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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
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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.

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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.

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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... that is, given said society does not decide to do away with royals and nobles altogether.
    • 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 millennia—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.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • From the second season of Black Butler, Alois Trancy.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Magi: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Juraian royal family in Tenchi Muyo! in all its size and glory is a full-on 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.
  • 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.

    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 
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
    Starr: Son of God or son of man, you can't fuck your sister for two thousand years and expect anything good to come of it.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.

    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 allegory for 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.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • 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)...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The pureblooded Ancient and Most Noble House of Black has produced a few crazy members, although they're more known for being blood supremacists. They did have a tradition of chopping off the heads of house elves who were too weak to carry a tray, though. The only one who is definitely confirmed to be crazy is Bellatrix Lestrange (née Black), whose status as a Love Martyr for Voldemort is legendary.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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-Pharazôn wasn't even the rightful King, having usurped the throne by forcing his cousin, the rightful ruler, to marry him.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The page quote comes from the so-called "Targaryen madness". 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, Aegon I, 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 — Maester Aemon, as even the much liked Rhaegar was bipolar and had delusions of grandeur. Or possibly two, if the theory that Jon Snow is a Targaryen is true.
      • Though if you look at history, the Targaryen madness is rather overrated.
      • Aegon I — Perfectly normal,
      • his son Aenys I — Fairly normal, if a bit indecisive,
      • his half-brother Maegor I — Psychopath and mass 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—although for good reason—but lustful, unpleasant, and vengeful,
      • his nephew Aegon III — PTSD, but from watching a dragon devour his mother rather than genetics,
      • his son Daeron I — Eager to war 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 — Psychopath and 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.
      • 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 affected, 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 
      • The propensity of the Targaryen madness in recent years seems to be influenced by a single factor: the prophecy about the Prince That Was Promised. Jaehaerys II forced his children, Aerys II and Rhaella, to abandon the loves of their lives in favor of each other, because the prophecy stated that the Prince would be born in their dynasty. This resulted in a loveless, unhappy, and (ultimately) abusive marriage. Aerys II's eldest son, Rhaegar, was obsessed with the prophecy, at first thinking he was the one before deciding that it's his son, Aegon. Then suddenly he decided that it required him to abduct an already bethrothed woman, essentially abandoning his wife for her and leading to the rebellion that brought the end of the dynasty. And despite knowing that his father was out of his mind, Rhaegar didn't plan to depose him until literally the last day of his life. Finally, Daenerys is haunted by the prophecy upon hearing it in Qarth (up to this point, she didn't know about it), which no doubt feeds into her idealistic, saviour narrative, although it has not dominated her priorities so far.
    • 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 her son Joffrey 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. Though, the incest might be a factor (and, those who believe Stannis will no doubt jump on that explanation), 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 Hapan royal family in Star Wars Legends has some Ax-Crazy tendencies. The heir apparent or Chume’da, has to constantly be on guard against other female relatives attempting to kill them to usurp power. Alonna Solo has even more trouble because she’s a prophesied Jedi Queen-to-be. Han and Leia change her name and raise her as an adopted daughter until she’s old enough to train to be queen without as big a death risk. She’ll still have reasons to be paranoid as queen though.
  • 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.
  • Fiona Patton's Tales of the Branion Realm 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 relatively 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.

    Live Action TV 
  • Ashes of Love: The Heavenly Realm's royal family, and how. The Heavenly Emperor became obsessed with and raped Zi Fen. The Heavenly Empress arranged Zi Fen's death, tried to kill Jin Mi, and spent years tormenting Run Yu. Run Yu and Xu Feng both fall in love with Jin Mi, and before long they go to war over her.
  • 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 affected, 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 that 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.
  • Goodbye My Princess: All the royal families to some degree, but special mention must go to Li Dynasty. The emperor beats and demotes Cheng Ji for demanding he investigates a crime, the empress was responsible for the death of Cheng Yin's mother, Cheng Ye plots to kill his father and brothers, and Cheng Yin eventually becomes as ambitious and manipulative as the people he hates.
  • Kingdom (2019): Joseon's royal family is so screwed-up that the king being a zombie is the least of their problems. Queen Consort Cho is faking her pregnancy and has taken in dozens of pregnant women in the hope one of them will have a son. When the women give birth they're murdered, and if their child is a girl she's killed too. One of the women ( Mu-yeong's wife) gives birth to a son, so Queen Consort Cho kidnaps the baby and pretends he's her son. Then she unleases the zombies to ensure Lee Chang, the only good person in the royal family, can't take the throne from her.
  • The King Loves: Goryeo's royal family.
    • Won's father, King Chungnyeol, dislikes Won's mother for being Yuan (Mongolian) and Won for being half-Yuan. He also hates Won for being the grandson of Kublai Khan, which in Chungnyeol's mind means Won outranks him, so he tries to find an excuse to depose Won as Crown Prince.
    • Won's mother, Princess Wonseong, had her husband's first wife and son thrown out of the palace. She hates Rin, Won's only friend, because she thinks Rin is trying to steal Won's position.
    • Won himself becomes violent when angry and wants to put San in a birdcage so she can never leave him.
  • The King's Woman: The entire royal family of Qin. Special mention goes to Ying Zheng, who has no qualms about killing children.
  • Lost Love in Times: The royal family of Great Wei. The emperor is a paranoid schemer who killed his older brother and forced his brother's widow to marry him, Consort Lian murdered the empress, Yuan Zhan stages a coup, several of the princes team up to attack Yuan Ling, and Noble Consort Yin assassinates her own son and poisons her grandson.
  • A lot of tension surrounding the Succession Crisis in Merlin is based on this trope. It's revealed in Series 3 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."
  • Like in the comics, Preacher has the descendant of Jesus, who is incredibly mentally impaired due to literally millennia of inbreeding.
  • Queen for Seven Days: Lee Yung (better known as Yeonsan-gun of Joseon, also mentioned in the Real Life section) is willing to behead his half-brother for losing a race, as well as doing many other insane things. And the series downplays the real Yeonsan-gun's atrocities!
  • 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.
  • The Rise of Phoenixes: The royal family of Tiansheng is dysfunctional to say the least. The Crown Prince takes the cake for framing and murdering two of his brothers, along with dozens of other innocent people.

    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.

    Mythology 
  • 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; most of its citizens breathed a sigh of relief when her own sister (widely considered the only sane Liao) finally shot her. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Theatre 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, what we see of the Imperial Galvus family of the Garlean Empire doesn't exactly paint a flattering picture of them: the First Emperor, Solus zos Galvus, was arguably the sanest of the bunch, and he was a brutal military tyrant that paved the way for the expansionistic and racist empire; after his death, his family more than happily began fighting for the throne, with his son Titus and grandson Varis clashing in a civil war. When we first see Varis he spits on a family member's grave before ascending the throne, and proves himself to be even worse than Solus, putting a Culture Police in the capital and doubling down on the expansionism of the Empire, even being willing to help the extremely dangerous, extremely anti-mortals Ascians, because he believes the chaos they bring will help create a "master race". Then, finally, there's Varis' son Zenos, a sociopathic Blood Knight who became the way he is due to a mix of being neglected in his childhood and being a Broken Ace; he's so twisted that he willingly stokes revolutions in conquered provinces just so he can crush them to stave off boredom. Even his own father considers him a monster, and is apalled to discover that Zenos is willing to kill him; not because of the act itself, but because Zenos doesn't even want to inherit the throne at all, and just wants to kill him for being in his way. To say the Galvus have family issues would be to put it lightly.
  • 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.

    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 
Every monarchy has something. Arranged (roughly) by country:
  • Britain:
    • Henry VI had a mental illness of some sort which left him near-catatonic for long periods. It may have been hereditary — his grandfather Charles VI of France is also on this page — but some theories suggest his mental health declined significantly as England's losses mounted in the final stages of The Hundred Years War, culminating in the loss of Bordeaux in August 1453, to which he responded with a complete mental breakdown that left him totally unresponsive for more than a year. Henry's madness in turn led to the Wars of the Roses, which effectively purged the English royal line of insanity by almost exterminating it.
    • Henry VIII started out as a good king — tough and ambitious, which people liked in a monarch back then. However, as he got older, he grew more cruel and egotistical (as many of his wives discovered). Theories differ on why, but they generally point to something happening to him that pushed him off the deep end, whether it be illness, a Career-Ending Injury (he's often portrayed as a large man but was very fit in his youth), or his inability to produce a male heir.
    • The sanity of Henry VIII's daughter Queen Mary I (the historical "Bloody Mary") is a question historians have never settled. She sought to re-establish the Catholic church, after her father had dispensed with it in the English Reformation as a way of divorcing her mother, who was then dying of cancer. She responded with a campaign that led to an unusually large number of brutal executions in her six-year reign and brought the country to the point of outright rebellion. She may also have had a "hysterical pregnancy" — i.e. she was convinced she was pregnant when she really wasn't — which makes sense, because she was 38 and desperate to produce an heir to head off her very Protestant half-sister Elizabeth I. For centuries it was assumed to have been extreme wishful thining, but evidence now suggests she had ovarian cysts, or possibly uterine cancer.
    • George III is considered the archetypcal "mad king", although the exact extent of his madness is now disputed. It is believed that he suffered from porphyria, based on contemporary accounts of his urine being bluish purple, but some modern scholars attribute this to a herbal sedative (the kind of thing that passed for medicine back then). Porphyria is hereditary, and although its onset often occurs late in life, there was no evidence of it in any of George's Hanoverian ancestors. He certainly wasn't always mad; he was considered quite charming and reasonably well-adjusted when he was younger, so his "madness" may have just been garden-variety dementia. The famous incident where he conversed with a tree thinking it was the king of Prussia was isolated, happened late in his life, and could well have been made up by his son George IV, who resented having to rule as prince regent in his father's latter years (and had his own share of issues what with the incessant partying and gambling — Blackadder the Third's portrayal of him isn't that exaggerated). Thankfully, by this time, Parliament had enough power that a "sane-ish" monarch was good enough.
  • France:
    • Philip IV "le Bel" was famous for effectively disbanding The Knights Templar, and much of the misfortune that visited the French monarchy since then (note that it no longer exists) is said to be the result of a curse by the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, who was burned at the stake in 1314. Philip himself perished in a hunting accident eight months after the execution, and none of his three sons would succeed him as king for long enough to produce a surviving son. By 1328 Philip's house was extinct in the male line, laying the foundations for what would become the Hundred Years' War.
    • Charles VI was commonly said to have been Driven to Madness by two traumatic events: the first a case of sunstroke, and the second was the notorious "Ball of the Burning Men" in which he was almost set on fire. He was the grandfather of Henry VI of England, and Britons tend to blame Henry's madness on Charles, but Charles' French offspring was quite rational and intelligent (at least by the standards of the day).
    • The Duke of Angoulême, son of Charles X, is more on the pathetic side. Unlike his father and his more charismatic brother, the Duke of Berry, he was frail, prone to 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.
  • Spain:
    • The Trastámara family was known for its history of oddballs, although they had a lot of enemies who were prone to exaggerating the family's eccentricities. Peter I was known in Old Spanish as Iusteçero, roughly meaning "bringer of justice", which had a double meaning of excellence in execution of policy and of people. As The Cartoon History of the Universe put it: "I'm Pedro el Cruel! What can I do to you?" He wasn't actually a member of the House — it was founded by his half-brother, who was sane but illegitimate — but he still gets lumped in with them.
    • The by-word for Spanish royal insanity is Queen Joanna of Aragon and Castille, commonly known as "Juana la Loca" — "Joanna the Mad". The extent of her madness is a matter of debate. Scholars suggest it derives roughly equally from genetics (she is theorised to have at least some form of hereditary depression) and her unhappy family life — which, given the nature of royal families, is heavily intertwined with politics.
      • Joanna was the product of a very strategic political union. Her father Ferdinand was King of Aragon and from the House of Trastámara (which produced the aforementioned Peter I). Her mother Isabella was Queen of Castille in her own right, and Joanna inherited both and was a legitimate queen. However, being a woman, she became a catalyst for all the men in her life trying to exert power through her. Ferdinand basically considered himself king of both Aragon and Castile and was particularly intent on exerting power.
      • Joanna's husband was Philip the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy, the son of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. Philip was from the House of Habsburg, a famous and powerful royal family — so much so that they engaged in extensive Royal Inbreeding to prevent power from falling into the wrong hands. They wouldn't marry non-royalty (it was beneath them), they wouldn't marry their enemies (of course), and after the Protestant Reformation, they wouldn't marry non-Catholics either (unless they converted). All of this drastically reduced the pool of possible marriage partners, so they kept marrying their cousins as the only people they could trust. Philip's marriage to Joanna was a strategic union, and a politically shrewd one, but it only bought them a little time (especially as the Trastámara family was already pretty inbred, so it wasn't a great source of genetic diversity).
      • As it turned out, it was a Perfectly Arranged Marriage, and much of Joanna's "madness" can be traced to Philip's untimely death. Philip provided ample competition for Ferdinand in the game of "Control the Damsel", and "husband" usually trumps "father" in that game — Philip declared himself King of Castille jure uxoris (by right of marriage) to try and talk some sense into Ferdinand, but to no avail. Joanna much preferred Philip to Ferdinand, and when Philip died, she kind of lost it. After several attempts to reopen her husband's casket, and a few political and military defeats, Ferdinand had her locked up in a nunnery and exercised as much control as he could. That lasted until Joanna's son Charles I — who was Holy Roman Emperor Charles V — was old enough to exert himself in his own right. Charles' successors split into Austrian and Spanish branches, who kept intermarrying, leading to problems down the line.
      • There's a sort of interesting divergence point in history here. Joanna's younger sister was Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII of England. Their daughter Mary, in the grand Habsburg tradition, married her cousin Philip II, Charles V's son. They never had children (and Philip eventually remarried his niece Anne of Austria) — but if they had, and England had managed to stay Catholic, that could have given the Habsburgs control of damn near half of Europe if things had shaken out right — but perhaps at the cost of the integrity of the English royal bloodline.
    • Don Carlos, the rebellious son of Philip II and grandson of Charles V, 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.
    • Charles II of Spain was the last Habsburg King of Spain. They called him "Carlos el Hechizado" or "Charles the Bewitched", and it's not hard to see why — that's his portrait in the page image, and that's as flattering as they could make it. He was severely physically and mentally disabled, mostly as a result of the extensive Royal Inbreeding practised by the Habsburg family — he was descended from "Juana la Loca" fourteen times. That chin is the most prominent example of the famous "Habsburg lip", which he had so prominently that he couldn't close his mouth (that's why his tongue is poking out). The Other Wiki describes Charles as "short, lame, epileptic, senile, and completely bald before 35, always on the verge of death but repeatedly baffling Christendom by continuing to live." Since Charles had no heir (and possibly was incapable of reproducing)note , his death sparked the War of the Spanish Succession, where two competing branches of the family in Austria and Francenote  fought for control of the Spanish crown. About the only non-Habsburg genes Charles had received in the last four generations were from his father's syphilis, which by then was like throwing swamp water up a backed-up sewage line.
  • Austria's most famous emperors came from the House of Habsburg, which was notorious for Royal Inbreeding:
    • Ferdinand I wasn't the head-choppy kind of crazy, but he was definitely epileptic and had a hydrocephalus. They called him Ferdinand der Gütige, or "Ferdinand the Kindly" — or more accurately "Ferdinand the Benign". Much of the work was done by his Magnificent Bastard Prime Minister, Prince Metternich. Austrians famously consider him to have made one coherent order in his entire reign: "Ich bin der Kaiser und ich will Knödel!" ("I am the Emperor and I want dumplings!")note . He was eventually forced to abdicate in the Revolution of 1848note  — legend has it that when told that the people were revolting, his response was, "Yes, but are they allowed to do that?" (in a distinct Viennese dialect that Germans often associate with amiable cluelessness). As Ferdinand had no children (and again may have been incapable of it), his disabilities didn't continue down the line, and he abdicated in favour of his saner (and workaholic) nephew Franz Joseph, who would reign until 1916.
    • Franz Joseph, meanwhile, married his first cousin Elisabeth, popularly known as Sisi. She is speculated to have suffered from some sort of anorexia nervosa — not a good combination with a workaholic husband. Their only son Rudolf was a total playboy — which, given the famous Habsburg restrictions on marriage, did not sit well with his parents. Rudolf was reported to keep a carefully detailed ledger of his many sexual conquests, brought a lover to his wedding, and asked at least three women to die with him in a Suicide Pact. One of them, his lover Mary Vetsera, eventually obliged him, and they were both found dead in the Mayerling Incident. It devastated his parents' marriage, in part because they were already split on the question of whether Hungary should be allowed to split, and Rudolf's death accelerated nationalist sentiment in the Empire. Meanwhile, Rudolf had left no heir, and the heir-presumptive became Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, who himself had a falling-out with Franz Joseph over not marrying a royal in the Habsburg tradition (he married a Czech countess). Franz Ferdinand never got to be Emperor, as he was famously assassinated in 1914 in an event that triggered World War I.
  • Modern Germany is made up of different places who used to have kings:
    • Ludwig II of Bavaria was considered by many to be mad. He was known as the "fairytale king", in part because his particular brand of "insanity" was an obsession with building elaborate castles, swans, opera music, and beautiful men (he was believed to possibly have been gay). His brother Otto was also considered mad and institutionalised — some Bavarians claim they inherited their madness from their Prussian mother Marie, pointing to the case of her uncle Frederick William IV, also commonly believed to have been madnote . Ludwig was the last "real" King of Bavaria — he was deposed by his government (based on a "remote diagnosis" by Bernhard von Gudden, the validity of which has since been drawn into question), then mysteriously died the next day (along with Gudden). This left his brother Otto king, even though he had already been institutionalised — he spent his entire "reign" in an asylum.
    • Frederick William I of Prussia had porphyria, and also liked to carry a wooden cane, much to the regret of everyone around him (who naturally couldn't defend themselves without being accused of treason). He was known for chasing his children around the palace and randomly attacking commoners in the streets of Berlin, hollering, "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 of some sort, although it's not certain what it was. Her problems started young, when 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.
  • The Roman Empire absolutely had its share of lunatic emperors — everything we saw in I, Claudius was just the tip of the iceberg. But historians are split on exactly why they were nuts. Was it inbreeding? Was it a lust for power? Was it well-seated paranoia for fear of being offed in a Klingon Promotionnote ? Was it exaggerated -- or even invented — by much later historians like Tacitus and Suetonius as a sort of historical revisionism? Were they the victims of undiagnosed lead poisoning that gradually eroded their mental faculties? All this is a matter of debate, although it is interesting how relatively few Roman Emperors inherited their job; Romans were so acutely aware of the possibility of the natural heir being completely off their rocker that they often adopted someone they preferred as their successor (or the army installed someone they liked).
  • Tsarist Russia:
    • It seemed like no Russian tsar trusted anyone in their family. Ivan "the Great" started a brutal war because he clashed so hard with his brothers. Ivan "the Terrible" had a particular brand of crazy that caused him to go through wives — and children — at an impressive rate. Peter the Great, despite being the man who modernised and Westernised Russia, had a notoriously difficult relationship with his son Alexei. But none could surpass Catherine the Great. She married into the family, but turned out to be more capable than her husband Peter III, whom history portrays as a manchild with a military fetish who was essentially an ardent Russophobe — his death is commonly believed to have been at Catherine's orders, allowing her to become Empress in her own right. She also had a very contentious relationship with her son Paul, who was an extraordinarily difficult person himself (he would exile officers to Siberia for a misplaced coat button) and likely organised his assassination to ensure the throne to her favourite grandson, Alexander I. (Alexander probably consented to all this, at least tacitly, but he did feel horrendously guilty about it and perhaps never intended for him to be assassinated outright.)
    • The latter years of the Romanov dynasty were notable for the prominence of haemophilia, a hereditary trait which could be traced back to the British Queen Victoria — she was a carrier, three of her children got the gene, and from there it spread to many other European royal houses. Nicholas II's son Alexei, the last legitimate heir to the Romanov dynasty before they were all executed, was a notable sufferer, and the faith-healer Rasputin the Mad Monk quickly built his reputation on his ability to "treat" it. The haemophilia gene would become such a prominent genetic marker of royalty that the 1950s B-Movie Queen of Blood decided that the extraterrestrial must be royalty solely because she was a haemophiliac. That is one impressive little allele.
  • Imperial China:
    • Qin Shi Huangdi, the very first emperor, started an unfortunate trend of emperors and noblemen seeking "immortality elixirs" that were dodgy enough to be fatal. Shihuangdi experimented extensively with mercury, which turned him from a fundamentally sound monarch into a total paranoiac. He eventually took it a step too far by taking pills containing pure mercury, which killed him in 220 BCE. And yet, for over a thousand years after that, people kept experimenting with mercury, thinking that it was just too a high a concentration that killed Shihuangdi (technically correct, but not especially helpful), and dismissing the side effects as signs that the medicine was working. This is how the exact same thing happened to the last good Tang Emperor Xuānzong, who similarly degenerated into a paranoid wreck, except he died of chronic rather than acute mercury poisoning in 859 CE. The last Chinese emperor to die of mercury poisoning was the Qing Emperor Yongzheng, as late as 1735. In fact, the only dynasty to be completely unaffected by mercury poisoning is the Yuan dynasty (the Mongol dynasty of Kublai Khan, which tended to look down on Chinese alchemy in general when it wasn't making gunpowder).
    • This led to the downfall of the Northern Qi. Gao Wei, the second-to-last Northern Qi Emperor, was infamously corrupt and badly damaged his own army by killing its best commanders. In 573 CE, he became convinced that his much saner and more popular cousin, Gao Chang Gong, was plotting against him, so he had him poisoned. Gao Chang Gong happened to be the Northern Qi's greatest general, having famously defeated 100,000 Northern Zhou soldiers with an army of only 500. Without him, when the Northern Zhou attacked again, the kingdom didn't stand a chance; Gao Wei was overthrown and murdered along with most of his relatives.
    • When Zhou Emperor Zhen Ding died, he was succeeded by his oldest son, who became King Ai. King Ai only reigned for three months before he was murdered by his younger brother, who became King Si. Five months later King Si was murdered by his younger brother. King Kao, the third of the brothers, managed to stay on the throne for fourteen years. He had a younger brother, Prince Jie, but luckily for Kao — and the kingdom, which had already endured the deaths of three kings in one year — Jie was content with the title of Duke of Western Zhou and didn't murder his brother to become king.
    • The Liu Song dynasty lasted only 59 years, in which time it had an astonishing number of tyrannical emperors:
      • Crown Prince Liu Shao paid a witch to curse his father Emperor Wen and cause his death. When Wen found out about his son's plot, he decided to depose him, but Liu Shao struck first, had the emperor assassinated, claimed the throne, and promptly executed many of his cousins. Liu Shao's half-brother Liu Jun raised a rebellion, overthrew him, and had Liu Shao and his sons beheaded and forced Liu Shao's wives and daughters to commit suicide.
      • As Emperor, Liu Jun was embroiled in multiple scandals. He slept with many of his female cousins, forced several of his brothers to commit suicide, and reportedly even slept with his mother.
      • Liu Jun was succeeded by his teenaged son Liu Zi Ye. Shortly after taking the throne, Zi Ye had his great-uncle executed, gouged out his eyes, and kept them preserved. Then he started an affair with his aunt and personally murdered her husband. Then he killed officials who tried to stop him. Finally, a surviving official had enough and assassinated Liu Zi Ye.
      • Liu Zi Ye was succeeded by his uncle Liu Yu, who became increasingly paranoid and killed almost all of his brothers and nephews. Officials who displeased him were executed, often by being disembowelled or having their hearts cut out.
      • Liu Yu's son, also called Liu Yu, took the throne when he was only nine. He quickly became as violent as his father. He personally cut people open, and even became depressed if a day went by without killing someone. He was eventually assassinated by an attendant he had threatened to kill.
  • Japan: Yoshihito, known as Emperor Taisho, was known for his bizarre behaviour in his later years, likely due to a combination of historic inbreeding and a bout of meningitis he suffered when he was weeks old and probably left him brain-damaged. 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.
  • The Ottoman Empire was known for this not because of genetics, but rather because of their upbringing. It started with Sultan Ahmed I, who decided to protect his heir, his younger brother Mustafa, from potential threats to his ascension — by locking him in a corner of his palace. This took an enormous toll on the young prince, who by the time of Ahmed's death was a psychological wreck with severe neurosis and hallucinations. He lasted barely a year before the courtiers locked him up again (only to bring him out a second time, again lasting barely a year). He was succeeded by Ahmed's sons, who were barely saner, heavily paranoid Mood Swingers. Ahmed's first son Osman was a Royal Brat who used courtiers for target practice with his longbow. His second son Murad was a choleric Knight Templar who had almost all of his viziers executed and imprisoned a lot of Istanbul's population for trivial offences like drinking coffee. His last son Ibrahim was straight-up nicknamed "the mad", not for being Ax-Crazy but for how many women he impregnated (which was better than the alternative, because Murad had no children and slaughtered almost all of his half-brothers during his reign). Most historians today consider this one of the main reasons for the gradual collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
  • Denmark gives us the Oldenburg dynasty. It was fine until Christian VII, who suffered from mental illness, hallucinations, and paranoia. He had to rule by proxy for long periods of time, and his illness led to the Struensee affair, in which his own physician took control as his proxy and turned out to be the most sensible ruler Denmark had had for decades — until he was toppled in a coup and executed. Christian's son Frederick VI had to rule as regent from that point onward, and he was basically set up for failure, having to steer Denmark through The Napoleonic Wars and screwing 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.
  • Sweden gives us the Wasa family, and in particular Eric XIV. He started out okay, if kind of bloody and super-efficient at consolidating power from the factionalistic Swedish nobles. Then he got more and more Ax-Crazy, finding more and more enemies to execute, culminating in the Sture murders, after which he was effectively deposed and imprisoned, where he died shortly thereafter. Interestingly, when he was exhumed centuries later, his bones were found to have been loaded with arsenic, which was a sign that he may have been poisoned — but arsenic was also a traditional component of the green dye used to make Scandinavian pea soup. So he may have been murdered, or he may have been suffering lifelong arsenic poisoning to explain his erratic behaviour.
  • Norway has seen enough of it that King Harald V was widely suspected of having married a commoner in part to head off the prevalence of this trope. His parents and paternal grandparents were first cousins, and his maternal grandparents were first cousins once removed. When a journalist innocently asked him if part of his desire to marry a commoner included expanding the family's gene pool, Harald responded, "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 a while that the claim to the throne passed through the oldest daughter of the late king (keeping male primogeniture would thus have required marrying your sister). The current theory is that it was in fact male-line inheritance and many of these marriages were symbolic, meant to prevent princesses from marrying other men and establishing cadet branches of the royal family. But not all of them were — the Egyptians really wanted to preserve the bloodline and had a general distaste for marrying non-Egyptians. The Ptolemaic dynasty (which was ethnically Greek but very quickly assimilated to pharaonic tradition) in particular had a Möbius family tree, which showed in some of the later Ptolemies, Berenices, and Cleopatrasnote . Some archaeologists and historians believe that the inbreeding was so severe that the Ptolemaic royal family was medically worse than the Habsburgs, with descriptions of obesity, swollen necks, proptosis (bulging eyes), and a recessive trait remarkably similar to the "Habsburg jaw". They were also morally screwed up in several ways:
    • 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 as having an unattractive face and a belly more like an "animal" than a man.
    • Ptolemy XI was forced to marry his stepmother and half-sister (also possibly his biological mother) and murdered her nineteen days later after the marriage.
    • Tutankhamun was revealed to be a petri dish of diseases, including the very rare Köhler disease II, which likely factored into his death. He was also said to have large front incisors, a trait passed down from the Eighteenth Dynasty royal family (1543–1292 BC).
  • Nepal doesn't have a monarchy anymore because of this. The Nepalese monarchy had lasted 240 years when in 2001, Crown Prince Dipendra went Ax-Crazy, gunned down most of his relatives — including his parents the king and queen — and then shot himself. By law, Dipendra was crowned Nepal's new king, despite being comatose and accused of multiple murders. Dipendra quickly succumbed to his injuries, and his uncle Gyanendra was crowned king, despite being widely suspected of having orchestrated the massacre — so whether it was Dipendra or Gyanendra, Nepal made at least one mass murderer its king. Gyanendra went on to become particularly authoritarian and tried to abolist the Parliament, which so pissed off the Nepalese people that they abolished the monarchy and established a republic (making peace with the Maoist rebels to do so).
  • Ancient Korea:
    • King Hyeonjong had the brilliant idea of marrying three sisters (among many other women, including his cousin). That's not really unusual in a polygamous society. What is unusual is what followed: when his children were old enough for marriage he decided to marry them to each other. And because of the aforementioned marrying-sisters thing, the children were both half-siblings and cousins.
    • 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). 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.
    • Yeonsan-gun of Joseon had the dubious honour of being the worst tyrant in all of Korean history before North Korea became a thing. When he first took the throne, he seemed competent and mentally stable, but that quickly changed. Yeonsan had an obsession with restoring his late mother's reputation, which led him to launch two purges of the scholars who were even tenuously connected (if at all) to his mother's deposition and execution. He went as far as to punish officials who weren't in the palace when his mother died, on the grounds that they did nothing to stop it. Two of his father's concubines considered most responsible for his mother's execution were beaten to death. He fatally injured his grandmother during an argument and murdered an official who confronted him about his behaviour. In his later years, he drove people 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").
    • King Yeongjo and his son Crown Prince Sado had a difficult relationship, to say the least — Yeongjo was never happy with anything Sado did and went out of his way to publicly humiliate him. Sado, for his part, was already mentally ill, suffering from hallucinations and 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. He started killing palace servants, raped ladies-in-waiting, was abusive toward his wife, threatened to kill his sister, and beat his concubine to death. In 1762, Yeongjo dealt with Sado by ordering him to climb into a rice chest, locking him inside, and leaving him to starve to death.
  • North Korea officially doesn't have a monarchy, but for all intents and purposes they are run by the Kim dynasty, which is a pretty damn messed up family. In accordance with their country's insane propaganda, all three Kims are portrayed as gods among men, who at various times are said to have magic powers, never urinate or defacate, have invented the hamburger, and have shot a perfect golf game. Their foreign policy amounts to an extreme isolationism and desperate attempts to develop nuclear weapons to keep all the "enemies" at bay. And their fickleness certainly matches the extremes:
    • Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il both are known to have had children by multiple women. Il-sung at least has the excuse that his first wife died during World War II fighting the Japanese, but Jong-il was known to be a playboy who got into relationships his father disapproved. He was widely suspected of having Sex Slaves and could essentially summon any woman who caught his eye. One of those women, the mother of current leader Kim Jong-un, was born in Japan and was part-Japanese, a fact which is a state secret in North Korea because of how much they particularly hate the Japanese.
    • Kim Jong-il's succession wasn't entirely clear-cut. His original pick was his oldest son Kim Jong-nam, but Jong-nam turned out to be a bit more of a bleeding heart than Jong-il liked, and he eventually fell out of favour with his father in 2000 when he was caught using a fake passport to enter Japan so he could go to Tokyo Disneyland. Jong-nam eventually went into effective exile in Macau, while the succession filtered to Kim Jong-un, at that time a teenager who was a complete unknown. When Jong-il died in 2011, Jong-un became the leader and made a name for himself by assassinating everyone he perceived as a threat (including his own uncle, by some reports with an anti-aircraft gun), and in 2017 he had his own half-brother Jong-nam assassinated in broad daylight at the airport in Kuala Lumpur using VX nerve agent. Communism may have eliminated royalty, but it does nothing to court intrigues.
  • Saudi Arabia is run by the House of Saud. It's one of the few countries named after a guy, said guy being Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud. Every king of Saudi Arabia since then has been one of Abdul Aziz's many many sons, reflecting the country's peculiar succession laws that more or less require going through all the sons before going to the grandsons. The last few kings have all been increasingly aging and haven't lasted that long, which is why they agreed in 2017 on one of Abdul Aziz's grandsons, Mohammad bin Salman (popularly known as "MBS"), to be the new heir. The Saudi monarchy has had a reputation for being startlingly backwards and promoting religious extremism — the country was long known for its frequent public executions for trivial offenses, its mutaween or religious police, and its bizarre religious prohibitions — women famously weren't allowed to drive. All of Abdul Aziz's sons had their own levels of extremism, leading to factionalism among them — for instance, in 1975, King Faisal was assassinated by his own half-nephew (ostensibly for being too progressive — this four years before a group of extremists invaded the Grand Mosque itself seeking to overthrow the House of Saud for still being too progressive). MBS, for his part, was widely lauded as the young, progressive world leader who would bring Saudi Arabia into the 21st century — he championed legislation that allowed women to drive, for instance. But then he turned around and arrested and tortured most of his rivals in an "anti-corruption" campaignnote , imprisoned women's rights activists, engaged in an ethnic cleansing campaign in Yemen, and was likely responsible for the gruesome murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, so it's likely he's not going to be much of a change. But hey, oil money buys you a lot in this world.
  • Ibn Khaldun, in talking about North African bedouins, made the observation that basically every monarchy is dooned to go through this, especially when they engage in conquest. The first generation is tribal and not quite civilised, but also tough and a natural leader. The second generation can see what made the first great, but growing up in a castle lacks a little perspective. The third generation goes soft, and subsequent generations get softer and softer until someone else sees an opportunity for conquest and takes over. He had the experience of being close enough to the Islamic dynasties of Spain, which were an excellent example of this paradigm, but it's a startlingly appropriate observation — practically every great dynasty was essentially started by a rough hick whose descendants became more and more educated.
  • Some Biblical scholars believe that King Saul may have been schizophrenic. He shows a jealous obsession with his eventual successor King David and tries to kill him several times, and he throws a spear at his own son Jonathan for merely asking why his best friend David had to die (1 Samuel 20:30). The text also suggests that he had severe migraine headaches, which can cause memory loss and very irrational behaviour — it especially dovetails nicely with the idea that his doctors prescribed music to help him relax (1 Samuel 16:23), which is why David was brought there, and ancient Israel would have seen the headaches as a sign of their king's prophetic power rather than a medical condition.
  • Thailand:
    • Before the twentieth century the Chakri dynasty was right up there with the Pharaohs for the title of "most in-bred royal family". Not only were they polygamists, they practiced Brother–Sister Incest. The first king, Rama I, had thirty-two consorts (it's unknown how many were his sisters or cousins) and forty-two children. That's a Tangled Family Tree all on its own, but it just got worse from then on.
    • Rama II married fifty-three women, including his cousin and at least one of his half-sisters, and had seventy-three children. Three of his sons became kings after him. Rama III had forty-two consorts and fifty-one children, but didn't choose any of his children to be successors. So when he died the throne went to his half-brother Rama IV (better-known as Mongkut; yes, the King in The King and I), who chose another half-brother, Pinklao, to be vice-king. Pinklao had fifty-eight children to an unknown number of consorts. Mongkut outdid him and all of his other relatives: he had sixty-one consorts, including three of his great-nieces, and eighty-two children.
    • Rama V (better-known as Chulalongkorn) had ninety-two consorts, including five of his half-sisters and three cousins, and seventy-six children.
    • Things became slightly saner when Vajiravudh took the throne as Rama VI. He only had four consorts, three of whom were his cousins, and only one child. Prajadhipok, AKA Rama VII, was the first monarch in the dynasty who wasn't a polygamist. His only wife was also his cousin, and they had no children — probably a good thing considering the amount of incest in their family tree. After that the Thai royals stopped marrying such close relatives. Unfortunately some of them became screwed-up in other ways; Rama VIII died under very suspicious circumstances, in what looked like a murder clumsily disguised as a suicide. And Vajiralongkorn, the currently-reigning king, is notorious for being the most unpopular king Thailand has ever had. Among other things he has a history of marrying women then divorcing them acrimoniously, and in the 1990s he abducted his own daughter after her mother took her to live in Britain.
  • Georgia (Europe):
    • George II of Kakheti (modern-day eastern Georgia), nowadays known as George the Evil, really wanted to go to war against the neighbouring kingdom of Kartli. So in 1511 he murdered his father, blinded his younger brother, seized the crown, and immediately declared war on Kartli. He was promptly defeated. But George wouldn't let a little thing like that stop him. He declared war again two years later. Once again he was defeated, and this time he was imprisoned and killed.
    • George II's son Levan was a good king but a very poor father. His eldest son Alexander should have been his heir, but Alexander was The Unfavorite and his half-brothers were treated better. When Levan died Alexander and his half-brother El-Mirza both claimed the throne, leading to a civil war that ended with Alexander's victory and the deaths of El-Mirza and two of his brothers. Alexander later faced yet more family troubles. His son David seized the throne and forced him to abdicate. David died a year later, Alexander took the throne again... and three years later was murdered by his younger son Constantine. At the same time Constantine also murdered one of his brothers and several nobles, but he never got to rule because he was killed in the ensuing rebellion.
    • Darejan of Kakheti wanted to hold onto her power as Queen of Imereti after her husband's death. To do this she had to deal with her stepson, Bagrat V of Imereti, who didn't want to share his power. First she arranged for him to marry her niece Ketevan. Soon that wasn't enough for her, so she forced Bagrat to divorce Ketevan and attempted to marry him herself. Bagrat refused, so Darejan had him arrested and blinded. It didn't end well for Darejan; Bagrat survived the blinding and eventually regained his throne, and he may have personally killed Darejan and her new husband.
  • Italy:


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