Facts About Utterly Ruthless Historical Figures

If you think the utterly ruthless intrigues from Game of Thrones were outrageous fiction, maybe you could stand to open a history book or two. The past is filled with cruel and cunning men and women who were willing to do whatever it took to get ahead. Don't believe us? Then check out these brutal facts and see for yourself.

1. Eat Your Heart out, Dad!

The future King Peter I of Portugal was deeply in love with Inês de Castro, to the point where he neglected his own wife and endangered his country's international alliances.

Infuriated, Peter’s father, King Alfonso IV, sent three men to decapitate Inês.

In revenge, the heartbroken Peter found two of her killers and had their hearts viciously ripped from their bodies—they had ripped out his heart, so he did the same to them.

He then exhumed Inês' body, placed her on a throne, and forced his entire kingdom to bow before her corpse and kiss her hand.

Historical Mistresses Facts


2. Flat as a Pancake

One of Henry VIII’s more gruesome ways of executing people was a method called "pressing," which was essentially crushing someone to death. A large plank was held over the body of the prisoner, with weight being steadily added until they could no longer breathe. This was a long and drawn out way of killing someone, and weights were added slowly to ensure maximum suffering.


3. Bad Matchingmaking = Treason

Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, was his right-hand man for many years. Cromwell was integral in the king’s court, but all good things must come to an end. After Cromwell set up Henry’s catastrophic marriage to Anne of Cleves, Henry had his one time pal executed for treason. Yikes.

Henry VIII Facts

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4. Brutal Instrument of Torture

After Henry VIII died, an inventory of all his possessions was commissioned in London. Among his many possessions was a device called the Scavenger’s Daughter.

The contraption consisted of an A-shaped iron brace where the victim was forced to sit in a crouched position with their head almost touching their knees and their wrists, ankles, and neck shackled in place.

An iron bar was then passed through the A-frame and tightened, ultimately crushing the victim.

It is believed to have been intended as an alternative to the rack.

Flickr Ian McKellar