Affairs rarely end well—but these historical affairs ended in ways that can only be described as "utterly disastrous". From the scandalous side pieces of powerful tycoons to the maitresses-en-titre of Versailles, these lovers experienced heartbreak, scandal, brutal vengeance, and devastating ends—and each story is most disturbing than the last.
1. Vicki Morgan's Affair Came To A Disturbing End
Vicki Morgan grew up wanting more out of life than the poverty and misery she'd known. She married a rich, older man when she was just a teen—only to discover that he was far more depraved than she was prepared for. The first time that Morgan met Alfred Bloomingdale, heir to a large family fortune, he wrote her a cheque for $8,000 on the spot.
She was intrigued, but worried that he'd be just as bad as her husband. Unfortunately, she was right...
2. He Introduced Her To His Kinky Side
Bloomingdale’s love came at the cost of his kinks. On their second lunch date, he brought along a working girl named Samantha to show Vicki exactly what he wanted—an S&M session for his eyes only. Vicki, after her marriage to Lamb, remained unfazed. He drove the two girls to meet Mistress Kay, a domme, at his place on Sunset Plaza. When everything was said and done, Bloomingdale was hooked.
3. He Paid For Her Divorce
Bloomingdale became obsessed with his new lover, asking to see her three times a week at his place for his salacious sessions…but even that wasn’t enough. Bloomingdale wanted Vicki all to himself. He called Earle Lamb and offered to pay him to divorce his wife. Lamb needed little convincing. He approached his lawyer to file an alienation of affection suit. Vicki was Bloomingdale’s problem now.
4. She Made Him End His Affairs
As Bloomingdale's mistress, Morgan lived in the lap of luxury—but when Bloomingdale's wife caught them out together one night, the consequences were dire. She made Bloomingdale drop Morgan like a hot potato and cut her off, but Vicki refused to go down without a fight. She filed a lawsuit against the Bloomingdales, arguing that the sudden stop to her monthly allowance constituted a breach of verbal contract since Alfred promised her support.
After drumming up some publicity and fueling Betsy’s ire, the case quickly ended up down the drain. For the first time since she was 16, Vicki had to fend for herself.
5. She Refused To Give Up
Morgan turned to illicit substances to cope, but Bloomingdale's wife Betsy's ultimatum didn't last long, and he found his way back to her. Still, her hard partying had done some damage. Morgan spent a period in a psychiatric facility, but when she got out, life landed another brutal hit: Bloomingdale had cancer. As things got worse for him, Betsy cut off Morgan again. Morgan, of course, shot back with a palimony lawsuit.
Bloomingdale passed on—and Morgan ultimately lost the suit. It was a sad ending to their story, but the worst was yet to come.
6. She Was Between A Rock And A Hard Place
Vicki Morgan, now broke and alone, moved in with Marvin Pancoast, a friend she'd met while in the psychiatric facility. They were both trying to get back on their feet—but their relationship was also seriously problematic. Morgan wanted Pancoast to do everything for her, and he crumbled like a cookie. When they faced eviction, she tasked him with finding a new place.
Ultimately, he failed—and that's when it all came to a disturbing climax.
7. He Couldn't Take It Anymore
Pancoast, in a fugue state, attacked her. When he came back to himself, he found Vicki’s body on the bed, bloodied and still, with a blood-soaked baseball bat on the floor. He turned himself in not long after. Of course, this didn't stop people from speculating that he was a fall guy, and that someone else had targeted Vicki Morgan. After all, Alfred Bloomingdale had plenty of powerful friends—and she'd known all their depraved secrets.
Vicki Morgan's life was a roller coaster ride—and so was Maria Fitzherbert's, the mistress of King George IV.
8. Maria Fitzherbert’s Affair Was A Tragic Soap Opera
By the time she was 28 years old, Maria Fitzherbert had already been widowed twice—but apparently, that wasn't enough heartbreak for her, so she got involved with George IV, who was at that time the Prince of Wales and thus, heir to the throne. But it wasn't love at first sight, or even at second. No, while George had his sights set on Maria, she aloof with him. Of course, this only made him more persistent—until one night, when he went too far.
9. She Was Blackmailed
George was desperate to be with Maria, and on one horrible night, he pushed a blade straight into his chest. The wounded Prince lay in his bed bleeding profusely, and sent a message to Fitzherbert, threatening to stab himself again unless she came to his side. She had no choice but to play her part in this twisted game. When she arrived, he proposed—but she knew that it would never happen.
Not only was she a widow, she was also a Catholic and a commoner. But George was persistent—and somehow, he eventually got her to agree.
10. They Had A Secret Life
Sure, their marriage was totally invalid. But at least they had each other, right? Well, George's parents figured out the one thing they could hold over their son's head: his ever-growing debts. They promised to pay them if he renounced the marriage—which he did, leaving Maria heartbroken. But then he added insult to injury. He took up with another woman, Frances Villiers, and sent Maria a cold-hearted letter, letting her know the relationship was over.
And as if that wasn't bad enough, he also got married, for real this time, to a noblewoman. Ouch.
11. He Couldn't Help Himself
Despite the fact that George had really tied up his loose ends, their story wasn't over yet. It wasn't long until he came crawling back to Maria Fitzherbert. They got back together, but Maria kept her guard up—and she was right to do it. When George's wandering eye became a problem again, she got her revenge. Maria dumped him with a letter, just like he'd done to her.
The relationship was finally over, but that’s when the games truly began.
12. She Quickly Lost Her Vengeful Streak
When George became king, he couldn't help but trash talk his ex, Maria Fitzherbert—not knowing she had a secret ace up her sleeve. Maria had kept a copy of their marriage certificate, and took it to the Pope, who declared the marriage valid. She was ready to deploy it at any minute...but George's decadent lifestyle caught up with him before she even had a chance. Maria's heart softened when she learned for sick he was, so she wrote him a letter stating her concern.
Sadly, she'd never get a reply.
13. She Thought Him Indifferent
Maria Fitzherbert didn't realize the severity of King George's malady. So, when she didn't receive a prompt reply to her letter, she felt utterly disheartened. Although he passed before he could pen a response, there was no doubting the King's lasting fondness for his ex-wife. Just before his passing, the King made a special request: he wished to be buried wearing Maria's eye miniature—watercolor depictions of her eyes. But that wasn't all. After the King’s burial, the Duke Of Wellington found something surprising in the King’s belongings—every letter that Fitzherbert had ever sent him.
Theirs was a sort of Romeo & Juliet tale—but even without any poison, Empress Theodora's love story was far more deranged.
14. Empress Theodora's Jealous Side Was Intense
Emperor Justinian loved Theodora so much that he changed the law so that he could marry her. That's the definition of "If he wanted to, he would," folks. But even women as powerful as Theodora get jealous—and when she suspected her husband of having a little too much interest in the Goth Queen Amalasuntha, she went for her throat. In an effort to nip their affair—real or imagined—in the bud, Theodora ordered her men to get rid of Amalasuntha. And like a true drama queen, Theo set the stage. She arranged for Amalasuntha to perish in the middle of a luxurious bath.
Devious—a word that could also be used to describe Madame du Barry.
15. Madame Du Barry Was The Last French Royal Mistress
Madame du Barry’s lurid story is straight out of a twisted period drama—yet so few people know it. Her good looks, bawdy charms, and sheet smarts rocketed her through the ranks and into the arms of King Louis XV of France. Yet it wasn’t all fun and bedroom romps for this royal mistress. Though she lived in lavish quarters in Versailles, she had to deal with competition, intrigue, and backbiting all around her.
It was how she handled it all that makes her story so interesting...
16. They Played Wicked Games
Du Barry’s biggest rival at court was the Duchesse de Gramont. The duchess had been waiting to move up the mistress ranks ever since Louis XV’s favorite (and legendary) mistress Madame de Pompadour passed years before. Needless to say, Gramont did not take well to the enterprising Jeanne, and she went to disturbing lengths to ruin her.
Gramont slandered not only Madame du Barry but also the king in the gutter pamphlets of Paris, trying to turn public opinion against their relationship. Not that she needed much help...
17. They Banished Her
Madame du Barry was the top dog in the French court when her paramour's grandson Louis XVI married Marie Antoinette. The salacious du Barry and the prim Marie did not get along—and when Louis XV passed, Marie made sure that du Barry was left in the cold, sending her to a convent. Though the charming du Barry eventually negotiated her way out of that holy prison, she was never again allowed to set foot within a ten-mile radius of her beloved Versailles.
Of course, considering what happened to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, that would've been a lucky break for many. Not so for Madame du Barry...
18. She Inadvertently Caused A Huge Scandal
Just before his passing, King Louis XV commissioned a massively expensive diamond necklace for du Barry. When it was finally finished years later, the jewelers tried to foist it off on Marie Antoinette, who refused du Barry’s sloppy seconds. Antoinette's actions triggered the infamous and utterly scandalous Affair of the Diamond Necklace.
During the affair, a con woman posing as a now-approving Marie Antoinette procured the necklace from the desperate jewelers and promptly sold it off on the black market. The scandal ruined the queen’s already fragile reputation, and voila, she had yet another reason to hate Madame du Barry.
19. Everyone Turned On Them
By May of 1789, all Marie Antoinette and Madame du Barry’s queenly infighting meant nothing. The French Revolution had begun. Both women spent the next four years trying to stay alive in a world that absolutely detested them. Still, Madame du Barry made time for scandals. She took up a number of lovers, including Louis Hercule. However, just like her romance with the king, it did not end well.
20. She Got A Grisly Gift
Even in the middle of the French Revolution, Madame du Barry’s lover Louis Hercule could never quite forget her—but his devotion had disturbing consequences. One evening, an angry mob showed up at du Barry’s chateau. When she looked out the window, they threw a bloodied cloth at her. When she opened it, she fainted.
It was the severed head of Louis Hercule, preserved as a token especially for his Madame. The clock was ticking for Madame du Barry...
21. She Didn't Survive The Revolution
After a tribunal charged her with treason, Madame du Barry met the same fate as her one-time enemy, Marie Antoinette. On December 8, 1793, the beautiful du Barry went to her dark fate at the guillotine. True to form, she did not go gentle into that good night. Tragically, the terrified girl cried out “You are going to hurt me! Why?!” She begged her executioner for “one more moment.” In fact, these were her very last words: “Monsieur le bourreau, encore un petit moment!”
When you get into bed with a king, you play a dangerous game. But when you got into bed with a Russian Emperor...the threat was constant.
22. Peter The Great Loved 'Em And Left 'Em
Peter the Great revolutionized Russia—but at a terrible price. He crushed rebellions with a malice and bloodlust that Russia hadn't seen since Ivan the Terrible. And if that's how he treated his subjects, imagine how he treated the women around him. Not only did he cheat on his wife with mistress Anna Mons, but he never liked her in the first place and always treated her coldly. Not that Anna came out of the deal any better...
23. He Was A Vengeful Ex
Unlike his wife, Peter adored Anna, and that brought a lot of power and influence to her and her family. Unfortunately, Peter the Great was like a scorching flame. It was hard to be near him without getting burned—something Anna and her family would eventually learn the hard way. But hey, the girl was in love...and maybe in denial too. She watched as he unceremoniously divorced his wife, sent her to a convent, and impaled her lover on a stake.
Anna must have been colorblind, because she somehow totally missed these red flags...
24. He Dumped His Mistress
Peter was finally rid of his wife and he could marry his longtime mistress Anna Mons—except, he was pretty much done with her, too. She could see the writing on the wall, but she had the chance to be tsarina! She wasn't going to let that pass by. That's why she did something very stupid. She started flirting with a Prussian ambassador on the side. She thought she'd make Peter jealous—instead, he found out, kicked her out of her estate, and put her and her entire family under house arrest.
Hey, consider yourself lucky that's all he did, Anna. Either way, Peter was done with her, and he had a new gal waiting in the wings.
25. He Found A New Lady
Anna Mons was Peter's main squeeze, but she wasn't his only mistress. A few years after his divorce, he shacked up with Marta Helena Skowrońska, a Polish-Lithuanian peasant who'd caught his eye. I don't know what they put in the water in the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, but Marta must have been one heck of a woman. Peter fell head over heels, ditched Anna Mons, and grew obsessed with his pauper mistress. She got to become an empress—but she also had to sit by as Peter had his own son killed. Anna may have lost the battle, but I'd say that she won the war.
When royals follow their hearts, it can threaten their power and influence—and no one knew that like Carol II of Romania.
26. Carol II Broke All The Rules For His Mistress
King Carol II of Romania earned the title “The Manipulative King” for his many political ploys, both inside and outside of Romania. But, fascinating as Carol II’s exploits in the game of thrones might have been, the real manipulations weren’t political—they were personal. When his family wanted the prince to settle down, his choice of a partner shocked the royals to the core.
Carol II had become recklessly infatuated with his best friend’s sister, Joanna Marie Valentina “Zizi” Lambrino. She was the daughter of a general and thus a commoner—i.e., a totally unfit match for a prince. That didn’t stop Carol from following his heart.
27. He Was In Love
The royal court in Romania—as well as the elected government—disapproved of Carol II’s choice for a bride. They tried hopelessly to dissuade the prince from marrying a simple commoner but, according to a journalist writing on the matter, “Carol fell [madly] in love and was at no pains to dissemble it.” He was about to disassemble the palace instead.
28. His Marriage Got The Axe
Carol II was determined to maintain his relationship to Zizi Lambrino. They eloped, despite the fierce opposition from the palace and the politicians of Romania. But, in all honesty, there was little that he could do. The Romanian Supreme Court ruled his marriage to be unconstitutional and annulled it. Caro and Zizi continued their torrid romance anyway—because Carol II had just one last arrow in his quiver.
29. He Renounced His Titles
The Romanian Supreme Court had outmaneuvered Carol II by throwing the constitution at him. But Carol II still had one card to play. The courts couldn’t tell him what to do if he wasn’t a prince. So, Carol II signed papers renouncing his title as crown prince and waiving his claim to the throne. And that's the end of that, right? Not by a long shot; the palace had other plans for the prince.
30. He Went Around The World
Carol II continued living with Lambrino after the annulment of their marriage, but the pressure finally got to him. Following his disastrous marriage, he had to get away from it all. Far, far away. Instead of remaining in Romania, Carol II left his not-wife and their only child behind and traveled the world. When he returned home in 1920, a new love was waiting for him. Within a year, he was tying the knot with Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark—leaving Zizi Lambrino, the woman he'd almost renounced his titles for, in the cold. Ouch.
Carol may have been brutal—but when it came to affairs, no one was as ice cold as Catherine the Great.
31. Catherine The Great Was A Time Management Queen
Catherine the Great is regarded as one of the greatest rulers in Russian history, and she was the longest-ruling female leader in the country’s history. Her impact was so great that the period of her rule is known as the Catherinian Era and the Golden Age of the Russian Empire. Not only did Catherine lead her country to greatness, she still found time for a bevy of scandalous conquests.
32. She Fooled Around Behind Her Husband's Back
Catherine and her husband Peter didn't have the best marriage. He was notoriously childish and would rather play with his toys than go to bed with his wife. It took eight long years before the couple had a son, leading to speculation that the baby's father was actually an army officer named Sergi Saltykov. We'll never know for sure, but Catherine and "Peter" had three more children and historians don't think any of them were actually Peter's.
33. It Paid To Be Her Lover
Catherine was extremely generous towards her lovers. She would give them titles, lands, palaces, and even people, once giving a lover 1,000 serfs. But becoming a lover of Catherine the Great was no easy task. Before sealing the deal, potential suitors had to pass an intimate test. Prospective gentlemen had to first satisfy Catherine's lady-in-waiting, Countess Praskovya Aleksandrovna Bruce. Unsurprisingly, this arrangement made for a lot of drama.
34. She Made A Disturbing Discovery
Catherine and Countess Bruce's relationship didn't exactly end well, at least according to reports. In 1779, an advisor happened to lead Catherine into a room—and she saw an utterly disturbing sight. One of her lovers was re-sampling Countess Bruce’s goods without Catherine’s permission. The Empress’s response was swift and brutal.
35. Her Wrath Knew No Bounds
Without batting an eye, Catherine sent her now ex-lover into exile, shoving Countess Bruce along with him. Needless to say, the empress also relieved Bruce of her lady-in-waiting duties shortly after. For what it's worth, when it comes to Catherine the Great, this was actually the merciful option...
36. She Had A Risque Method For Meeting Men
Catherine the Great took such an astounding amount of lovers that she even developed her own scandalous system to cycle through them. She would seduce them, promote them to high ranks, and then when she grew bored of them, she “graciously” pensioned them off with a nice plot of land and some servants. But her lover Girgoi Potemkin really went above and beyond.
37. She Screened Her Lovers In A Bizarre Way
Potemkin was one of Catherine’s favorite advisors, both in matters of state and matters of mattress. When their romance petered out, Potemkin happily vetted his replacements, hand-picking lovers for their good looks and intelligence. Now that’s full service. After all, Potemkin knew that while Catherine could give, she was also ready and willing to take away...
38. She Gave Her Lover A Big Promotion
Maybe no one learned about Catherine's exhilarating heights and frightening lows like her Polish sidepiece Stanislaw Poniatowski. When Poniatowski was in her favor, Catherine gifted him with no less than the kingdom of Poland, installing him as ruler. But what Catherine giveth, she could taketh—and Russia hath no fury like empress scorned...
39. She Ruined a King
Shortly after becoming King Stanislaw, Poniatowski did a supremely stupid thing and decided to start rallying for Polish independence away from Catherine. This did not sit well with his former sweetums, and Catherine forced him to abdicate as punishment for his disloyalty. Stanislaw was lucky to escape with his life.
40. Her Last Romance Was The Most Scandalous
Catherine the Great was infamous throughout Russia for her life-long bedroom appetite, but her last lover still managed to raise more than a few eyebrows. Prince Platon Zubrov was a whopping 40 years the empress’s junior, and the pair hopped into bed together when Catherine was 60 and Zubov was just 22 years old. Go get it, girl.
When it came to life, Catherine the Great preferred to be front and center. Others, however, choose to rule from the shadows...
41. Diane De Poitiers Was A Mistress And A Puppetmaster
When King Henry II was just a young prince of seven years old, he first met Diane de Poitiers. Then in her 20s, she gave him a ceremonial goodbye kiss as one of her duties as lady-in-waiting. Well, it made quite an impression, as Henry never forgot her. He waited years to see her again, and instantly declared his intentions by wearing her colors at a public event. By then a widow, Diane had to work skillfully to make sure the future royal fell deeper in love with her, biding her time and waiting for it to pay off.
But the world laughs at the best-laid plans—and Diane was in for a surprise.
42. She Had Some Competition
When Henry turned 14, his parents married him off to Catherine de Medici, an Italian noblewoman from the notorious and notoriously fat-pursed de Medici clan. At first, Diane might have thought she was in big trouble, what with Catherine actually being Henry’s own age and fully endorsed by his royal parents. Only, that’s when Diane really put her plot into action.
43. She Slept With A Teenager
Just months after Henry’s marriage to Catherine de Medici, Diane committed an act that has gone down in infamy. At 35 years old, many historians believe Diane bedded the now 15-year-old Henry herself, finally giving the princeling what he had wanted for so long. After years of machinations and playing the long game, Diane de Poitiers was officially a royal mistress.
44. She Had A Couples' Nickname
As Diane settled in as chief mistress to the King of France, she took to the role like a duck to water. After all, she’d always been whip-smart, and had proven it by amassing a tidy fortune over the years. It was only natural, then, that Henry relied on Diane for statecraft advice, even getting her to write letters for him and signing them under the joint name of “HenriDiane.” And there's a kicker.
While Henry was giving Diane political power hand over fist, he staunchly kept Catherine de Medici away from any and all of his affairs. But this tenuous situation couldn't last forever...
45. The King Flaunted Their Relationship
In 1559, Diane was pushing 60 and still living her best life as a royal mistress. She was attending a jousting tournament to watch her lover King Henry try and best all the men of his court. Naturally, the king was insultingly wearing Diane’s signature black and white colors as he jousted rather than Catherine de Medici’s house hues, but what else is new? Except for that day of all days, karma was finally coming to get them.
46. She Witnessed A Horrific Accident
As Diane looked on at her knight in shining armor, she was met with the shock of her life. When the king faced the rookie Count of Montgomery, the upstart almost hit the monarch right out of his saddle. Annoyed, the king demanded they ride again so he could prove his dominance. He should have just walked away. The next run, Montgomery’s lance splintered right into the king’s face…and when the dust settled, horror reigned.
47. She Abandoned The King
Five splinters of the lance had buried themselves in his head, and one in particular had pierced through his eye and into his brain. In the next few days, as King Henry’s life hung in the balance, Diane de Poitiers was nowhere to be found. There was a heartbreaking reason for this. Catherine de Medici had taken full control of the situation by then, and Diane kept away from Henry’s sickbed “for fear” that if she tried to step foot in there, Catherine would just embarrassingly oust her anyway.
As we’ll see, Diane was eerily right about that.
48. Her Lover Had A Brutal End
In July, months after the jousting incident, Henry’s health and mental state went into a decline. He called out for Diane, but Catherine wouldn't let him see her. The king gradually lost everything: His sight, his sanity, and then his life on July 10th. Diane’s constant companion had passed at the age of 40, and her rival Catherine de Medici was now the powerful Queen Mother to Henry’s young, legitimate son Prince Francis. It couldn’t have gone worse for Diane.
49. She Had A Fatal Accident
Catherine quickly took back the crown jewels and the castle that the king had given Diane. Just a few years later, in 1565, Diane was out riding when she fell off her mount, incurring enormous injuries. She never quite recovered. The infamous mistress tried her best to keep going but passed a year later, all while Queen Catherine de Medici was at the height of her powers in France.
Still, somehow dealing with all that seems better than having to deal with King Farouk I of Egypt...
50. King Farouk Was Shameless—And Creepy
King Farouk I of Egypt’s life was a brutal lesson that “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” And the last years of Farouk’s life were darn near pitiful. Even worse, they were shamefully predictable: He got older and his women stayed the same. In 1953, the middle-aged noble chose beauty pageant winner Miss Naples, Irma Capece Minutolo, as his final “official” mistress, despite how outraged it made the teenage girl’s parents. Then somehow, it got creepier.
51. He “Deflowered” A Teenager
Farouk had learned that if you throw enough money at any problem, it’s not a problem anymore. Well, he certainly wasn’t going to stop believing that adage now, and once more he paid off Irma’s parents to get them on his side. But that’s not all. The money was also something of a “dowry”…for taking their daughter’s virginity. Ew.
If you thought that power dynamic was twisted, then the story of Alexei Petrovich's "lover" is sure to be stomach-churning...
52. Alexei Petrovich Used His Power Viciously
Alexei Petrovich, the son of Peter the Great, may have been married, but he only had eyes for a woman named Afrosinya. However, there was a dark twist to their "affair". Afrosinya was a Finnish serf—a present from Alexei’s tutor after a few years of marriage. The fact that she was technically his property didn't seem to dissuade him one bit. In time, this would come back to bite him.
53. He Wanted To Give It All Up For Her
Alexei's relationship with his father was...not great, and he fled Russia with Afrosinya to get away from it all. However, finding a safe haven for them both wasn't easy. With his beloved mistress at risk, Alexei agreed to go back to Russia and talk to his father. His only condition was that Peter allow him to marry Afrosinya and live peacefully with her, away from the court and the line of succession.
Sounds like a pretty awesome deal to me. Unfortunately, the Tsar did not feel the same way.
54. He Went Back Alone
Being the smitten lover he was, Alexei left a very pregnant Afrosinya in Venice, with her brother to take care of her. He sailed to Russia alone, hoping he could talk to his father, give up the throne, and find a peaceful place to stay with Afrosinya once she returned. Sadly, a devastating surprise awaited him once he got to his homeland Peter’s men took him in custody and it was all downhill from there.
A couple of days later, Alexei had to beg his captors to call Afrosinya so they could at least be together and so he could see his baby.
55. His Child Disappeared
In the meantime, Afrosinya had arrived in Russia and Peter’s men detained her immediately. She gave birth while in custody, and tragically no one knows what became of the child; not even if it was a boy or a girl. If Alexei thought things would get better once Afrosinya arrived, he was grievously mistaken.
56. She Betrayed Him
In a strange twist, Afrosinya betrayed the very man who had done everything he could for her. She turned witness against Alexei and handed over the letters he wrote to various people, asking them to save him from his father’s wrath. This betrayal hit Alexei in the worst way. He no longer had anything to live for. Alexei didn't have the strength to endure the brutal interrogation tactics his father's men used, and he passed in their custody.
57. His Beloved Began A New Life
Alexei had certainly loved Afrosinya, but it is questionable if she ever loved him back. After all, she didn't exactly have a choice in the relationship. In any case, she did recover from the trauma of being detained, losing a child, and hearing of Alexei's horrifying end. Peter the Great actually gave her her freedom in the end, and she eventually married a St. Petersburg Guard. She lived for about 30 years after Alexei’s passing.
At least she got out alive—because as we'll see, that's rarely how it ends.
58. This Prince's Affair Took Disturbing Turns
Queen Barbara of Poland’s sweeping tale is supposed to be a “love conquers all” romance—but few people know her whole, heartbreaking story. This cunning queen used her wits to gain power, had a passionate affair with a king, and feuded with a vicious mother-in-law, with all her efforts culminating in an utterly brutal end. Hold onto that crown and strap in for a wild royal ride: Queen Barbara’s life was no fairy tale.
59. Her Husband Met A Swift And Brutal End
By December of 1542, Barbara had fully settled into her life as an attentive wife—then tragedy swooped in. After a short but ravaging illness, her husband Stanislovas perished. Oh, but that wasn’t all: Since she was now a childless widow, all of Barbara’s wealth went to the King of Poland, Sigismund the Old. It sounds like rock bottom for our girl Barbara, but when one door closes, another one opens.
60. She Had A Steamy Affair
In October 1543, the King sent his son Prince Sigismund to Barbara’s home so he could claim the estate and rip it out of Barbara's hands. Instead, it was a date with destiny. The young heir and the beautiful widow fell passionately in love with each other on this very trip, beginning a tryst that would lead to infamy and legend. There was just one problem…the Prince was already married.
Not only did the Prince not seem to care about that, but he was also extremely heartless when it came to his wife's epilepsy. When it took her life at just 18, his mourning period was...brutally short.
61. She Committed A Royal Sin
The Prince's mother was, understandably, extremely mad about her son's dalliance with a widow. She did everything in her power to break them up, but the pair couldn't be discouraged. Barbara and Prince Sigismund walked to very the edge of reason. It wasn’t long before they did something supremely rash. Around the summer of 1547, the passionate lovebirds wed in a ceremony so secret that no one even knows exactly when or where it happened.
His family was apoplectic, and on top of that, Sigismund was supposed to have got the Polish parliament's permission to marry. And it was about to get even more complicated.
62. She Became Queen—For A Price
On April 1, 1548, Sigismund’s father passed, making him the new King of Poland and Barbara the presumptive Queen Consort. It should have been a happy moment—but Barbara’s elation quickly turned to terror. Now that she was actually set to be queen, the Polish parliament threatened to start a full-blown revolt so that Barbara couldn't take the throne. Sigismund was having none of it. For three years, he stood his ground, and eventually, got his wish.
Barbara became Queen of Poland...but it wasn't exactly happily ever after.
63. She Had A Swift Downfall
Finally, Queen Barbara had it all: Her man, her crown, her country. Yet she was doomed to a heartbreaking end. Practically the minute the Archbishop placed the crown on her head, Barbara’s always-frail health took a turn for the worse. On May 8, 1551, just five months after her coronation, Barbara succumbed to her mysterious illness and passed at the tender age of 30. King Sigismund was more than just beside himself; the mourning lover followed Barbara’s coffin on foot the entire journey to her final resting place.
From one Barbara to another—but with a whole lot more cunning and intrigue mixed in...
64. Barbara Palmer Was History's Most Notorious Mistress
King Charles II of England had a bevy of mistresses, but none of them were nearly as infamous as Barbara Palmer. Bawdy, babely, and super bad-tempered, Palmer wielded enough power to earn herself the nickname “The Uncrowned Queen" though, to be fair, other people called her “the curse of the nation.” Before she took up with Charles, Barbara was trapped in an unhappy marriage. It's no wonder that when he showed interest in her, she couldn't stop herself...
65. She Took Squatter's Rights To The Next Level
After Barbara shacked up with King Charles, she and her husband Roger had very little to do with each other. On the other side of things, Palmer had zero problems flaunting her power right in front of Charles' wife, Queen Catherine of Braganza. One day, she came up with her best flex yet. While the king and queen were away on their honeymoon, a pregnant Palmer installed herself in the official Hampton Court Palace to give birth to the King’s child. Ambitious sidepieces, take note.
66. She Knew Two Can Play At That Game
Even while Palmer was firmly King Charles II’s favorite mistress, the monarch didn’t limit himself to just one sidepiece—and Palmer didn’t either, not by any stretch of the imagination. Palmer loved showering her men with gifts, and some of her many beaus included the acrobat Jacob Hall as well as her naughty second cousin John Churchill.
67. She Was Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
In 1673, fate finally caught up with Barbara Palmer. A parliamentary act caused her to lose her official power at court. Even worse, Charles dealt her an utterly cold-hearted betrayal. He dropped her almost completely as his mistress, and took up with his new favorite. To add insult to injury, the queen also sided with the new girl. Ouch.
Of course, getting kicked out of court was way better than what Xerxes' mistress had to deal with...
68. Xerxes Got His Mistress In Trouble
The mighty warrior ruler Xerxes was a notorious womanizer. He had many wives, and yet he still couldn’t keep it in his pants—he even had an affair with his own niece. This is horrifying enough, but things took a much darker turn when his wife heard about this infidelity. She couldn’t punish her husband—he was, after all, the King of Kings—yet she still devised a plan to enact her chilling revenge. When Xerxes’s wife heard of the affair, she ordered the girl's mother to be mutilated. That'll do it.
Of course, there's brutal punishment like this, and then there's Madame de Pompadour's fall from grace...
69. Madame De Pompadour Was France's Most Powerful Mistress
It's no wonder that Madame de Pompadour climbed the ladder all the way up to the king's bedroom. It was meant to be! When Pompadour was a little girl, her mother took her to a fortune teller, who made a stirring prediction. The fortune-teller allegedly said that the little girl “would one day reign over the heart of a king.” Her mother seemed to believe it, because she basically became the 18th-century version of a stage mom, grooming her kid to be the king's mistress. To say it worked would be an understatement...
70. She Was More Than Just A Pretty Face
While some would scoff at the idea of a mistress doing anything productive—and indeed, she had many enemies in her lifetime—Louis XV's lover Madame de Pompadour proved to be deeply influential and beloved in her time. She not only shared the bed of the king but also shared his power. So, how'd she capture his heart? Well, to quote Hannibal Lecter, "We begin by coveting what we see every day, Clarice."
Madame de Pompadour made sure she frequently crossed paths with the king, and every single time, she was dressed up to the nines. Finally, Louis XV publicly declared his affection for her at a costume ball—but his timing was less than appropriate. The party was in celebration of his son's new marriage. Whoops.
71. Their Relationship Was Unconventional
While on the outside, their relationship was happy and healthy, modern historians now know that the couple hid a dark secret behind bedroom doors. From 1750 onwards, Pompadour stopped being intimate with Louis XV. They no longer actually made love. Historians have attributed this shift to Madame de Pompadour's very poor health.
Over the years as Louis XV’s mistress, she had three miscarriages, and also “suffered the after-effects of whooping cough, recurring colds, and bronchitis, spitting blood…as well as an unconfirmed case of leucorrhoea.” However, her bond to Louis did not dim—even though their lack of bedroom activity caused his chronic case of "wandering eye" to act up again.
72. She Played It Cool
Louis was not a one-woman man. During his affair with Pompadour, he sated his physical desires on the side with casual sojourns in his “Parc-aux-Cerfs” or “Stag Park," a building specifically for the king's affairs. Rumors swirled that Pompadour was the mastermind behind the king's debauched palace, gleefully setting up her lover with a harem of women.
In reality, Pompadour just accepted the king's side pieces, especially after her health issues caused her to retire from bedroom activities. And they really were serious health issues, not just her not being "in the mood"...
73. Her Ending Was Tragic
In 1764, Madame de Pompadour began to feel unwell. When the doctors examined her, they had terrible news: the king's great love had tuberculosis. Louis looked after Pompadour as best he could, but ultimately she succumbed to her illness and passed on at the place she loved more than anywhere else: Versailles. She was just 42 years old. After Pompadour's loss, tributes poured in from all over France.
King Louis XV described their bond not just as a passionate romance, but a "twenty-year friendship." However, shortly after Pompadour was gone, the king had no choice but to betray his great love...
74. He Was Missing In Mourning
Although the king deeply grieved at Pompadour's passing, court protocol forbade him from attending her funeral. After all, Pompadour had been born as Jeanne Poisson, a middle-class woman. Because of this inconvenient fact, she was too low-ranking to deserve a royal funeral attendance, even if the King himself was her life partner.
Unfortunately, history would end up repeating itself later, with the sad end of Maria Callas's affair with Aristotle Onassis...
75. Maria Callas Was The Other Woman
Maria Callas’s career was equal parts iconic and controversial—but it had nothing on her absolutely explosive life behind the scenes. This first-class diva threw legendary temper tantrums, started feuds that would make Joan Crawford raise her eyebrows, and perhaps most importantly—she broke up one of the most iconic couples in American history in the most scandalous way imaginable.
76. She Met An International Womanizer
In 1957, Callas was attending a glamorous party when she met the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. Although she was still married to Giovanni Battista Meneghini, Callas couldn’t resist the brash, silver-tongued Onassis, and the pair soon began a steamy affair. Correction: A steamy, very public affair. They didn’t bother to hide it from the world, and Callas certainly didn’t show her husband any mercy.
77. She May Have Had A Secret Love Child
Callas left her husband. With that out of the way, she and Onassis were inseparable for over a decade, but their love was full of tragedies still half-secret from the world. Although Callas’s ex-husband Meneghini claimed she was unable to bear children, there is evidence that Callas actually got pregnant with Onassis and either aborted the baby or, in a much more dramatic but less proven theory, actually gave birth to a son who passed hours later. Still, all this drama was only preparation for the infamy to come.
78. Her Lover Two-Timed Her
In 1963, Aristotle Onassis went on one of his many yacht trips—but this time, he didn’t bring his long-term girlfriend Callas. Instead, Onassis had invited the current First Lady of the United States, Jackie Kennedy, on the boat for an intimate trip. Ostensibly, it was to help Jackie get over the loss of her son Patrick, who had just passed in infancy. Well, Aristotle was just a stand-up man trying to help a lady out, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong.
79. She Watched The Man She Loved Marry Someone Else
For years, Onassis waited in the wings for Jackie, even past her husband John F. Kennedy’s assassination, until 1968—when he dealt Maria Callas the ultimate betrayal. Callas and Onassis had never married…so it was all too easy for the shipping magnate to scoop up Jackie and formally propose to her, leaving the diva in the matrimonial dust. Except, you should never count Callas out.
80. Her Lover Wanted Her Back
Today, many believe that Onassis didn’t so much love Jackie as want to possess “the most famous woman in the world.” In reality, Callas still had his whole heart, and Aristotle slunk back to Maria mere days after his nuptials to Jackie, begging her to recommence their affair under cover of night. Callas’s reaction to this indecent suggestion was half agony, half ecstasy.
81. She Became The Other Woman
At first, like many self-respecting women, Maria Callas told Aristotle Onassis to get the heck away from her. But then her lover took it up a disturbing notch. Nearly unhinged with passion, he played the manipulative jerk card and swore he would crash his Mercedes into Callas’s apartment if she continued to refuse him.
Sadly, this is what convinced Callas she had to have him back, and they reignited their flame before Jackie had unpacked her bridal trunk. Then the games really began.
82. She Was In A Game Of Cat And Mouse
When the paparazzi caught Onassis and Callas getting cozy at the Parisian restaurant Maxim’s while Jackie was away in America, the press had a field day. It’s also when Jackie enacted her petty revenge. Unwilling to let Callas get the match point, Jackie jetted right back around to Europe and very publicly had her own dinner at Maxim’s with Onassis two days later.
And this jockeying for power was far from over.
83. She Couldn't See Her Lover
When Onassis was on his deathbed, Jackie showed just how fed up she was. She refused to even visit him, instead going on a very pointed holiday to Aspen. Even so, she made sure to twist the blade into Callas’s side. Since she was still officially Mrs. Onassis, Jackie had a lot of legal power, and she demanded that nobody let Maria in to see the dying man.
Did that stop the tigress Maria Callas? Heck no.
84. She Went Undercover
Callas was just as devoted to Onassis as he was to her, and she didn’t let the First Lady ruin her last goodbye to the man she loved. Equipped with her charms, connections, and her own star-power, she managed to secret herself up through a service elevator and into Onassis’s room. The opera singer then sat with the tycoon for an hour as he lay in a coma, counting down his last precious minutes.
It was a tragic coda to a passionate love affair—but when it comes to devastating ends, it's hard to beat that of Prince Rudolf.
85. Crown Prince Rudolf's Affair Had An Infamous End
In January 1889, Prince Rudolf perished in an infamous “love pact” with his teenage mistress...only the story gets even darker. Though Rudolf’s adoring, 17-year-old lover Mary Vetsera agreed to the death pact because she “could not resist love,” many historians believe Rudolf was just using the poor girl. He’d asked the real love of his life first, and she refused. Mary was just his backup plan. Yikes.
Just another twisted Romeo & Juliet story—whereas the tale of Alice Keppel is more like the most melodramatic soap opera you've ever seen.
86. Alice Keppel Was The Last Royal Mistress
Prince Edward couldn’t keep it in his pants, but he was so much more than your run-of-the-mill rake. He was notorious for his enormous appetites, both carnal and gastronomic, and earned the nickname “Dirty Bertie” for his debauched antics. As he got on in weight and age—the royal was 56 when he met Alice Keppel and old enough to be her father—Edward even famously commissioned a “love chair” that would let him romance a woman without crushing her with his considerable girth.
Yep, this is what Alice was getting herself into. Although, maybe it was Edward who should have watched out.
87. She Became An Uncrowned Queen
In 1901, Alice got a major life upgrade. That year, Queen Victoria passed, ending the Victorian age and ushering the Prince of Wales onto the throne as King Edward VII. The new Edwardian era had begun, and Keppel was right smack in the middle of the period. With Edward as monarch, the silver-tongued Keppel started acting as a go-between for her lover and his ministers. And believe me, she was powerful.
But there was one thing she couldn't do—convince Edward to give up the food and drink that he loved so much. This would have dire consequences.
88. She Broke Down
In the spring of 1910, Edward suffered several heart attacks in a row. When Alice got the news that he was at the Grim Reaper’s door, the normally composed woman broke down, busting through the palace and indecorously running to be at his bedside. Although Alice’s old ally Queen Alexandra graciously let her in, the situation was pretty dang awkward, and the consort’s nerves were reasonably rattled about the whole situation. Well, they wouldn’t get any better.
89. Her Lover Committed A Huge Gaffe
With Edward surrounded by his family and his lover, he uttered a shocking sentence. According to lore, the ailing king looked at his beloved Alice Keppel, then turned to Alexandra of Denmark and insisted she “kiss Alice,” as though this commandment would help smooth out the tensions in the room. Spoiler: It made things ten times worse.
At this point, even the forbearing Queen Alexandra couldn’t take it any longer, and she turned to Alice and asked her to leave the room. Keppel’s response has gone down in infamy.
90. She Caused An Infamous Scene
When Keppel realized the Queen of England had given her a direct command and that she would never see King Edward alive again, she took the situation from awkward to horrific. Once more, Keppel’s famous composure failed her, and she broke down into ragged sobs, screaming, “I never did any harm, there was nothing wrong between us! What is to become of me?” Sadly, it didn’t end there.
91. She Disgraced Herself
Keppel was so beside herself and nearly out of her mind that she couldn’t even leave the King’s bedside of her own free will. Eventually, more stoic members of the royal household had to drag the fallen mistress out, still sobbing and screaming, and all but threw her out into the street. Just after 11:30 in the evening on May 6, 1910, King Edward VII breathed his last, passing at the age of 68.
The King’s passing wasn’t just the end of the Edwardian era; it was also the end of Alice Keppel’s ascendancy in the royal court. It wasn’t Keppel’s proudest moment—and boy, did she know it. When Keppel realized what an embarrassment she'd made of herself, she tried to bury it by...pretending it never happened.
92. She Gave An Embarrassing Goodbye
When the palace laid King Edward to rest on May 17, the now Dowager Queen Alexandra again allowed Alice Keppel to attend. But there was a disgraceful catch. In an obvious gesture to her illicit relationship with the king, the royal family forced Keppel to enter and leave through a side door. Ouch. For all that must have hurt, though, more pain was on the way.
Keppel had spent practically all her tenure as a royal mistress trying not to offend people, but try as she might, her innately scandalous position made her enormous enemies. But when it came to making enemies, she was just one in a long line of royal mistresses...
93. Louise De Kerouaille Was Nothing But Trouble
King Charles II of England was a serial womanizer with a bevy of mistresses. Yet something about his favorite, Louise de Kerouaille, set her apart...and that "something" was usually how much people hated her. Reportedly, from almost the moment King Charles II laid eyes on pretty, witty Louise, he couldn't get her out of his head...or his bed. But this came with disturbing consequences.
94. She Was Part of a Bedroom "Foursome"
King Charles was quite a ladies’ man, and in jumping into his bed, Louise was also jumping into a snake pit. Two of his other mistresses were the ballsy and busty Barbara Palmer and Nell Gwynn. Palmer in particular was known as "The Uncrowned Queen" for her influence, and she didn't look kindly on an upstart elbowing her way in. Only Louise had a secret weapon.
The king's wife, Catherine of Braganza, absolutely hated Palmer—so Louise cozied up to Catherine. It was an unexpected move...but winning over the rest of England wouldn't be so easy.
95. The Common People Hated Her
Because of the general mistrust between England and France in the 17th century, the common people never took to Louise. They despised her Catholic faith, and other dark rumors (more on that later) certainly didn't help matters. In contrast, most of the public adored the bawdy, down-home Nell Gwynn, another of the king's mistresses.
Ultimately, their opinions didn't matter. Louise de Kerouaille managed to hold on to the title of maitresse-en-titre until the end of King Charles II's life. This was no easy feat—especially considering how complicated things got toward the end.
96. She Kept The King's Secret
Near the end of Charles' life, he and Louise hid a dark secret behind bedroom doors. The aging king was going flaccid, and he often couldn't properly satisfy his young mistress the way she deserved. This is an embarrassing enough predicament, but it didn't take long for even darker rumors to start floating through the palace...
97. She Cheated On The King
Around this time, the restless Louise reportedly started getting up close and personal with the handsome Phillipe de Vendome, Grand Prior of France. Now, Charles was never a fan of monogamy, but he never meant for his mistresses to exercise the same freedoms. Half mad with jealousy, the king drove himself to unprecedented actions.
98. She Almost Started An International Incident
Apparently, Charles marched right up to Phillipe and asked—or rather, demanded—that he get the heck out of England. The Duke's reply shocked him. Smug and self-satisfied with his prowess and power, Phillipe said "Nope." Eventually, King Louis XIV himself had to step in and bring his rogue subject back to France to prevent a sticky situation.
But after all this, it was still the king's scorned wife, Catherine of Braganza, who got the last laugh.
99. She May Have Forced Her Husband To Convert
While Charles laid on his deathbed, Catherine spent time hoping, praying, and trying to convince him to reconcile his faith as a Roman Catholic, which had been as shaky as Catherine’s was strong. Well, the night before Charles passed, a priest came into his room and committed him to the Catholic Church…even though the king might not have been entirely conscious at the time.
We still don’t know who was behind the ceremony—but, well, I have a hunch. But while Catherine got something she wanted during her partner's final moments, Marion Davies had everything taken away...
100. Marion Davies Lost Her Love In A Brutal Way
History did silent film starlet Marion Davies dirty. During her heyday, her peers and contemporaries thought of her as a skilled artist. However, as the years went on, her legacy became more complicated. By the time she passed, the media portrayed her as an untalented sham who had used her connections to get to the top. But the fault behind this twist of fate may lie with her infamous affair with one of the world's most powerful men...
101. Their Relationship Had A Rocky Start
When Marion Davies first met newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, it wasn't exactly love at first sight. In fact, she was terrified of him. Her co-stars had warned her that he was a wolf in sheep's clothing—and a married one at that. But week after week, month after month, he persisted. Finally, Hearst created a film studio just so he could sign Davies as his first star.
Faced with a man who could make all of her dreams come true, Davies relented, and the two became an item. But there was something a little different about their affair...
102. They Were Brazen
Most people at least make an attempt to cover up an extramarital affair. Not William Randolph Hearst. He had Marion Davies on his arm at every elite social gathering in New York and Hollywood. Despite the small factor of, ahem, Hearst being married the whole time, they were a very in-demand couple—thanks in no small part due to Davies’ charm.
However, just because Davies and Hearst were the toast of the town didn’t mean that their relationship was perfect. In fact, it had a chilling dark side. Hearst’s devotion to Davies often bordered on obsession, and he was wildly jealous.
103. They Were Serious A-Listers
While Hearst's wife refused to divorce him, she did eventually leave Hollywood for New York, which meant that he and Davies were free to shack up. That's exactly what they did at Hearst Castle. Davies and Hearst were hosting the best parties in Hollywood—but behind closed doors, there was trouble in paradise. As if a wife and a mistress weren’t already enough, Hearst continued his womanizing ways throughout the 20s, and cheated on Davies frequently.
104. His Final Hours Were Chaotic
Davies spent the better part of four decades with Hearst. She'd weathered a storm of affairs, money problems (she even lent him a cool million at one point), and his venomous jealousy. Davies stood by his side until the bitter end—and what she got for her efforts was one of the most brutal betrayals in the history of Hollywood. During his final days, friends and family filled their house, all attempting to say farewell to the ailing millionaire.
The noise and crowd made Davies so upset that she tried to get them to leave. Hearst’s sons ordered doctors to sedate her. She woke up the next morning, and nothing was ever the same again.
105. They Pushed Her Aside
Davies woke up in an otherwise empty bed. Hearst’s nurse had to tell her that he’d passed on during the night. She was utterly bereft and alone—and that wasn’t the worst part. Hearst’s associates had removed his body, along with any evidence that he’d ever lived there with Davies. She never had a chance to say goodbye.
When the funeral rolled around, Davies didn’t attend. It was unclear if she’d made that choice for herself, or if Hearst’s wife and sons had forbidden her presence. After all, he’d never got that pesky divorce…