Disobedient Facts About History's Infamous "Bad Girls"

October 4, 2019 | Dancy Mason

Disobedient Facts About History's Infamous "Bad Girls"

History hasn't always been kind to women. Starting in ancient times, girls were carted off into loveless marriages, forced to deal with the manipulations of more powerful men, and thrown to the wolves unless they figured out how to survive in a world that didn't want them. Well, these women have had enough, and they're not going to take it anymore.

These bad girls ignored conventions and grasped power with both hands—whether through rebellion, seduction, or even darker means. And hey, can you blame them?

Facts About History's Bad Girls

1. Introducing Ms. Boleyn

Of all of King Henry VIII's queens (and there were quite a lot), his second wife Anne Boleyn is the most infamous. Men thought she was utterly captivating—but not just for her looks alone. She was a lively and charming girl who loved a game of cards and was often the smartest person in the room, even if no one else knew it.

Anne Boleyn FactsWikipedia

2. He's Got a Type

King Henry VIII’s interest in Anne Boleyn was controversial, and not just because he was already married. Henry was actually already having an affair with Anne’s older sister, Mary Boleynbut it gets even worse. There were also rumors that Henry had bedded Anne and Mary's mother, Elizabeth. When accused of this one, Henry protested, "Never with the mother." Sure, Jan.

Mary Boleyn FactsThe Other Boleyn Girl, Focus Features

3. Hard to Get

Boleyn wasn't immediately taken with Henry, King of England or not. When he first started wooing her, she refused his advances. When he promised he'd promote her from just a regular old "other woman" and make her his chief mistress instead, she still turned him down. Some say Boleyn was heartbroken over an old love, while others say she had a much loftier title than "mistress" in mind...

Leah Remini FactsShutterstock

4. An Indecent Proposal

After nearly a year of trying to seduce Anne to become his mistress, Henry finally gave up and asked her to be his bride. There was just one big problem: his wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon. Henry was (obviously) very unhappy in the royal union, particularly about the fact that he still had no male heirs after decades of marriage.

Even so, both Boleyn and the king assumed the marriage could be easily annulled. Anne, finally won over with dreams of the crown jewels, said yes.

Close up of man's hand holding open box with engagement ring.Getty Images

5. The Seven-Year Itch

Of course, we all know now that the annulment from Queen Catherine was not so easy to get, and it caused the lovesick Henry to eventually split from the Catholic Church, install himself as head of the Protestant religion, and marry Anne Boleyn on his own terms. It was seven long years before he could crown her his Queenall while Anne still stubbornly refused to visit his bed.

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn; engraving - before 1909Wikimedia Commons

6. Tough Cookie

Boleyn had a rather twisted sense of humor. In response to the many vehement protests against King Henry VIII choosing her as his queen, she temporarily took the phrase “Ainsi sera, groigne qui groigne," as her motto, which translates into "Grumble all you like, this is how it’s going to be." Many biographers interpreted this as a little arrogant, but it may have just been her idea of a joke. 

Most Incredible People quizWikimedia Commons

7. That's "Queen Anne" to You

In 1533, it finally happened: after many machinations and even more years, Anne Boleyn became Queen Consort of England, ruling beside Henry like she always wanted. Of course, the power couple had already married each other in two private, very confidential ceremonies before Anne Boleyn's extravagant coronation.

Anne Boleyn FactsGetty Images

8. Secret Ceremony

As Anne Boleyn stood beside King Henry VIII at the altar on her wedding day, resplendent in finery fit for a queen, she hid a dark secret: she was pregnant. She had remained chaste throughout most of their long engagement, but finally gave into Henry's bedroom demands at the very end. Conception was quick on its heels.

Ada Lovelace factsShutterstock

9. Mellow Yellow

In January 1536, King Henry and Queen Anne got word that Henry's ex-wife Catherine of Aragon had tragically died. Their reaction was so disturbing, it's impossible to forget. The royal couple was overjoyed at the news, and the next day they even dressed up in jubilant yellow clothing, as if celebrating the event.

However, keep in mind that yellow was also the color of mourning in Catherine's native Spain, so there's a slim chance Henry and Anne were merely giving her a respectful homage.

The Most Incredible People in History FactsFlickr

10. Baby Blues

After being crowned queen, a now-pregnant Anne settled into royal life and prepared to give King Henry his long-desired son. All signs pointed to a boy. Almost all the king's astrologers said the stars mapped out a male heir, and Anne and Henry were also confident they were about to welcome a son. It was not. Anne gave birth to a little girl, sending the court into a tailspin.

Clara Bow factsPixnio

11. The Virgin Queen

Anne Boleyn's first and only daughter would grow up to be the famous Queen Elizabeth I.

Strange Historical Beauty Practices factsElizabeth: The Golden Age, Universal Pictures

12. Contrary Anne

King Henry VIII and Boleyn's relationship was extremely volatile, and some characterized it as “storm followed sunshine, sunshine followed storm.”

Anne Boleyn FactsWikimedia Commons

13. Citizen Jane

King Henry VIII always had a wandering eye, and when his marriage with Anne started fraying after she couldn't provide him a son, he turned his attentions to the pretty, sweet, and comparatively submissive Jane Seymour, who would eventually become his third wife. Just like with Anne's sister Mary, Henry liked keeping it in the family: Seymour was also Boleyn's second cousin.

Thomas Seymour factsWikimedia Commons

14. An Open and Shut Case

Despite their family ties, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour weren’t exactly close. In one incident, Boleyn discovered that her King Henry had given Seymour his picture to wear around a locket on her neck; Jane had been brazenly opening and shutting the locket right in front of Anne. It's said that once she realized what was going on, Boleyn furiously tore the locket from the chain so violently that she cut her fingers open.

Anne Boleyn FactsShutterstock

15. End of the Road

In May 1536, Anne's luck finally ran out. King Henry VIII claimed he had been seduced and enchanted into a marriage with Anne, and ordered her locked up in the infamous Tower of London to await her fate.

Queen Elizabeth I.Getty Images

16. Famous Words

Anne Boleyn's most famous quote was spoken right before she died. She reportedly was chatting with a guard about her executioner and, in an attempt to reassure him, said, “I hear he’s quite good. And I have a very small neck!"

Anne Boleyn FactsGetty Images

17. A Tithe of Troubles

Although she only reigned for five years, Henry VIII's daughter "Bloody Mary" was a busy Queen. As she attempted to reverse Protestant reforms, Mary had over 280 dissenters of the Catholic Church burned at the stake, earning her that truly terrifying nickname.

Bloody Mary Factsthissideofthetruth - WordPress

18. Assassin of My Heart

In 1960, the CIA pressured Fidel Castro’s mistress into killing him. According to the plan, the woman, Marita Lorenzo, would proffer Castro poison pills that she had smuggled in her jar of face lotion. Unfortunately, the pills dissolved in the cream—and then things got even worse: Castro got wise to her plot.

Even so, it appeared that Castro was more heartbroken than mad, as he offered Lorenzo his own gun and told her to finish him off herself. She still loved him and couldn’t do it. They ended on good enough terms for her to visit one last time in 1961. That’s love, folks!

Femme Fatales factsSputnik Mundo

19. All in the Family

You don’t become China’s only ruling empress by playing by the rules. Wu Zetian was the favorite concubine of Emperor Taizong, and she refused to just retire when he died. Instead, Wu hooked up with her dead lover’s son, the new Emperor Gaozong, stayed in power, and even claimed China for herself upon his death.

Femme Fatales factsSnap361

20. Mount Olympias

In the annals of history, very few women have captured the interest of both historians and artists like Queen Olympias has. And why wouldn’t they be intrigued by her? She was the wife of a king and the mother to Alexander the Great—and that’s just the beginning.

Queen Olympias factsAlexander (2004), Warner Bros.

21. The Reptilian Queen

Bizarrely, Olympias was obsessed with snakes. She belonged to a snake-worshipping cult devoted to the god Dionysus, and she reportedly kept snakes in her bed while she slept. The first person to make this claim was the historian Plutarch, but he was writing  much later, so it isn’t like he ever walked in on her taking a snooze with her slithery friends.

Jamaica FactsPxHere

22. Sounds Like a Bargain

In 357 BC, when Olympias was only 18 years old, she married Philip II of Macedon. Sadly, it was far from a fairy tale love story. Phillip was a powerful ruler, and Olympias' family knew the marriage would serve their political alliances. They weren't really concerned at all with Olympias' personal desires about the matter.

History’s Deadliest Assassins factsWikimedia Commons

23. Thunderstruck

When Olympias gave birth to the baby who would be Alexander the Great, she had a terrifying premonition. She dreamed that a thunderbolt struck her womb, and a massive fire was created, consuming everything before being suddenly extinguished. From the very beginning, then, Olympias knew that her son was destined for big things.

Queen Olympias factsAlexander (2004), Warner Bros.

24. The Family Black Sheep

Though Olympias knew her son was born for the throne, she had to elbow a lot of people out of his way to clear the path. For one, Alexander the Great wasn't his father's eldest son. That special title went to Arrhidaeus, a son with one of his many other wives.

Queen Olympias factsWikimedia Commons

25. Another One Bites the Dust

Olympias knew Arrhidaeus had to go, and some say she came up with a chilling plan. You see, as an adult Arrhidaeus was largely out of the game of thrones because he had a mental disability—but according to the historian Plutarch, Olympias was the one who caused it. She apparently poisoned Arrhidaeus when he was just a boy, leaving him with the deficiency.

Constantine The Great FactsShutterstock

26. Mom, Dad, Stop Fighting Please

Philip II and Olympias had an apocalyptically bad relationship as the years went on. Philip II was known for his parties, affairs, and hot-blooded disposition, while Olympias had a reputation for being very jealous and seriously ambitious, which was not considered a good look for a woman at the time.

Queen Olympias facts

27. Irreconcilable Differences

The tension between Olympias, Philip, and even their son Alexander came to a head when Philip married his seventh and final wife, Eurydice. She was much younger than Olympias, but there was a much darker problem. She was also a native Macedonian woman and was pregnant with Philip’s new child. This? Was really bad news.

Olympias was convinced that Philip would set her and Alexander aside if the child was a boy, and she quickly found herself estranged from Philip.

Queen Jadwiga of Poland factsPixabay

28. Real Cut up About This One

A shocking act of violence put an end to Olympias’ worries. In 336, Philip was overseeing his daughter's wedding ceremony when he made a fatal mistake. He walked into a theater without any armed protection, and suddenly found himself assassinated. Oops. We're sure his estranged wife Olympias was super torn up when she heard the news.

Game of Thrones factsPixabay

29. Cold-Blooded

After Philip died and before Alexander the Great rose to power, Olympias had to do a lot of work to see her son on the throne. For one, Philip's seventh wife Eurydice and her children still posed a big threat to Alexander's supremacy. Willing to go any lengths for her beloved Alexander, Olympias plotted a brutal revenge.

She had Eurydice's children killed, and the horrific act then caused Eurydice to commit suicide. An alternate version of the events claims that Olympias ordered both the queen and her children killed—but is that much better?

Queen Olympias factsAlexander (2004), Warner Bros.

30. Goodnight, My Sweet

In 323, Olympias' worst nightmare came true. Her beloved son Alexander the Great died, possibly from fever, possibly from foul play, but definitely without leaving any clear heir.

Queen Olympias factsAlexander (2004), Warner Bros.

31. Murderess?

There are countless whispers about Olympias, but one rumor is the darkest of all. Some sources claim that she was behind her husband Philip's assassination, and even Alexander's mentor Aristotle believed she was responsible. Moreover, Olympias was said to have honored the corpse of Philip's killer, even after her son had ordered him crucified as punishment.

Historians doubt this possibility—but it's a mystery we will likely never solve.

Queen Olympias factsPixabay

32. New Challengers

In her later years, Olympias was surrounded by enemies. One of her more formidable foes turned out to be her stepson Arrhdiaeus, the very same man she was rumored to have poisoned and disabled. You see, Arrhdiaeus had married a very ambitious woman named Adea Eurydice, who wasted no time declaring herself Queen of Macedon in Olympias' place.

Queen Olympias factsShutterstock

33. The Tide Turns Again

The upstart queen Adea Eurydice ended up bringing her armies to the door of Olympias and her allies. It did not work out well for her. When the Macedonian soldiers realized that they were going to have to fight the mother of their former king, they simply refused to fight. Without missing a beat, Olympias quickly captured the woman along with her husband.

Queen Olympias factsShutterstock

34. This Bed Ain’t Big Enough for the Three of Us

Depending on who you ask, Eva Perón was either the loyal and influential First Lady of Argentina, or an up-jumped mistress and failed actress who meddled in Juan Perón’s political affairs. What is known about her affair with Juan? It began with Eva successfully demanding that he immediately discard his current standing mistress…on the night that he and Eva had just met. Get it, girl.

Femme Fatales factsSoy Carmín

35. Queen of the Nile

Hollywood just can’t resist putting Cleopatra of Egypt into the box of “femme fatale.” As Plutarch’s Julius Caesar biography details, the Egyptian queen smuggled herself inside of a carpet to get past Caesar’s guards and subsequently seduced the Roman ruler—an affair that convinced him to promptly drop his plans to take Egypt for himself, instead opting to support her rule.

Cleopatra would go on to have a much more complicated life, but this anecdote did wonders to immortalize her as one of history’s most powerful seducers.

Femme Fatales factsVariety

36. Born This Way

Anne Lister has been called “the first modern lesbian.” She never apologized for her romantic pursuit of women, nor for her traditionally masculine mode of dress or her aggressive entrepreneurial style. Witty, charming, and confident, she left a trail of broken hearts wherever she went. But that's just the start of her fascinating life...

Anne Lister FactsWikimedia Commons

37. Young Love

When she was 13, Lister was sent to the Manor House School at York. At this tender young age, Lister fell in passionate love with her school roommate, Eliza Raine. The teenage girls were utterly devoted to each other, and even planned to live together once they grew up. Sadly, it was doomed to a heartbreaking end. Officials discovered the relationship and expelled Lister from the school.

Anne Lister FactsShutterstock

38. Cheater, Cheater

Lister was allowed to re-enter Manor House School after two years, but it was too late: her young love Eliza had already left the establishment. Even so, the girls had sworn to love each other forever, and Eliza was sure they would end up together soon enough. Instead, Lister dealt Eliza an absolutely cold-hearted betrayal.

In Eliza’s absence, Lister struck up a series of relationships with other girls in the school. When Eliza found out, she was so devastated that she had to be committed to an asylum.

Anne Lister FactsShutterstock

39. Mutual Acquaintances

As if she hadn't had enough sorrow already, Eliza Raine's heartbroken asylum visit contained a horribly cruel irony. Her family sent her to Clifton Asylum, an establishment run by a man named Dr. Belcombe. This Dr. Belcombe just so happened to be the father of Lister’s latest romantic pursuit, a beautiful girl named Mariana.

Anne Lister FactsShutterstock

40. Regrets

During this time in her life, Lister was becoming confident, handsome, and utterly irresistible to many bright young women. In fact, Lister had been introduced to the lovely Mariana Belcombe by another of her conquests, a beauty named Isabella Norcliffe. Of course Lister later rejected Isabella for Mariana—again with disastrous results.

Forever stung by Anne's cruel rejection, Isabella took to drinking and remained single the rest of her life.

Princess Margaret, The Countess of Snowdon factsShutterstock

41. The Lady in Black

Lister was a conspicuous figure around Halifax. She usually wore heavy leather boots, constricting bodices, and carefully tailored long coats. As a rule, she dressed in black, which she felt gave her a masculine, angular look.

Anne Lister FactsShutterstock

42. For Love or Money

In 1832, Lister met Ann Walker, a pretty and wealthy heiress. Walker was 12 years Lister’s junior and could be a very impressionable, passive girl, and some say Lister's motives were incredibly dark. At the time, Lister was in dire financial straits but had always been unwilling to marry a man for stability—so she saw long-term relationship potential in Walker, who could support her without trying to dominate her strong will.

Anne Lister FactsShutterstock

43. The Waiting Game

Lister invited Walker to live with her and join in a relationship almost immediately. Walker was reluctant, however. Her parents had recently passed away, as well as a fiancé, and she was worried about how the public would perceive the arrangement. She asked Lister to give her six months to think it over, during which time Lister went traveling in Denmark.

When Lister returned, Walker was waiting for her at her home, with news that she had rejected a marriage proposal from a local gentleman. From that point until Lister’s death, Lister and Walker were inseparable. It may not have been a passionate love match from the start, but it was a love story in the end.

Anne Lister FactsMax Pixel

44. Going to the Chapel

On Easter Sunday, 1834, Anne Lister and Ann Walker went to Holy Trinity Church in York. There they exchanged rings and took communion. The event is now considered the first lesbian wedding in England. It would be 180 years before same-sex marriage would be made legal in the UK, and the Church of England still does not recognize such unions.

Jeanne De Clisson factsPixabay

45. Third Wheel

Shockingly, though, this was far from Lister's first marriage. Years before her vows with Walker, Lister had previously shared a ceremony with Mariana Belcombe, going so far as to exchange rings as well. It did not end happily: Mariana eventually married a man, voiding the emotional union and crushing Anne—but that was far from the worst part.

Unable to let Mariana go, a heartbroken Lister even accompanied her newly-wedded friend on her honeymoon. Sounds awkward, to say the least.

Anne Lister FactsShutterstock

46. Gentleman Jack

Lister might have been tough and able to take it, but her unconventional style still made her the subject of much ridicule around small-town Halifax. Townsfolk taunted her in the streets, and mockingly called her “Gentleman Jack.” One anonymous tormentor even took out a personal ad under Lister’s name, seeking a husband.

Anne Lister FactsShutterstock

47. Dear Diary

While at school, Lister first began keeping a diary, and she recorded the scandalous events of her colorful life in obsessive detail. She initially scrawled the diary on scraps of paper that she found lying around the establishment, but by the end of her life, it had grown to 27 volumes, and comprised more than 4 million words.

Grave Robbing FactsPublic Domain Pictures

48. Tales From the Crypt

Given the potentially ruinous details of Lister’s private life and her sexual orientation in a staunchly conservative England, she devised a code for the more explicit entries in her diary. The code uses elements of Ancient Greek and algebra, and accounts for a good chunk. Lister referred to this code as “crypthand” and believed it to be unbreakable, though her descendant later cracked it.

Ada Lovelace factsPixabay

49. “I Do”…But Did She?

When Lister married Walker, it was a jubilant day—but it might have had a dark side. There is reason to believe that Ann did not recognize the significance of what she and Lister were doing. While the two maintained their relationship until Lister’s death, and had their wills altered to reflect each other as next of kin, Walker makes no mention in her own diaries of a marriage or similar union.

It may be that Walker could not conceive of such an arrangement in 1834.

Anne Lister FactsWikimedia Commons

50. Trading on up

Anne Bonny’s piracy career began with snitching and adultery. Not fond of her husband’s decision to be a government spy, Bonny began to hang out in pirate bars. She inevitably took a pirate lover, the infamous John “Calico Jack” Rackham, who tried to pay her husband off to let her go. When Bonny’s husband refused, the lovers simply ditched him and went on to raid ships into the sunset.

Femme Fatales factsBlack Sails Wiki

51. Stealing Hearts

People in 1899 just couldn’t get enough of female stagecoach robber, Pearl Heart. She was even given a pardon from prison, thanks to a sympathetic Arizona governor. Afterward, her life becomes harder to verify, with even her date of death being a mystery. Perhaps it’s better to leave our bad girls to the imagination.

Femme Fatales facts

52. Warrior Queen

Boudicca was a Celtic queen who led an uprising against the occupying Roman Empire. After Boudicca's husband died, the Romans sensed the power vacuum, took her lands, and assaulted her and her daughters. Not one to sit back and let the Romans walk all over her, Boudicca came up with a ruthless punishment: She went on the attack.

She was eventually defeated in the Battle of Watling Street, but not before causing catastrophic damage to her enemies, killing 80,000 Roman soldiers.

Most Incredible People quizFlickr

53. She’s Kind of Scary

Based on descriptions of Boudicca, she was a pretty terrifying figure. She was described as being of above average height, having a “piercing gaze,” waist-length fire-red hair, a harsh voice, and possessing a “greater intelligence than often belongs to women.”

Queen Boudicca Factsimdb

54. Chicken or Egg?

How Boudicca died still remains something of a mystery. According to Tacitus, she swallowed poison when she realized that she had no chance of winning the final battle, but Dio suggested that she was just sick. On the other hand, it has also been suggested that if she was sick, it could have been from the poison, so it kind of brings everything full circle.

Queen Boudicca FactsThe Christian Science Monitor

55. Uncharacteristic Ornament

Celtic warrior chieftains of the time wore a piece of jewelry known as torque around their necks. The necklace was a metal band made with twisted strands of gold and decorative knobs at the throat. The necklace wouldn’t have typically been worn by a woman, but if one historian's description of Boudicca is accurate, she did wear one. It was a pretty major statement of her power.

The Snettisham Hoard Great Torcsl.wikipedia

56. Them’s Fighting Words

Before leading her troops to battle, Boudicca reportedly gave a heartbreaking speech. She said: “I’m not fighting for my kingdom and wealth. I am fighting as an ordinary person for my lost freedom...Consider how many of you are fighting—and why. Then you will win this battle, or perish. That is what I, a woman, plan to do! Let the men live in slavery if they will."

Queen Boudicca FactsImpressed Or Horrified

57. Lovely Lucrezia

Seductress. Schemer. Poisoner. Such words (and worse) have often described Lucrezia Borgia, one of the scandalous children of Pope Alexander VI. The House of Borgia’s infamy, however, will forever cast a shadow over the truth of Lucrezia as a person.  But when we cut through the rumors and myth, the truth is much more complicated.

Lucrezia Borgia FactsFlickr

58. Born to Pray

Lucrezia was born on April 18, 1480, in Rome, when her father was “just” Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia—not yet Pope Alexander VI. Sure, men of the cloth were technically supposed to be celibate. But that hardly stopped the holy Rodrigo from fathering multiple children with Lucrezia’s mother…along with several other women.

Lucrezia Borgia facts Wikipedia

59. Face of an Angel, Laugh Like the Devil

Lucrezia Borgia was a great beauty of her day. In her early 20s, a courtier took a totally-not-creepy catalog of the Borgia daughter as a lady “of middle height and graceful of form; her face is rather long, as is her nose, her hair golden, her eyes of no particular color, her mouth is rather large, the teeth brilliantly white, the bust admirably proportioned.”

Jeez, how close and long did he look? In any case, the whole package was summarized as, “Her whole being exudes gaiety and humor.”

Lucrezia Borgia facts Borgia (2011–2014), Canal+

60. Game of Grooms

Lucrezia was 11 years old at the time of her first engagement. She was originally supposed to marry a fairly minor lord, but her family annulled the contract to betroth her to another lord before she was 13. Then, the ascension of Pope Alexander VI necessitated an even grander match for the Pope’s most prominent daughter.

Elizabeth of York FactsMax Pixel

61. Let’s Not Split the Difference

At the age of 13, Lucrezia made her first marriage. The groom was Giovanni Sforza, himself an out-of-wedlock son of Costanzo I Sforza. Not unlike Lucrezia, Giovanni’s base birth was offset by his powerful connections (his uncle was the Duke of Milan), and the couple wed on June 12, 1493. It was definitely not a match made in heaven. Lucrezia’s husband was 14 years older than his child bride.

Lucrezia Borgia factsThe Borgias (2011–2013), Showtime Networks

62. Your Loss Is Our Gain

Shocker: The 13-year-old Lucrezia found little in common with her 27-year-old first husband Giovanni Sforza. The unhappy couple would mutually accuse each other of “misconduct” within four years of marriage. Of course, this disharmony was politically convenient to the Borgias, who had lost interest in Sforza's connections and wanted to cut him loose.

Lucrezia Borgia factsThe Borgias (2011–2013), Showtime Networks

63. Your Life Is Your Alimony

When the Borgias started to need Giovanni Sforza less, they didn't just grant a divorce; they tried to kill him first. Historians believe that Lucrezia got early wind of her family's plans to literally ax their useless son-in-law. Despite their differences, it was Lucrezia who warned her husband, who then promptly got out of town disguised as a beggar.

Lucrezia Borgia factsThe Borgias (2011–2013), Showtime Networks

64. Too Close for Comfort…or Plausibility?

The beginning of Lucrezia’s bad “reputation” began with her annulment from her first husband, Giovanni Sforza. Pope Alexander sought to dissolve his daughter’s now inconvenient marriage on the grounds of non-consummation—much to her husband’s protest. In response, Giovanni made an incredibly disturbing accusation.

He accused Lucrezia of incest with her brother, Cesare. Though the marriage was eventually annulled with none of the incest accusations validated, the damage was done. Lucrezia and Cesare’s relationship would now forever be suspect.

Lucrezia Borgia factsThe Borgias (2011–2013), Showtime Networks

65. The Second Husbands Club

With Giovanni Sforza behind her, Lucrezia was single and ready to mingle. Her family quickly married her off to Duke Alfonso of Aragon in 1498, even as the ink was still drying on her annulment. As it turned out, this second marriage was even shorter than her union with Sforza—and ten times more violent and tragic. 

Luck Was On Their Side factsPixabay

66. Quicker Than a Divorce

In July 1500, just as Alfonso's use to the Borgia family was also waning, a horrific and unforgivable crime took place. On the top steps of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, hired killers attacked Alfonso and stabbed him multiple times. Miraculously, he survived the initial ambush—but the worst was yet to come.

As he was recovering a few days later, another group of armed men burst into his room and strangled the invalid to death.

Portrait Painting of the king Alfonso V of Aragón by Juan de JuanesWikipedia

67. My Brother, My Widowmaker, My Lover?

According to lore, Lucrezia had her eldest brother to blame for her widowhood. People often cite Cesare Borgia as the killer of Alfonso of Aragon, and he possibly orchestrated both attacks on the man. Some even said that Cesare once came up to Alfonso after the failed first attack and whispered threateningly, "What didn’t happen at lunch could still happen at dinner."

All this didn’t help those incest rumors, which still burn hot centuries later.

Lucrezia Borgia factsThe Borgias (2011–2013), Showtime Networks

68. Daddy Not-So-Dearest

Rumors of incest between Lucrezia and her brother Cesare are the most notorious allegations made against her…but they get even worse. Lucrezia’s first husband Giovanni Sforza also accused Pope Alexander VI himself of improper relations with Lucrezia, saying he initiated the annulment proceedings “to have the freedom to enjoy himself with his own daughter.”

Obviously, Giovanni Sforza was biased. Still gross, dude.

Lucrezia Borgia factsBorgia (2011–2014), Canal+

69. A Most Sexy Medical History

Lucrezia was quite the bad girl in her third marriage to Alfonso d'Este. Historians speculate that she enjoyed an extramarital affair with her own brother-in-law, Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua. The "bro-mance" probably began in 1503, and some think it continued until Gonzaga caught syphilis, though this is speculation.

Lucrezia Borgia factsThe Borgias (2011–2013), Showtime Networks

70. Eyes on Your Own “Work”

Lucrezia made great attempts to befriend her third husband’s sister, Isabella d’Este. The two ladies had a lot in common as intellectual patronesses of the Renaissance. Alas, this friendship was not to be, as Isabella coldly snubbed Lucrezia’s overtures, feeling that she was her rival. Lucrezia responded with a ruthless betrayal. She slept with Isabella's husband, naturally.

Countess Castiglione FactsShutterstock

71. This Theory Is Truly Nuts

To this day, the popular image of Lucrezia Borgia is as a femme fatale who is complicit in her male relatives’ corruption. The worst story of all is the legendary "Banquet of the Chestnuts." The banquet was an orgy hosted by her brother (ew) for their pope father (double ew). According to lore, this banquet involved about 50 courtesans, who were stripped and made to pick up chestnuts off the floor.

Prizes were given to those who could “perform” with as many partners as possible in this cornucopia of decadence, all while the Borgias looked on. Lucrezia’s presence, and even the event itself, is heavily disputed.

Lucrezia Borgia factsThe Borgias (2011–2013), Showtime Networks

72. Rags to Riches

Nell Gwyn is a risque Cinderella story. As the most famous mistress of King Charles II of England, she was born to abject poverty, yet somehow died in wealth and popularity as the icon of the English Restoration. These days, Gwyn is also remembered for her legendary insults, and her status as one of England’s first professional stage actresses.

Courtesans FactsFlickr

73. It’s Not Size That Matters

In terms of appearance, Nelly had chestnut hair, hazel eyes, and a heart-shaped face. In contrast to the buxom bodies favored by Restoration beauty standards, however, Gwyn was petite, albeit “shapely.” What matters is that her future lover King Charles II had very few complaints about the beautiful, seductive woman…

Nell Gwyn FactsGetty Images

74. Salary Negotiations Are Tough in Any Century

Gwyn’s greed almost got in the way of her meeting Charles II. By late 1667, the Duke of Buckingham was seeking a mistress—but not for himself. The lord intended to remove the politically inconvenient Barbara Palmer from the King’s favor by arranging a rival in the royal bed. Nell’s talents put her in the running, but she made a grave mistake. 

Her demands to be paid £500 a year were just too steep, so Buckingham went with Moll Davis—who was also Gwyn’s rival in acting. Ooh, I smell a scandal.

Back To The Future factsShutterstock

75. You Can Never

Gwyn affectionately referred to Charles II as her sweet “Charles the Third.” This “pet name” referred to her bedroom history: she had previously been a kept woman to both a Charles Hart and then a Charles Sackville.

Charles II FactsWikipedia

76. Queen of Finding Your Insecurities

Gwyn liked to stab where it hurt. She referred to her rival and co-mistress, Louise de Kerouaille, as “Squintabella” (in reference to her looks) and “Weeping Willow" (in reference to her proclivity to cry).

Nell Gwyn FactsWikimedia Commons

77. An “Honest” Mistake

According to lore, Gwyn used her signature wit to defend herself from an anti-Catholic mob in 1681. While she was passing through Oxford, a crowd besieged Gwyn, mistaking the actress for her Catholic rival in the king’s bed, Louise de Kerouaille. Gwyn, smiling pleasantly all the while, gave an absolutely legendary reply.

She assured the mob from her coach window that, “Good people, you are mistaken; I am the Protestant whore!

Nell Gwyn FactsShutterstock

78. Baby Steps Towards Peerage

On December 21, 1676, Nell Gwyn’s  son Charles finally got a title befitting his status as a king’s (illegitimate) son. How Charles became the Earl of Burford is attached to two unseemly stories. The most popular? One day, her lover King Charles II came to visit Gwyn and his son, when she called over their offspring with a “Come here, you little bastard, and say hello to your father.”

Aghast at her conduct, the King received this explanation from Gwyn: "Your Majesty has given me no other name by which to call him." And thus, Charles gave his son a proper title: the Earl of Buford.

Nell Gwyn FactsShutterstock

79. No Time to Brainstorm When Skulls Are at Stake

The second story of how Gwyn secured a noble title for her son is even more chilling. In this tale, she holds the baby Charles out a window and threatens to drop him unless King Charles elevates their son to the peerage. Instinctually, King Charles cried, “God save the Earl of Buford!” and I guess they went with that.

Creepy Things in Basements factsShutterstock

80. For Your Eyes Only

Charles II owned topless paintings of Nell that he kept hidden behind landscapes. Portrait of Nell Gwyn as Venus by Peter Lely has the actress in the buff as the iconic goddess. However, Charles only swung the cover to let the most favored eyes have a glance.

Nell Gwyn FactsGetty Images

81. The Cold Hard Truth

Mata Hari is one of history's ultimate femme fatales. Her seductive, hypnotic dancing was legendary—but it was her dark demise that made her infamous. Hari also knew full well how to manipulate people. As she once said, "I had long since lost any illusion of being loved for who I was and now accepted, with clean conscience, flowers, flattery, and money."

Mata Hari facts El Demócrata

82. By Any Other Name

For a long time, it was claimed that Hari had been of Javanese or Indonesian descent, which only added to her "exotic" mystique. The truth is much different. Despite her foreign-sounding name, Mata Hari was actually Dutch. Her real name was Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod, though she went by "Margreet."

Executions FactsWikimedia Commons

83. What’s in a Name?

The name "Mata Hari" means "sun" in the Malay language. She gave herself this stage name when she joined a dance company while living in Indonesia. 

Mata Hari facts Getty Images

84. What a Woman!

Hari made her dancing debut in March 1905 and became an overnight success—but things weren't always as they seemed. She fed viewers the lie that she was a part-Asian princess, and they ate it up hook, line, and sinker. Putting on a seductive, playful persona who cheerfully paraded her body for risqué photographs, Hari took audiences by storm.

Soon enough, she was trickling information about her high-powered clientele to French intelligence for World War I.

Mata Hari facts ZDF

85. Trouble in Paradise

When Mata Hari was 18 years old, she read Rudolf MacLeod's advertisement in the newspaper seeking a wife. She responded, and they married in 1895—but, as you might have guessed from the whole "newspaper ad" part, it was doomed from the start. Turns out, MacLeod was a raging, violent alcoholic. Even worse, he openly kept a concubine.

Mata Hari facts Youtube

86. Rubies and Pearls

Hari was self-conscious about her small bust, especially given her scantily-clad line of work. She even refused to be seen in public without a bra, including in her raciest pictures and dance routines. Of course, she made darn sure that these bras were absolutely bedazzled with jewels. Gotta give the audience something to look at, right?

Mata Hari facts IMDB

87. The Jig Is up

Hari soon gained fame in Europe as a dancer and courtesan, but she was hiding a dark secret. She was doing espionage for both the French and the Germans. Though no one's sure of her exact motives, greed or otherwise, it was bound to catch up with her. On February 13, 1917, authorities arrested her and threw her into prison. 

Boy Bands FactsPublic Domain Pictures

88. Accident or Antagonistic?

At this point, most historians believe it was the Germans who intentionally revealed Hari as a double agent. Reportedly, they were disappointed that she hadn't given them information they could use. Her intel on the French supposedly consisted of nothing but gossip on the sex lives of politicians and generals—which hey, is what I would have done. 

In frustration, they purposefully exposed her double espionage to the French as the most aggressive and hateful “You’re fired” in human history.

Mata Hari facts Télérama

89. Blood on Your Hands

At her trial, Hari was accused of double espionage resulting in the deaths of no fewer than 50,000 soldiers. For her part, the most famous phrase attributed to Hari during her trial was the response, “A harlot? Yes, but a traitor, never!” Sadly, that defense didn’t save her from being sentenced to death...

Mata Hari facts The Red List

90. Pompadour and Circumstance

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, to the benefit of many. In fact, many consider her to be one of the most powerful mistresses in history. Her full, real name was the much more mundane "Jeanne Antoinette Poisson."

Madame de Pompadour FactsMax Pixel

91. Diamonds Are Forever

Peculiarly, there is a long-standing rumor that King Louis XV commissioned the “marquise cut” diamond to be shaped like Pompadour’s mouth. This diamond cut is also known as the “navette.”

Madame de Pompadour FactsFlickr

92. Look Over Here!

Pompadour first tried to get the attention of King Louis XV when he was on a hunting expedition in 1744. The hunt was held nearby her own estate, and so she was allowed to follow the king’s entourage from a distance. However, she wasn’t content with that arrangement, so she purposefully rode in the king’s path several times.

To make doubly sure he couldn’t miss her, she was wearing a different-colored outfit each time she rode past him. Subtle!

Madame de Pompadour FactsWikimedia Commons

93. Second Meet-Cute

Pompadour was given her first formal invitation to the Palace of Versailles when a masked ball was held on February 25, 1745. The ball was held to celebrate the wedding of the Dauphin Louis de France to Maria Teresa of Spain. Louis outdid everyone else by dressing up as a yew tree, but Pompadour's costume was scandalous.

Pompadour attended while dressed as Diana, who was the Roman goddess of the hunt, a fitting reference to how she’d first met the king. We can assume that Louis appreciated that reference, because he chose that ball to unmask himself to her and publicly declare his affection for Pompadour. It was a milestone for their relationship.

Kurt Cobain FactsPixabay

94. What a Handful

One long-standing legend is that the shape of the French champagne glass, also known as the coupe, was originally modeled after the size and shape of Madame de Pompadour’s breasts.

Madame de Pomadour FactsFlickr

95. From Lover to Friend

While on the outside their relationship was happy and healthy, modern historians now know that Madame de Pompadour and King Louis hid a dark secret behind bedroom doors. From 1750 onwards, Pompadour ceased being a sexual partner to Louis XV. They no longer actually made love, in part because of her very poor health.

Over the years as Louis XV’s mistress, she suffered 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, as she served as a “friend of the King,” maintaining her influence at court.

Madame de Pompadour FactsWikipedia

96. I Love Myself

Virginia Oldoini—known better to history as the Countess of Castiglione—might be the original Queen of the Selfie. The Italian aristocrat’s legendary beauty and photographic adventures led to her reputation as history’s first modern fashion model. Of course, she didn’t get by on looks alone.

Countess Castiglione FactsWikimedia Commons

97. Sow Your Wild Oats Before You Spit Them out

Virginia Oldoini earned her famous name and title through marriage. At the age of 17, she was wed to Count Francesco Verasis di Castiglione, who was 12 years older. They only had one child, a son named Giorgio. Right before her arranged marriage to this older man, Oldoini embarked on an affair with a naval officer, which suggests she desired things beyond domestic bliss from the beginning.

Ruined Wedding factsMax Pixel

98. Belle of the Ball

Oldoini followed her husband to the court of King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia-Piedmont (today we just call it “Italy”). The Countess quickly outshined her hubby, winning ministers and courtiers alike over with her charm. In fact, she was known to the court as “la divina contessa.”

Countess Castiglione FactsWikimedia Commons

99. CIA: Cute Intelligence Agency

Oldoini’s true career, however, was much more disturbing. Her first gig wasn’t for modeling or court entertainment: It was for espionage. It all began when she was “discovered” by her cousin, Count di Cavour. Cavour saw the value of Oldoini’s charms and singled her out as the perfect candidate to deploy to the Parisian court of Napoleon III.

Countess Castiglione FactsWikipedia

100. Lie Back and Think of Italy

In 1855, the Countess of Castiglione was tasked with pushing the cause of Italian unity onto Emperor Napoleon III of France—even if it meant pushing other parts too. Her cousin reportedly told her, “succeed by any means you wish—but succeed!” If that’s not a state-sanctioned licence to commit adultery, I don’t want to know what is.

Countess Castiglione FactsWikimedia Commons

101. I’m Keeping the Title

Oldoini’s husband did not take well to his wife becoming a spy and seducing the French emperor, and his reaction was extreme. Their very public affair led him to demand a marital separation. Nevertheless, she would address herself as the “Countess” for the rest of her days…

Countess Castiglione FactsShutterstock

102. The Original Influencer

Oldoini’s modeling career began when she was still royal mistress at Napoleon’s court. Starting in 1856, she sat for court photographers Mayer and Pierson. Her relationship with Pierre-Louis Pierson would go on for four decades, and produced over 700 photographs.

Countess Castiglione FactsWikimedia Commons

103. One of the Boys

Despite her own feminine charm, the Countess of Castiglione was not fond of the ladies. At those French court gatherings, she often refused to even speak to other women. Maybe the OG beauty queen didn’t like competition…or she only had time to deal with the country’s most powerful. In 19th-century Europe, this often translated to “men only.” Sorry, girls.

Countess Castiglione FactsShutterstock

104. If I Can’t See Me, You Can’t Either

Oldoini did not cope well with aging, and she took it much too far. Unwilling to confront her fading looks, she spent her final years in black-colored rooms with closed blinds and no mirrors. Not even she was entitled look at the waning beauty of the Countess of Castiglione.

Countess Castiglione FactsShutterstock

105. The Prodigal Son Doesn’t Return

The Countess of Castiglione’s self-seclusion might have been rooted in more than vanity. In 1879, her beloved and only son Giorgio passed away from smallpox, predeceasing his mother by 20 years. Suddenly, her regime of funeral black rooms, veils, and never leaving the house makes tragic sense…

Wyatt Earp factsPixabay

106. Curse of the Black Pearl

Cora Pearl was an English courtesan who was renowned for her affairs with multiple members of the 19th-century French royal family, her decadent spending, and, most of all, her cruelty. Pearl openly referred to her men as her “chain of gold,” i.e. interchangeable and enriched stepping stones on her way to fortune.

As if to publicly mock her “dark” reputation, Pearl often wore a famous necklace of black pearls that became her calling card.

Courtesans FactsFlickr

107. Horsing Around

Catherine the Great is one of history's infamous women, and she did not take orders kindly. Though she became Empress of Russia through her marriage to Peter III, Catherine spent much of her early married life not with her husband, but rather riding her horse. She also refused to ride side-saddle, and wrote “The more violent the exercise, the more I enjoyed it."

Catherine The Great factsEkaterina, Amedia

108. Lofty Ambitions

Unsurprisingly, Peter was a pretty bad ruler, and he was unseated in favor of his son Paul, with Catherine installed as Regent. However, Catherine wasn't ready to fade into the background. Instead, she came up with an ingenious plot. She gathered support and declared herself Catherine II, the sole ruler of Russia—and she didn't stop there.

Catherine The Great factsWikimedia Commons

109. Foul Play?

Catherine then had Peter arrested, and forced him to fully abdicate his position as Emperor. But that was just the beginning of his nightmare. A few days after abdicating, Peter was murdered by one of Catherine's co-conspirators. The exact role she played in his death has never been proven, but it’s quite possible that she arranged it.

Catherine The Great factsWikimedia Commons

110. Pays to Be Her Lover

Catherine was extremely generous toward her lovers. She would gift them with titles, lands, palaces, and even people, once giving a lover 1,000 serfs. But it came with a chilling price. According to records, there was an intimacy test. Before being welcomed into Catherine's bed, prospective suitors had to first satisfy Catherine's lady-in-waiting, Countess Praskovya Aleksandrovna Bruce.

Catherine The Great factsWikimedia Commons

111. A Good Death

Gossip had a tendency to follow Catherine wherever she went, and it continued to follow her even after her death. Her enemies at court spread rumors about her death, with some claiming she’d died on the toilet, and others that she’d died while engaging in sex with a horse. None of those were true: she died in her bed the day after suffering a stroke, at the age of 67.

Catherine The Great factsShutterstock

112. Passing the Buck

Giulia Beneni was an Italian courtesan who was so powerful, she once told a colonel that she would only lay with him if he got naked first…right in front of her house, atop a horse, and leading his own troops. Naturally, the colonel did exactly that.

Wedding Objections factsShutterstock

113. Not Just Your Little Sister

Caligula might have been one of the most fearsome Roman emperors, but he had nothing on his baby sister Agrippina. Notorious even during her own time, no one would dare call this sibling, spouse, and mother of emperors a mere housewife. From her poison-happy plots to a death that gives new meaning to the word “overkill,” Agrippina's was never dull.

Agrippina The Younger FactsWikimedia Commons

114. Power Couple

During the first part of her son Nero’s reign, Agrippina claimed equal power. She was even depicted on coinage alongside her child, leading some historians to claim her as the first true—if unofficial—Empress of Rome.

Agrippina The Younger FactsWikimedia Commons, Carlos Delgado

115. An Indecent Proposal

When Agrippina was just 13 years old, her uncle Tiberius married her off to Gnaeus Domitius, a man with very powerful connections and even deeper coffers. Unfortunately, might and money were about all Domitius had to recommend him. To many who knew him, the child bride’s new husband was “despicable and dishonest.”

Agrippina The Younger FactsWikipedia

116. Paying the Price

When Nero was just a boy, the historian Tacitus claims Agrippina went to an astrologer to plan out her son’s glorious future. When the seer gasped and told her that Nero would indeed become an emperor, but also kill her, Agrippina's response was ruthless. All the matriarch replied was, "Let him kill me, provided he becomes emperor.”

Charles VII FactsShutterstock

117. Forbidden Love

In 48 AD, Agrippina was single and snagged herself the Emperor Claudius as a husband. The only problem? He just so happened to be her uncle, and the Romans were horrified at the union. For a society that lusted for the blood of gladiators and executed empresses on the regular, Romans had a kind of fussy taboo about incest.

Agrippina The Younger FactsWikimedia Commons,

118. Momager Goals

50 AD was a good year for Agrippina. That year, she finally convinced Claudius to adopt Nero has his own son and secure him as his successor. This was a pretty big feat, but it’s even bigger when you consider that Claudius already had a biological son, Britannicus, who was still very much alive and begging for the throne.

Agrippina The Younger FactsWikipedia

119. Don’t Cross Me

Agrippina’s time as Empress was marked by rampant paranoia and abuses of power. She eliminated enemy after enemy with political scheming, bedroom plots, and straight-up murder. No one was safe: when Brittanicus’ rather harmless tutor complained that she was pushing his student out of royal contention, she had him executed too.

Agrippina The Younger FactsShutterstock

120. Till Death Do Us Part

Agrippina always had good follow-through. When it started to look like Claudius regretted making Nero his successor—maybe after watching all his subjects die around him—Agrippina set off her end game. On October 13, 54, it’s said that Claudius died after eating a plate of poisoned mushrooms. Many sources point the finger at trigger-happy Agrippina.

Other sources claim that Agrippina killed Claudius with a poisoned enema, which is one memorable way to say goodbye.

Agrippina The Younger FactsShutterstock

121. Give and Take

After Claudius died and Nero became emperor, the new Agrippina-Nero alliance didn’t last long. It all changed when Nero got with his new girlfriend Claudia Acte, who Agrippina despised. Needless to say, a disapproving Agrippina wasn’t like other disappointed moms. Instead of just giving Nero the silent treatment or cutting off his allowance, she vindictively started campaigning for Britannicus to overthrow him.

Agrippina The Younger FactsGetty Images

122. She’s Gotta Go

In 59 AD, things between Nero and Agrippina reached a boiling point. Though sources differ on his exact motives and movements, Nero decided he had to kill his mother to get some peace in his life. What followed was something so excessively violent, it’s hard to say whether it belongs in a Looney Tunes sketch or a Quentin Tarantino film.

Agrippina The Younger FactsGetty Images

123. The Unsinkable Agrippina

According to the historian Suetonius, Nero tried and failed several times to kill his mother, each time trying to up the ante and still finding her frustratingly alive. First, he tried to poison her on several occasions, but she always took an antidote each time. Then, he constructed a machine that would collapse her bedroom ceiling on her while she slept, but she caught wind of the plot and escaped.

Finally, he—seriously—invented a collapsible boat that would drown her while she was on a pleasure cruise. Reader, SHE STILL SURVIVED.

Agrippina The Younger FactsWikipedia

124. The End of an Empress

At last, in March of 59, Nero succeeded in his attempts when he had a team of assassins stab her and make it look like a suicide. Once Nero was sure of Agrippina’s death, he went over to her corpse and uttered a horrific response. Apparently, he examined the body and coldly discussed his recently deceased mother's good points (mostly indestructible) and bad points (a tad controlling).

Disturbingly, it’s said he also commented on how beautiful she looked.

Agrippina The Younger FactsShutterstock

125. Fruit of the Womb

We’re told that when Agrippina's assassins arrived, she had some utterly spiteful last words. She sneered, "Smite my womb." That's right, she commanded them to stab her in her womb because it had borne her such an awful son. Um, Show me the lie?

Agrippina The Younger FactsShutterstock

126. Don't Mess With a Medici

A member of the infamous Medici clan, Catherine de Medici became a Queen of France in her own right. While it's wrong to cast her as just a Machiavellian matriarch, it’s equally wrong to paint her as a passive pawn. Scandal followed her around, and it’s clear she took an active role to survive and thrive in the deadly courts of Renaissance Europe.

Catherine de Medici facts

127. The Republic of Male Opinions No One Asked for

Contemporaries loved to highlight that Catherine was no great beauty. Even in her youth, a Venetian envoy described Catherine as “small of stature, and thin, and without delicate features, but having the protruding eyes peculiar to the Medici family." Another observer drew attention to Catherine’s face as “heavy-looking” and her body as underdeveloped.

Hey guys, she was a kid. Can we chill?

Catherine de Medici factspri

128. Paternal & Papal Invasions of Privacy

On October 2, 1533, Pope Clement VII married Catherine off to the french Dauphin, Henri. The couple were lucky to be the same age—just 14 years old—but old men still wormed their way into the honeymoon. Henri’s father, King Francis I, apparently stayed in the bedroom until the marriage was fully consummated, and the Pope visited the couple in bed the next morning to bless the previous night’s “proceedings.” Yick.

Catherine de Medici factsmagnolia box

129. Thanks, Diane

Catherine’s husband was utterly enthralled by his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. In fact, it was Poitiers who had to remind Henri of his royal baby-making “duties,” and bid him to spend more (re)productive time with his wife. You know you're doing something wrong when your mistress starts telling you to sleep with your wife.

Catherine de Medici factsviaja come y ama

130. Room With a View

It’s said that Catherine bored peep holes into the roof of the beautiful Diane de Poitiers’s bedchamber so that she could see her husband “in action” with his mistress. What she saw made her blood run cold. She apparently noted the contrast between the disinterested performance she got from Henri versus the “spectacle” he gave Diane…

Catherine de Medici factsthe bluez

131. Our Lady of Vindication

Catherine was cordial to her husband’s mistress Diane de Poitiers…during his lifetime. As Henri lay dying from a jousting accident, the dark truth came out. Catherine denied Diane any access to Henri’s deathbed, even ignoring her husband’s final pleas for his lover. After his death, she banished Poitiers and her friends from Paris.

Even years later, Catherine made her real opinion heard on Poitiers in a letter to one of her children, writing, “Never has a woman who loved her husband liked his whore.”

Catherine de Medici facts

132. The Bodice-Ripper Brigade

According to rumors, Catherine had a “stable” of 80 beautiful ladies whom she would deploy to the beds of various courtiers for sexual espionage and information networking. She called them the "flying squadron."

Catherine de Medici factsall that

133. Putting the “Snap” in Snapchat

The Countess of Castiglione’s fashion shoots also doubled as warning shots to her enemies. When her estranged husband tried to claim custody of their son, she sent him a photo of herself in loose hair…and a knife in her hand. Naturally, the photo was titled “La Vengeance.”

Countess Castiglione FactsShutterstock

134. What a Queen

Mata Hari’s execution took place on October 15, 1917. According to the testimony of journalist Henry Wales, Hari refused to be blindfolded as she faced the firing squad who were about to take her life. She did not flinch as the soldiers opened fire, and even after she’d been struck, her face did not change expression. She also blew a kiss to her executioners in her final moments. 

Portrait of Mata Hari Reclining on Her SideGetty Images

135. Be Ruthless

When Queen Olympias had captured her wayward stepson Arrhidaeus and his ambitious wife, she was not merciful in her victory. She executed Arrhidaeus in a straightforward manner in order to be rid of him—but Adea Eurydice suffered a much darker fate. Olympias famously sent her a cup of poison, a noose, and a sword, telling her to choose how she would die.

According to the histories, Adea Eurydice chose to hang herself, though she cursed Olympias to the very end of her life.

Queen Olympias factsPixabay

Sources:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 3132, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 72, 73 , 74 , 75, 76 , 77 , 78 , 79,  8081, 8283, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 9495, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 123, 124125, 126, 127, 128, 129

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