These royals were known for their whimsical, odd ways. Actually, one of the royals on the list is still with us, and in fact is next in line to the British throne. Eccentric royals have wealth and privilege galore, and those perks make it all too easy for them to indulge in unusual hobbies and habits. Some have a darker edge than others, but this list is focused mostly on strange ways, rather than tyranny.
Of course, there are scads of monarchs who could be featured in a top 10 list with this title. These 10 choices are interesting, but you might choose differently. One sure thing is that learning about the royals of past and present is fascinating, because crowned heads are a rarity.
Most of us wonder at some point what we’d be like if we were royal. It’s safe to say that many of us would be more eccentric than we are.
10. Princess Margaret (England)
There is renewed interest in the late Princess Margaret these days, because she was portrayed so memorably by Vanessa Kirby during seasons 1 and 2 of The Crown. Queen Elizabeth’s II’s little sister was destined to take second place and, like her brother-in-law, Prince Philip, who struggled to embrace his role as royal spouse, she bristled at being in Elizabeth’s shadow. She yearned to carve out her own identity.
Did she do so? Perhaps, but perhaps not. She did develop quite a diva reputation, which set her apart from Elizabeth, who had careful manners, as well as an old-fashioned sense of duty to crown and country. Margaret liked the perks of royalty so much that she wouldn’t part with them for the sake of true love. Her tragic romance with a handsome WWII war hero, Captain Peter Townsend, did not end in marriage, after the Queen resisted the match. Ultimately, it was Margaret’s decision to bow out of her relationship with Townsend.
So, how was Princess Margaret eccentric, aside from choosing to walk away from passionate love? Well, she had a hedonistic bent that led her to smoke too much, drink a great deal and sing very loudly at parties. She demanded her royal privileges in an imperious way that made some of her peers chuckle or feel offended. She married a rebel like herself, who could be just as rude, acerbic and entitled as she sometimes was. That marriage did not last. Margaret lived with gusto, but had her demons.
9. King Charles VI (France)
Charles was a Parisian who was born in December of 1368. He took the throne in France when his father died in 1380. All of his older brothers had passed away. His coronation was held at Reims Cathedral. When he ascended to the throne, he was aged only 11. His reign was long and lasted 42 years. He was the king when he died.
While his reign was long, it wasn’t esteemed. This willful king was known for big ventures that didn’t work out, such as a try for Germany’s throne and an intervention in Flanders, which was meant to bring the territory under his rule.
As he matured, his mental illness became apparent. He became known as Charles the Mad. His mental illness was episodic. He had breaks from reality which made it difficult for him to remember basic things, such as his own name. He also exhibited extreme impatience which sometimes led to acts of senseless violence, including murder. His eccentricities were likely the product of a severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia.
Lots of monarchs are willful and partial to bold campaigns that end in failure. Plenty of royals are impatient. Still, Charles VI was on another plateau of eccentricity, because, according to Pope Pius II, the French king sometimes believed that he was made of glass.
8. King Ludwig II (Bavaria)
This eccentric regent was the King of Bavaria and he reigned from 1864 to 1886. He took the throne as a teenager. Over time, he grew detached from typical affairs of state. He would participate in such affairs intermittently, but preferred to spend his time overseeing elaborate architectural and artistic endeavors.
Ludwig squandered the whole of his royal income to pay for his extravagant projects, including the construction of Neuschwanstein Castle and a couple of other gorgeous palaces. He was also renowned for his adoration of German composer, Wagner. The fairy tale castles built during Mad King Ludwig’s reign are one major reason why Bavaria, which is Germany’s biggest federal state, attracts so many tourists today.
Increasingly isolated, by his own choice, Ludwig II lived in a reclusive dream world, and believed in the concept of a holy kingdom by God’s grace. However, he was a king with minimal freedom, due to his role as constitutional monarch.
In his dream world, surrounded by fabulous architecture and rare, valuable treasures, he could play out the role of powerful regent. Hilter later used Neuschwanstein Castle as a hiding place for looted art.
7. The Duke of Windsor (England)
The Duke of Windsor is infamous, thanks to his decision to abdicate the British throne for the love of a twice-divorced, Pennsylvania-born socialite named Wallis Simpson, who is equally notorious. This duo stayed together, although not happily, and they were haunted by growing public awareness of their pre-war ties to Nazi Germany.
After marrying and stirring up a raging scandal, Edward VIII became the Duke of Windsor. His brother, who was considered quite frail and awkward, had to take over as King George VI, alongside his wife, who gave birth to the current Queen of England, Elizabeth II, and the late Princess Margaret. All told, King Edward VIII had reigned for just 10 months.
Before his shocking abdication, he was a favorite of the British public, thanks to his clean-cut good looks, easy charm and boyish manner. Under his smooth exterior lay a lot of bitterness and anger. He never relished the idea of being a prince or a king, so Wallis may have provided the ideal out.
Nonetheless, his self-indulgent desire to live as he pleased, and abandon his royal duties, was certainly eccentric. No modern British monarch spent so little time on the throne as King Edward VIII.
6. Catherine the Great (Russia)
Catherine the Great was also known as Catherine II and she became Russia’s Empress in 1762. Her reign lasted until 1796. This powerful leader’s mystique was undeniable.
In 1934, her life was turned into a film. Marlene Dietrich was the star of The Scarlet Empress, which was based on Catherine the Great’s own diaries. The film was a fairly epic failure, perhaps because it showcased opulence during the harshness of the Great Depression.
This ruler had her strong points. She embraced Enlightenment culture and oversaw expansion of an already-massive empire. But her 12 paramours and her hunger for power made her infamous. A rumor about bestiality was likely spread solely to harm her reputation. She was an easy target for nasty rumors, because she was a libidinous woman.
Bright and inquisitive, this leader lived life her own way, and expressed herself in several languages. She published a range of literature, including comedies and political theory.
Serfs in Russia didn’t exactly thrive under her reign, although she once hoped to emancipate them. They ended up doing forced labor in order to finance her vaulting ambitions.
5. Queen Christina (Sweden)
Christina was the daughter of Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg and King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. She was the sole legitimate child of the king, as his other legitimate offspring has passed away. Christina of Sweden reigned from 1632 until 1654. She became a queen at the tender age of 6. Upon maturity, at age 18, she began to lead the Swedish Empire.
Educated and determined not to marry, she chose to abdicate in 1654. At this point, she became a Roman Catholic. Post-abdication, she tried in vain to claim the thrones of Poland and Naples.
In 1933, Greta Garbo played her in a film called Queen Christina.
Christina’s spendthrift ways were beyond eccentric and a source of scandal. While she was in power, she spent so much that the state teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. The public sometimes rebelled against the financial hardship with shows of unrest.
This eccentric women preferred masculine attire. Her abdication and unusual ways, such as her penchant for taking lovers of both sexes, were a shock to Swedes of her era. At birth, she was believed to be a male. The kingdom began to celebrate the birth of male heir, only to change course when her femaleness was detected.
4. Prince Charles (England)
Prince Charles is the first-born child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. He is the heir to the British throne. The Queen is now 93 and will probably reign until her passing, as is traditional. Charles has been waiting a long time to become king. During this time, he’s brought some pretty searing scandals down upon the House of Windsor.
Charles often lacks the whole British “stiff upper lip” thing. Open about the distant parenting that he received from his mother, and now married to the woman who came between he and his former wife, the late Princess Diana of Wales, Prince Charles is often the butt of jokes. He’s the guy who couldn’t hack it at boarding school when he was a boy. He’s the guy who talks to plants to help them grow. He’s the one who told his mistress that he wanted to be her tampon. He is, however, a hard-working royal.
Many people wonder what will become of the monarchy when the Queen, who has won so much loyalty over the decades, thanks to her strong sense of duty, passes away. We’re curious, too. Will the world embrace the new king, or not? If they don’t, what will happen?
3. Maria Eleanora (Brandenburg)
This mother of another queen on our list had more than a few eccentricities herself. Maria was born on November 11, 1599. Her grandfather on her mother’s side was a mad Prussian duke, while her grandmother on her mother’s side was the sibling of an unhinged Duke of Cleves.
Mood disorders seemed to run rampant in her family tree and she herself was not immune. She was given to hysterics, mostly due to missing her husband when he was away. She also hated her own child, Christina of Sweden, whom she characterized as a monster.
Maria Eleonora was a princess of Germany and Sweden’s queen consort. Her chief eccentricity was her singular desire to produce a male heir. This wasn’t so uncommon a desire in royal females, but her extreme personality traits made her urge for a male heir into an unhealthy obsession, for which her daughter paid the price.
By all reports, she sincerely loved her spouse, but was given to jealousy — with good reason, as it happens, as her husband loved another throughout their marriage. Her husband, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, knew his wife was a sick woman and, fortunately, gave their daughter, Christina, the love that Maria Eleonora would not.
2. Ivan the Terrible (Russia)
Eccentrics can be tyrants and killers. Some eccentrics are mild, but many cross the line. One of them was Ivan the Terrible. As the name suggests, he wasn’t a very nice man.
Also known as Ivan IV, he was born in August of 1530. He was Moscow’s grand prince from 1533 to 1584. He was the first person to be named Tsar of Russia. During his reign, he created an empire and waged long and mostly failing wars against Poland and Sweden. In his quest to create a Russian administration that was centralized, he terrorized the hereditary nobility. In a fit of anger, he even murdered his own son.
Ruthless and paranoid, he was believed to have removed the eyes of those who designed St. Basil’s Cathedral, because he wanted to ensure that the architects could never replicate such beauty.
Ivan was eccentric in his romantic life. He liked to change wives. Sometimes, he would send a discarded spouse to a convent, when most couples would still be in the honeymoon phase. Cruel, vile and unstable, this power-mad ruler left quite a mess behind when he passed away.
1. King Henry VIII (England)
King Henry VIII was another eccentric tyrant. They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and it certainly did in his case. He morphed from a young, handsome and athletic prince to a gluttonous, raging, wife-killing lunatic. Along the way, he hurt or killed many people. He was born in late June of 1491, and his reign began in 1509 and ended in 1547.
When you need to work your way through six wives to try and find true happiness, you’ve got issues. Sure, he wanted a male heir and was having trouble with that, but that’s no excuse for his malevolent fickleness. He was someone who could get his way at all times. In romantic matters, it wasn’t quite so simple. Relationships are complicated.
No matter… Henry had ways of dealing with romantic woes, such as calling for a French swordsman to lop off the pretty head of Anne Boleyn.
Imagine being locked in the tower of London by this regent, or sentenced to immediate death! During his reign, historians estimate than 57,000 to 72,000 people were executed.