Follow TV Tropes

Following

Royally Screwed Up

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/juan_de_miranda_carreno_002_small.jpg
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
Advertisement:

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.

Advertisement:

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.

Advertisement:

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.

     Possible Reasons 
  • 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. (Also: Salvarsan itself is an arsenic compound.) 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

    open/close all folders 

    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.
  • Padmaavat: Alauddin Khilji murders his uncle and steals his throne, then declares war on Chittor because of his obsession with Padmavati.
  • 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.

    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.
  • Pretty much any royal family featured in Looming Gaia.
    • King Gultopp Folkvar keeps his mentally disabled daughter Sygbarne locked up in secret from everyone.
    • Queen Indiga Evangeline may or may not have murdered her husband.
    • King Oberon Mogdir constantly cheats on his wife, who has tried several times to have him assassinated, and neglects his children. His youngest daughter has attempted to murder her younger brother multiple times out of jealousy.
    • The Sovereign of Aquaria made his brother, Mr. Ocean, a medical prisoner and tested a biological weapon on him, attaching a parasitic hankerleech on his brain, which gave him an intense, life-ruining addiction to greenbrite.

    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.

Top