Royalty is not always what it's cracked up to be. From tragic accidents to bloody executions, these doomed royals met the most disturbing ends possible. But that's not all. With their lives playing out for all the world to see, these high-profile tragedies often morphed into so much more: conspiracies, rumors, and even the most perplexing mysteries.
1. Empress Elisabeth: Stabbed In The Heart
Privileged, precise, and punishingly beautiful, Elisabeth of Bavaria rose to become Empress consort of the Austrian Empire at the height of its power and has remained one of the nation’s most beloved figures. Yet behind her exquisite façade lies a lifetime of pain and an unbelievably twisted fate. Just before the turn of the 20th century, Elisabeth’s informality doomed her to a gruesome end.
2. She Was In Fatal Danger
In 1898, she was traveling anonymously through Geneva, Switzerland. Despite hearing reports of assassination plans, she decided to catch a ship to a nearby city without any entourage. After all, this was right before WWI, and political tensions were at an all-time high. Because of her decision to forgo any pomp or circumstance, Elisabeth only had one lady-in-waiting with her when the Grim Reaper came knocking.
3. Her End Was Quick And Dirty
The anarchist Luigi Lucheni heard Elisabeth was in town, and quickly devised a chilling plan. Lucheni found her walking on a promenade toward her ship, almost entirely alone. He went up, peered under her parasol, and struck her in the heart with a crude four-inch needle file. Within moments, Sisi collapsed and was weaving in and out of consciousness.
4. Her Last Words Were Tragic
Elisabeth’s last moments on Earth were full of confusion. After her collapse, attendants tore open her bodice laces but could only see a minuscule incision above her left bosom. Then, right before her end, Elisabeth regained consciousness for one last time. As she did, the once sharp woman was reduced to fear and confusion in the chaos.
Her rescuers asked her if she was in pain, and she replied “No.” Instead, her final words broke their hearts. The royal meekly asked as she ran out of breath, “What happened?” They pronounced her passing at 2:10 pm on September 10, 1898. She was 60 years old, and had ruled the Austrian empire for 44 years. Still, the aftermath was even more devastating.
5. Her Autopsy Revealed The Truth
The Empress’s official autopsy revealed heartbreaking findings. Lucheni’s aim was deadly accurate, with the needle penetrating over three inches into Elisabeth's thorax, fracturing her rib, puncturing her lung, and then piercing her heart. Notably, her tight corset prolonged her life for a precious few minutes by stymieing the internal hemorrhage.
6. Her Family Thought The Worst
When Emperor Franz Joseph and the rest of Elisabeth's family heard the news, they were nearly on their knees in pain. But a more unsettling thought occurred to them. Because of Elisabeth’s chronic melancholy, when Franz and the children first found out about Elisabeth’s sudden end, they were afraid that she had taken her own life.
7. Her Assassin Showed No Remorse
When all of Austria and Hungary discovered their beloved ruler’s fate, the nations hurled themselves into a bottomless state of mourning. To those on the outside, Elisabeth’s informality and isolation from court had made her a champion of the common people. Thus, many citizens wondered why Lucheni had targeted her at all…but he had his reasons.
Though Lucheni’s assassination plot was senseless to many of Elisabeth’s mourners, he knew exactly why he did it. He was desperate to kill any political figure he could; Elisabeth was merely tragic collateral. As he said, “I came to Geneva to kill a sovereign…It was not a woman I struck, but an Empress; it was a crown that I had in view.” However, it wasn't long before karma came for him in the worst way imaginable.
8. She Got Poetic Justice
In the aftermath of Empress Elisabeth’s brutal passing, the courts sentenced Lucheni to life imprisonment—a fact that enraged the devoted anarchist, since he hoped for capital punishment and to go out with a bang. Eventually, Lucheni got his wish by other means. On October 16, 1910, he succeeded in ending himself in his cell. But not even this horrific conclusion felt like enough justice.
Empress Elisabeth's passing was so tragic because she was so beloved—and this next princess's tragedy caused the entire world to mourn her. Her name was Princess Grace of Monaco, and her untimely passing was as shocking as it was grisly.
9. Princess Grace: An Unforgettable Accident
Grace Kelly got to live every little girl’s dream by transforming from a glamorous actress to a beloved princess. When Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco, she traded in the silver screen for a golden crown, but her fairy tale romance had a heartbreakingly high cost. On September 13, 1982, the princess and her daughter Stephanie were driving home along the hilly Monaco streets when disaster struck.
10. A Terrifying Fall
While driving, Kelly reportedly had a stroke. She lost control of the car, which plunged over 50 feet down the mountainside. Paramedics rushed Kelly and Stephanie to the hospital, but sadly the damage was done. Kelly was comatose and all signs suggested that she would not wake up. Prince Rainier made the tragic decision to take his wife off of life support.
Princess Grace passed at just 52 years old. But her heartbreaking story wasn't over yet.
11. She Had Two Hemorrhages
While Kelly was at the hospital, French doctors made a startling discovery. Their patient had suffered not one but two brain hemorrhages. The CAT scan showed that the first happened before the car crash and likely caused the accident. The second happened after, when Kelly was fighting for her life in the hospital. It likely occurred because of all of the trauma her body endured from the accident.
12. An Important Guest Missed Her Funeral
Kelly's daughter Stephanie thankfully escaped the crash with a hairline fracture and a light concussion, but the impact on her was immense. Because of her injuries, she could not attend her own mother's funeral. The entire ordeal was so harrowing that Stephanie refused to talk about it for decades. When she finally addressed her loss, she said "Not only did I go through the horrible trauma of losing my mother at a very young age, but I was beside her at the moment of the accident. Nobody can imagine how much I've suffered, and still suffer."
Accidents like Princess Grace's are surreal and feel completely unfair. However, her story is in stark contrast to the fate of King Ludwig. Known as "the Fairy Tale King," this doomed royal faced a controversial demise like no other.
13. King Ludwig II: A Murder Mystery
“Mad” King Ludwig led a forbidden double life. He entertained a succession of gay lovers and spent millions on fairytale castles and lavish works of art. Living in his own enchanted dream world, the king failed to see the enemies at his back—and it led to one of the most twisted ends in history. You see, Ludwig was a dreamer and reckless one at that.
He plunged himself into debt, while simultaneously turning his back on matters of state. But his life took a chilling turn when his ministers conspired against him, seeking to depose him on the grounds of insanity. Their evidence was fragile at best, but it was enough for them to take the crown away from Ludwig. His fall from grace sparked a series of disturbing events.
14. He Waited Too Long
By the time Ludwig decided to throw in the towel and run, he'd waited too long. On June 12, 1886, a commission seized him in the early morning. By 4 am, he sat in a waiting carriage, finally a captive. Distressed by this turn of events, King Ludwig asked one of the psychiatrists, Dr. Gudden, "How can you declare me insane? After all, you have never seen or examined me before." The doctor's response shook him to the core.
15. They Condemned His Insanity
Gudden explained that he had no need to examine the king as the evidence against him was already "overwhelming." King Ludwig was transported to Berg Castle—but his stay there would be tragically cut short. You see, fate had another cruel twist in store for the failed king. The very next day, he and Dr. Gudden decided to take a walk along the shore of Lake Starnberg—and that was the last time anyone saw them alive.
16. He Went Missing
Ludwig and Gudden began their walk at 6:30 pm and were expected back by 8 pm, but they never arrived. A search party spent hours scouring the grounds in the pouring rain. Finally, at 10:30 pm, they made the most disturbing discovery. Both Ludwig and Gudden were found propped up in the shore's shallow water. It was a ghastly scene.
17. He Met A Horrific Demise
Although the king and Gudden had their head and shoulders above the water, they were both deceased. It was a mystery right from the get-go. At first, all signs pointed to him ending his own life by drowning—but the autopsy report made some shocking conclusions. First of all, there hadn't been any water in Ludwig's lungs. And then there was the matter of Gudden's demise...
18. His Demise Was A Mystery
Gudden's body showed signs of severe blows to the head and neck, and it even looked as though he could have been strangled. Something had gone seriously wrong during this seemingly innocent stroll. Some started to speculate that Ludwig had tried to escape from Berg castle that day and that his enemies had sabotaged his plans. But what had really happened?
Shockingly, the king's personal fisherman, Jakob Lidl, held a missing piece of the puzzle.
19. His Fisherman Kept A Secret
Ludwig's fisherman, Lidl, confessed, "Three years after the king's [passing], I was made to swear an oath that I would never say certain things—not to my wife, not on my deathbed, and not to any priest..." He kept his promise to the state and never spoke the truth, but after his passing, he did leave behind some tell-tale notes. These notes provided insight into what actually happened to King Ludwig on the day of his sudden demise.
20. He May Have Been Murdered
Lidl's notes illustrated King Ludwig's escape plan from Berg. The king had enlisted the help of the fisherman who was to row him out to the lake, where a group of loyal supporters waited for him. The plan went took a horrifying turn the second that Ludwig made contact with Lidl: "As the king stepped up to his boat and put one foot in it, a shot rang out from the bank, apparently ending his life on the spot, for the king fell across the bow of the boat."
However, there was only one glaring problem with this series of events.
21. His Autopsy Was Confusing
King Ludwig's autopsy did not report any wounds on his body. Another theory wonders whether he just passed from natural causes caused by the cold water. The king might have suffered a heart attack or stroke during his escape. But the mystery doesn't end there. Arguments for his murder still reared their head, even years later.
22. The Controversy Still Isn't Over
Down the road, Countess Josephine von Wrbna-Kaunitz presented a familiar-looking grey Loden coat to her guests during afternoon tea. She claimed that the coat belonged to King Ludwig himself. Turning it over in her hands, she pointed directly to two holes in the back of the coat. To the Countess, it was all the evidence she needed. In her eyes, King Ludwig II had been murdered.
23. He Was An Enigma
Much about Ludwig remains a mystery to this day as both his tragic end and mental state cannot be confirmed. According to one of his closest friends and cousins, Empress Elisabeth, she did not believe the horrid allegations placed against him: "The King was not mad; he was just an eccentric living in a world of dreams. They might have treated him more gently, and thus perhaps spared him so terrible an end."
The unexplained demise of King Ludwig was not the only royal tragedy to spark debate. Decades later, Prince George's fiery end proved that the British royal family has kept some of the darkest secrets of all.
24. Prince George: Hiding The Chilling Truth
To this day, the British Royals have kept a dirty little secret, and it has everything to do with Prince George, Duke of Kent. This Prince was a blight on the royal reputation with his affinity for partying, hard substances, and scandalous affairs. According to rumor, his vast collection of lusty love letters remain locked away in Windsor Castle. But that wasn't all. They also buried another truth—the shocking events surrounding his tragic passing.
25. He Boarded An Ominous Flight
By the time WWII began, it appeared that George had finally stopped fooling around and had started taking his royal duties seriously. He even joined the Royal Air Force and tried to make a difference. One of his key roles was to boost the morale of the enlisted men. That’s why, in August 1942, George boarded a flight to Iceland. Only, he encountered a terrible tragedy: the flight never arrived at its destination.
26. His Plane Went Off Course
George’s plane was an army vessel designed to land on water. Because of this, these particular planes avoided flying over land whenever possible. But for some inexplicable reason, George found himself hurdling over a dangerous stretch of land. Worse still, his plane was headed straight for a crash landing on Eagle’s Rock, a hillside in Scotland. A crash over water would have been survivable. But over land? Impossible.
27. His Life Came Crashing Down
George’s plane crashed on Eagle’s Rock and because of the fully-loaded fuel tanks, immediately burst into flames. Villagers in nearby towns heard the devastating explosion. Sadly, there were 14 fatalities aboard the aircraft and George was one of them. But this wasn’t the end of George’s story—not even close. The fatal crash landing on Eagle’s Rock evolved into a famous conspiracy.
28. His Demise Is A Mystery
The pilot of George’s fateful flight was none other than the very experienced Flight Lieutenant Frank Goyen. This begged a pressing question: Why was he flying over land when he could have been flying over water? Due to clear conditions, he had no reason to be flying off course. But there’s more to the mystery…Even the flight plans magically disappeared.
29. He May Have Been At The Wheel
George was a certified pilot but not the official pilot on the trip that ended his life. Some rumors suggest that George, maybe using his push as a royal, talked the pilot into letting him take the wheel. The rumors go even further and get much wilder. Since George was a party Prince, some believe that his inebriation led to the crashing of the plane. But there’s even a darker theory than that.
30. He Humiliated Them
George’s personal life had clearly spiraled out of control. His rampant affairs and fraternization with spies—not to mention, his drug use—embarrassed Britain. It’s pretty clear that a lifeless George would be far less trouble to the British Government than an alive George. But would the government go so far as to crash a plane just to get rid of one royal pain? Some people say: absolutely!
31. He Handcuffed Himself
Adding even more mystery to the crash was what rescuers found hand-cuffed to George’s wrist. It was an attaché case filled with money—more specifically—Swedish Kroner. This led many to wonder: if the flight was heading to Iceland, why was George carrying Swedish Kroner? One theory suggests that George and the other passengers were on their way to Sweden for secret peace talks with the Germans.
32. There Was Only One Survivor
14 people perished on George’s final and fatal flight, but there were 15 people on board. The lone survivor, Andy Jack, was the only one who could say what actually happened on that flight. He somehow survived the plane’s terrifying crash and ran to a nearby house for safety. But this was strictly against protocol as Jack was supposed to stay with the wreck...
So let’s hear what Jack had to say. Let’s finally solve this mystery once and for all.
33. They Buried His Truth
Andy Jack could’ve told the story of George’s tragic flight, but the British Government forced him to sign a document promising not to tell anyone what happened. Jack kept his word, and after retiring with a good pension, he drank his money away. At the youthful age of 57, he passed on from cirrhosis of the liver. And just like that, Jack took the secret of George’s fatal crash to his grave.
But while Prince George's dark truth may never be known, there is one British princess whose brutal demise could not be denied. Buckle up, because Princess Charlotte's agonizing final days are not for the faint of heart.
34. Princess Charlotte: A Gruesome Labor
Princess Charlotte of Wales was born to inherit one of the most powerful nations in the western world. The daughter of King George IV, she was a Regency-era darling famous for her warm manners, outspoken nature, and utterly scandalous personal life. Yet this bright hope of Britain only met immense tragedy, and her sudden end shocked the world.
In April 1817, it was the beginning of the end. Charlotte had done her duty once more and was pregnant again, and this time the whole nation was sure only happy news was on the way. They were so, so wrong.
35. Her Doctors Gave Her Dangerous Advice
As Charlotte’s belly grew bigger, strange concerns started to arise. The Regency period still hadn’t got a handle on childbirth, and many medical professionals were at complete odds with Charlotte’s body. While she ate plentifully and stayed mostly sedentary, her medical team insisted she go on a strict diet because they were worried the child would be too big.
For what it’s worth, even other doctors of the time thought this regime was ridiculous—especially after Charlotte grew weak and started experiencing spotting. One of Leopold’s trusted medical advisors, the Baron Stockmar, was so appalled at these tactics that he refused to join the royal medical team for fear that something would go wrong. He didn’t have to wait long to be proven right.
36. She Trusted The Wrong Man
Princess Charlotte’s chief medical point-person was a man named Sir Richard Croft. And if you’re wondering why I don’t call him a doctor, that’s because he wasn’t one, though he did have experience with childbirth. Croft believed that Charlotte would go into labor on October 19, and everyone in the palace fixed their eyes on the date. Except you know what they say about the best laid plans…
37. She Went Into Surprise Labor
October 19th came and went, and then the month itself. On November 3rd, Charlotte started having contractions, throwing the long-tense household into a subtle panic. In yet another sterling of guidance, Croft and his team forced her to exercise during the beginning stages of her labor, all while denying her any food. Certain this would work, the estate then sent for official witnesses to the birth, which was surely imminent. It wasn’t.
38. She Had An Extremely Difficult Birth
In the end, Princess Charlotte was suspended in a state of labor for two gruesome days, all without any child appearing. As the hours wore on, the attendants grew more desperate, and Charlotte more feverish. Even Croft was sweating it, and called in the obstetrician John Sims to advise on the situation…though he didn’t let Sims even see the princess. Okay then.
39. She Had A Stillborn Boy
On the evening of November 5, the labor came to its tragic conclusion. At 9 pm, Princess Charlotte gave birth to a stillborn child. To add insult to injury, it was a coveted boy, who reportedly looked just like the other members of the royal family. Although the strike must have been devastating, Charlotte only serenely replied that it was the will of God that she lost her son. She had so much more to lose.
40. Her Health Plummeted
Immediately following the harrowing birth, Charlotte seemed to be in remarkably good health, especially when Croft finally let her eat something. This did not last long. Just after midnight that night, the princess woke up, vomiting and with horrific pains in her abdomen. When Croft examined her, she was clammy and bleeding. It looked grim, and it took an even darker turn.
41. Her Husband Slept Through The Tragedy
As soon as Croft realized the severity of the situation, he got the Baron Stockmar to rouse Prince Leopold. However, in an agonizing twist of fate, Leopold had taken an opiate to help fall asleep after staying with Charlotte through the difficult birth, and Stockmar couldn’t wake him. When the end came, Charlotte had to go into the dark without her beloved husband beside her.
42. Her Last Words Were Heartbreaking
After failing to stir Prince Leopold, Stockmar went back into Charlotte’s room just in time to hear her last words on Earth. She grabbed his hand and told him, half nonsensically, “They have made me tipsy.” Then, as he left to try to wake Leopold again, she cried out violently, “Stocky! Stocky!” only to pass before he could rush back to her side.
England’s great hope was gone at the age of 21. Princess Charlotte's passing was undeniably haunting, but her suffering came to a much quicker end than this next royal's torturous experience. Enter: King Richard II.
43. King Richard II: Alone And Starving
By turns tragic, misunderstood, power-hungry, and traumatized, King Richard II was one of the most notorious monarchs to sit on the English throne. Shakespeare may have immortalized Richard's villainous reign, but his true story is both darker and much more complicated than all that—especially considering his horrifying final moments.
44. His Own Family Betrayed Him
On October 13, 1399, Henry officially snatched the hollow crown from Richard II, becoming King Henry IV. And then he dealt the fatal strike. Although Henry had originally promised to spare Richard's life, he quickly realized it was too dangerous to have a former king hanging around. He knew he had to off Richard...but the way he did it was beyond cruel.
45. His End Was Very Ugly
Instead of your regular beheading or even a common hanging, Henry gave Richard a much more gruesome end. Little by little, day by day, he starved Richard from his cell until the former king succumbed. Then on February 17, Henry showed off the fruits of his dark labors, displaying Richard's cold, emaciated body in St. Paul's Cathedral for all to see.
46. He Was Reunited With His Wife
Whether out of guilt or expediency, Henry buried Richard hastily and without fanfare in King's Langley Priory. Eventually, though, Richard got something of a happy ending. More than a decade later, Henry's successor said "sorry" and entombed Richard at Westminster Abbey alongside his beloved Queen Anne of Bohemia.
While Richard's unspeakable demise was pure madness, this next royal was actually mad. Empress Carlota's shocking mental state at the time of her passing is one of history's greatest mysteries.
47. Empress Carlota: A Bizarre Unraveling
Empress Carlota of Mexico's terrifying and infamous mental breakdown has long puzzled historians. Though many attribute it to the emotional stress she was under, some experts have a more bizarre explanation. According to them, the “madness” was actually psychosis brought on by…magic mushrooms? Let me explain.
48. Her Breakdown May Have Been a Revenge Plot
According to this story, in the 1860s, Carlota was desperate to conceive a royal heir and went to a herbalist in Mexico City to get some extra support for her womb. The pharmacist, however, was actually a secret Republican, and he prescribed her a psychedelic teonanacatl mushroom to “help.” The consequences were horrendous.
49. The Mystery of Carlota Lives On
In high doses, the mushroom causes intense paranoia and insanity, so the herbalist just leaned back and watched as the Empress Carlota unraveled for the entire world to witness. Whether this is the real explanation or not, we will likely never confirm the truth behind the madness of the last Empress of Mexico. Poor Carlota ended her days with her mind lost at sea—but for this next king, he ended his days in unspeakable pain.
50. James I: A Miserable End For A Forgotten King
In a way, King James I of England is lucky. His predecessor Elizabeth was one of the most powerful and infamous monarchs in history, and his successor Charles got his head chopped off. Between those two, people tend to forget about the absolute hot mess that was King James. But don't be fooled. His reign was an utter catastrophe—so it's fitting that when this scandalous king's end came, it was utterly gruesome.
51. He Outlived His Poor Wife
Among other things, King James' marriage to Queen Anne was a hot mess—and by the end, they were husband and wife in name only. Each of them seemed to be waiting for the other to croak, but Anne went first. She suffered from painful gout and dropsy in her final years and became more and more reclusive as her condition grew worse. James knew of her illness, yet he was too busy with Villiers to be bothered to visit often.
James only saw his wife three times during her final illness, and he wasn't there when she passed at age 44. For the widowed king, this marked the beginning of his disturbing decline.
52. He Was Actually Heartbroken
Despite their incredibly difficult marriage, losing Anne hit James surprisingly hard. As with his son before her, James didn't attend his wife's funeral—but he had a pretty good reason this time. His own health was beginning to fail by now, and news of Anne's passing left him suffering spells of "fainting, sighing, dread, incredible sadness..."
He'd never really treated her well and he'd spent far more time with his male favorites, but it seemed James still had some small place in his heart for Anne of Denmark. However, in the years following Anne's passing, James's health grew worse and worse.
53. His Body Started Falling Apart
Arthritis, gout, kidney stones, you name it, the king had it. The fact that he drank constantly and lost all of his teeth definitely didn't help matters either. Eventually, James grew too feeble to take part in government at all. He almost always stayed at country estates while Villiers and his son, the soon-to-be King Charles I, ran things in London. It was only a matter of time now.
54. He Looked Horrifying
Finally, in 1625, he suffered a stroke, and that spelled the end. He held on for a few more weeks before a painful bout of dysentery claimed his life. He must have been a horrible sight, with no teeth, swollen appendages, and open sores. When the fallen king passed he was completely unrecognizable. Of course, he wasn't the only royal who's physical appearance shocked onlookers.
At the moment of his sudden passing, Prince William of Gloucester's body was a petrifying sight to behold...
55. Prince William of Gloucester: A Fiery End
Most people today know all there is to know about Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. But they don’t know so much about Prince William of Gloucester, the British Royal Family’s very own “James Bond.” Whether he was flying planes, dating models, or trekking through the Sahara Desert, this Prince William lived every second of his 30 brief years to the fullest. Until it all went up in flames.
56. He Loved To Fly
Even as he accepted more and his princely responsibilities, William could never shake his desire for danger. In August of 1972, however, he took it too far when he participated in the International Air Trophy event in England. He was piloting a Piper Cherokee with his friend, Vyrell Mitchell, sitting in the passenger’s seat.
In the stands was William’s mother and tens of thousands of adoring spectators, a massive audience for the nightmare that followed.
57. He Lost Control
Shortly after William’s plane took off, spectators noticed that something was seriously wrong. William’s plane began to behave strangely. At a very low altitude, the prince’s Piper Cherokee banked suddenly to the left. Its port-side wing hit a tree and sheared off like scrap metal. Then the plane hit the ground in a ball of angry flame.
58. His People Tried To Save Him
A group of small boys who happened to be near the crash site rushed to the raging inferno to render aid. But their efforts were in vain. One of the boys later told BBC News, “We tried to break into the plane's doors and then tried to break it in half by pulling at the tail. But it was no good, we had to go back because of the heat.”
59. He Went Down In A Ball Of Flame
By the time the rescue crews reached the plane and subdued the flames, it was too late. There wouldn’t be any cinematic, James Bond-like escape for Prince William. The Prince of Gloucester passed from this life at the age of 30, doing what he loved most—though still tragically apart from Starkloff. The tragedy proved to be more than his family could bear, but the horror still wasn't over.
60. He Kept The Ring
Right until the end, William never gave up on his scandalous love for Zsuzsi Starkloff, no matter what his family said or did. After the horrifying crash, on his badly burned finger, was a replica of the commitment ring that he had given to Starkloff. Maybe if she had been there that day, things would have turned out a little differently. Instead, the handsome prince met the worst end imaginable. And his body? Well, it was completely unrecognizable.
61. He Was Burned To The Bone
The following day, relatives had to identify William’s remains—as if anyone else could have been piloting that plane? The flames from the crash had so badly burned his body, however, that there wasn’t much for them to identify. They had to use William’s dental records to make a positive identification. The grief was overwhelming.
62. His Parents Couldn’t Bear The News
William’s mother, Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott, was so distraught at her son’s passing that she didn’t have the heart to tell her husband what had happened. She feared that, in his poor health, he wouldn’t be able to bear the news. In her biography, she confessed that he must have learned about the tragedy from the televised news.
63. He Was The Original Prince William
William’s parents weren’t the only ones who couldn’t let go of their beloved son. Prince Charles looked up to his older cousin and worshipped the ground that he walked on—or flew over. In 1982, he named his first-born son with the Lady Diana Spencer after his daredevil cousin. See? He really was the original Prince William.
While Prince William's end was sudden and tragic, this next royal's final moments were downright humiliating. Poor King George II dreamed of dying on the battlefield—but the way he actually went was 1,000 times worse.
64. George II: A Humiliating Demise
After more than three decades on the throne—and a few close calls—George II’s love and feud-filled life finally took its toll. The aging king became blind in one eye and suffered from hearing loss. Somehow, he still found a way to enjoy the finer things in life, like a cup of hot chocolate at six o’clock in the morning—an indulgence he enjoyed on the day of his embarrassing demise.
65. He Had A Final “Meal”
George II was something of an early bird. Maybe his alarm was the cries of the children he forgot to mourn. Nevertheless, on the morning of October 25, 1760, George II woke up at six as always. He sipped a cup of hot chocolate while attending to his, ahem, morning movements. It was a sweet way to start the day—but the doomed king had no clue what was coming.
66. He Had A Humbling End
George II’s end was an utterly humiliating one. A few moments after he went to his chambers, George II’s valet heard a loud sound. It wasn’t the sound of a healthy bowel movement—not that that would have been any more pleasant to hear. The valet rushed in to find George II on the floor. His physician noted that the king “appeared to have just come from his necessary-stool[…]” That paints a picture.
67. He Didn’t Get To Say Goodbye
George II’s attendants lifted him into his bed and called for his daughter, Princess Amelia. Sadly, by the time the princess arrived, George II had already passed. And he gave very specific instructions of what the palace was to do with his kingly remains. Actually, it’s kind of sweet—in a worms and rotting flesh kind of way.
68. He Made A Bizarre Request
In the end, George II just couldn’t wait to reunite with his dearly departed wife, and his last wishes were to be with her. Or, more specifically, with her rotting remains. He requested his attendants to bury him next to his wife, but that’s not the unusual part. He wanted the sides of their coffins removed so that “their remains could mingle.” Nothing says, “I love you,” quite like putrefaction.
Catherine the Great is another shining example. As tragic as her passing was, the aftermath was unbelievably disgusting.
69. Catherine The Great: A Bestial Rumor
Catherine wasn't called “The Great” for nothing. Though she was one of the most enlightened women in the world, behind closed doors, it was a very different story. She earned her title through blood, lust, betrayal. But as fascinating as her reign was, her dramatic end was equally as jaw-dropping—and for very disturbing reasons.
70. Her End Was Sudden and Mysterious
On November 17, 1796, just after 9 o’clock in the morning, Catherine’s servants found their imperial majesty lying on the floor, her face a lurid shade of purple. By all accounts, it was horrific: Her pulse was fluttering and her breathing was ragged. The fallen queen was already at heaven’s door. She quickly fell into a coma and passed soon after.
However, the real horror show had only just begun.
71. Her Body Suffered a Disgusting Fate
When Catherine passed, instead of just burying her, as you do, the Russians displayed her body for six whole weeks in one of the most impressive rooms in her palace. While her lifeless body lay there, presumably getting riper by the second in the lavish chamber, people would come by and kiss the rotting flesh of her hand. This is not the way I’d want to go. And then came the troubling rumors.
72. A Disturbing Rumor Circulated About Her
The manner of Catherine’s passing has been the subject of myth and legend for hundreds of years now. Almost immediately after her passing, people started talking. Incredibly, they infamously claimed that Catherine passed after having, er, “intimate” relations with a beloved horse. Except nothing could be further from the truth.
73. Her Autopsy Revealed Everything
Catherine the Great's autopsy revealed the truth amidst all the lies. The mighty Empress had actually succumbed to a brutal stroke, which was ironically the same ailment that was supposed to have felled her late husband Peter III. A sad end, but not a bestial one. Even so, the unsavory rumors about the insatiable empress live on.
While Catherine's end was filled with nasty rumors and rotting flesh, Eric XIV of Sweden suffered in captivity. But considering his horrifying deeds, this might have been karma at its finest.
74. Eric XIV of Sweden: A Dangerous Meal
If the gruesome tale of Eric XIV of Sweden is anything to go by, it was hard out there for a 16th-century king. Then again, Eric was unhinged, immoral, and the perpetrator of one of the most infamous acts ever committed in royal history. In fact, his incredibly bloody reign was almost enough to justify his infamous demise. Nearing the end of his reign, the king suffered from increasing mental instability—and it set the scene for a brutal betrayal.
75. His Brothers Got Revenge
The entire time Eric was slowly unraveling, his brothers John and Charles were watching from the sidelines and waiting for their time to pounce. Well, in 1568, mere months after the royal wedding, they finally jumped—the nobles rebelled and put John in power. Meanwhile, they threw Eric in a dungeon, and the end he met there belongs in the ninth circle of damnation.
76. He Lost His Babies
Both King Eric and his poor queen Karin were detained together, and they spent years on end in captivity while the government denounced the king as, er, insane. Their treatment was horrific. Eric and Karin had two children in captivity together, but the frantic parents had to watch helplessly as the babes both perished in the dismal conditions. And more heartache was right around the corner.
77. He Tried to Escape His Fate
As a prisoner, King Eric XIV was both too intelligent and too unhinged for his own good, and he plotted at least one great escape from his cell, cleverly using Karin’s lady-in-waiting. It ended in tragedy all the same. The new regime caught and executed the conspirators, though Eric XIV and his queen got to keep their lives. This time at least.
78. He Faced His End Alone
On June 14, 1573, the once-and-former King Eric’s captors made him suffer one final indignity. To prevent the king and Karin from having any more children, they separated the royal couple, taking Karin to a different castle. As Eric XIV wrote, "My wife has been taken from me.” He now had to live out the rest of his days in solitude…not that there were many days left.
79. He Passed in Captivity
On February 26, 1577, attended found King Eric XIV of Sweden cold and unresponsive in the cell he had called home for seven years. The government had faced one too many attempts to reinstate him, and he had become too big a threat to live. But it wasn’t until scientists autopsied his body that we learned the full, dark truth about the mad king's end.
80. The Secret of His End Was Revealed
In 1958, forensic specialists exhumed the king’s body to find out the secrets of his final moments. Their made a grim discovery. According to their findings, conspirators had offed Eric with arsenic, and the substance ravaged his body until his last breath. His supposed final meal? A fatally spiked offering of pea soup.
This next royal's tragic end is far more subtle than a deadly soup. Alexandra of Denmark was a flourishing beauty—but time marked her in a terrible way.
81. Alexandra of Denmark: A Withered Beauty
Alexandra of Denmark was a rags-to-riches royal and the unlikeliest fashion icon of all time. Through bizarre circumstances, the Danish-born Queen consort of the United Kingdom even caused a limping pandemic in London! But as her fortunes—and outfits—changed, her life became one marred by tragedy after tragedy. Over time, her iconic beauty began to wither until, finally, it was her turn to face the most haunting chapter of all.
82. She Had A Look About Her
After all of those years of hardship, Alexandra’s age finally caught up with her. She was no longer the youthful fashion icon that she had once been—and aging gracefully just didn’t sound like fun. Alexandra tried to maintain her looks by plastering her face with heavy makeup, but her days of setting odd fashion trends were long gone. The same people who used to copy her every move—including her limp—started calling her appearance “enameled.”
83. She Had One Last Dress
In her last few years, Alexandra’s health and mental state had deteriorated significantly. She had endured poverty, prominence, and providence, but it was finally time to throw in the towel. Alexandra passed from a heart attack less than a month shy of her 81st birthday. She was laid to rest next to her husband—presumably in an elaborate dress and wearing mismatched shoes.
Alexandra's end was a slow burn, but Prince Philippe I went out with a bang on the heels of scandal and drama. He was larger than life—and his passing had chilling consequences for the wife he left behind.
84. Philippe I: The Sun Prince's Downfall
King Louis XIV’s court was full of luxury and intrigue, but the so-called “Sun King” had nothing on his brother Philippe. As the younger son of the French royal family, Philippe had none of the burden and all of the fun—and he took full advantage of this privilege. From his illicit romances to his disastrous marriages, Philippe broke hearts and budgets his entire life, and he did it all the way to his sudden end.
85. He Flaunted His Side Pieces
Over the years, Philippe's wife Elizabeth had grown used to the parade of beautiful men and smatterings of beautiful women walking in and out of his bedroom. Then in 1701, Philippe finally went too far. The aging prince had recently taken the coquette Mademoiselle de Sery as his mistress, and took to flaunting her in front of his wife.
In fact, he had been so shameless, his brother King Louis had to resort to drastic measures.
86. His Brother Snubbed Him
In June of 1701, Louis invited Philippe over for dinner at the Chateau de Marly, but this was no fond family reunion—it was a royal dressing down. Resentment between the brothers had been simmering for quite some time; even before Philippe’s marital faux-pas, Louis had also passed over Philippe’s son, the Duke of Chartres, for military promotion.
In other words, the siblings were ready to explode, and the dinner party was about to turn into The Real Househusbands of Paris.
87. He Got Into A Family Feud
Before the food even landed on the table, Louis and Philippe were going at it. While Louis started with Philippe’s immoral behavior, his sibling shot back that the king also had many mistresses and didn’t have a leg to stand on. Then, for good measure, he complained again about Louis snubbing his son. When Philippe returned to his home that night, he was fit to be tied—and it ended in tragedy.
88. His Met An Unexpected End
The very next day after his spat with Louis, Philippe suffered a sudden fatal stroke, collapsing in the afternoon and never getting up again. This shocked the French court into silence, and all King Louis XIV could say was, “I cannot believe I will never see my brother again.” On the surface, then, Philippe had an honorable passing…except for the last digs he got at his second wife.
89. He Tried To Send His Wife To A Convent
France may have mourned Philippe, but his poor wife got the rawest deal. When Elizabeth married Philippe, he cruelly stipulated in their marriage contract that she was to enter a convent when he passed. Unsurprisingly, Elizabeth fought tooth and nail to avoid this grim, dull fate and begged King Louis to spare her. Although he eventually did, Philippe had other plans from beyond the grave.
90. His Last Wishes Were Incredibly Cruel
If Philippe cared at all for his second wife, he might have spent some time considering that she wouldn’t want to go from being a glamorous princess to a drab nun. The thing is, he didn’t consider her at all: When the papers published his official will after his passing, he didn’t mention Elizabeth a single time. Thanks for nothing, Philippe…literally.
Philippe's partner certainly wasn't the love of his life, but poor Queen Barbara of Poland had the heart of her devoted husband. Her end was absolutely chilling—and it broke the heart of a king.
91. Queen Barbara Of Poland: A Swift Downfall
Queen Barbara of Poland 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. Her stomach pains became searing, she developed a fever, and she lost all her appetite. But before long, it got much worse than that.
92. She Hid a Gruesome Ailment
One of the most chilling symptoms of Barbara’s sickness happened where almost no one could see. Confined to her bed, attendants discovered that a lump was slowly growing on the soft skin of the queen’s stomach, and that the monstrosity was filled with pus. It was the first true sign that the end was coming, and that it wasn’t going to be pretty.
93. Her King Sacrificed Himself
Through it all, Sigismund was beside himself trying to cure his beloved wife, who he had only just made his own in the eyes of his people. To the bitter end, he never forsook her. Sigismund tended to Barbara even when her bowels loosened—and even, reports say, when she smelled of the mysterious pus that was slowly ravaging her. As it turned out, his most desperate act was yet to come.
94. Her Husband Went to Extremes to Save Her
As long as Barbara was breathing, Sigismund couldn’t accept her fate, and he was desperate to take her down south to the Polish town of Niepolomice, where the temperature was milder. There was just one big problem: Barbara was so close to the Grim Reaper's door that she couldn’t even get up out of bed. So Sigismund had to get creative.
95. Her Love Made One Last Attempt
Unwilling to back down or admit defeat, King Sigismund’s denial turned tragic. First, he commissioned a special wagon that would be able to take Barbara out of the castle lying down. Then, when he discovered that one of the gates was too narrow for the custom wagon to fit through, he simply demolished it. Sadly, none of it was any use. Barbara never made it.
96. She Earned a Final Victory
Right at the very end, Barbara won the most important victory of her life. In March 1551, she received a letter from her mother-in-law Bona Sforza. Its contents were heartbreaking. In the message, Bona told her that she would officially recognize Barbara’s marriage to her son, as well as her title of Queen of Poland. People called it Barbara's final triumph.
97. Her Husband Couldn’t Let Her Go
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. But Barbara still had secrets to give up.
98. Her End Was Scandalous
Even in her own time, people speculated wildly about what ailed the beautiful Polish queen. At one point, an Italian cardinal stuck his nose in and proclaimed that Barbara passed on because she didn’t use her contraception properly. In fact, even Barbara's own family members whispered that a nasty venereal infection had done the deed. The truth, however, was much more complicated.
99. The Truth Behind Her Passing Is Tragic
Strangers and relatives alike thought Barbara’s illness had something to do with her reproductive organs, and they weren’t that far off from reality. Modern historians now believe that Barbara likely passed from cervical or ovarian cancer. People didn't understand these diseases well at the time, but they could explain Barbara's painful miscarriages.
Queen Barbara's disease ravaged her body, but this next royal family was brutalized beyond recognition. We've heard the story about the doomed Romanovs a hundred times—but few have taken a closer look at the youngest member of the family, Alexei Romanov.
100. Alexei Romanov: A Slow And Painful Nightmare
The fall of the Romanovs is a story of arrogance, incompetence, and strife—but you can't lay any of that at young Alexei Romanov's feet. The golden son of the Russian royal family, Alexei's tainted royal blood doomed him to a life of caution and pain. Although the brutal slaying of his family is legendary—few know how chilling his last moments really were.
101. He Asked For A Chair
On that fateful night, Alexei Romanov lay fast asleep when, suddenly, the family doctor, Eugene Botkin, shook him awake. Botkin went one by one to each of the Romanovs and told them to put their clothes on. He claimed that chaos had engulfed the city, and they had to go to the basement for their safety. For all Botkin knew, he was telling the truth. Guards hustled the Romanovs into a bare cellar.
Nicholas demanded they at least bring in some chairs for his wife and ailing son. The guard relented, but Nicholas didn't hear what he told his comrade outside the door: "The heir wants to die in a chair. Very well then, let him have one."
102. The End Had Arrived
After bringing the chairs, a guard told the Romanovs to wait until a truck arrived to transport them to a secure location. However, just a few minutes later, the door reopened. This time, several guards filed inside, and one of them was holding a piece of paper. He faced the Romanovs and read it aloud: "Nikolai Alexandrovich, in view of the fact that your relatives are continuing their attack on Soviet Russia, the Ural Executive Committee has decided to execute you."
After that, there was no time to react.
103. The Execution Went Wrong
Upon hearing the order, Nicholas spun around and cried, "What? What, did you say?" The guard quickly repeated what he said, and Nicholas replied, "Stop! You know not what you do!" But it was too late. The guards had already opened fire. Within moments, smoke and the acrid smell of gunpowder filled the room. The guards, whether untrained, nervous, intoxicated, or a combination of all three, failed to give any of the Romanovs a swift end.
Their arms finally fell silent—but as the smoke began to clear, they quickly realized that the execution had gone horribly, horribly wrong.
104. He Survived
The first thing that pierced the silence were the moans of Romanov children. The parents lay still, but Alexei and his sisters all still breathed. Each of them had jewelry sewed into their clothing, taken from the palace. The diamonds had managed to deflect the gunfire enough that none of them had landed a fatal hit on any of the children.
As if that night hadn't already been chilling enough, it was about to take an even more disturbing turn.
105. It Got Even Worse
After the first round of bullets, officers rushed down from upstairs. The sound of their arms had awoken many in the neighborhood, defeating the purpose of the whole "secret execution" plan. An officer ordered the guards to use their bayonets on the children instead—but their nerves failed them once again. Though they set upon the children, none of them knew what they were doing.
Instead of putting Alexei Romanov and his sisters out of their misery, the guards only succeeded in making it worse.
106. His Fate Was Painful And Messy
The guard in charge of taking Alexei's life fumbled with his bayonet, then decided to end the boy more quickly with his weapon. He unloaded an entire magazine, and yet still Alexei clung to life. Finally, the leader of the guards, Yakov Yurovsky, pushed his incompetent men aside and fired one shot into Alexei's head. One by one, the remaining Romanov children stopped moving.
It was a horrifying fate for children whose only offense was sharing their father's blood—but this was not yet the end of their story.
107. He Didn't End Up Next To His Family
Guards stripped the Romanovs of all their clothes, drove them out to an abandoned mineshaft, doused them in sulphuric acid so no one could recognize them, then tossed them into the darkness below. That was the final resting place of the Romanov family—except for Alexei and one of his sisters. The guards had a plan for them that they hoped would throw anyone searching for the lost royals off their scent.
108. Guards Had A Different Plan For Him
Alexei Romanov didn't get to rest with his parents. Guards took his remains, along with the remains of one of his sisters, and burned them in a bonfire. Next, they smashed the bones with a spade, then tossed them into a smaller pit about 50 feet away from the mass grave. They figured anyone who found the remains at the bottom of the mineshaft wouldn't guess it was the royal family, as the Tsarevich and one of the girls wouldn't be there.
In case you couldn't tell yet, the guards were mostly incompetent, but their plan actually worked...for a while.
109. His Remains Were The Key
Amateur archaeologists discovered the site of the Romanovs' grave in 1979, but they soon realized something was wrong. Two bodies were missing: One of the girls, and Alexei. Rumors persisted for decades that perhaps the boy had somehow escaped—until 2007, nearly a century after his passing, researchers found the remains of a preteen boy and a young woman in a firepit nearby.
DNA testing confirmed that the bones had belonged to Alexei and his sister Maria. Finally, after nearly a century, the mystery of the Romanovs' end was settled, once and for all. Of all the famous executions in history, the Romanovs make the top of the list, but there's one other royal whose passing has become the stuff of legend. Her name? Mary, Queen of Scots. And her bloody end is so disturbing, it's unforgettable.
110. Mary, Queen of Scots: The Ax Missed Its Mark
There have been some scandalous monarchs in history, rulers whose volatile lives might as well be written in blood inside the history books. Yet none of them come close to Mary, Queen of Scots. When it comes to horrifying ends, Mary's unsettling story is infamous—but surprisingly, her road to destruction could have ended very differently.
111. She Might Have Been Saved
Although Mary was careening towards a gruesome fate, she encountered a crossroads that could have altered everything. On October 25, 1586, the Scotswoman stood trial, where the councilors convicted her of treason and sentenced her to execution. Yet even after all that, Elizabeth was hesitant to execute her cousin. Don't go thinking this was mercy, though. Elizabeth's idea was far more nefarious.
112. Her End Could Have Been Even Worse
Instead of wanting to publicly execute Mary or pardon her, Elizabeth initially tried to secretly poison her. No, really. She asked Mary’s final handler in captivity if he could find a way to “shorten the life” of the former queen, and thus get rid of her quickly and cleanly. The man refused, begging that it would make "a shipwreck of my conscience."
In a last-ditch effort to avoid having to execute Mary, Elizabeth pleaded with her to just admit to her sins. If she begged for forgiveness, Elizabeth would pardon her. Mary said no.
113. Her Fate Was Sealed With a Signature
When Mary’s end finally came, it came fast. Left with no choice after months of deliberation, Elizabeth signed Mary’s death warrant on February 1, 1587. Her Privy Council wasted no time carrying it out, ratifying it two days later and then informing Mary on February 7th that she was to go to the executioner’s block that very morning. Her response was heartbreaking.
114. Her Final Moments Were Haunting
Mary must have imagined this day, if only in her nightmares, but she took the news like the queen she was. She spent the last hours of her life praying and getting her house in order, all while Elizabeth’s men erected a scaffold draped in black cloth in the palace-come-prison's Great Hall. Then the fallen queen's final hour arrived at last.
115. She Sent a Secret Message
Mary was born a monarch, and she met her end as one, too. She went up to the executioners’ block dressed to the nines in a somber black satin bodice with a velvet petticoat and crimson sleeves. This was actually a secret message. Crimson was the color of martyrdom in the Catholic Church, and Mary was staking her own claim to the name.
116. She Made Her Executioner Laugh
Even in the face of the reaper, Mary managed to muster up a wry sense of humor. As the executioners and her servants helped her undress and meet her fate, she reportedly smiled and told them that she "never had such grooms before...nor ever put off her clothes before such a company." As they always say, we laugh so we do not cry.
117. She Forgave Her Killer
The executioners then begged Mary for forgiveness. Mary responded in kind, telling them, "I forgive you with all my heart, for now, I hope, you shall make an end of all my troubles.” She then knelt down on the block, positioned her head, and outstretched her arms, saying, "Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit." Sadly, her next moments were full of indignity.
118. Her End Was Gruesome
The end of Mary, Queen of Scots was not a clean or simple affair. The executioner managed to miss her neck on the first strike, hitting her in the back of the head instead. On the second strike, he hit her neck but did not completely sever it, and had to saw through the rest with an ax as the crowd looked on. And that wasn’t all.
119. She Suffered a Final Embarrassment
When the executioner finally finished his exhausting work, he held Mary’s head up high and said “God Save the Queen” for the throng of people to witness. As he did, everyone quickly found out that Mary had been wearing an auburn wig; her head dropped out and rolled on the ground, revealing the queen’s natural short, grey hair. Then the gruesome show really started.
120. She Left an Eerie Memory
Although it’s not verifiable, one story from that day claims that after her embarrassing end, Mary’s head was still not at peace. According to a young man who was present at the execution, "Her lips stirred up and down a quarter of an hour after her head was cut off.” It was as if Mary’s memory couldn’t quite leave this Earth.