Historical story

the mad kings

Absolutist thinking, prevailing in the context of Modern Europe, defended the so-called “divine right of kings”. According to this principle, the monarch's existence reflected a divine desire to appoint a certain individual or family to control a kingdom. However, the religious justification for this fact came up against the madness of some kings who did not seem to be blessed with the wisdom, common sense and intelligence necessary to assume an important position.

In fact, these cases of “royal madness” have been recorded for quite some time and feature in some strange pages in the history of certain civilizations and kingdoms. After losing two advisers who did everything for him, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Commodus decided to undertake a narcissistic government where he simply proclaimed himself to be the reincarnation of the Greek hero Zeus. The heroic obsession was such that he ordered everyone to call him that.

As if his inflated ego was not enough, Emperor Commodus loved to participate in real carnage promoted during the Flavian games. One of his main diversions consisted of decapitating some ostrich specimens to enjoy the strange pleasure of watching the poor animals run around without their heads. Fearing that his madness would turn against those close to him, the emperor's relatives made arrangements for him to be killed.

At the end of the Middle Ages, the French king Charles VI suddenly freaked out when he was organizing an expedition against a traitor who aimed to kill one of his royal advisers. During the first manifestation of madness, the king thought he heard a whirring spear that was supposed to hit him. Thinking he was surrounded by his enemies, the king ended up killing five of his own soldiers. After that things only got worse, Charles VI was delirious, threw objects into the fire and urinated on his clothes.

In a personal account, a French clergyman said that the king believed himself to be as fragile as a piece of glass. Therefore, the king demanded that he not be touched by anyone and looked for strange ways to avoid a fall that could "splinter" him. Worried, doctors tried various treatments that would put an end to the real storm. Everything was tried to get the king back to reality:brain drains, exorcisms and scares. However, only death managed to end the agony of Charles VI, who died in 1422.

Other monarchs of greater expression also had their space in this infamous history of madness. Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible had sadistic behaviors from an early age. As a child, he loved climbing on the roof of the palace to launch cats and dogs. After losing his parents, little Ivan suffered a series of mistreatment by self-interested tutors who wanted his post. When he grew up, he began to torture and kill all those who could pose a risk to his authority.

Once, seeking to contain the autonomist intentions of the city of Novgorod, Ivan ordered a massive massacre against the inhabitants of the region. Several were thrown into frozen rivers or subjected to strange death rituals. Contradictorily, the king used to bang his head on the wall and pray for those who were victims of his persecution. According to some experts, Ivan's madness could have been caused by the habit of ingesting mercury or by an advanced case of syphilis that attacked him.

In our history we have several cases of political inappetence, but the most famous maddened monarch in Brazilian history was Maria I, mother of King Dom João VI. Religious fervor and the loss of her husband and child are possible justifications for the Lusitanian queen's attitudes. Most of the time she was seized by outbreaks that instigated her to have an exaggerated fear of crucifixes and to utter insults against the people who accompanied her.

With the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte and all the political upheavals caused by the French Revolution, Maria I's mental state only worsened. The queen used to have demonic visions, eat only one type of dish and swear for no reason. Faced with the serious psychotic condition, the subjects still tried to cure the queen by hiring the services of a British doctor, but to no avail. With that, Dom João VI ended up assuming the throne of Portugal as Prince Regent.