This mindset is entirely culturally indoctrinated, and some World Nobles have learned to escape it. Notable examples include Donquixote Homing and his immediate family (Doflamingo being his son), and Myosgard after Otohime saved him.
  • In Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic we have the Kou Royal Family, integrated by a variety of members of all flavors! Their internal conflicts are so alike to those of a soap opera, a deranged soap opera.
  • In Code Geass, the Royal Family of the Holy Empire of Britannia are all pretty messed up for the most part, ranging from Lelouch and Schneizel, to Cornelia, to Clovis, who wipes out a whole section of dilapidated city to cover up his mistakes. And that's not even talking about Emperor Charles, his Evil Matriarch partner Marrianne, who is Not Quite Dead, and his insane brother V.V.. Luckily there's some hope. Euphemia is a generally sweet girl, and so is her younger sister, Nunnally. Crown Prince Odysseus is also pretty decent, though that may be because he doesn't really do much of anything (not to mention being probably the least intelligent of the family). Unfortunately this series likes to kill the kind ones.
  • An interesting variant: the heir presumptive of the Holy Kingdom of Saillune in Slayers, Prince Phillionel, while somewhat of a Leeroy Jenkins-like lunatic with a passion for physical fights, is probably the sanest and respectable member of the family and a stellar runner of the country; his younger daughter Amelia has most of his traits. The rest of the family is filled with Dirty Cowards who will do anything to move up a spot for the throne, with no concern for others — both of Phil's younger brothers, Christopher and Randionel, and his nephew, Alfred, have attempted to murder him. Alfred in particular contracts one (two in the anime) Mazoku to both take out Phil and take Saillune for himself while letting Christopher (his father) take the blame. In the novels, Christopher himself kills Alfred to prevent any more damage, and nearly commits suicide himself.
    • Among the craziest is Amelia's older sister, Gracia, otherwise known as Naga the Serpent. She runs off after Phil's wife is murdered, which is NOT helped by how she found her mom dead and bloodily killed the assassin. She then spent years traveling alone (and with Lina) in an attempt to obtain treasure, learn about the world (sort of), drink, and gain fame without much effort (which definitely doesn't work in her favor, especially when she's traveling with Lina). While she is willing to help others, she is like Lina insofar as she does it for her own gain. In the novels, she keeps in contact with Phil, but in other media it seems that she hasn't made contact in years, which disconcerts Amelia.
  • Saiunkoku Monogatari. Where to even begin? The previous emperor of Saiunkoku deliberately pitted his sons against each other, and then exiled his former favorite, the most competent of the lot. Of the remaining five princes, all but the youngest were killed fighting each other in a Succession Crisis that nearly destroyed the country. The Un Favorite youngest son Ryuuki became the heir. Ryuuki was none too keen on this and feigned incompetence and spread rumors about his sexuality to make himself unpopular and get out of producing an heir. Ironically, avoiding the temptations of power and recognizing his own insufficient preparation for the throne made him the Closest Thing We Got to a stable, responsible Emperor. Ryuuki starts to act like a real ruler after his advisors find him a consort capable of acting as a privy councillor. Oh, and that exiled prince? Turns out he's not so exiled after all...
    • And that's not even getting into the seven other families that make up the ruling class of Saimono. To give a sense of how screwed up they are, the Kou family is currently being lead by Kurou, the youngest of three living brothers, because Shouka and Reishin each tossed the clan leadership like a hot potato as soon as it fell to them. Kurou just hasn't got anyone else to palm it off on, so he gets stuck herding crazy assassination-happy cats.
  • Vampire Game is all about one princess's dealings with her own extended Royally Screwed-up family, wherein Incest Is Relative is the least screwed-up thing one can encounter, not to mention the Chimeras and of course Royal espionage. Oh, and there's a vampire who wants to kill her, too. This is mostly a comedy.
  • From the second season of Black Butler, Alois Trancy.
  • In Samurai Pizza Cats, Princess Vi is a selfish, spoiled brat who exiles people to Prisoner Island at the drop of a hat, her mother considers firing a rocket launcher at her daughter an appropriate family greeting, and Emperor Fred... to say he's got a few screws loose would imply he's got any screws left.
  • The Zabi family from Mobile Suit Gundam put the Screwed Up in Big, Screwed-Up Family. Patriarch and Sovereign Degwin is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who seeks to Take Over the World in the name of his ideology. Eldest son Gihren is a psychopathic Social Darwinist who could not care less about ideology and just wants to increase his own power whatever the cost. Second son Dozle is more or less normal, but turns into an Ax-Crazy berserker when turned loose on the battlefield. Daughter Kycilia is a cold-blooded amoral schemer who wants the throne for herself, and doesn't give a damn about human life. The only exceptions seem to be youngest son Garma, the second son Sasro (who was only a Sleazy Politician, killed by ''some'' of his siblings before the story proper) and Dozle's daughter, Mineva, who is raised away from the family, after all of their respective deaths.
  • The three Vance sisters from Queen's Blade are so messed up that, if it weren't for the fact that their father seems to be a fairly sane, stable sort, one would think the gods were justified in dethroning their family's ancestors as the former rulers of the known world and replacing the hereditary nobility with the eponymous tourney, which seems tailor-made to avoid the negative effects that this can have on the political arena.
    • Firstly, the sisters as a whole are part of an incestuous lesbian Love Triangle, where eldest daughter Claudette has a crush on youngest daughter Elina that goes unrequited (except in the Hide & Seek continuity) because Elina is instead obsessively in love with the middle daughter, Leina. Leina herself is only Ambiguously Gay, but is stable enough that if she is a lesbian, her attraction is to a woman who is not one of her sisters. Also, all three of them have serious mommy issues due to their Missing Mom — Claudette actually gets a double whammy of this, as her mother died before her father married the woman who gave birth to Leina and Elina, and then she died as well.
    • Claudette has serious issues with her family due to the fact that she's an illegitimate daughter and so not allowed to officially inherit the family estates, despite being the most formidable fighter. She does love her sisters, but at the same time she hates them, and she also feels torn between love & loyalty and hate for her father. In Rebellion, with a little magical coaxing from the Swamp Witch, her negative feelings turn her into a full-blown Evil Overlord, thanks in part to Leina giving her the throne of Queen.
    • Leina is technically the most stable of the sisters, but still suffers from severe inferiority issues that make her feel unfit to be the heir to the Vance family name and induce her to try and literally run away from her responsibilities.
    • Elina, finally, is the most unquestionably screwed up of the sisters. A Spoiled Brat who regards all others as beneath her notice and tortured one of her servants to the point she becomes one of the series' Big Bads just for the hell of it, which she did as a child, she has a complete Lack of Empathy and is also an unabashed incestuous Psycho Lesbian, who in the first anime episode is seen vindictively talking about how she'll make Leina's future husband suffer for having the audacity to marry her beloved sister.
  • The Juraian royal family in Tenchi Muyo! in all its size and glory is a full-on Deadly Decadent Court, with the constant scheming, and plotting, and framing, and dishonoring, and backstabbing, and whatever else, where even the good guys range from Cloud Cuckoo Landers to Manipulative Bastards, and where one needs to be a One-Man Army simply to survive.

    Card Games 
  • Ironically, this pops up in Legend of the Five Rings. Odd for two reasons: One, the new family line had two generations before being wiped out in their entirety. And two, none of them seemed to be genetically crazy, the first emperor went nuts after being kidnapped and tainted, the next because he had way too much magical power, and the third because his sister died, and the evil of the world showed up and asked if he could join the royal court.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Brron, Mad King of Dark World certainly gives off this impression. If the name doesn't tip you off, the Slasher Smile and the fact that he's apparently chained up should. Strangely enough, it seems that the others are aware of this; not only are Brron's stats and abilities quite average, but the second Master Guide claims him to be more of a ceremonial figurehead than anything, while the generals and other warlords do all the actual governing.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Universe character of antiquity Namor the Sub-Mariner is both an example and a subversion. By all accounts, he rules the kingdom of Atlantis relatively well. However, he is also provably crazy: his unique Atlantean/Human physiology means that he requires both air and water to function properly, and if he goes too long without one or the other, his body chemistry drives him towards excessive rage and dangerous short-sightedness; a very dangerous thing indeed in someone strong enough to fight the Hulk to a standstill.
  • Also of Marvel, Magneto and his offspring formed a House of M in the miniseries of the same name, but in a subversion (aversion?), the royal family seemed pretty well-balanced. In the Ultimate line, however, the same 'royal family' is... Well, let's just say they've got problems. General explanation? Big Daddy M's crazy-genes, plus power-induced madness.
  • The Neramani Royal Family of the Shi'ar Empire. Being at the head of a star-conquering alien empire is bad enough, but two of their individual members are insane sociopaths: Deathbird killed her sister, as well as her parents, though its somewhat attributed to her atavistic mutation. Her younger brother D'Ken is a Galactic Conquerer who threatened the whole universe, while their Lilandra, on other hand, is quite a stable ruler, but has tendency to get dethroned frequently. It gets much worse when Deathbird marries the equally-deranged Vulcan, bringing even more crazy to the family. By the Kree-Shi'ar War's end, most royal members are dead including Lilandra, D'Ken and Vulcan while Deathbird goes missing. The Shi'ar elect Gladiator, the family's bodyguard to be their Emperor instead. The siblings' uncle, who is the only surviving Neramin relative, declines the throne stating their people would riot if another Neramani was their ruler.
  • In X-Wing Rogue Squadron, royalty of the planet Eiattu interbreed and use technology to keep the line "pure" of the ills afflicting the common folk. But nature abhors a vacuum. Plourr Ilo, revealed as the last confirmed survivor of the main royal family after the other nobles had a bloody revolution (her story was loosely based off of the legend of Anastasia), tells the other characters why the man rumored to be her brother (who's a new kind of revolutionary, this time for the common folk) can't be him.
    "All those years of dipping from the same genetic pool caused a wrinkle, a flaw in an otherwise normal family line. We set out to keep ourselves above the common man and found ourselves with a thing from the deepest pit of the Sith."
    • She also knows it's not him because on the night her family was killed, her father managed to get the two of them out and her brother started screaming for the revolutionaries to come and find Plourr and slit her throat so he could be Emperor. So she killed him.
  • The Holy Grail in Preacher is an organization that has kept the bloodline of Jesus pure for around two millennia. Unfortunately, they did this via Brother–Sister Incest, generation after generation, resulting in sickly, skinny people with eyes like an anime character. As Herr Starr puts it, they're lucky the current (mentally retarded) descendant doesn't have antennae. His parents weren't much better, having literally been locked in a cage because they have the intelligence and behavior of monkeys.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Olympus is of course ruled by the usual backstabbing, hypocritical self absorbed pantheon, and their royal family is related to the Royal Family of the Amazons.
    • The Amazons' queen Hippolyta is Ares' daughter, even in the Post-Crisis reboot that changed Hippolyta into a resurrected murder victimnote . While Hippolyta is usually a just and beloved ruler she can become obsessed with things and has been forced to abdicate the throne by her own people after she nearly started a war over a misunderstanding. This also means that the New 52 reboot making Diana into Zeus' daughter meant that Hippolyta had a daughter with her own grandfather, though that version of events was jettisoned by Wonder Woman (Rebirth).

    Fan Fiction 
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction, Maternal Instinct (MLP) has the royal family of the Changeling Kingdom, the House of Roachanov. Although Changeling culture is primarily based off Imperial Japan, the royal family has a reputation of intermarriage amongst its members that, throughout generations has led to many physical and mental disabilities and illnesses much more similar to those of old European royalty. Queen Chrysalis appears to have dodged most of these ailments, but her daughter and heir, Crown Princess Pupa is both heavily mentally and physically disabled. Pupa, at the time of the fanfiction, is approximately the same age as the Cutie Mark Crusaders, yet she can neither walk or talk, and is treated as virtually an infant and carried around as one by her careers. She is comparable to King Charles II of Spain and Feodor I of Russia. As one commentator remarked, "the Changeling royalty is essentially a tour of all the screwed up monarchies of Europe.", again ironic as the culture is primarily Japanese.
  • Let Them Fade is a terrific Harry Potter fic exploring, in the form of a conversation between Snape and an adult Hermione, the results of long-term inbreeding among Purebloods, the wizarding world's analogue to royal inbreeding: "For every Pureblood child in my generation, I have calculated or deduced the existence of five stillbirths or miscarriages." She also points out an increasing number of Squibs and prevalence of learning disorders among the surviving Pureblood children, and calculates that the Death Eater war hastened the fatal genetic bottleneck by 200 years, because it killed off a substantial chunk of the remaining gene pool. She covers these findings up in her official Ministry report but tells Snape in private. That way he can discreetly spread the word to affected families but there won't be any coercive breeding laws based on her discovery.
  • In the setting of Sonic X: Dark Chaos, the Emirate of Mecca is ruled by the House of Ishmael. How utterly corrupt and screwed up is it? The Prophet Muhammad (who happens to be a completely insane dictator who tried to irrigate fields with blood) is considered to be one of the better members. The family is the primary reason for the Emirate being a nightmarish totalitarian theocracy. According to Word of God, it was explicitly based on the real life Saudi royal family.
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, the canonical character of Prince Samuel of Howondaland is introduced as a corrupt and venal despot who profits from the slavery of goblins exported to the continent (see Snuff) in return for a share of the profits. He is described as a half-crazy and possibly inbred Royal Brat used to absolute power, born into a state presented as an Up to Eleven West Africa who begins a battle that could lead to major war with his neighbouring state Rimwards Howondaland and with Ankh-Morpork. Elsewhere, the royal house of the Zulu Empire avoids too much inbreeding simply because the Paramount King can take as many wives as he likes. But this leads to a lot of royal half-brothers and half-sisters who live in perpetual Sibling Rivalry. It is hinted that some of them have characteristics which can only be explained by tangled bloodlines across the generations and a lot of half-siblings going back over previous generations who might have got too close.
  • In A Game Of Castles, King Bowser's extended family does not get along well. There's also been a number of murders within the family, including Sibling Murder and Patricide. It doesn't help that the Koopa Kingdom itself is known as violent and "savage" compared to its neighbors.

    Films - Live Action 
  • Invoked with Ruprecht in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Lawrence has been posing as a prince to con money out of rich ladies. Whenever an heiress gets too close to his con, he gets Freddie to play a mentally disturbed brother to scare her off.
  • In The Hobbit, this is the case for the dwarven King Thrór and his grandson Thorin. Apparently, it was Thrór's excessive greed that brought the dragon Smaug to Erebor. Later, Thorin succumbs to dragon sickness, claiming the wealth of Erebor is greater then any life, suspecting the Company of stealing the Arkenstone and almost throwing Bilbo from the ramparts when he finds out he took the Arkenstone to the elves and men. He refuses to help the Iron Hill dwarves outside when they're fighting a massive army of orcs and goblins, leading to a What the Hell, Hero? from Dwalin. Thorin eventually realises how dangerous his greed is and leaves Erebor to help fight against Azog's army. He is fatally wounded in a Mutual Kill with Azog, but before Thorin dies he makes his peace with Bilbo. Subverted with Thráin, Thorin's father, who did go mad, but only after years of grief, isolation, and torture.
  • The Abrasax clan from Jupiter Ascending; even the best of them—arguably Kalique, the only one whose endgame doesn't seem to necessitate Jupiter's death—has no qualms committing genocide for the sake of immortality.
  • The Prentiss family in The Manchurian Candidate (known in the novel as Iselin). The novel alludes pretty frankly to incest between Eleanor and her father Tyler, and relates with equal candor at least one instance of same between Eleanor and her son Raymond. While he's under mind control, no less. All three are driven, passionate patriots working at high levels of office — Tyler was a diplomat, Eleanor is a Senator and Raymond is a Representative running for Vice President. Over the course of his campaign it is revealed that his mother has been involved for many years in a conspiracy which began with the Congressional Medal of Honor and ends with an assassination attempt on the president-elect and, ultimately, the deaths of both Raymond and Eleanor.
  • As of Thor: Ragnarok, we find out that Asgard's royal family is this. While in previous movies, both of Thor and Loki's worst mistakes included various shades of unprovoked mass murder, in the third Thor movie, we find out that they're not the only members of their family with a bloodthirsty past. Odin went through a phase where he was a brutal Galactic Conqueror, and also had a daughter that neither Thor nor Loki knew about who helped him conquer the Nine Realms before Thor and Loki were born. Unlike Odin, who eventually saw the error of his ways, Hela didn't want to stop expanding their empire, so Odin was forced to imprison her before she destroyed everything. The Asgardian royal family are the leaders of a very warlike society, and multiple generations of the family, from Thor's grandfather to Thor's generation, have been linked to...questionable or immoral decision-making in war. Thor, at least, was able to change quickly after Odin exiled him and stripped him of his powers, though the speed of his character development in that case is most likely at least partly due to the humiliation and trauma he went through then. Loki, though adopted into the family, seemingly got his worst tendencies from both nature and nurture. He was raised in a Asgard's warrior society, but his biological father, King Laufey, tried to conquer Earth at one point, and is implied to have been planning to exterminate all native life on the planet.

  • The Hurog family tends to sadism and jerkishness in the male line. More precisely, everyone who lives in castle Hurog is affected in some way, some suffer inexplicable psychological issues, others are suicidal. The fact that the castle was built by an Evil Sorcerer, who turned his bastard son into the child in Powered by a Forsaken Child, by turning him into a kind of Genius Loci that is enslaved, and compelled to serve the head of the family, is probably responsible for that — not so much the genes, as the fact that all heirs of the title live in this castle. Evil is not good for your sanity, and owning a slave whose very soul is bound to obey tends to weaken the moral backbone of those who didn't have much decency to begin with. Oreg, the above-mentioned slave, wrote a curse/prophesy on the wall some couples of centuries ago, but that, if at all, only contributed to the paranoia, as he did is as reaction to something very cruel his then master did.
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga has the Vorbarra Imperial line. Thanks to inbreeding and genetic damage caused by environmental factors, some of the Vorbarra rulers have been... problematic:
    • Mad Emperor Yuri killed off most of his own family and then got dismembered and scalped by his own nobles, led by his brother in law/cousin.
    • Yuri's brother in law/cousin/successor Ezar was a relativly sane Chessmaster, but was also ruthlessly amoral beyond belief. The man signed off on a pointlessly aggressive war he knew Barrayar would lose to topple his political enemies and kill his own son.
    • Ezar's son Serg was a twisted sadist who probably would have destroyed the Imperium if he'd been allowed to take the throne. Ezar killed him in a Uriah Gambit (too bad about the grunts).
    • Serg's son Gregor inherited the throne at age five when Ezar died, and, remarkably, grew up sane and stable thanks mostly to his adoptive parents, Aral Vorkosigan and Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan. But Gregor became so paranoid about the genetic insanity in his family line that he refused to consider marrying anyone even distantly related to him. Since that equated to all the nobility on the planet, there was no clear line of successionnote , and Gregor's death would have caused a massive and probably final civil war...this posed a bit of a problem.
      • Fortunately Barrayar has recently gotten a handle on genetic engineering, eased up on the social stratification, and annexed another planet with its own unrelated set of merchant nobility (one of whom Gregor eventually married), so that nasty strain of nutjobbus maximus is likely to be cleansed from the line in the future. Much to the relief of Gregor, Aral, Cordelia, and every planet anywhere near Barrayar.
  • Cursed royalty also appears in Bujold's Chalion books (she seems to like the trope).
    • The main curse of madness/misfortune/sterility/whatever would make things most difficult in The Curse of Chalion is particularly nasty, in that it automatically spreads to anyone who marries into the family, making it completely impossible to eradicate without, as it turns out, direct intervention from the gods. The unlucky king Orico tried to short-circuit it by getting his wife, Sara, pregnant by his chancellor, because any child of theirs would not be part of the cursed royal bloodline. It didn't work because Sara was barren and also the chancellor was evil and his brother was an evil whackjob, but one gets the impression it was a clingy curse that would have come down on whoever inherited the throne, as well anyone around them who could potentially have finagled a way out. Thus, it took a miracle in the end.
    • And then there's that strange familial wolf-madness thing in The Hallowed Hunt, too. Revealed not to be madness, but an ancient shamanistic tradition that creates powerful animal spirits linked to certain rulers; the protagonist's dad just had the bad luck to pick a sacrificial animal that was rabid and bit him before it died, and the poor protagonist wound up convinced his own wolf-spirit would do the same to him.
  • Present in David Eddings' The Belgariad, in the form of the royal line of Cthol Murgos, the Urgas family, with its hereditary insanity. In sequel series The Mallorean, the eventual successor to the throne is more or less sane, which makes sense, given that he's not actually the son of the crazy late king, but instead the product of a brief affair between one of the king's wives and a foreign diplomat. That's one effective way to get the crazy genes out of the royal line.
    • Made even more effective by the traditional method of ensuring easy succession: whoever gets the throne has every other potential claimant assassinated. Legally. Maybe the Murgos have had problems like this before...
      • Truth in Television — the early Ottoman Empire tried to cut down on wars of succession by having all male relatives of a newly crowned sultan put to death. Predictably this only increased the number of succession wars, as every potential claimant to the throne knew that upon the death of the old sultan he had to either win the crown or die. Urgit's quote of "It was either the throne or the block." in King of the Murgos is drawn straight from history.
    • The various Tolnedran imperial dynasties tended towards this as well. Typically the first few emperors of a dynasty would be clever, competent men, but after several generations of inbreeding the line eventually devolved into rulers who were insane, imbeciles, or both. And then subverted by the Borunes, who by their contractual obligations have to marry Dryads. Introducing exogamy into the family line every generation must help. Of course, female members of the Borune family are Dryads also (and exclusively Dryads, there's no such thing as a female half-Dryad)...
  • In Teresa Edgerton's The Grail and the Ring, it is revealed that Mochdreff has been politically unstable for centuries largely due to the land having been cursed due to the sins of its last ruling prince. He committed an action so terrible that every single member of his family changed their names and refused to take up the sovereignty — although only people like Dame Ceinwen remember even that much of the story, and nobody remembers the specifics. Ever since, there have been Lords of Mochdreff rather than rulers styling themselves princes, until finally, due to the lack of a clear heir to the previous Lord, Prince Tryffin was appointed Royal Governor and took it upon himself to try to clean up the matter once and for all by getting to the bottom of the curse.
  • In the Sword of Truth series, the Rahl family line, for several generations, have been warmongering psychopaths. The protagonist is, depending on the reader, either an exception or adhering to the rule.
  • Everworld provides a variant: due to the royal tradition of Brother–Sister Incest, the last twelve Pharaohs of Everworld Egypt have all been mentally disabled and unable to rule in anything but name. This, coupled with the fact that the Egyptian gods are basically so obsessed with ritual that they've become willingly comatose, made the country weak and unstable enough for the Amazons to take over.
  • In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, the house of Knorth, from which the ruling Highlords come, has what appears to be an inherited tendency toward madness. Torisen, the current Highlord, is terrified of what lurks in his bloodlines, and of becoming like his father and grandfather. Inbreeding and deliberate breeding for Shanir (magical) traits is probably responsible.
  • Redwall's Marlfoxes. The mother Silth is a raving maniac, her youngest is a sneak who deliberately feeds her mother's paranoia in order to weasel (or fox?) her way into power, and the oldest six offspring are just plain nasty to various degrees.
  • The Kingdom of Delain, in The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King, suffers from this problem every now and again. Particular mention is made of Mad King Alain, who was truly a raving and unstable lunatic but did his people the favor of dying quickly — he decided to go outside and play games on the lawn during a raging thunderstorm (lunatic, remember?) and got struck by lightning.
  • The Argaven kings of Karhide in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness are described as congenitally mad. This seems to be accepted as part of the nature of kings on Gethen.
  • The page quote comes from A Song of Ice and Fire, in which the royal Targaryen line is said to be blessed with greatness as much as it is cursed with madness, in part due to centuries of inbreeding to keep the "Blood of Old Valyria" pure. It started with the first Targaryen king, who was a great man but unfortunately married and had children with both of his sisters (a family tradition); from there on out it's been a crapshoot. The line has produced many able warriors, statesmen, and scholars as well as a rogue's gallery of tyrants and psychopaths. Some Targaryens begin quite noble and lose their grip on sanity as they age, such as King Aerys II — by the end of his reign, he was known as King Aerys the Mad, and in the end his excesses sparked a revolt that toppled the dynasty. Daenerys, the only POV character with Targaryen blood (so far as we know), seems more sound of mind than her relatives, but is a bit delusional and idealistic, and would do well to take the advice of those around her. The books give us only one normal Targaryen (two if you count Jon Snow) — Maester Aemon, as even the much liked Rhaegar was bipolar and had delusions of grandeur.
    • The Lannisters seem to be heading the inbred-madness route, too: King Joffrey and his siblings Myrcella and Tommen are the product of Brother–Sister Incest between Queen Cersei (married to King Robert, whom she hates) and her twin brother Jaime. Jaime and Cersei's parents were first cousins. Cersei is a paranoid schemer who eventually engineers her own downfall, and Joffrey, her son was sadistic and unstable and had to be put down by Littlefinger and the Tyrells. Hopefully averted with Prince Tommen and Princess Myrcella, who are both perfectly sweet children... for now.
      • Well, the incest might be a factor (and, those who believe Stannis will no doubt jump on that explanation). However, Joffrey really didn't have a chance: his mother both spoiled and smothered him as well as refused to let anybody else educate him... while neglecting such things as mathematics, ethics, psychology, and reading. His father, although not exactly abusive, was both distant and neglectful. Anybody else who could have stepped in to discipline or direct him were either chased off (Maesters) or never spotted the problem until far too late (Grandfather, Father-by-blood and Uncle).
    • The Targaryen madness is, in truth, highly overrated.
    • Aegon I — Perfectly normal,
    • his son Aenys I — Fairly normal, if a bit indecisive,
    • his half-brother Maegor I — Psychopathic murderer,
    • his nephew Jaehaerys I — Best king Westeros ever had,
    • his grandson Viserys I — Aside from not clearing up his line of succession, quite normal,
    • his son Aegon II — Paranoid, but for good reason, however lustful and unpleasant
    • his nephew Aegon III — Depression, but stemming from watching his mother be devoured by a dragon rather than genetics,
    • his son Daeron I — Became king far too young but not actually crazy,
    • his brother Baelor I — Religious fanatic but nonetheless loved,
    • his uncle Viserys II — Kept his nephews from imploding the realm during their reigns, but died before he could finish the job as king himself
    • his son Aegon IV — Obese, corrupt, and horribly ineffectual,
    • his son Daeron II — Second best king Westeros ever had,
    • his son Aerys I — Obsessed with books to the exclusion of all else, including having children,
    • his brother Maekar I — As stern, harsh, and unyielding as his great-great-grandson Stannis and even more unpopular but again not crazy,
    • his son Aegon V — Sane aside from maybe the Summerhall incident and well-known for his kindness to the smallfolk,
    • his son Jaehaerys II — Often considered weak due to his poor health and short reign but thought well of by anyone who actually knew him, managed to do some good things during his brief time note 
    • and his son Aerys II — Psychopathic pyromaniac.
    • That's only three crazy kings, two borderline crazy kings, and one horribly incompetent one out of the seventeen monarchs. If you want to count the Targaryens who never became kings, only Rhaegal (brother of Aerys I and Maekar), Aerion (brother of Aegon V), and maybe Viserys (brother of Daenerys) were crazy.
    • The Targaryen madness really seems to be prominent in the more recent generations. Aerys II was the craziest of the lot, both of his sons had problems, his daughter isn't that much better (although whether she's actually mad is a highly controversial debate topic) and his possible surviving grandson also has issues (which actually convinces Tyrion that he really is a Targaryen), although his other grandson (who is unaware of his true lineage) is fine other than being pretty emo at times.
      • While Rhaegar's villainy is currently up in the air, there's no doubt that he was rather delusional. Best case scenario, he ran away with the teenage daughter of a lord paramount (the most powerful noble families) who was engaged to another lord paramount and then proceeded to do nothing while her family was killed by his crazy father (who everyone knew was crazy). All this while he was married to the sister of yet another lord paramount (the "Prince" of Dorne). Worst case, he was a prophecy-obsessed fanatic who raped a young girl until she was pregnant and then left her alone with just a couple knights for company.
    • It's unknown how many Targaryens were passed over for the throne due to either mental defects or poor physical health. The insanity problem became prevalent enough that the councils would try to skip over the crazy or sickly Targaryen in the line of succession in favor of a more stable younger son or nephew. And in later generations, a significant number were born with moderate to severe mental defects, or "feeble-witted".note  Even their physical health was eventually effected, with several being intellectually and emotionally normal but possessing such fragile immune systems that they suffered from numerous ailments and died young. Stillbirths and cradle deaths were very common, even when you consider that this is Westeros.note 
  • In the Inheritance Cycle, there once was a King by the name of Palancar who tried to wage war numerous times with the Elves, even though every invasion was a hopeless crusade (In-Universe, a historian indicates Palancar was in the early stages of dementia by that point). Eventually his nobles rebelled against him to end the madness and had him exiled into a valley that later inherited his name. The Protagonist and his cousin, and the village they grew up in, descended from Palancar. Paolini so far has acted like that's at least somewhat of a good thing. Then again, he's also trying to convince us that the one who's really Royally Screwed-up is Galby.
  • Fiona Patton's Branion series is set in a fantasy Britain where the gods take an active interest in their followers. The royal family, whose head is called the Aristok, is literally touched by the gods — the sovereign is the avatar of the Living Flame, a deity/demon/primordial critter which is a sort of symbiotic parasite. This makes the Aristok something of a cross between a hereditary Christ-figure and the real British system of the monarch being head of the church. Not only does the Aristok have divine right, she can prove it. Unfortunately, being the physical sacred vessel-on-earth of a fire god is bad for your health. Out of forty-one monarchs, sixteen have died young, been assassinated, or committed suicide, and many of the rest went insane. Three even converted to a completely different faith, which made for real cognitive dissonance among their followers as well as themselves. Whether this system is a blessing or a curse on the royal family is clearly up in the air.
  • The first two of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books are, among other things, a long examination of this trope — the Groan lineage and their staff are a bunch of depressed lunatics, their spirits both crushed and perversely sustained by the castle and its ancient, messed-up rituals. They are a sympathetic bunch though — the melancholy and bookish Lord Sepulchrave and his unloved, cloudcuckoolander daughter Fuchsia must surely be among the most tragic literary woobies of the last century.
  • Zigzagged throughout the Discworld novels.
    • Historically, the rulers of Ankh-Morpork have tended to be raving psychopaths. This may have been somewhat genetic while the city was a monarchy and rulers' marriages were arranged to maintain the royal blood and survival tended to favor those homicidal enough to keep ahead of the Deadly Decadent Court. However, even after the kings were overthrown and replaced by the non-hereditary Patricians, the stress of the job and the absolute power that came with it turned pretty much everyone who held it some flavor of barking mad. The last two Patricians were known as "Mad Lord Snapcase" and "Homicidal Lord Winder". By a stroke of incredible good fortune the current Patrician, Lord Havelock Vetinari, is not only sane but an utter Magnificent Bastard and as insurance, the rightful heir to the line of kings is also hanging around the city, and he's also sane-ish, as he was raised by dwarfs (his adoptive father was in fact a king, but among dwarfs that job corresponds to "mine director" and appears to be elective, not hereditary).
    • The old noble houses of Ankh-Morpork, from which the Patricians are usually chosen, certainly haven't done themselves any favors through repeated intermarriage but, as with the royal line, this is implied to have contributed less to their overall unpleasantness than the self-selection towards dimwitted murder-happy prats (because of the military service requirement) and the self-absorption encouraged by privilege.
    • Interesting Times zigzags this with the Agatean Emperor. While his insanity is suggested to have a dash of genetic inbreeding behind it, the book hints (yet again) that intentionally breeding for paranoia and psychopathy, and then not telling the offspring why cruelty is bad, may have actually played a larger role than how closely related his parents were. Lord Hong, the real Big Bad, subverts the trope entirely by simply being a self-made Magnificent Bastard without any of Vetinari's redeeming scruples.
    • Pyramids thankfully manages to avoid this, although it is specifically mentioned that the Big Bad had intended to wed the protagonist with his aunt in order to keep the royal line "pure".
    • Played utterly straight when one book describes the lineage of kings in other Discworld city-states, and cites the last King of Quirm as having been so inbred he repeatedly tried to mate with himself.
  • In Jack Vance's Lyonesse trilogy, the king of South Ulfland's single son, Prince Quilcy, is feeble-minded and spends his days playing with fanciful doll-houses.
  • In the Tortall books by Tamora Pierce, the Copper Isles royalty tend to have madness crop up now and then, including one Princess Josiane. A character phrases it thus: "There's bad blood in the Copper Isles kings. They birth a mad one every generation. Josiane's uncle is locked in a tower somewhere. It comes from being an island kingdom — too much inbreeding." It turns out in further novels that it may not be just one per generation...
    • Two per generation, as of the Trickster books. The old king who dies and prompts the Succession Crisis and his brother who was mentioned as locked in a tower somewhere, and Josiane and Imajane among the old king's kids.
    • The Jimajen line might also have bits of this, though we only see two members: Rubinyan, whose only major flaws are an overdeveloped sense of honor and an inability to control his insane wife; and Bronau, who is extremely egotistical and ambitious without much common sense to go with it. Big brother is also ambitious as hell, but much more sensible...
    • Emperor Ozorne of Carthak and that cousin of the Tusaine line who starts the Tusaine-Tortall war in the second Song of the Lioness book both count.
    • Duke Roger, nephew to King Roald in the Song of the Lioness quartet, wasn't insane to begin with, but coming back from the dead (or not, precisely, if you believe him) certainly screwed with his head.
  • In the Tamír Trilogy (The Bone Doll's Twin, Hidden Warrior, and The Oracle's Queen) hereditary madness has hit the royal line. What makes this particularly dangerous is that the country's god has declared that only women of that bloodline can become ruler... or else. At the end... the sanest remaining member of the royal line takes the throne and the madness that caused the whole situation is just never mentioned again, since the epilogue indicates that there were no problems for centuries afterwards.
  • Averted in the Honor Harrington series with the Star Kingdom of Manticore. Aside from being a constitutional monarchy, which limits the potential damage, Manticoran monarchs and heirs apparent are specifically prohibited from marrying members of the aristocracy. Aside from the "keeping in touch with the common folk" goal, it also removes the problems of inbreeding.
    • He swiped this from E. E. “Doc” Smith's Family d'Alembert series; under the Stanley Doctrine, nobility could marry commoners, but royalty was required to marry a commoner. While this helped, this was not totally successful in keeping loonies from the Imperial Throne (granted, the case of Empress "Mad Stephanie" could have been situational rather than genetic.)
      • In the case of the Stanley Dynasty, it may be as much cultural as genetic. At one point the competent, sane, and decent Emperor William (who is definitely an exception to the run of his ancestors) makes a joke about his and his wife's decision to abdicate at his age 70, so their daughter Edna "won't have to kill us." Edna is horrified by the joke, but her father points out that if he'd been more grasping and determined to hang on to power forever, decent Edna might have turned out different too, because, as he notes, 'like begets like'.
    • The author even points out that if the Monarch is really bonkers, Impeachment is in the Constitution, with Parliament choosing the new Monarch from any person in the Kingdom.
      • And before being added to the official line of succession, the Monarch's offspring have to pass a psychological and intelligence evaluation.
    • The Andermani Emperors on the other hand are competent but sometimes strange: the first emperor thought he was a reincarnation of Friedrich der Grosse (Frederick the Great of Prussia). Another was dethroned when he not only talked to his prize rose bush but also tried to make it chancellor.
      • And he was deposed by his own sister, who, while generally considered the best Andermani Emperor ever, had to legally declare herself a man, due to their Salic Law succession. May not have been the best decision for her own mental state.
      • It's hinted the reason why they are so successful is that the insanity and the genius go together. After all founding a New Prussian Empire on a Chinese colony world and making it into a regional power does sound pretty nuts. The first Emperor was a rich space pirate who saved the colony from starvation.
    • Actually, while she's generally sane, Queen Elizabeth III does have her own set of issues. Her temper, for instance, is usually described as "volcanic".
  • The Civil Government of the planet Bellevue in The General series qualifies as both the current governor and his acknowledged heir are borderline clinical paranoids, and becoming less borderline all the time...
    • Though, considering the political climate in the Gubierno Civil, the line between clinical paranoia and sane, reasonable social caution is slim indeed. The only reasons the POV character isn't a threat to the throne are his incorruptible idealism and his sure knowledge of the disaster that will ensue if he tries to take the throne for himself. Also, while the Cleretts my or my not be insane, they are also competent, if perhaps not excellent, political and military leaders.
    • A better example would be Settler Ali ibn'Jamal of the Colony, who is just an old-school psychopath.
  • The pureblooded Ancient and Most Noble House of Black from Harry Potter has a long history of insanity and inbreeding. Most pureblood wizarding families (with a few exceptions, like the Weasleys, who aren't hostile to mixed or Muggle-born in-laws) have gone this direction in recent decades, as the limited gene pool means they're all increasingly interrelated. Arthur Weasley says at one point that purebloods by the current definition will probably die out within a couple generations, as so many of them are already first cousins and within the incest taboo. Ironically, the Death Eaters probably managed to hasten this extinction quite a bit since many purebloods died in the fighting or were consigned to Azkaban afterwards.
    • The Gaunts are even more messed up and inbred than most purebloods, since Dumbledore mentions that they were the only remaining descendants of Salazar Slytherin and Marvolo was obsessed with the inferiority of other families. Ironically, the worst member of the family is conceived when they finally manage to get some new blood: Lord Voldemort, the son of Merope Gaunt and a Muggle.
  • The Raiths in The Dresden Files, the royal family of the White Court of vampires. The White King rapes his female children into supernatural slavery and kills off his sons. His daughter Lara is a Magnificent Bastard who lives on the line between Sociopathic Hero and Friendly Enemy Anti-Villain. The only reason his son Thomas lived to adulthood is by playing the Rich Idiot With No Day Job card for everything it's worth. The only one who doesn't appear to be incredibly messed-up is Inari Raith, who never became a full-on succubus because she fell in love and Lara helped her get away.
  • In The Silmarillion, the first king of the Noldor, Finwë, is a good man, but after his death, the crown goes to his eldest son Fëanor, who was very paranoid before, and became completely crazy (if still very charismatic) when his father was murdered. Once Fëanor is also dead, his son Maedhros should become king...but he averts this trope: knowing how dangerous the Oath he and his brothers have sworn is, he abdicates and lets his uncle rule. It's a wise move: the sons of Fëanor do commit some horrendous acts, and the two eldest eventually become insane, but at least they only rule a fraction of the Noldor.
    • The royal family of Númenor also develop into this, as they become more and more jealous of the Elves for their long life, and determined to find a way to live forever. This culminates in the last ruler of Númenor basically declaring war on God and losing horribly. Ar-Pharazon wasn't even the rightful King, having usurped the throne by forcing his cousin, the rightful ruler, to marry him.
  • The Bible is chock full of lousy or downright ax crazy evil kings of Israel who choose to snub the God who saved their ancestors from Egypt, so much so that the good kings are the exception.
    • And even the good kings still tend to be royally screwed up. Witness David, whose punishment for committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband killed was that his first son by her fell ill and died a week later, and the rest of the sons started killing each other for various reasons. David ultimately appoints Solomon as his successor, and even then the succession crisis doesn't end. Solomon was also messed up in his own right on account of his harem of foreign wives.
  • Averted in the Heralds of Valdemar series, in part because Valdemaran law forbids a monarch (or, presumably, heir) from marrying anyone within two degrees of kinship. And the newly-crowned Selenay plays it to the hilt to keep her councilors from forcing her into marriage, too. The requirement that all monarchs must be Heralds is also very important — there's nothing saying a Herald can't be a bit nuts (Hi, Lavan and Vanyel!), but at least it's the type of nuts that doesn't result in the abuses seen on the rest of this page.
  • King Rodric IV in The Riftwar Cycle. Hated and abused by his father for being a sickly runt, he proved to be as sick in mind as he was in body. Apart from using openly about how his power would allow him to randomly pick out random people and have them executed for no reason other than he wished to see them die, he squandred much of the tax revenues of The Kingdom Of The Isles on a series of aesthetic public works programs designed merely to make the city of Rillanon look prettier. Worse still, he denied vital military aid to the Western half of his Kingdom, fearing that the soldiers would be used to build an army against him, which helped to drag the first Riftwar out for the better part of a decade.
  • Though not quite royalty, the Usher family in Edgar Allan Poe 's Fall of the House of Usher fits. An illness that causes madness runs in the family, and it's implied to be due to inbreeding.
  • A rather desperate attempt to prevent this touched off the entire plot of A.L. Phillips's The Quest of the Unaligned. The royal house of the realm of Caederan, instead of being tied to one of the four elemental magics, are tied to all of them as the result of an ancient magical bargain binding the King and Queen to Caederan itself. Unfortunately, this means that if the King and Queen favor one element over the others, this will throw the land itself out of whack. A few decades before the story started, King Kethel and Queen Tathilya became increasingly infatuated with the power of air, which also had the side effect of causing them to become increasingly flighty and absent-minded. As the Balance fell further and further towards wind, the country was wracked by droughts, tornadoes, cyclones, and other catastrophes. When Queen Tathilya became pregnant, the nobles realized that if the new prince was raised in the royal court, he to would become infatuated with air magic. The nobles launched a desperate bid to separate Prince Alaric from the ruahk-controlled Court, and thus begins the plot.
  • Age of Fire: The Imperial Line of the Lavadome is very messed up. Tighila kills her own son and frames and exiles her mate's later chosen heirs, before eventually killing him too, all so that her brother SiDrakkon can become Tyr. When he does, he takes Infamina, his great-niece, as his mate, and ends up nearly bringing the Lavadome to civil war due to his refusal to do anything that doesn't satisfy his hedonism. This lasts until Infamina's brother SiMevolant assassinates him, takes Infamina as his own mate (and it's implied they were already having an affair), and proceeds to play The Quisling to the Wrymmaster's forces, letting them take over the Lavadome, which causes RuGaard (an adopted member of the Imperial Line) to lead a rebellion to take SiMevolant down, becoming Tyr himself afterwards.
  • Played with in The Kingdom of Little Wounds. Everything that would normally be attributed to Royal Inbreeding or a Hereditary Curse is actually caused by an epidemic.
  • Royal family of trolls in Malediction Trilogy, mostly because of 500 years of inbreeding. The father, king Thibault, is morbidly obese, the queen is conjoined with her sister, the younger son Roland is beautiful but stark raving mad. Only prince Tristan seems to be normal - but he is seriously considering murdering his father and brother for the higher good.
  • Dune:
    • House Harkonnens are not really that screwed up from the start. It’s just that they had a beef with House Atreides a long time ago. It’s only when Vladimir Harkonnen came into the picture, things went worse. His nephews aren’t much better though one character commented that Feyd-Rautha might have become a great hero, if only someone who wasn’t such a monster had raised him.
    • It also turns out that Paul and Alia Atreides are Harkonnens too, thanks to their mother who is Vladimir’s biological daughter. Paul is not much of a monster like his grandpa as most of his detractors think; it’s just that he fell in a prescient trap and couldn’t control things such as his rabid followers. His sister is indeed messed up because her mother consumed spice and inherited Genetic Memory of the past Reverend Mothers and all of their ancestors while pregnant. Because of this, she’s called as an Abomination by the Bene Gesserit and they had a good reason to call her that most especially when she got possessed by her evil grandpa in Children of Dune.
    • In any case, Bene Gesserit’s plan to control the genes of several noble houses has something to do with this trope. In the past, they made tons of effort to create the Kwisatz Haderach but it produced a lot of failures (e.g. Count Hasimir Fenring). They nearly got it right this time except this Kwisatz Haderach came too early and they ended up paying the price when he became Emperor and unleashed his fanatics throughout the universe.
  • A Frozen Heart is a Perspective Flip retelling of Frozen (2013), which expands on Hans, a major character from the movie, and what his family situation looks like. His father, the King of the Southern Isles, is a Social Darwinist tyrant who encourages his sons to torment each other and brutally suppresses any opposition to his regime. Because of the king's domineering nature, the Westergaard clan ends up miserable as his 13 sons don't get along with each other, the royal family develops serious mental health issues, and Hans ends up in major trouble in what was supposed to be a diplomatic trip to Arendelle.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Babylon 5, the nephew of Emperor Turhan, Cartagia, became the Emperor of the Centauri Republic after his uncle's death. Emperor Cartagia was as bad as any fiction-version of Caligula, and apparently modeled after him. Interestingly, the position of Emperor does not seem to be connected to any individual line for more than a few generations; it appears to be totally normal for the Centauri nobles to hand the throne to a new House even though the old imperial house still exists (Londo rules as Mollari II, as one of his ancestors had held the throne once). This presumably means that Cartagia's madness was a relatively rare occurrence in his House — rather as the Julio-Claudians only had two Emperors who could be called insane (Caligula and Nero), only one of whom (Caligula) was totally bonkers (Nero, while an awful ruler, was not totally incompetent; he was just very young when he took the throne, too obsessed with drama—in both senses—and not very well brought up).
  • Doctor Who: "Tooth and Claw" strongly implies that eventually the British Royal family might become werewolves. However at the time Victoria had already had all her children, and the Doctor is on good terms with HM The Queen, so it was clearly a joke. Also discussed in the episode is Victoria being a carrier of hemophilia, despite it not being in her family previously, and how it's a bona fide historical mystery (although there are some theories, though none of them involve Victoria getting a splinter from a wolf attack).
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The show implies this is caused by inbreeding in the Targaryen and Lannister family lines, in as little as one generation. The crazy rate is implied to be around 50% (as per the page quote), regardless of how long the inbreeding has been practiced. Technically the Lannister case isn't a single generation; Jaime and Cersei are first generation sibling incest, but their parents were first cousins. And since no particular fuss is made over that fact, it can be assumed that cousin incest is not uncommon in the Lannister family. Cersei and Jaime were far from the first incestuous pairing in the family, but they were probably the straw that broke the camel's back. Furthermore, they're both unpleasant people (though Jaime is trying to be less unpleasant), and their son Joffrey's complete personal monstrosity seems to combine the worst aspects of each. His siblings Myrcella and Tommen, on the other hand, are perfectly reasonable people (though Tommen is an Extreme Doormat) who wind up being Too Good for This Sinful Earth thanks to Cersei's machinations, leading to the end of their house. Furthermore, though not crazy, all of the Lannisters mentioned except Kevan have issues. Tytos had a desire to please that made him a doormat, Tywin sees people as tools for his work, as mentioned above the twins are unpleasant, Tyrion is an alcoholic dwarf with terrible family relations, Lancel is a zealot, and there is one who just smashes beetles while screaming crunk. In later Targaryen generations, some were born with moderate to severe mental defects, or "feeble-witted". Even their physical health was eventually effected, with several being intellectually and emotionally normal but possessing such fragile health that they suffered from numerous ailments and died young.
    • Selyse is blatantly unstable, due to the trauma of so many stillbirths and her inability to produce a male heir for Stannis. Writer Bryan Cogman confirmed that the reason she became the first person on Dragonstone to embrace the new Lord of Light religion (even before Stannis) is because she couldn't process that the Seven would let her unborn sons die, so like many people in traumatic situations, she fanatically embraced a new religion. Even the normally stoic Stannis pities how deeply traumatized she is about their stillborn sons, insisting that it wasn't her fault when she starts blaming herself.
  • A lot of tension surrounding the Succession Crisis in Merlin is based on this trope. It's revealed in series three that the Pendragon men have a history of mental illness, one which King Uther ultimately succumbs to after his arguably Ax-Crazy illegitimate daughter betrays him and takes the throne.
  • Invoked in The Musketeers, when after outwitting some depraved noblemen, Aramis says "Centuries of inbreeding is making the aristocracy (taps the side of head) stupid."
  • Referenced in the Red Dwarf episode Rimmerworld. Kryten explains the problem of having an entire society descended from Rimmer and his clones by drawing comparisons with European monarchies of the 19th and 20th centuries. The actual leader of the planet seems to be an example himself.
  • Like in the comics, Preacher has the descendant of Jesus, who is incredibly mentally impaired due to literally millennia of inbreeding.

    Manhwa & Manhua 
  • Cavalier of the Abyss, the sequel to Immortal Regis has an example in the royal family presided by Nexus Nex, the Rogue Protagonist of the original series. Also doubles also as a Big, Screwed-Up Family.
    • Nex is a cold, jaded tyrant with a sadistic side who massacres villages on a regular bases, doesn't even blink when Xix threatens to kill his son's fiance, and has Serin, previously his one true love, tied up in an eternal nightmare.
      • Nex is convinced that he's surrounded by people who want to use or back-stab him. And he's right.
    • Serin is locked in a box, heavily sedated, and subjected to an eternal nightmare, punishment for a major betrayal that has yet to come to light. Nex, however, cannot bring himself to killing her. Which of Nex's children she did or did not give birth to while running away from him are a major plot point. Implied for Siana, Ninurta, and Xix so far.
      • Nex has practical reason of not killing her. As undead he needs her blood from his necromancer aka Serin. Confirmed by Nex himself.
    • Caladbolg, supposed God of Chaos who possesses and continues to identify as Jae-Hoon, Nex's little brother. Due to this, a large plot point is how there's no clear distinction between both personalities. Even though he is the Big Bad he comes off far more compassionate than Nex, acting as a foil. Later it is shown he has taken Siana under his wing, who he confirms is his niece.
    • Iffrita, Nex's wife and the queen, once sweet and a total ditz, now a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. She secretly hates the Demon clan for executing her mother as a political pawn, it's implied that she manipulated the events that led to Serin's internment and the razing of the Banaan village, and in court she's constantly maneuvering to get herself as close to Nex as possible. She may or may not have taken Ninurta from Serin and implanted her own traits to pass him off as her son.
    • Ninurta Noah, the prince and purportedly the son of Nex and Iffrita, although Nex is said to have accepted him without actually checking if this is true; it's implied he's actually the son of the queen and Mikhail Noah, as he bears little resemblance to his father. Nex is not that fond of him, and when he is captured by a dragon-bourn Siana, Nex orders his men to fire at him and declares him a traitor when he defends himself to survive. Currently allied with Caladbolg of the Night Clan and possibly became Romantic Runner-Up to Xix, as his failed arrange marriage with Yuan but is shown to be developing ties with Siana. It's shown in later chapters he may in fact be Serin's child, taken from her and imprinted with Iffrita's dna to pass off as hers, and both the fact that Just uses his blood successfully for the blood seal ritual and becomes an undead after dying proves he is actually Nex's son after all.
    • Ouroboros, also known as Just, claims to be the son of Nex and Serin as part of a ruse by Serin's father, and is a Manipulative Bastard who takes sadistic pleasure in tormenting his "brother" Ninurta and really anyone he can get his hooks into.
      • Ouroboros is also the creation of Oski and brother of Skoll, the wolf demon sealed inside Xix.
      • Technically all the beasts are related to Caladbolg, as they are created out of fragments of him.
    • Xix: An Undead and Heartbroken Badass whose entire village was massacred at Nex's orders, thus he has a vendetta against Nex and made a deal with Oski to gain power to try to kill Nex. He is completely thunderstruck when he discovers that he may be Nex's son after a blood ritual. This is after Nex defeats, tortures, and nearly kills him. He was left at the village by a beautiful woman in flashbacks drawn looking like Serin and left with her family's magical artifact Semek. He was actually killed and then resurrected by Siana in previously mentioned massacre. After said resurrection, he proceeds in a daze to tear out Siana's heart and take it into his own body.... then we learn of a prophecy saying that Jae Huk's first son with Serin would be lost to him. The revelations with Ninurta just complicates his potential origin.
      • Also the host of Skoll, a wolf demon created by Oski related to Ouroboros the snake demon.
    • Siana: Childhood Friends with Xix, and member of the Night Clan. She is also necromancer and like Xix is implied to be the long lost child of Serin and an unknown Night Clan member that Caladbolg/Jae Hoon is convinced is Nex/Jae Hyuk. Xix thought she died when his village was destroyed, but in truth a post-resurrection haze Xix tore out her heart to took it into his own body. Afterward her body was taken by Caladbolg and he had his forces work to save her. She reappears later in the present aligned with Caladbolg, and they believe each other to be uncle and niece. Her true body is with the Night Clan and she normally interacts via replicated one her consciousness is tied to.
    • Miya: The only one to get away from this relatively clean. Indisputably Nex and Iffrita's daughter, she is a sickly little girl who cannot even comprehend how messed up her family is. Xix, Ninurta and Nex all care for her deeply (the former initially in opposition to his own vendetta) the fact that she actually looks like Nex often causes people to draw comparisons with how Ninurta does not.

  • The entire Greek Pantheon, in many ways. Depending on the version of the myth you hear, Uranus was either Gaia's brother, son, or a completely unrelated entity; regardless, they proceeded to have three groups of children, two of which (the Hecatoncheires and the Cyclopes) turned out monstrously ugly. The third group proceeded to intermarry with each other and have kids of their own; one such pairing resulted in the births of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Demeter, and Hestia, who then proceeded to marry and/or sleep with each other, each other's kids, and on at least one occasion grandma Gaia herself. While they had more than their fair share of family drama to go around, the later generations were remarkably free from physical deformities and mental illness, with the standout exception being Hephaestus, son of Hera and sometimes Zeus.
  • Older Than Dirt: The Egyptian Pantheon is just as messy.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Anima: Beyond Fantasy has Lascar Giovanni, the last emperor of said dinasty, who unlike his predecessors -much more benevolent- and having absolute power at his hands ordered senseless executions, took the women he wanted, drove his wife to suicide after she gave birth to her son, and worse making the latter to kill him, so the only heir could not ascend to the throne and ending the ruling of the Giovanni for good.
  • While all the Great Houses in BattleTech have had issues with sanity-challenged rulers, the Liao dynasty of the Capellan Confederation has it the worst by far. Maxmillion Liao was driven nuts after falling to Hanse Davion's schemes in the 4th Succession War and was left a broken shell until his death. His daughter Romano was far worse: she was a total yandere for Justin Allard and went right off the deep end when he turned out to be Hanse Davion's double-agent. She spent the next few decades becoming increasingly paranoid and instituting numerous bloody purges of her own people as a result of that paranoia, further crippling the badly battered realm. Her son, Sun Tzu, was mostly sane (though he had his moments) but her daughter, Kali, was completely off the deep end and believed herself to be the actual Hindu diety. The fact that the Capellan state religion views House Liao as actual divine beings certainly didn't help in that regard, either. Kali was responsible for organizing numerous terrorist attacks in the Confederation and on other worlds. And then there's Daoshen, Sun Tzu's heir. Again, he believes himself to be a god, he's hyper-aggressive and paranoid, and his niece is actually his daughter. Insanity doesn't just run in the family, it practically gallops.
  • Ravenloft had Legacy of the Blood, describing the relatives of the various Big Bads of the domain of dread, as well as options for PCs to play relatives of them. Most of them are temporal royalty of some sort as well.
    • The Bortisis are related to Ivana Bortisi, Darklord of Borca, although most of them run the Bortisi Trading Company. While they aren't cursed as badly as the others in this list, they do have a definite thing for poisons.
    • The d'Honaires are related to Dominic d'Honaire, Darklord of Dementlieu. They tend to be sickly but with a gift for healing, and to be either kindhearted and empathic or cold-blooded sociopaths. d'Honaires in Dementlieu are also immune to supernatural mental modification, as part of Dominic's curse.
    • The Dilisnya are related to Ivan Dilisnya, co-Darklord of Borca (and also Camille, previous darklord of Borca before Ivana poisoned her). They're largely known as the core of a massive criminal network.
    • The Drakovs are related to Vlad Drakov, Darklord of Falkovnia and blatant Vlad the Impaler expy. They have a tendency for berserking, and they are cursed to always end up becoming Chaotic Evil if they accept a place in the family. Also, most people hate them because of their progenitor's terrible reputation.
    • The Godefroys are related to Wilfred Godefroy, Darklord of Mordent (although not directly, due to his Pater Familicide). They are largely sickly, as well as natural mediums.
    • The Hiregaard family is related to Tristen Hiregaard, ruler of Nova Vaasa. They are cursed with a tendency towards insanity, especially if they commit evil acts.
    • The Mordenheims are related to Viktor Mordenheim, the Mad Scientist who created Lamordia's flesh golem Darklord Adam, and is cursed along with him. Mordenheims, because of Viktor's Flat-Earth Atheist tendencies, cannot wield divine magic and often are resistant to it.
    • The Reniers are related to Jaqueline Renier, Darklord of Richemulot. The family is also tainted with a wererat branch, resulting in even human Reniers being vulnerable to infection with wererat-style lycanthropy (the natural wererats are cursed so that one in every six children born to a wererat mother will be pure human). They're also cursed with a potentially fatal allergy to something innocuous.
    • The Von Zaroviches are related to Strahd von Zarovich, Darklord of Barovia (but not directly- he doesn't have any children) and have no less than four family curses- susceptibility to the attentions of the Dark Powers, chronic nightmares, berserker rages, and being prone to visions of horror if wounded in battle. Thankfully they need not all apply to the same person at once. They are prone to being evil, but this isn't universal.
  • The House of Naelax, rulers of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy in the Greyhawk setting, were commonly viewed as being possessed by demons. This article, although written by a fan for his own campaign, is nonetheless a good summary of what the Ivid Overkings were like.
  • Warhammer is fond of this trope. During the most decadent period of the Empire's history, it's implied that inbreeding reached epic proportions and led to actual mutations among the nobility. They seem to have straightened things out for the most part by the "present day" though. Thank Sigmar for the witch hunters, eh?
    • Inverted in the case of Bretonnia though, where it's the peasants who are inbred and deformed. Some recent anthropological research suggests this may be Truth in, er, roleplaying games.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has numerous examples of hereditary planetary rulers who follow this trope — though Inquisitor Vail would point out that this doesn't happen quite as often as the stereotypes would have you believe. In Caligula-bad scenarios (such as Osric the Loopy, mentioned in passing in The Traitor's Hand), the Officio Assassinorum can be dispatched to "tidy up" matters.
    • And in worst-case scenarios, the Royally Screwed-Up ruler is a heavily mutated Chaos-worshiper who unleashes The Legions of Hell on the planet they're supposed to be governing. At which point, the Imperium's gung-ho fundamentalists take Fisher King to its logical conclusion.
    • And that's not getting into The Emperor, his sons, and the tragedy that shattered the galaxy.
      • On one hand, the Emperor brought a new golden age to the galaxy and most of his sons were initially stable (The exceptions being Kurze, a murderous sociopath; Angron, a blood-crazed berserker; Lorgar, a raving zealot; Alpharius, who had colossal delusions of grandeur; and quite possibly the twins, whose names were wiped from history for reasons unknown). On the far less lenient hand, he was also a stubborn egomaniac who couldn't be bothered to change his mind when he started ruling humanity. His intolerant holier-than-thou attitude on his sons (especially Lorgar) drove some to madness, which started the fall.
    • The Navigators have a special mutation that happens to be great for getting through the Warp quickly, making them vital to the Imperium's functioning. Said mutation is also recessive. Because of this, it's essentially required that they only produce offspring with other navigators, who make up a number of noble families on Terra. When you consider that mutations are common in the setting, they already have a mutation anyway, and they're given relative carte blanche to have as many mutations as they want, many scions of navigator families end up being genetic tumbleweeds who barely even look human after generations of inbreeding.
  • In the Old World of Darkness RPG Werewolf: The Apocalypse, many of the ruling tribe, the Silver Fangs, suffered from this—despite the fact that werewolves had to outbreed (werewolf-werewolf matings were lucky if their children were just insane). Of course, interbreeding with the Habsburg line didn't help.
    • Somewhat justified in that the Silver Fangs had such an obsession with lineage that they refused to breed with any humans that weren't royal. So they managed to get most all the bad traits of just about everyone in the "Real Life" section below.

  • By the end of Electra, Chrysothemis is probably the only member of the royal family who hasn't tried to murder another member in retaliation for a previous murder.
  • Elisabeth. Oh, boy. Among the main characters: Emperor Franz Joseph is a Momma's Boy Workaholic, Empress Elisabeth is a Rebellious Princess turned Broken Birdnote  Death Seeker, and their hypersensitive son Crown Prince Rudolf (who might also be a Death Seeker depending on the production) was Driven to Suicide by a False Friend who used More Than Mind Control on him. Lots of the dysfunction comes from the machinations of Archduchess Sophie, the Knight Templar Parent, and Death, the Grim Reaper Stalker with a Crush.
    • Let's hear Lucheni relate the fate of Sisi and Franz's family/in-laws: note 
    Maximilian von Habsburg. Elizabeth's brother-in-law, Emperor of Mexico, shot by revolutionaries. One, two, fire!
    Maria von Wittelsbach. Elizabeth's sister, Queen of Naples, went mad.
    King Ludwig of Bavaria. Elizabeth's cousin, went insane and drowned.
    The Duchess of Alencon. Elizabeth's sister, caught fire and burnt. Ashes to ashes!

    Video Games 
  • Armed and Dangerous has an interesting case: a magical curse cast on the kingdom of Forge causes one king of the country to be a clever Evil Overlord, and his immediate successor to be a kind-hearted dimwit, and his successor again to be an Evil Overlord, and so on. In retrospect, it might have been a better idea to make the evil one the idiot.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Septim Dynasty of the Third Cyrodiilic Empire, founded by Tiber Septim, had its fair share of crazy. To note:
      • Emperor Pelagius Septim, aka "Pelagius the Mad". He was an Ax-Crazy Mood-Swinger and very much the shining example of The Caligula in Tamriellic history. He suffered from extreme weight fluctuations and tried to hang himself at the end of a royal ball. He insisted on his palace always being kept clean and (perhaps apocryphally) was said to defecate on the floors to keep his servants busy. He would only communicate with the Argonian ambassador in grunts and squeaks, believing it to be the Argonian language. He'd frequently strip naked in public and, toward the end of his life, would attack and bite visitors. He was eventually declared unfit to rule and his wife by arranged marriage, Katariah, the Dunmeri former Duchess of Vvardenfell, took over as Empress Regent. However, according to Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness, Pelagius may have been seriously screwed up compared to the average person, but was, for a Septim, pretty normal. While history records most of the Septim line as perfectly sane and even austere, this implies that the Imperial propaganda machine has done it's job in hiding the family's eccentricities.
      • Pelagius aunt, Potema "the Wolf Queen" of Solitude, wasn't much better. In an attempt to get her son on the Imperial throne, she kicked off the War of the Red Diamond, the bloodiest Civil War in Tamriellic history. By the end of the war, she had gone completely off the deep end and used necromancy to bolster her dwindling forces. Ironically, Solitude is suggested to have endured more than its fair share of these kind of rulers in its history.
      • Sanguine is the Daedric Prince of Debauchery and Hedonism. According to The Imperial Census of Daedra Lords, "As revelry and drunken stupor fall under this Prince’s influence, he has been a favorite of many Emperors since the first foundation."
    • The Black-Briar family of Skyrim appear to be of the Environmental and Cultural types, being raised by a corrupt business owner in the Wretched Hive of Riften. Hemming is a stuck up brat, Sibbi is a sociopathic killer, and Ingun, the nicest of the bunch, has a strange affinity for alchemy, especially poisons. Close attention to dialogue also shows this to be In the Blood as well, as Hemming will refer to Sibbi and Ingun as both his siblings and his children, and looking at the game files shows that Maven is marked as Sibbi and Ingun's grandmother.
  • Fire Emblem. Good lord, Fire Emblem. Every freakin' game. Granted, no more than two games (except 1/11, 2 and 3) take place in any one continuity, but regardless, there is at least one mad ruler per game, or at the very least, mildly evil (Blazing Blade's King Desmond wasn't really mad, just a petty idiot—and Marquess Laus wanted to rule all of Lycia, but never actually did.) Well, okay, Radiant Dawn actually had a bunch of evil senators trying to usurp the empress of Begnion and an Evil Chancellor at the side of the new king of Daien...FE10 did have Naesala, but he turned out to be...compromised.
    • Fire Emblem Awakening goes one step further: not only is the main villain the result of a thousand years long program of eugenistic breeding among plegian royalty meant to create an avatar to a demonic genocidal city-sized dragon, but this time, s/he's the protagonist. Kind of.: Fire Emblem: by Nintendo, the company known for its colorful family friendly games
    • Fire Emblem Fates . Both royal families of Hoshido and Nohr are dysfunctional. The Nohr family is the more troubled of the two, since their father Garon sired many children with his concubines. The infighting and power struggles killed off most of the half-siblings — the relatively sane and decent ones are the only ones left. Garon himself was hardened by this but he's still not to blame for all of the really awful things that happen in the game, since he's a Dead All Along puppet of the true Big Bad Anankos. If Nohr used to be dysfunctional but the infighting stopped after Elise's birth and from there the siblings get along well, Hoshido was the opposite. They used to be a happy family, but everything fell apart after the Avatar was kidnapped by Nohr and Sumeragi assassinated. The two older siblings Ryoma and Hinoka trained themselves too hard, busying themselves to distract themselves from the sadness of losing their father and younger sibling, but distancing themselves from their left younger siblings (namely Takumi and Sakura). This is visible in their supports, that Nohr siblings cleared their inner conflicts well, but the Hoshido siblings... Do not completely clear their problems, even if you A support all of them. If you sent the younger siblings fight the oldest one in Revelation, this also shows. Xander has special dialogue if you sent Camilla against him, but Ryoma DOES NOT have any special dialogue even if you sent Takumi or Sakura against him. Even more so against their father Sumeragi. Sumeragi only has special dialogue with the Avatar and Ryoma, showing clear signs of Parental Favoritism. The straightest example of an insanely evil royal is the protagonist's true father Anankos who also happens to be a godlike dragon, but even that's due to a flaw with dragons in the Fire Emblem verse: If they spend too long in their dragon forms without using a dragonstone they go insane. Anankos is even worse than the normal insane dragon, because his sane half is still aware of what's going on and can't do anything to stop it.
  • The Dresari family in the MechWarrior 4 series appears to suffer from this; it's doubly painful because the likable player character in the first game pulls a Face–Heel Turn and becomes The Caligula in one of the expansions. Per a previous example, this is not entirely uncommon in the BattleTech universe. Weirdly enough, Word of God retcons this saying that the latter incident mentioned above is in fact propaganda from the aforementioned Steiner ruling government, whose leader at the time was not above this or numerous other antics reaching to the Moral Event Horizon.
  • Even without that whole one of them having to die every generation to stop the end of the world thing, the Granorg royal family from Radiant Historia is pretty messed up. The late king was cruel and incompetent, his wife is worse, the crown prince was executed for disagreeing with them, and the princess is now leading La Résistance against her stepmother. And the king's brother is the Omnicidal Maniac Big Bad.
  • Zork: the entire Flathead dynasty, ruling or not, with the sole exception of the last Flathead king, Wurb, and Lucy Flathead.
  • Keep marrying relatives in Crusader Kings II and you are liable to end up here — the game keeps track of familial connections enough to mark characters down as inbred behind-the-scenes. This trope comes in in that there are two traits you can get just from being inbred — the inbred-only inbred trait (with a wide range of negative effects) covering mainly the physical sides of this, and the lunatic trait covering The Caligula side of it. Religions that encourages incestuous marriages are nice enough to decrease the risk of getting the inbred trait, but only at the cost of making lunatic more likely.
  • BlazBlue features the Yayoi family, one of the twelve ruling families of the Duodecim. They rarely show up directly, but they are pretty messed up from what we know. Members of the Yayoi family would only have children with those who had strong Ars Magus potential. Eventually they started inbreeding due to considering themselves the only ones strong enough. The current heir, Tsubaki, is not the firstborn child; she's the first one that survived. She's strong and nice, but she's not quite right and ends up manipulated.

    Web Comics 
  • Princess Sara in 8-Bit Theater is smart, sexy, and sane enough to fully realize her father is a Cloud Cuckoo Lander with genocidal tendencies. Naturally, she doesn't hold much stock in hereditary rule. She's still a rude, shrewish sociopath, though, and engineered her own kidnapping.
    • How bad it is: No matter what horrible evils she unleashes on the populace when she comes into power, it will look like a golden age compared to the completely ruinous and unhinged chain of decisions King Steve makes every day, simply because she's not enough of an idiot to be capable of the same levels of casual destruction.
      • It's even worse than that: King Steve boasted a 52% approval rating. He got this by having pollsters ask which would they prefer: Having Steve as their king or taking a sword to the head. 48% of his subjects chose execution (And received it).
  • The Masters Royal Family of Chess Piece are said to be cursed. Luckily, it skipped a generation. Unluckily, the current Prince has seriously planned on taking over the world since he was four.
  • Nearly every clan in Drowtales could fit into this, but the Sharen are the most screwed up. Matricide, starting a civil war, and subjecting one's entire clan as well as any female summoner to demonic Tainting, is a good start for proving a case of mental imbalance. Zhor claims that Snadhya'rune is truly insane (not just evil or ruthless, but insane), and Diva knew it.
    • The Sarghress clan apparently has a history of child abuse. Allegedly, Quain'ana ordered her soldiers to rape her own daughter Mel'arnach when Mel refused to bear an heir for the clan; in turn, according to a non-canon side story, Mel and Sil'lice raped their adopted sister Syphile, and Syphile once locked Ariel (who was physically about 5 years old at the time) and Fuzzy (Ariel's cat) in a cell with no bathroom for a week, and then killed Fuzzy in front of Ariel when Fuzzy bit her.
    • Kharla'ggen, ruler of the Vloz'ress clan, is the page image for Living Doll Collector.
      • It's noteworthy that while Kharla is an adopted member of the clan, the native-born Vloz'ress apparently have a streak of madness a mile wide.
    Kiel'ndia: So, what do you think of my home? Sucks, doesn't it? I wonder what was going through their heads when they built this place. "Let us create a monument to immortalize our madness, to be cherished forever by nuts worldwide. All loonies shall live here and despair... MWAHAHAHAHAHA!"
  • This problem is endemic in Girl Genius. Sparks, being creative geniuses with impulse control/prioritization issues, naturally respond to any intellectual problem or technological innovation with "ooh, shiny!" The powerful ones also tend toward considerable charisma and psychological instability. Throw in a lot of "manifest destiny" and "right to rule" noble sentiment, probably lifted from real-world history, and you get feuding warlord dynasties unleashing war machines and fearsome monsters upon one another constantly. Anti-Villain Baron Klaus Wulfenbach forged a Pax Wulfenbach of sorts, but there's still a fair amount of scheming and rebellion against the (perceived) Evil Overlord. Even the heroic Sparks, mainly heir to legendary heroes Agatha Heterodyne and her probable love-interest/only viable political rival, Klaus's son Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, are prone to manic episodes of creativity and occasional violence.
    • The House of Heterodyne, of which Agatha is the only known living member, deserves special mention. For generations, they were the most insane and dangerous maniacs that the world had ever known, and also some of the strongest Sparks. The previous generation, Agatha's father and uncle, are an exception, having used their brilliant insanity for good; but according to one observer, the people of her hometown would accept a crazy Heterodyne as legitimate:
      Vole: De pipple of Mechanicsburg would not ekcept dot [killing Castle Heterodyne] as proof dot she iz a Heterodyne ... not unless she danced nekked though de ruins vile trying to shoot down de moon — turned all de tourists into monsters — and den built a very dangerous fountain out of sausages.
    • Add in the fact that the Heterodynes were the ones who created the Jaegers (think WW1 Germans fused with Orkz and muppets) and they were plenty messed up too. Basically, the Heterodynes bred right past crazy and back around to normal.
    • Add to this the House Sturmvoraus, apparently affected with an inborn Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, and a Prince in love with The Other.
  • In Homestuck, the Highbloods (high-ranking members of the troll caste system) seem to be innately prone to psychotic behavior. (Well, more so than the rest of the species.) The highest bloodtype; the Imperial, or Tyrian line, boasts Her Imperious Condescension, a millennia-old tyrant known for her cruelty and fickleness. (Interestingly, her descendant Feferi seems to be much more benevolent, making this part a possible subversion.) Meenah, the Condesce's previous incarnation, says it's a shame she can't be around Feferi because they're both of the highest blood type, she has the irrational urge to murder her descendant to take the throne, no matter how sweet Feferi is. There's also the Grand Highblood, a warlord who often killed and mangled people for the hell of it, and his descendant Gamzee, who eventually snaps and brutally murders two of his friends over the course of the story. Equius, a noble-ranking blueblood, has some peculiar anger management issues and pretty much states up front that highbloods are just genetically predisposed to violence and psychosis.
  • Tower of God: Hendrock Bloodmadder, head of the noble Hendrock family, sacrifices each of his children at the young age of 100 (relatively young for ToG standards) to keep himself immortal. The kids are completely fanatic about daddy.
    • Whereas the family of King Jahad seems to be a bunch of quirky young girls with limited amounts of sanity and common sense.
    • And, in the Blue Corner, we have the Khun Family. The Head, Khun Edahn, has many wives and many, many resulting children and grandchildren (and, seeing as this is the Tower) great-to-the-power-of-who-knows-how-many grandchildren... The Family Tree must resemble an overgrown mangrove swamp by now. And, they believe in regular attempts at pruning: politics, betrayals, backstabbings and a coming-of-age tradition that's murder on the kids are all parts of their game. This tends to produce schemers and those with a certain yen towards paranoia that others in the Tower are wary of.

    Web Original 
  • Zeus and Hera and their children in Thalia's Musings, ranging from good but troubled (Apollo and Artemis) to flat-out crazy (Eris).
  • Though not actually royalty, whenever Achievement Hunter does a "King" episode in their Let's Play Minecraft series, if Ryan is king, he will flat-out go nuts. To wit, "King" Michael and "King" Geoff were quite simple in their events; Ryan built a Russian Roulette room and told the other guys to go in and test their luck.

    Western Animation 
  • Candy Kingdom Law, in Adventure Time, is "complicated," according to Princess Bubblegum. In the event that anything should happen to PB, who inherits the throne? Her maladjusted, overly-sensitive, socially awkward, most likely brain-damaged, insensitive, angry, sour-tempered, alienated son/science experiment gone wrong, the Earl of Lemongrab. Arguably, Lemongrab is a pretty sympathetic example of this trope—he obviously has a... delicate condition, but that doesn't stop everyone from despising his guts for being a Jerkass most of the time and sending everyone to the dungeon for a million years. But why stop there? When the princess realizes her errors, she must create a second heir. This time, she brings her own DNA into the equation in an attempt to stabilize the formula. Enter the giant, pink, infantile being Goliad. Princess Bubblegum wants to educate her in all the ways of royalty and leadership and Finn and Jake are tasked to teach her. However, Goliad's "mondo mama brains" have an extreme imprint. Just seeing Jake yell at a group of preschoolers in order to keep them quiet send her into an authoritarian state in which everyone is forced to follow her rules. Then Goliad pulls out her Third Eye and begins to control the citizens of the Candy Kingdom with mind control and telekinesis. If not for Stormo, a being created by Finn's DNA, the kingdom would have fallen.
    • Surely the Candy Kingdom can't have all the fun. There's also the Nightosphere and the Vampire Kingdom, controlled by the Abadeers, respectively Hunson and Marceline. Hunson, as the Lord of Chaos, controls the strange tortures that flood the Nightosphere. Mutilation, immolation, bananas coming out of orifices; all done in pure glee. His daughter, Marceline the Vampire Queen, is seen less as a ruler and more a fickle trickster. If she has royal obligations, she completely ignores them.
      • At one point, Marceline was tricked into becoming the Lord of Chaos by her own father. This made her even more disturbing as she would line up those in the Nightosphere and hand out punishments on whim, giving choices like "pain, pleasure, or weird punishment" and asking if someone wanted abs (which she placed on the person's head).
    • The entire Fire Kingdom court is evil. This includes Finn's new Love Interest Flame Princess, though her father admits that love could turn her chaotic neutral (at the cost of an experience penalty for going against alignment). She's also Cute and Psycho with a Hair-Trigger Temper, and if her emotions go out of control she can destroy the world. Her father is also a little too eager to make sure his daughter stays evil.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The line of the Fire Lords in has... issues. Specifically, a tendency toward being sociopathic and homicidal on both a personal and national level. Again, if there's hope for stopping the ruling lunatics, it seems likely to come from the branches of the tree that didn't get hit with the genocidal batshit crazy stick — disgraced traitor Iroh, or screwed-up-but-trying-to-improve disgraced traitor Zuko. For the most part the Fire Lords seem to have avoided taking out their issues on their own people, so their own common folks seem to be reasonably pleased with their rulers. It's just everyone else on the planet who's rightfully terrified. The problem isn't likely to go away until the planetary balanced is fixed; it seems to be spiritual in nature. (One ancestor went power-mad three generations back, and his successors have continued his policies. And why not, as they seem to be working fine — as long as you're Fire Nation, that is.) Zuko was able to put a stop to it with himself and his Spin-Offspring, however. His grandson, General Iroh, pops up a few times in Korra and is a completely normal (but extremely badass) guy. His daughter, Izumi, the reigning Fire Lord speaks only in one scene in the show but comes off as a very wise and capable leader. It's exceedingly obvious that Zuko was successful in Breaking the Cycle of Bad Parenting.
    • Sequel Series The Legend of Korra shows that this isn't exclusive to the Fire Nation. Earth Queen Hou-Ting, unlike her father Kuei, is a tyrannic, petty monarch who makes life for commoners living hell, and undid all the progress achieved under her father just because of her own personal whims, driving the Earth Kingdom into poverty. When she ends up getting murdered by Zaheer, the citizens cheer and raid her palace, triggering the fall of the Earth Kingdom.
  • The Heinous family on Jimmy Two-Shoes, who are basically an entire family of Satans who have ruled Miseryville for centuries. You know something's wrong when Lucius VII - a demon who, in the first episodes alone, forced his right-hand man to literally eat shit and approved of his son's brain being replaced with a dog's - is considered the least evil ruler the town's had.

    Real Life 
  • Henry VI had some kind of mental illness which left him near-catatonic for long periods. note  It may have been inherited from the French royals; Henry's French grandfather, Charles VI, was also mentally ill, sometimes claiming to be made of glass. Charles's madness led to a civil war, and a English invasion — Agincourt and Joan of Arc; Henry's madness led to the War of the Roses — two wars, one of which effectively purged the English royal line of madness by almost exterminating it. This shows that occasionally Real Life can be more sensible than fiction: most medieval kings had to be competent, or they got removed.
    • Charles VI's madness was triggered by two traumatic events, the first possibly induced by sunstroke, the second by the notorious "ball of the burning men", in which Charles himself came close to being burnt alive. And while Britons like to point the finger at Charles VI as being to blame for Henry VI's madness, it should be noted that his French offspring was not crazy, but actually seemed to have been pretty smart and rational by the standards of their day, in particular his grandson Louis XI, known as the Universal Spider, and his Louis's daughter Anne de Beaujeu, who very competently ruled France and won another civil war during the minority of her younger brother Charles VIII. Of course to some people the real reason for the troubles of the royal house of France until the 19th century was that Philip the Fair and his successors had been cursed by the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar when he was burned at the stake.
    • Much later there was George III, of the "talking-to-a-tree-because-he-thought-it-was-the-king-of-Prussia" style of crazy, but that was an isolated incident and might even have been made up by his son, George IV, who had to rule as regent for years while they waited for him to die. (These are—theoretically—the Georges that turn up in Blackadder the Third, incidentally.) The Hanoverian monarchs had an unspoken family tradition of having bad relationships with their oldest sons (from George I and George II to Victoria and Edward VII, not one British monarch had a good relationship with his/her eldest male child) and George IV is known to have cruelly parodied George III's condition in front of his friends in London clubs. IV himself was more a case of 'just about sane enough' than completely well-balanced; fortunately, power was sufficiently shared with Parliament by this time that a sane-ish monarch was good enough, and in any case the only thing George IV wanted to use power for (outside of a last-stand opposition to Catholic Emancipation, which his ministers talked him out of) was to deprive his wife of her privileges as queen.
      • George III only developed madness in later life — earlier in life he was charming, handsome and reasonably well-adjusted. Recent theories suggest that this may have been due to a genetic condition called porphyria that is hereditary, it just tends to skip several generations without manifesting. May have entered the British Royal Family from the Scottish line James I and VI who may have inherited it from his mother Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary, James and George are just the only reigning monarchs to suffer, all the other possible instances just cropped up in branch lines.
      • Skeptics of the theory that George III inherited porphyria from either Mary and James have pointed out that that there is as yet no evidence of porphyria in the intervening generations of Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia; Sophia, Electress of Hanover; George I; George II; and Frederick, Prince of Wales. Certainly neither Mary nor James displayed any signs of madness. In any case, George III's doctors tried to cure his madness by giving him mercury ("It works on syphilis, maybe it'll cure this too..."), which obviously didn't help.
      • Another doubt is cast on the porphyria idea is that one of its defining features is bluish urine... except George was also being given a herbal sedative which causes blueish urine as one of its known side-effects. There's also the curious fact that he 'got better' for a few years between two attacks of his madness; the descriptions allegedly make the first sound like a long hypermanic episode, and the second (when in his seventies) sound more like dementia than the 'madness' it was described as.
    • Henry VIII started out as a good king (kind of tough-minded and ambitious, but those were rated as virtues in a renaissance monarch), but became more and more cruel and egotistical as he got older (as many of his wives discovered). Theories differ on why, but illness, a sports-Career-Ending Injury, and the lack of a backup male heir have all been put forward as helping him along the path from arrogant and short-tempered to paranoid megalomaniac.
    • The sanity of his daughter Queen Mary I (not only Britain's first undisputed queen regnant (ruling queen)note  but the original Bloody Mary) is a question historians have never settled. Her campaign to re-establish the Catholic church led to an unusually large number of brutal executions in her six-year reign and brought the country to the point of outright rebellion. Of course, the English Reformation had started as a way for her father to divorce and mistreat her mother, who was then dying of cancer, and witnessing that had a profound effect on Mary. She also may have had a hysterical pregnancy: when she married at 38 she was understandably desperate to produce an heir, as the only other surviving Tudor — her younger half-sister Elizabeth — was of questionable legitimacy and very Protestant. Mary was observed by her courtiers to show every sign of pregnancy… but a year went by and no child was born. For centuries it was assumed to be extreme wishful thinking. Evidence now suggests that she had ovarian cysts, or possibly uterine cancer. At any rate, having been in frail health since her teen years, she died of influenza.
  • The Habsburg dynasty of Austria, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, and various states in Northern Italy was excessively inbred even by the standards of late medieval European royalty, with a tendency towards mental instability as well as a distinctive underbite known as the "Habsburg lip" that got more disfiguring in later generations. The Habsburgs felt that not marrying "ruling houses" was beneath them and were also devout Catholics, meaning that a large part of German and European families were off limits after the Reformation, unless their partners were ready to convert.note  To make matters worse, after the Habsburgs split into an Austrian and a Spanish main line after Charles V/Carlos I, the two branches of the family kept trading marriage partners in order to continue to be able to inherit each other's throne should one of them die out. Marrying into the Spanish House of Trastamara in the early 16th century had been a shrewd political move to expand the family's power but a poor choice for genetic health as the pre-Reconquista Spanish houses were already pretty inbred. Even by that low bar, the Trastamaras were noted for their history of oddballs, although the number of truly crazy family members may have been overstated by their enemies.
    • Larry Gonick's take on the Trastamaras was "I'm Pedro El Cruel! What can I do to you?" ...which was the king in question's real nickname, at least among his enemies. His other nickname, "Peter the Just", could be taken to refer to his skill as an administrator... or his penchant for beheadings. (The word in Old Spanish, Iusteçero, roughly translates to "Justiciar" and can mean "enforcer of justice" or "executioner", more or less.) The actual founder of the Trastamara line was Pedro's sane illegitimate half-brother but that didn't keep the unfortunate recessives from popping up in subsequent generations.
    • Don Carlos, the rebellious son of Philip II, was insane to the point of being physically dangerous and would take swipes at passing servants with a knife. Philip ended up removing him from the line of succession on the basis that he was unfit for the throne, and he spent the last six months of his life under house arrest.
    • Ferdinand I of Austria's favourite occupation was rolling around in the bin.
    • The trope's picture is a portrait of Charles II, last Habsburg King of Spain—and portraits included the period equivalent of Photoshopping, so he probably looked even worse in person. He was so severely physically and mentally disabled (he had the "Habsburg Lip" to such an extent that he could not close his mouth; that's why his tongue is poking out) that his subjects nicknamed him "El Hechizado" ("The Bewitched"). His family 'tree' doubles back on itself. Taken from The Other Wiki: According to the medical coroner, Charles' body "contained not a single drop of blood, his heart looked like the size of a grain of pepper, his lungs were corroded, his intestines were putrid and gangrenous, he had a single testicle which was as black as carbon and his head was full of water." The only non-Habsburg genes Charles had received in the last four generations were from his father's syphilis, which was at that point just throwing swamp water up a backed-up sewage line. Unsurprisingly, he closed the Habsburg chapter in Spain by not perpetuating his line (though his advisers tried to get an heir out of him). Charles descended from "Juana La Loca" 14 times... twice as a great-great-great grandson, and 12 times further.
      • Also according to The Other Wiki, Charles was "short, lame, epileptic, senile and completely bald before 35, always on the verge of death but repeatedly baffling Christendom by continuing to live." Not much needs to be said after that.
    • All Habsburg lines tended to lead back to "Juana la Loca", a.k.a. Queen Joanna the Mad of Aragon and Castille...over and over. It's debatable how mad she actually was and how much of that was genetic versus how much was induced by grief and mistreatment after the death of her husband Philip the Handsome, the Duke of Burgundy. Witnesses who weren't paid by the rivals to her thronenote  contested the incidents claimed as the most serious evidence of her insanity, such as repeatedly reopening her dead husband's casket. She probably did have some form of hereditary depression, but her purported "madness" was worst when she was locked up in a nunnery by her own father, Ferdinand, upon her political and military defeats after attempting to pry his claws off her throne after her husband's death — visitors (particularly outside witnesses) strongly discouraged. Her son, Carlos I/Charles V, later had to be told to treat his poor mother better as a condition for election as Holy Roman Emperor.note  Her deplorably neglectful living conditions were quite the open secret and scandal at the time.
      • Joanna was the older sister of Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII. Her daughter Mary Tudor wedded her first cousin once removed Philip II, but they never produced a child and Philip eventually remarried with his niece Anne of Austria. Had the English Reformation never happened, the history of the Hapsburgs may have been quite different. On one hand, a Catholic England would have opened up the gene pool a bit for the Habsburgs. On the other hand, England still might not have provided enough genetic diversity if the Habsburgs kept marrying only Habsburgs (it would probably depend on whether the English Habsburgs continued the fine British tradition of having the Spare to the Throne inherit; the spare could then marry minor Italian and German Catholic nobles), and England might have suffered royal insanity to the same extent as the continent.
    • Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria wasn't the head-choppy kind of crazy but he was definitely epileptic and had a hydrocephalus. His (rather euphemistic) honorific was "the Kindly" or "the Benign" (Ferdinand der Gütige in German).note  He gave exactly one coherent order during his entire reign: upon being told by his cook that he could not have Marillenknödel (a kind of Austrian sweet dumpling stuffed with whole apricots) for dessert because apricots were out of season, he famously said, "Ich bin der Kaiser und ich will Knödel!" ("I am the Emperor, and I want dumplings!").note  After being told by his chancellor Metternich that the people outside the palace were carrying out a revolution (in 1848), his answer according to urban legend was: "Yes, but are they allowed to do that?"note  Since he remained childless, his disabilities did not continue down the line. Not that the line would ever have become Emperors; after the aforementioned revolution, the government convinced him to abdicate in favor of his saner and (it turns out) Workaholic nephew Franz Joseph (who would reign until 1916).
    • The Austrian Habsburgs were restricted to "ruling house" of Europe, i.e. of the ruling family of a sovereign European statenote  if they wanted their children to inherit the throne(s).note  Moreover, because the Habsburgs regarded themselves as the guardians of Catholicism among the crowned heads of Europe, there was a strong (if unofficial) rule that the spouse of a Habsburg must be Catholic. The fellow-royal rule led to a falling-out between Emperor Franz Joseph and his heir-presumptive, Archduke Franz Ferdinandnote . Franz Ferdinand made the faux pas of morganatically marrying a Czech countess, whose family was not up to imperial and royal snuff, and his children by her were ineligible for the throne.
      • Speaking of Franz Joseph, he married his first cousin, Elisabeth (Sisi). It's been speculated Sisi suffered from some form of anorexia nervosa, and Franz Joseph was a Workaholic. Their other children, Gisela and Marie Valerie, turned out relatively normal compared to the usual specimens of this trope note . Rudolf, their only son and heir, is quite another matter. Reportedly, he kept a carefully notated ledger of his sexual conquests (of which there were many), brought a lover to his wedding, and asked three women to die with him (hitting paydirt in the infatuated Mary Vetsera. The other two were Stephanie, his wife, and Mizzi/Mitzi Caspar, another lover). The last thing he ever did that was seen by someone else was ordering breakfast and a carriage, and for his valet to wake him up at 7. He walked off, hands in his pocket, whistling. His death was the Mayerling Incident that devastated his parents' already compromised marriage, led to a crisis in the line of succession, sabotaged the growing reconciliation between the Austrian and Hungarian factions of the empire note , culminating in the assassination of the aforementioned Franz Ferdinand and the declaration of World War I.
  • Whether or not the Imperial Roman lines count is a matter of much discussion; certainly many of them were raving mad by our standards, particularly, well, Caligula. For an entertaining view on how insane things got, check out I, Claudius. How much of that was due to the Emperors being corrupted by absolute power, or due to environmental factors such as heavy metal poisoning (a sweeter wine is all well and good, but lead additives aren't going to be a health craze any time soon—and the the Romans were big fans of defrutum, aka wine that has been boiled down into a thick sauce for use as a condiment, often produced in lead kettles), or how many Emperors just seemed paranoid and vicious because that was the only way to survive as a Roman Emperor (only 29 out of 88 Byzantine Emperors died of natural causes, and at least a dozen were murdered by their own relatives), or how much of the crazy was made up by much later historians like Tacitus and Suetonius to serve as parables, is both debatable and debated. The Empire alternated between periods of military autocracy (where the army essentially chose the leader) and dynasties founded by relatively competent emperors that inevitably descended into murder and madness within a couple generations. A sitting emperor's smartest option was usually to adopt an heir of proven sanity and military aptitude.
  • Queen Victoria was a hemophilia carrier and passed the gene on to three of her children, from whence it spread to many other European royal houses, royally screwing them over. This included the Romanovs, whose last legitimate heir was doomed to die from this illness before maturity; that's why the faith-healer Rasputin the Mad Monk gained such sway over the Empress. The hemophilia gene became so prevalent among royals that many commoners thought that hemophilia was the genetic marker of royalty. Even the 1950s B-movie Queen of Blood decided that the extraterrestrial featured must be royalty solely because she was a hemophiliac. That is one impressive little allele.
    • Not that the Russian royal line needed much help from Queen Vicky. When you've got such kings as Ivan "the Great" (yes, he did tonnes; could also start a brutal war over not agreeing with anything any of his brothers liked), Ivan "the Terrible" (ye gads, the guy knew how to do crazy: and, ran through wives and children at an impressive rate), or even Peter the Great (who... very much had his moments of darkly-driven, Cloudcuckoolander bonkers, despite the "Great") indirectly in your genetic back pockets, you've got problems. Even Catherine the Great's husband, Peter III was a little unfortunate to have her as a wife (even though they were both far more German than Russian) — as she probably killed him on the reasonable grounds that Russia having an ardent Russiophobe and Slavic cultural hater and man-child on the throne wasn't exactly working all that well for both domestic and foreign policy (or that was the local perception of what he was maybe trying to do, at least: he was utterly hopeless at explaining himself in a politically acceptable manner, however). And then there's Catherine's son, Paul, who would exile his officers to Siberia for a misplaced coat button and who was assassinated with his eldest son's more or less tacit consent.note  No matter what your surname was or who your supposed father was (there are a lot of questions at various points)... the same lesson can be repeatedly found in every Russian lineage to hold that throne: don't trust family as they'll probably kill you. Likely on purpose, be they mad or not.
  • This led to the abolition of the 240-year-old Nepalese monarchy in 2008. In 2001, Crown Prince Dipendra allegedly went Ax-Crazy and gunned down most of his relatives, including his parents the king and queen. By law, Dipendra was crowned Nepal's new king, despite being both accused of multiple murders and comatose from an allegedly self-inflicted gunshot wound. Dipendra quickly succumbed to his injuries and his uncle Gyanedra was crowned king despite being widely suspected of masterminding the royal family massacre. No matter whether Dipendra or Gyanedra had really done it, Nepal had made at least one mass murderer its king. When Gyanedra tried to abolish Parliament, the Nepalese decided they had had enough of this trope and voted to make peace with the Maoist rebels and declare a republic.
  • A reporter innocently asked Harald V of Norway (whose parents and paternal grandparents were first cousins, and his maternal grandparents were first cousins once removed) if a part of his desire to marry his wife (a Norwegian commoner) included expanding the family's gene pool. Harald's response?
    Well, haven't you noticed that everyone in this family is a little weird?
  • Ancient Egyptian pharaohs made something of a habit of marrying their eldest sisters, to the extent that archaeologists thought for awhile that claim to the throne might have passed through the oldest daughter of the late king because they couldn't understand why else so many princesses became their brothers' Great Royal Wives. Current theory says that it was in fact male-line inheritance and that many of the marriages were symbolic, meant to prevent princesses from marrying other men and establishing cadet branches of the royal family. HOWEVER the imperative to secure the bloodline (and a general Egyptian distaste for marrying non-Egyptians) meant that some of those sibling marriages were also not purely symbolic. The Ptolemaic dynasty (which was ethnically Greek but very quickly assimilated to pharonic tradition) in particular had a Moebius family tree and it kind of showed in some of the later Ptolemies, Berenices, and Cleopatras (historical accounts indicate that Cleopatra VII, the one everyone remembers, was unusually charming and savvy by her family's standards — a factoid which has been raising the odd eyebrow and sparking betting pools for centuries: genetic lottery win, a more distant Ptolemy than advertised, or outside contractor entirely?).
    • As the results, the Ancient Egyptian royal families were so biologically and ethically messed up that some archaeologists and historians argued they actually had it worse than the Habsburg family. The Ptolemaic royal family, for example, had many diseases attributed to them, with common descriptions of obesity, swollen necks and proptosis (bulging) eyes. They also carried a recessive trait that is similar to the Habsburg jaw. In terms of moral screw ups, some of the Ptolemaic pharaohs exhibited this:
      • Ptolemy VIII murdered his nephew to gain the throne, married the mother of that nephew, had an affair with his stepdaughter, and killed his son when the same mother proclaimed him the new Pharaoh. He was described by one Roman writer to having an unattractive face and a belly that is more of a "animal" than a man.
      • Ptolemy XI who was forced to marry his stepmother and half-sister (also possibly her biological mother) and murdered her nineteen days later after the marriage.
      • Arguably Cleopatra VII could count, given all the backstabbing against her siblings (the lifestyle in the court and the family might also have contributed greatly to it).
    • Tutankhamun was the worse offender of this as he was revealed to contain multiple diseases including Köhler disease II that is very rare in the genetic link, and is likely be the factor to his death. He was also said to have large front incisors,a trait passed down from the Eighteenth Dynasty royal family (1543–1292 BC).
    • In short, there are distinct chunks of Egyptian history where students and teachers alike kind of hope records are just plain wrong or somewhat too incomplete on. Or that, at the very least, sufficient amounts of discreetly hidden adultery/infidelity with non-kin was going on on the side at crucial junctures (looking at you specifically, you Ptolemaic lasses playing out your bacchanalian fantasies). Although it would have done very little for the detached culture at the top, at least, well... the slight possibility of less recursive genetic squick actually being in that cauldron of political intrigue and madness is a comforting thing to contemplate.
  • They're not officially royalty, but for all intents and purposes, the severely messed up Kim family are the hereditary rulers of North Korea. Their antics include releasing truly insane propaganda to the world which depicts their country as a wealthy and powerful developed nation (in fact their level of development ranges from Cold War era to downright medieval), claiming magical powers and impossible achievements (inventing the hamburger and communicating winning strategies to Olympic coaches through invisible phones are among the tamer ones), all but deifying themselves, releasing a list of approved hairstyles for their subjects, threatening the use of nuclear weapons at the slightest provocation, abducting people worldwide for purposes ranging from creating a Kaiju film to sexual slavery to teaching English to spies, running a frightening amount of concentration camps which imprison whole families down to the third generation and generally treating their people like disposable chattel.
  • The House of Saud, the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Leaving aside how they treat their own people, subjecting them to one of the harshest forms of Sharia law on Earth, with beheadings and crucifixions as common punishment, their personal behaviour often beggars belief, with accusations ranging from murder, rape, drug smuggling and mutilating a maid. As well as this, branches of the family are allegedly linked to terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIL, and most recently they've been accused of war crimes and attempted ethnic cleansing in Yemen. The somewhat peculiar line of succession that the house practiced for decades (with Ibn Saud's many sons all being placed before his grandsons) that all but guaranteed repeated brief reigns by elderly kings hasn't particularly lent itself to stability either. This last point seems to be changing, however. In 2015, the current king removed his younger half-brother (these two are the last of Ibn Saud's surviving sons) from the succession and replaced him with one of the grandsons—who wasn't anywhere close to being the oldest living male in that generation. And then in 2017, the king replaced that grandson with one of his own sons, who is literally young enough to be the son of the deposed crown prince.note 
    • Said son, Mohammed bin Salman (aka MBS), became a darling of the Western media and was lauded as the young, progressive leader who would bring Saudi Arabia into the 21st century, and institute civil rights and democracy. There were some troubling news stories, such as an "anti-corruption" crackdown that saw many of his personal and political rivals imprisoned and tortured note , he briefly abducted the Prime Minister of Lebanon and forced him to publicly resign, and as Defence Minister had been heavily involved in the indiscriminate bombing campaign in Yemen; however, these all sort of slipped past public attention. Meanwhile, gushing profiles were written about the prince opening up theatres and cinemas for the first time in thirty five years, allowing women the right to drive, defanging the infamous "morality police", and his grand economic plans to move the country away from oil production...
      Then he had a critical journalist killed and dismembered by a fifteen man hit squad armed with a bonesaw, and people started to dig a bit deeper. As well as the earlier aforementioned not-quite controversies coming back into the spotlight, reports leaked that he was planning to invade and conquer Qatar until the US State Department found out, and it became apparent that his "reforms" were largely set dressing; for instance, while he allowed women to drive he had the female activists who fought for that right thrown in prison, and economists who called his signature "Vision 2030" plan to diversify the economy unrealistic were arrested on terrorism and treason charges.
  • Ibn Khaldun's surviving work deals specifically with North African bedouins, but he established a more generally applicable generational succession for nomads and the civilizations they conquer: the first generation is rough and tribal and not quite civilized, the second (with luck) still understands what made his father strong but also has been brought up in the arms of city culture, the third begins to lose touch and grow soft, and after that discipline just fall apart until the next new dynasty rides in and replaces them. Rinse, repeat. Ibn Khaldun was one of the first historians to have a theory of history instead of just a straightforward record of what happened. The Islamic dynasties of Spain are an excellent example of this paradigm and We Have Become Complacent on this very wiki is a relative of his theories. While he mostly gave North African examples, you have to bear in mind that the Muqaddimah (which is where these theories come from) was actually the introduction to a much larger history of North Africa and the Mediterranean (muqaddimah just means "introduction" in Arabic). With the possible exception of the Roman and Egyptian empires, pretty much every great empire of the Mediterranean region in the pre-modern era was founded by at best half-civilized conquerors who took over the established civilizations: the Akkadians, Assyrians, Hittites, Persians, Macedonians, Germans, Arabs, and Turks (to name only the most obvious examples) all did this. Even the Romans were pretty uncouth when they started taking over Italy; between their militarism, agrarianism, lack of high culture, and piety,note  the perception the Etruscans and peninsular Greeks had of the Romans was the Classical Antiquity version of Flyover Country. And as for the Egyptians, they only expanded to become a true empire after their country was conquered by foreign barbarians (the "Hyksos", who were probably Canaanite shepherds), and they won that empire by adopting the barbarians' technology and tactics.
  • Ludwig II of Bavaria was considered by many to be mad, and deposed because of it (based on the "diagnosis" of Dr. Gudden, who wrote it without ever having met Ludwig in person), followed by his death the next day of either murder or suicide. For the most part his 'insanity' consisted of an obsession with building elaborate castles (one of which became the model for Disney's trademark castle and the one in their parks), swans, opera music, and beautiful men, and he's more fondly remembered now — he's known as the Fairytale King or the Swan King. Aw.
    • After that, his brother and successor, King Otto, spent his entire "reign" institutionalised. (He'd already been declared mad and consigned to an asylum during Ludwig's reign.)
    • Some Bavarians like to blame the madness of (possibly) Ludwig and (definitely) Otto on their Prussian mother Marie, pointing at the case of Frederick William IV (uncle of Marie of Bavaria), however new evidence suggests that the Frederick William did not actually go mad but suffered from the effects of a stroke in his later years, which his Bavarian consort Queen Elisabeth tried to hide from the public.
  • Like Roman elites poisoned by their lead plumbing, research on remains of samurai children buried at a Japanese Buddhist temple showed sky-high lead levels believed to be from the lead-based white face powder used by upper-class women. Chronic heavy metal poisoning may have contributed to political instability and the decline of centuries-old shogun system in the latter half of the 19th century.
  • Some Biblical scholars believe King Saul may have been schizophrenic. Not only because of his jealous obsession with and multiple murder attempts against his eventual successor King David, but also because he threw a spear at his own son Jonathan for merely asking why his best friend David had to die (1 Samuel 20:30).
    • The text suggests he had severe migraine headaches, which can also make a person behave very irrationally and cause memory loss. He initially brought David to the palace because his doctors prescribed music to help him relax (1 Samuel 16:23) — this is when the spear-throwing started, as he came to realize that while David wasn't after the throne, he was destined to succeed him. His actions were savage, perhaps irrational, but not schizophrenic.
  • Emperor Yoshihito/Taisho of Japan, due to a combination of inbreeding and a bout of meningitis that he suffered when he was weeks old and probably left him brain-damaged, was known for bizarre behavior in his later years. During a parade, he reportedly hopped off the royal float and hugged a random trumpet player in the accompanying band, and also behaved rather weirdly during the inaguration of the Japanese Parliament in 1913. As a result, he was kept out of view of the public as much as possible.
  • Frederick William I of Prussia had porphyria, and also liked to carry a wooden cane, much to the regret of everyone around him — he chased his children around the palace with it and was known for randomly attacking commonersnote  in the streets of Berlin, hollering at them: "You're supposed to love me, not fear me!" This seems to have had a negative effect in his relationship with his son, Frederick the Great, although the mutual intense antipathy between the two surely didn't help.
  • Countess Anna de Coligny (1624-80) was distantly related to the Kings of England and Prussia. She suffered from an illness. Her problems started young. She, while young, was reported to have tried to climb up the tapestries hanging from a wall after a seizure, and she did not get better. Four of her five daughters also went crazy (one had to be locked up in an apartment with padded walls). Her surviving son, while not insane, was very promiscuous and thought it would be a good idea for some of his illegitimate children to marry their half-siblings.
  • Many Ottoman emperors have been known to fall into this, but not because of their genetics, but rather because of their upbringing. Whereas the traditional inheritance rule among them dictated that the most skilled son of the predecessor would inherit (read: the most ruthless one who was cool enough with simply murdering his (half-)brothers), Sultan Ahmed I. decided instead to spare his younger brother Mustafa upon his ascension, and, in order to still isolate him from politics and potential rebels who might have wanted to use him in plots to overthrow the ruler, he simply locked the latter into the palace (and often only a small number of rooms, at that) in a sort of Gilded Cage way for his entire life. This took an enormous emotional toll on the young prince, who upon Ahmed's death several years later, was rendered a psychological wreck, with severe neurosis and hallucinations. Although he followed his brother on the throne, he reigned for barely a year before the courtiers locked him up again (He later reigned a second time, again for barely a year). Ahmed's own sons who succeeded Mustafa, were also barely saner, with most of them proving to be Mood Swingers with heavy paranoia: His first son Osman was a Royal Brat who used courtiers for target practice with his Longbow, his second son Murad a choleric Knight Templar who had almost all of his Viziers executed during his reign and a lot of Istanbul's population sent to the henchman for crimes like drinking coffee, and his last son Ibrahim was literally nicknamed "the mad" (but not for being Ax-Crazy, but rather because of how many women he knocked up (which was not all that bad a thing, too, because Murad had no children and slaughtered almost all of his (half-)brothers during his reign)). Most historicians today consider this one of the main reasons why the Ottoman Empire gradually collapsed.
  • On the pathetic side, there is the Duke of Angoulême, son of Charles X of France. Unlike his father and his more charismatic brother, the Duke of Berry, he was frail, suffering from many nervous tics and probably impotent, which at least prevented him from having even more screwed-up offspring with his wife and first cousin, Marie-Thérèse, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. He did ascend the French throne during the July Revolution... for all of 20 minutes, and even then most Legitimist partisans refused to acknowledge his claim to the throne.
  • As mentioned, several Chinese emperors and other Chinese royals, nobles, and worthies succumbed to "immortality elixirs" containing mercury. Practically every Chinese dynasty has at least one monarch who trusted the peddlers of immortality potions too much, and got a nasty case of quicksilver poisoning for his trouble. Some highlights:
    • The first emperor recorded to have gone cuckoo-bird after too much "immortality elixir" was the first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, who started off a suspicious but fundamentally sound monarch but ended up completely paranoid after years of "treatment" with mercury-containing "medicine." He was also the first emperor to die from it after he took pills containing pure mercury in 220 BCE. These killed him by (surprise, surprise) acute mercury poisoning. Again, he did this as a step to achieving eternal life.
    • You would think killing the first emperor would put the alchemists off mercury. You would be wrong. They blamed Qin Shihuangdi's death on his taking pure mercury, rather than mercury compounds "specially treated" with fire or some such, and with that "explanation", they were able to just keep concocting new mercury-containing potions, hand-waving away the obvious ill effects—for (as mentioned) almost two thousand years.
      • Over a thousand years after the death of Qin Shihuang, a doctor told Emperor Xuānzong of Tang (reigned 846-859 CE, and generally considered to be the last good Tang emperor) that the litany of ill effects he was suffering—all of which modern medicine recognizes as symptoms of acute mercury poisoning—were signs that the medicine was working. Xuānzong also died of too much "immortality elixir" after (again) going from a suspicious but capable monarch to a paranoid wreck over the course of several years of treatment. He did manage to avoid the acute mercury poisoning that offed Qin Shihuang, but the chronic poisoning that got him was arguably worse.
      • And they kept coming. While the later dynasties tended to be more cautious about mercury (the Ming even technically had a rule against elixirs), the only dynasty that appears to have been completely unaffected is the Yuan (which is to say, the Mongol dynasty of Kublai Khan), which tended to look down on Chinese alchemy in general when it wasn't making gunpowder.note  The last emperor to die of alchemical elixir poisoning, the Yongzheng Emperor of Qing, died in 1735—just under 900 years after Xuānzong. Like both Qin Shihuang and Xuānzong, he was noted as an effective and ruthless ruler before taking the elixir; unlike them, he appears to have taken a lethal dose before the effects of chronic usage could catch up to him, and is widely remembered as a good (if despotic) ruler (with an assist from the stellar reputations of his father, the Kangxi Emperor, and his son, the Qianlong Emperor).
  • The Oldenburg dynasty in Denmark, beginning with Christian I, deserves some notes here. Most of the kings were fairly sensible at best, and dimwitted at worst, known to screw up badly in foreign affairs. Then Christian VII came along. He suffered from mental illness, and had to rule by proxy for long periods of time. Christian suffered from hallucinations and paranoia, and his reign coincided with that of English George III (mentally ill kings were somewhat fashionable at this time). His illness led to the infamous Struensee affair, when the King´s physician took the helm in his name and turned out to be the most sensible ruler Denmark had had for decades, until he was toppled in a coup and executed. His son, Frederick VI, had to rule in his name from that point and onwards, and is known for having messed up big time when he eventually became king. This because he was the unlucky bastard who had to steer Denmark through The Napoleonic Wars, and screwed up enough to be partly responsible for the Norwegian Constituent Assembly. The dynasty died out with Frederick VII, and the Glüksborg branch turned out to be a lot more sensible, but then they were constitutional monarchs.
  • The Wasa ruling family of Sweden deserves a little mention, for all they never quite managed, say, Ottoman, Russian or Austrian levels of screwed-upness. Wallflowers afraid of a little bloodshed they generally weren't, though. However, Eric XIV is their poster boy for this trope. He started out fairly OK; his early (and bloody) crack-downs smacked of efficient brutality to get the job of consolidating power under the Crown's control done at a time when Sweden's nobles were quite prone to factionalism. Buuuuuuuuuut... these little showers of terror mounted up, came at quicker and quicker intervals, involved more people and started targeting those who only might have been scheming, maybe (probably not). The Sture murders were the last straw, and what would today would be considered a successful coup ousted him from the throne. He later died of conveniently well-timed mysterious circumstances in prison. When his body was exhumed centuries later, it turned out his bones were loaded with arsenic. Fun fact: pea soup is a Scandinavian staple of both commoner and noble alike. Another fun fact, green dyes often are based on a mix of cobalt and arsenic compounds. C16th Sweden not only had plenty of people willing to murder the guy, but it also was gaining the fashionable habit of adding extra colouring to food, especially that served to nobles. So, sure; quite possibly murder. And/or... decades of heavy metal poisoning (and increasingly erratic behaviour) because of regularly enjoying brilliantly green split-pea soup.
  • Korea's royals weren't immune to this. The ruling dynasties weren't as consistently insane as, say, the Hapsburgs, but there was always at least one bad apple in each dynasty.
    • King Chunghye of the Goryeo dynasty was infamous for his habit of abducting, raping, and murdering women. This made him very unpopular with everyone and ultimately caused his downfall. He raped at least two of his late father's concubines. One of them, Bayankhutag, was a Yuan noblewoman. After Chunghye raped her the Yuan emissary arrested Chunghye and dragged him to Beijing, where he spent the rest of his life as a prisoner.
    • King Gongmin, Chunghye's half-brother, was every bit as screwed-up. He came to the throne by having Chunghye's fourteen-year-old son deposed and poisoned. During his reign he raped five underage boys (that we know of; those are only the ones whose names are recorded). He finally died after he discovered one of his concubines was having an affair with another man. Afraid of being executed, the concubine's lover murdered Gongmin in his sleep.
    • The insanity didn't end with the Goryeo dynasty. Yeonsangun Of Joseon had the dubious honour of being the worst tyrant in all of Korean history until the Kims of North Korea came along. When he first took the throne he seemed competent and mentally stable. That quickly changed. Yeonsan had an obsession with restoring his late mother's reputation. Unfortunately that made him launch two purges of the scholars who had even the most tenuous connection — or no connection at all — to his mother being deposed and executed. He went as far as punishing officials who weren't even in the palace when his mother died; his "reasoning" appears to have been "they did nothing to stop it, so they're responsible!". Two of his father's concubines were most responsible for his mother's execution, so he beat them to death. He fatally injured his grandmother during an argument and murdered an official who confronted him about his behaviour. As if all that isn't bad enough, he later had people driven from their houses to build his hunting grounds, exiled a minister for spilling a drink, and kidnapped a thousand women and turned a former university into his personal brothel. His people finally had enough, staged a coup, and overthrew him. It's no coincidence that even though he reigned as king, he's remembered only as "Prince Yeonsan" (the literal translation of "Yeonsan-gun") and not as "King Yeonsan" (which would be "Yeonsan-wang").
    • Two hundred years later Crown Prince Sado came along. He and his father King Yeongjo had a, shall we say, difficult relationship. Yeongjo was never happy with anything Sado did and went out of his way to publically humiliate him. On top of this Sado was mentally ill, suffered from hallucinations, and had a bizarre phobia of clothes. Over time his mental state deteriorated and he became violent. In 1757 he beheaded a eunuch and carried the severed head around with him. Things went from bad to worse after that. He started killing palace servants and raping ladies-in-waiting, became abusive towards his wife and threatened to kill his sister, and beat his concubine to death. In 1762 Yeongjo ordered Sado to climb into a rice chest. The prince was locked inside and left to starve to death.


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