List of mentally ill monarchs

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This is a list of monarchs who have been described as mentally ill in some way by historians past or present.

In many cases, it is difficult to ascertain whether a given historical monarch did in fact possess a genuine mental illness of some sort, whether he or she was merely eccentric or suffering symptoms of a physical illness, or whether he or she was just disliked by chroniclers.

Ancient world[edit]

Roman Emperors[edit]

  • Tiberius, (42 BC–37 AD, ruled 14–37 AD), a paranoid sexual deviant[citation needed]. While Tiberius was in his later years in Capri, rumours abounded as to what exactly he was doing there. Historian Suetonius records the rumours of lurid tales of sexual perversity, including graphic depictions of child molestation, and cruelty, and most of all his paranoia. While heavily sensationalized, Suetonius' stories at least paint a picture of how Tiberius was perceived by the Roman senatorial class, and what his impact on the Principate was during his 23 years of rule.
  • Caligula, (12–41 AD, ruled 37–41 AD) nephew of Tiberius, suffered from paranoia and narcissism, believing that he was a god and that the god of the sea was plotting against him. Was an alcoholic, made his horse a senator, ordered political prisoners decapitated over dinner, married his sister and ordered political assassinations. According to multiple classical sources, his mental health deteriorated suddenly after a severe fever that nearly killed him. This suggests that organic brain damage from high body temperature or encephalitis (possibly malarial) may have played a causative role instead of or alongside a preexisting mental illness.
  • Nero, (37–68 AD, ruled 54–68 AD), nephew of Caligula, suffered from the same disorders as his uncle along with Histrionic personality disorder. Ordered the deaths of his mother and step-brother, had Christians crucified and burned, declared himself a god, allegedly started the Fire of Rome and played the lyre during it.
  • Commodus, (161–192 AD, ruled 180–192 AD) suffered from narcissistic and histrionic personality disorders, respectively, renamed Rome, the Empire, the Praetorian Guard and various streets after himself, believed himself to be the reincarnation of Hercules and had a servant burned to death for making his bath too cold.
  • Elagabalus (c. 203–222, ruled 218–222) catapulted venomous snakes at the people of Rome, invited guests to dinner only to give them inedible bread and leave lions in their bedrooms, used children's entrails for Divination, held lotteries for which the prizes consisted of wooden boxes containing bees, dead dogs and flies.[citation needed] Turned the Royal Palace into a public brothel.
  • Justin II (520–578, ruled Eastern Rome 565–578).[4] The temporary fits of insanity into which Justin fell warned him to name a colleague. According to John of Ephesus, as Justin II slipped into the unbridled madness of his final days, he was pulled through the palace on a wheeled throne, biting attendants as he passed. He reportedly ordered organ music to be played constantly throughout the palace in an attempt to soothe his frenzied mind.

Islamic Caliphs[edit]

European monarchs[edit]

Chinese monarchs[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Daniel 4.33
  2. ^ Josephus, l.c. x. 10, § 6)
  3. ^ Kendall K. Down, Daniel: Hostage in Babylon, p.30
  4. ^ John of Ephesus, Ecclesiastical History, Part 3, Book 3
  5. ^ Tuchman, Barbara (1978). A Distant Mirror. New York: Ballantine Books. pp. 514–516. ISBN 0-345-30145-5. 
  6. ^ Tuchman, Barbara (1978). A Distant Mirror. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 586. ISBN 0-345-30145-5. 
  7. ^ Roberts, Jenifer (2009). The Madness of Queen Maria. Templeton Press. ISBN 978-0-9545589-1-8. 
  8. ^ Hatton, R. M. (1957). "Scandinavia and the Baltic". In Lindsay, J. O. The New Cambridge Modern History. Volume 7, The Old Regime, 1713–1763 (Reprinted. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 342. ISBN 978-0-521-04545-2. 
  9. ^ "King George III: Mad or misunderstood?". BBC News. July 13, 2004. Retrieved 2007-07-15. 
  10. ^ a b King, Greg (1996). The Mad King ( A Biography of Ludwig II of Bavaria ). London: Aurum Press. pp. 252–255. ISBN 978-1-55972-362-6.