History is absolutely littered with unfaithful, cruel, or just downright deranged husbands. For better or worse, most kings need their queen—but not every king is marriage material. From scandalous affairs to disturbing betrayals, these men all made their wives regret ever saying “I do.”
1. He Got Married At 14
“Loving husband” is rarely a good way to describe the Kings of France, but King Henry II must have been the worst of them all. In 1533, he married Catherine de Medici when they were both just 14 years old. But this was no fairy tale royal wedding—it was more like a horror story. On the night of their union, Henry’s dad followed the couple back to their bedroom to make sure they made the marriage “official.”
I also have to tell you that the ing didn’t just watch his teenage son and daughter-in-law do the deed; he gave a review as well. He said that they both “showed valor in the joust.” Yikes…
2. He Slept Around Constantly
So what made Henry such a miserable husband? Well, you see, he absolutely loved women—just not his wife. And worse than that, he made zero attempt to hide his many mistresses from Catherine. Instead, he flaunted them around the palace for the entire court to see. And one of those mistresses in particular became infamous: Diane de Poitiers. Sure, she was almost 20 years older than him, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
To call Henry and Diane’s relationship weird would be an understatement.
3. He Was A Man-Baby
Picture this: The King of France, in front of guests, lying in a much older woman’s lap like a baby. A woman who was not his wife. Well, if you visited the French court, this is exactly what you’d see. Not hiding your mistress is one thing, but lying in her lap and fondling her breasts in front of the whole court is another.
I don’t know if it’s possible for Henry and Catherine’s relationship to get any worse—yet somehow, it did.
4. He Abandoned Her Completely
After a harrowing birth, doctors told Catherine that if she ever became pregnant again, she likely wouldn’t survive. Well, that was all Henry II needed to hear! After that, Henry abandoned his wife completely. His marital duties were pretty much the only thing that tied him to her. Now that he didn’t even have to do that anymore, he cast her aside and spent all of his time with Diane de Poitiers.
But don’t you worry: Catherine de Medici would get the last laugh in the end.
5. His Wife Denied His Final Request
In Henry’s final days, he repeatedly called out for the love of his life—and we all know I’m not talking about his wife. Henry begged to see Diane de Poitiers one last time, but Catherine vehemently banned her from Henry’s bedchamber. She’d spent nearly her entire life playing second fiddle to Diane, and now the power was finally in her hands. Henry finally passed on July 10, 1559, never getting to say goodbye to his beloved Diane. And, to twist the knife, Catherine banned de Poitiers from his funeral as well.
But not all wives of terrible husbands get their revenge—Emperor Puyi’s wife knew that better than most.
6. He Had A Very Public Engagement
In 1922, Puyi, the last Emperor of China was 16 years old, and the palace decided it was high time for him to marry. Eventually, Puyi landed on Gobulo Wanrong, who at only 16 herself was already turning out to be a stunning beauty. The Chinese court moved fast, and announced Wanrong and Puyi’s engagement in the national papers almost immediately after his decision. But Puyi may have come to regret this…
7. He Married Two Women On The Same Day
If Puyi’s new wife thought she was his one and only, she was in for a nasty surprise. See, while searching for prospective brides, Puyi had fallen for a 12-year-old girl named Wenxiu. Although his advisors (very rightly) told him she was too young, he didn’t completely give her up. Instead, Puyi decided to take Wenxiu as his secondary consort…and marry her on the same day as he wed Wanrong—and it only gets worse from there.
8. He Became A Cuckold
The insufferable man child Puyi wasn’t husband material—something Wanrong learned the hard way. As the couple grew more and more miserable, Puyi retreated further into his fantasies. In fact, he was so self-absorbed, he probably didn’t see Wanrong’s treachery coming. Besides hitting the opium harder, his lonely wife started a series of affairs with two of Puyi’s aides, a man named Li Tiyu and another named Qi Jizhong. The way Puyi found out about this was shocking.
9. His Wife Gave Him An Ultimatum
In 1940, Wanrong received news she couldn’t hide from her husband: She was pregnant, and the child was most definitely not Puyi’s. Nonetheless, Wanrong was determined to keep the baby. She went to Puyi, demanding that he either recognize the child as his, or else let it live outside the royal grounds in anonymity. Puyi did neither.
10. He Committed An Unforgivable Act
Instead of helping out his wife in any way, Emperor Puyi committed one of the most horrific betrayals in Chinese history. The moment the baby, a little daughter, came into the world, the Emperor ignored Wanrong’s wishes entirely. Instead, he had his aides snatch the girl from her mother’s breast and then kill the newborn. And he wasn’t finished.
11. He May Have Told A Huge Lie To His Wife
According to one version of events, Puyi never even told Wanrong about the true fate of her baby. Right after she gave birth, he whisked her away to the hospital without her daughter. When she came back, he lied and said that he was having an outside nanny look after the newborn. Thing is, this option is so much better than what really might have happened…
12. He Forced His Wife Into Near Madness
Other sources claim that instead of keeping the truth from Wanrong, Puyi mercilessly let it all hang out. The Empress’s response was gut-wrenching. Riddled with grief over the loss of her innocent child, some people say Wanrong gave in completely to opium, existing in a numbed state for the rest of her life.
Puyi was truly a nightmare of a husband. I much prefer the “scandalous playboy” style of bad hubby—like, say, King James I.
13. He Fell In Love
At age 13, King James VI of Scotland made his formal entry into Edinburgh to take his place on the throne. For the first time, James discovered court life and everything that came with it. Among all the new sights and experiences in the new city, one thing in particular caught the young king’s eye: A man named Esmé Stewart.
Stewart was 37 years old, married, and the father of five children—yet James absolutely had to have him.
14. He Was Infatuated With An Older Man
If there’s one thing you need to know about King James I, it’s this: The guy liked his boy toys. For nearly his entire life, his male favorites dominated his court, and the first of these was Esmé Stewart. By the time James was 14 years old, he and Stewart basically never left each other’s side. Now, maybe you’re thinking: “Maybe James just looked up to this older man, seeing as he never knew his father.”
Well, wait until you hear a little more about their relationship…
15. He Didn’t Hide His Affection
King James was never the most discreet guy, and it didn’t take long before people started to talk about his, ahem, close relationship with Esmé Stewart. An English envoy once visited James’s court, and what he discovered absolutely shocked him. He wrote of how James was “in such love with [Stewart] as in the open sight of the people often he will clasp him about the neck with his arms and kiss him.”
Yeah, they were into each other alright—and it should come as no surprise, then, that James’s advisors wanted to find him a wife, STAT. How do you think that went?
16. He Married A Danish Princess
After a long search, James’s advisors finally picked a suitable bride: Princess Anne of Denmark. Wasting no time, Anne set sail for Scotland and her new life. I’m sure she was excited—Queen of Scotland sounds like a pretty good gig. Little did she know, her royal marriage wasn’t going to be anything like those in the stories.
17. People Started Getting Suspicious
James and Anne’s marriage was cause for excitement in Scotland, but the years began to pass, and no little princes or princesses appeared. That would lead to some rumors for most kings, but people had not yet forgotten about James’s PDA with Esmé Stewart. Questions about James’s manhood and Anne’s fertility were on everyone’s lips.
James and Anne needed a child, and they needed one quick.
18. He Finally Welcomed A Son
Finally, in 1594, five long years after their wedding, James and Anne welcomed a son, Henry. The lack of a child had been like a sword over their heads, and Henry’s birth should have been a massive sigh of relief. But with King James, there was always something. You see, by this point, his relationship with his wife had already started to show cracks—and it didn’t take long for James’s eye to begin to wander…
19. He Had An Affair
By 1594, the honeymoon period was officially over. Maybe it was the lack of children, or maybe King James simply grew tired of his blushing bride. Either way, the once-romantic James who swept Anne off her feet had disappeared a long time hence. By the time Anne became pregnant, it was too late to save their loving union.
While Anne carried their child, James took maybe the only female mistress he’d ever have: A minor Scottish noble named Anne Murray. When Anne of Denmark found out about James’s affair, she was obviously furious—but James’s next betrayal would be so much worse.
20. He Took His Son From Her
James ripped Prince Henry from his mother’s grasp essentially the moment he was born. Anne expected to raise the child herself, but the cold and callous James had other ideas. He sent the boy to live in Sterling Castle, miles away from Edinburgh. Like any mother, Anne was absolutely horrified, and she was willing to anything to get her son back.
The birth of a child should have solved James and Anne’s marital problems—instead, tore them even further apart.
21. His Wife Stopped Sleeping With Him
James and Anne had eight children together, though only three of them survived to adulthood. The last was born in 1607, but by that time, the unhappy couple had long since begun living in separate palaces. Then, one final miscarriage led Anne to decide she didn’t want to get pregnant again. By that point, James pretty much only visited her to make more children. Without that, their marriage fell apart completely.
But that wasn’t the only thing that drove them apart. The pressures of being king started to change James, and Anne did not like what he became.
22. His Wife Gossiped About Him
When a French envoy visited the English court in 1604, they came looking for all the juiciest gossip—and Queen Anne was more than willing to dish. She complained about James’s ever-increasing drinking and made a grim prediction: “The King drinks so much, and conducts himself so ill in every respect, that I expect an early and evil result.”
Anne must have known the envoy would take that new back to France, but she spilled the beans anyway—though soon her husband’s drinking would be the last of her problems.
23. He Outlived His Poor Wife
At this point, King James and Queen Anne were husband and wife in name only. Each of them seemed to be waiting for the other to croak—and 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 his latest lover, George 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. A sad end for a long-suffering queen. At least our next unfortunate wife got to dance on her terrible husband’s grave…
24. He Married Young
In 1615 young King Louis XIII of France and Princess Anne of Spain married. Though the two of them were second cousins, back in those days, this practice was common, particularly in royal families. Who needs love when you can have political alliances? Even though the newlyweds were just teenagers, the pressure was on for them to consummate their marriage. This. Did. Not. Go. Well.
25. He Avoided His Wife
Louis was allegedly nervous about physical intimacy and did not want to consummate the marriage in spite of enormous political pressure. Yet, if he didn’t “do the deed” his marriage ran the risk of annulment. This would potentially jeopardize the alliance with Anne’s parents. His mother eventually forced him to do it (ew!), but the experience was apparently so traumatic that it gave him a lifelong fear of physical intimacy with women.
With men, however, it may have been a different story.
26. He Never Took Any Mistresses
Anne and Louis had an unhappy marriage (can you believe it!?). The king treated her well enough, we suppose, but he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to spend the night with her. Not exactly ideal husband material. However, there is no record that Louis kept any mistresses. This was so unusual that his subjects dubbed him “Louis the Chaste.”
It led to rumors that Louis was in fact not chaste at all, but secretly preferred men in the bedroom. As we’ll see, there’s some scandalous evidence for that theory.
27. He Didn’t Have His First Child Until He Was 37
Though Louis married his wife in 1615, the couple did not produce a child until 1638. Many attribute the fact that Louis took so long to produce an heir as proof of his alleged homosexuality. Either way, it wasn’t a great look for the very macho world of Medieval European royalty. Though we’ll likely never know for sure what Louis got up to away from prying eyes, we do know he had some particularly important men in his life…
28. While His Mother Ruled, He Met His Best Friend
While growing up during his mother’s reign, Louis’s favorite courtier was Charles d’Albert, who taught him the art of falconry. Charles was the Chief Falconer of France, an actual royal position that honestly sounds awesome. Charles and Louis also bonded over hunting together. He was much older than Louis, but the two quickly became close. Like…really close.
29. He May Have Been In Love With His Best Friend
Louis XIII and d’Albert first met when Louis was just a boy. Under d’Albert’s tutelage, Louis developed and expanded his interests and tastes. When Louis became king, d’Albert became his most trusted advisor, and they remained close as Louis took the reigns for himself. People whispered that the friendship eventually grew to be more than platonic; and that Louis and Charles were in fact, secret lovers.
Of course, Louis’ loveless marriage only added fuel to these rumors.
30. His Son Was A Miracle
When Louis’ son, the future Sun King, was born the royal court hailed it as a miracle. Young Louis XIV received the second name Dieudonné, meaning “God-given.” Louis XIII was skeptical that his son was in fact a miracle. Yet in a sense he was—Louis and Anne had managed to come together in spite of the miscarriages, Louis’s lack of desire, and Anne’s siding with his scheming mother. But was Louis Jr. the king’s only son?
31. He Might Have Had A Secret Son
Later, a French novelist claimed that Louis and Anne had fathered twins. He alleged that the younger one was imprisoned and forced to wear an iron mask to conceal his identity, spurring the legend of the Man in the Iron Mask. Other writers such as Voltaire claimed that the masked man was in fact Anne’s illegitimate son with another man.
32. His Son’s Childhood Echoed His Own
Louis XIII succumbed to his illness on May 14, 1643. Once again, a young boy was King of France. His son Louis XIV was only five years old and never got the chance to know his own father. With a child king, Anne of Austria finally got the chance to take the reins as regent.
She deserved it too, after everything she put up with—though I doubt she’d want to trade places with Egypt’s Queen Nazli, whose husband King Fuad took “horrible husband” to the next level.
33. A Sultan Fell In Love With Her
Egypt’s Nazli Sabri enjoyed going to the opera. She was enjoying a performance in Cairo one night when destiny decided to intervene in the shape of Sultan Fuad, who would later upgrade his title from Sultan to King of Egypt. He was at the same performance, but more engrossed in watching Nazli than the show. The rest, as they say, is history—extremely dark history.
34. She Had A Short Engagement
Nazli Sabri was standing on the precipice of her destiny, and things moved incredibly from there. Fuad wanted a new wife ASAP, so their royal wedding took place less than two weeks after he’d proposed. I guess it’s hard not to let the king have his way, and I’m sure Nazli and her family didn’t want another abrupt end to this engagement. But that doesn’t mean it was a good idea.
35. Her Husband Had A Dark Secret
If Nazli had taken a step back and performed a background check on her new husband, she probably would have been shocked. See, Fuad’s first marriage to Princess Shivakiar had ended…very badly. By the last gasps of the union, the unhappy royals couldn’t even stand each other, and the reasons for this went way beyond irreconcilable differences.
36. Her Husband Was Controlling
One of the biggest factors in Fuad’s miserable first marriage was the fact he was staunchly loyal to his Jewish mistress, not his wife. Indeed, this mistress had actually planned the whole first marriage to the wealthy Shivakiar so Fuad could overcome his debts. Besides that, Fuad also wanted to keep his queen literally under lock and key because of his old-fashioned beliefs. Fortunately for Shivakiar, she escaped him just in time. Our poor Nazli wasn’t so lucky.
37. Her Husband Confined Her
Although this Jewish mistress had passed before Nazli came into the picture, that simply didn’t fix Fuad’s many and varied flaws. Nazli soon discovered that her fairy-tale marriage was one of convenience, not love, and that Fuad intended to do to her exactly what he had done to his first wife. He pushed her to stay inside at all times…but that wasn’t all.
38. She Was Expected To Do One Thing
Not only did Fuad want to keep his wife away from the public eye, he also had other plans in mind for her. In short, all Fuad wanted was a baby-making machine to give him an heir to the throne. After all, Nazli was pretty, came from a good family, and was young and fertile, what else was she supposed to do with her time? So Fuad found a very bizarre way of encouraging her to do her duty.
39. She Was In A Lavish Prison
In order to make sure his young wife stayed in line, Fuad enacted a horrific form of control. He moved Nazli to his harem in Abbassia Palace with the rest of his woman, and warned her that she wouldn’t get to leave until she’d proven her worth and given him a son to become the Crown Prince of Egypt. Nice, stand-up guy, that one.
40. She Was A Trophy Wife
The only difference in Nazli’s life after birthing her son was that Fuad allowed her to move into his own palace. Other than that, the hellscape continued. Fuad still confined Nazli indoors and only allowed her to attend certain operas or flower shows that he deemed appropriate. She was the definition of a trophy wife, with no freedom for herself. And if you think this is the worst of it, you have another thing coming.
41. She Had To Submit
In keeping with his cruel behavior, Fuad answered many of Queen Nazli’s objections with his fists and not his words. Yep, the Sultan of Egypt decided that the best way to make his wife listen to him was to subdue her by using physical force. Honestly, she would have been much better off if she’d stayed an old maid. But do you think she gave up? Heck no.
42. She Took An Extreme Step
In a heartbreaking turn of events, Nazli decided it wasn’t worth arguing with Fuad and she just wanted “out” of the situation. She purposely overdosed on aspirin, thinking this was the only way she could escape the restrictions that surrounded her. Fortunately, her maid discovered her in time, and the doctors managed to save her. Not that Nazli likely thanked them…
43. She Finally Won Her Freedom
Just as Nazli had all but given up on the idea of living on her own terms, life handed her a twist of fate. Fuad passed suddenly and silently, finally freeing our smart, sassy queen from his iron grip. Now, Nazli was a Dowager Queen with some amount of influence over her son, the new King Farouk.
Unfortunately, Nazli never wielded enough power to truly push back against Fuad—but our next unfortunate wife was Isabella, the She-Wolf of France. She didn’t just push back—she utterly ruined her terrible husband, Edward II.
44. He Had A BFF
Around 1300, when Edward II was still an impressionable 16-year-old, his father introduced him to a new companion, the brawny nobleman Piers Gaveston. Little did the King know, this kick-started a permanent twist of fate. Edward soon became bosom buddies with Gaveston, with some even suggesting they became literal blood brothers. But that was far from all.
45. He Had A Scandalous Bromance
Although it’s impossible to verify for sure, there is some very convincing evidence that at some point during their bromance, Edward and Gaveston became actual lovers. One contemporary source revealed that Edward “felt such love” for Gaveston that he “entered into a covenant of constancy” with him. Either way, though, dark clouds were on their horizon.
46. He Had A Child Bride
Even when Edward was gallivanting around with Piers, he wasn’t a free man. Ever since he was an infant, his parents had betrothed him to the even younger Princess Isabella of France. Honestly, ew. And it gets worse than that. The betrothal was strictly a business deal, and Edward’s parents just wanted to make an advantageous political alliance. Ooh, I don’t like where this is going.
47. His Wedding Was A Disaster
On January 25, 1308, King Edward and Isabella finally married in northern France. It quickly turned into an utter disaster. In a disturbing portent for their entire marriage, Edward decided not to sit next to his child bride at the ceremony, but cozied up to his old boy toy Gaveston instead.
The snub insulted Isabella’s entire family in one fell swoop. Iconique. Oh, and there’s a kicker.
48. His Lover Stole From His Wife
According to a prevalent rumor at the time, Piers Gaveston wasn’t content with taking Isabella’s man on her big day; he also took her belongings. The new child queen received lavish gifts as wedding presents, and some whispered that Gaveston purloined them right out of her little hands. Like taking candy from a baby, but make it literal.
49. His Marriage Fell Apart Spectacularly
By 1324, Isabella of France was a full-grown She-Wolf—and her relationship with Edward had deteriorated beyond repair. If she wasn’t sure about that, Edward sure let her know it. Partly using rising tensions with France as an excuse, he confiscated all of Isabella’s lands, took over her household, and threw her French staff behind bars. As a rotten cherry on top, he then ripped the Queen’s children from her breast and dumped them with his favorite’s family to get a “better” childhood.
Ouch. Is it any wonder Isabella got her husband back so brutally?
50. He Forced His Wife Out Of England
King Edward obviously didn’t think ahead too well, because not a year later, he needed Queen Isabella to do him a big solid. In 1325, with a war now fully broken out between England and France, he sent his wife back to her native land to butter up her brother, King Charles IV of France, and try to bring the conflict to an end.
Isabella smiled, nodded her head, and went obediently to do Edward’s bidding…or so he thought.
51. His Queen Slept With The Enemy
By February 1326, King Edward’s long-suffering wife was thoroughly done with him, and her final nail in the coffin shot right through his heart. While over in France, Isabella started up an affair with the handsome English courtier Roger Mortimer, who just so happened to be one of Edward’s exiled foes. Yep, Isabella was sleeping with the enemy…and big trouble was brewing.
52. He Had A Brutal Downfall
In late September of 1326, Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer landed on English soil and proceeded to pummel the heck out of King Edward II. By early November, Edward and his favorite (and likely lover) Hugh Despenser were on the run, and by the middle of the month, the vengeful queen’s forces had captured and imprisoned them. Then things got truly dark.
53. His Lover Was Sentenced To Execution
Now that Edward and Isabella were never, ever, ever getting back together, his consort wasted no time showing him who was boss. She started by hitting him where it hurt most: her old rival, Hugh Despenser. With extreme prejudice, Isabella sentenced the man to execution on November 24, 1326…and the details live on in infamy.
54. His Favorite Met A Gruesome End
When she sentenced Hugh, Isabella decided he should be disemboweled, castrated, and then quartered. And that wasn’t even the worst part. The massive crowd that turned up to Hugh’s execution also watched as people wrote Biblical verses about corruption and arrogance all over his bare skin. Then, when all was said and done, they hung his limp body.
Sure, Edward II was a miserable husband—but dang if you can’t say Isabella made him pay for it. The only thing more messed up than what she did to Despenser…was what King Herod did to his wife.
55. She Didn’t Like Her Betrothed
By all rights, a Judean princess like Mariamne should have married a prince or, like Cleopatra, snagged herself a lovesick Roman emperor. Instead, her own mother sold her on the cheap to the lowborn governor of Galilee. History would come to know that man as Herod the Great. But, as far as Mariamne was concerned, there was nothing great about the guy. Spoiler: Mariamne was right.
56. She Disagreed With Her Husband
Herod didn’t come from a royal Judean family like Mariamne did and she looked down on him for it. And that was far from their only reason to attend couples counselling. You see, Herod had been born into a pagan family instead of a devout Jewish family with royal blood like Mariamne’s. Sure, she would say to herself, her new hubby had converted to Judaism but he didn’t seem too keen to give up his pagan ways. Oh, but I’ve saved the worst part for last.
57. There Was A Dicey Detail
Mariamne had been double-take gorgeous from the time that she could walk. But that was no excuse for her early betrothal. The Hasmonean princess was just 12 years old—give or take three years—when her mother and grandfather conspired to arrange her marriage. Herod, on the other hand, was 33. Not exactly a match made in heaven—yet Mariamne couldn’t have imagined what he’d do to her.
58. She Stood Accused
We might never know if Herod really had a fanatical love for Mariamne or if he just kept her in the vice grip of his Machiavellian schemes. Either way, after years of squabbles and backstabbing, Herod had his wife placed on trial for sedition. If she was hoping for a sympathetic jury…she was mistaken.
59. Her Mother Sealed Her Fate
Mariamne’s trial was destined to be a sham but things got interesting when an unexpected witness took the stand. Her mother, Alexandra, decided to continue on in the old family tradition of coups, betrayals and generational vendettas. Mariamne’s own mother, matriarch of the fading dynasty, accused her daughter of plotting to poison Herod. Her fate was sealed.
60. Her Husband Executed Her
Mariamne probably never loved Herod—he had just been a sometimes-useful pagan. But she probably couldn’t have imagined that Herod—who professed to love her so much that he had to have her even in the afterlife—could ever harm her himself. But after her guilty verdict, Herod had no choice. He had Mariamne, the great beauty of antiquity, executed.
61. She Was Sweet As Honey
In case Mariamne ever doubted her husband’s devotion to her, if she had seen what he did after her execution, she would have no doubts at all. Overcome with grief, Herod had Mariamne’s body preserved…in honey. For seven years after her execution. Believe it or not, that’s not even the strangest part of Mariamne’s post-execution story.
62. She Was Treated Like An Animal
If you’ve ever heard the term “deed of Herod” then you know what comes next. Otherwise, brace yourself. As if Mariamne hadn’t suffered enough indignities at the hands of her husband in life, his cruel and misguided treatment of her continued into the hereafter. There are reports that Herod kept Mariamne’s honey-glazed body for the express purpose of fulfilling “animalistic desires.”
63. Her Ex Got What Was Coming
At least karma came for Herod in the end. He suffered from paranoid delusions, rage, and arteriosclerosis, but his death in 4 BCE came at the hands of a mysterious and agonizing illness which modern doctors are still not able to identify. At one point, the pain was so excruciating, the king attempted suicide. The illness came to be known, among the Judean people, as “Herod’s Evil.” Karma: It’s real, people.
I think we can all agree that Herod’s brand of bad husband was a little on the “psychopath” side. Couldn’t he just have been unbelievably petty, like King George IV?
64. He Was Forced Into Marriage
As a youth, King George IV of England was a total hot mess. Drinking, gambling, women, you name it; if it was a vice, George IV was knee deep in it. George’s father was going out of his wits to keep his son in line, and he came up with a disturbing solution. Before he would forgive any of Prince George’s debts, the king insisted that he marry his cousin, Princess Caroline of Brunswick. If that sounds like a risky and horrible plan—it really, really was.
65. He Was Incredibly Cruel
Prince George and Caroline of Brunswick had never laid eyes on each other before they agreed to wed. This ended horrifically. Reportedly, when Prince George finally came face-to-face with his bride-to-be, he had an incredibly snide response. The future monarch simply asked for a bigger glass of brandy to soothe his disappointment. Ouch—but that wasn’t even the worst part.
66. He Forced His Wife Into a Twisted “Threesome”
When Caroline first arrived in England, George did the “honorable” thing and appointed her a lady-in-waiting, Frances Villiers. Just kidding, this was actually a cruel power move: Villiers was one of George’s favorite mistresses, and by making her Caroline’s “Lady of the Bedchamber,” he sent his new wife a loud and clear message about his priorities.
67. He Was Drunk at His Own Wedding
The royal nuptials happened on April 9, 1795, but the fairy-tale wedding quickly turned into a total nightmare. Prince George started on his brandy so early that he was three sheets to the wind by the time the ceremony rolled around. He also loudly proclaimed to friends that Caroline was gross and unhygienic. And they still had the wedding night to go…
68. His Wedding Night Was a Disaster
When Prince George took Caroline to the bedchamber that night, he made a “horrific” discovery. After surveying the goods, he strongly suspected the blushing bride wasn’t a virgin. Though this gives credence to those nasty pregnancy rumors surrounding Caroline, it’s not like George spent his youth handing out purity rings, either.
69. He Did His “Duty” in the Worst Way Possible
George and Caroline’s bedroom chemistry was as dismal as the rest of their relations. The prince later claimed they only consummated their union a paltry three times: two times on the wedding night, once the next evening, and after that, never again. Despite his womanizing ways, George later wrote, “it required no small [effort] to conquer my aversion and overcome the disgust of her person.”
But, there might have been a simpler reason for his distaste—he already had someone else!
70. He Was a Bigamist
Before Princess Caroline became his Royal Debt Forgiveness Plan, George IV was already madly in love with Maria Fitzherbert, a—double gasp—widowed, Catholic commoner who was six years his senior. George was so smitten, he swore he would marry none but her. Aw, it might be romantic if it didn’t become so twisted.
71. He Had a Star-Crossed Love
George secretly married Maria on December 15, 1785 in a quiet ceremony at the bride’s humble adobe. If that sounds a little sketchy, it’s because it was. Decades before, parliament had passed a series of acts that made it impossible for a royal heir to marry a Catholic and required him to get the king’s permission to wed anyone at all. In other words: George and Maria were screwed. But that didn’t stop them…
72. He Was Loyal to His First “Wife”
George IV kept his sham marriage a secret for years, knowing that if the truth got out it would ruin him with both parliament and his father, and maybe even lose him the throne. Nonetheless, both he and Maria considered the union legitimate, and she remained a central figure in his life for the rest of his days. If that sounds like a miserable life for Caroline—just wait for the worst thing George ever did to her.
73. He Tried to Insult His Wife From Beyond the Grave
Once George’s daughter Princess Charlotte was born, he immediately changed his last will and testament—and left his royal wife a disturbing “gift.” Three days after Charlotte came into the world, George updated his will to give all his possessions to “Maria Fitzherbert, my wife,” while leaving Caroline…a single shilling. Now that’s a push present.
Now that’s petty. But wait…George IV, Puyi, James—there’s one very obvious name missing here…
74. He Married His Brother’s Widow
You didn’t think we forgot the worst husband in history, did you? On April 21, 1509, the 17-year-old Prince Henry of England became King Henry VIII. Awkwardly, one of his first acts was to marry his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon. It’s fitting that the first thing he did as king was get married—because the twisted history of Henry VIII’s many wives would be the thing he’d eventually become the most infamous for.
75. His Woes Were Only Beginning
Henry and Catherine’s first son, Henry, passed seven weeks after his birth. Next came two more stillbirths. A dark cloud started growing over the royal household, and Henry and Catherine’s relationship grew more and more strained. Not even the birth of a healthy child, Mary, in 1516 could save them now. Henry blamed Catherine for his lack of an heir—and it would drive him to dark places.
76. He Slept Around
It didn’t take long for Henry to start taking mistresses. He bedded all kinds of wealthy and important women, but his most infamous mistress was a complete nobody. Bessie Blount was the daughter of a small-time politician, but she caught the king’s eye and the rest was history. Sure, Blount wasn’t particularly rich or powerful, but she gave Henry something that none of his other mistresses—or his wife, for that matter—could.
77. He Had A Son—But Not With His Wife
In 1519, Bessie Blount gave birth to Henry’s son. She named him after his father, and young Henry FitzRoy became a scandal at the English Court. Most times, if a king gave birth to an illegitimate child, they would never admit it. But not Henry. In a move that shocked the country, Henry proudly acknowledged the boy as his own. People were baffled—but Henry had his reasons…
78. He Was Insecure About His Manhood
Before Henry FitzRoy came around, people were starting to talk about the king. He’d been married for a decade and still had no male heir. In medieval thinking, maybe that meant there was something wrong with Henry’s manhood. In his mind, this illegitimate son was proof that he was a real man, and that his lack of an heir was entirely his wife’s fault.
But even if the boy made Henry feel better, little Henry FitzRoy did nothing to solve Henry’s marital problems—and the king was starting to get desperate.
79. He Wanted An Heir—And Bad
At this point, the English court was completely absorbed with what became known as “The King’s Great Matter:” Henry’s lack of a son. The way he saw it, he had three options: Somehow legitimize Henry FitzRoy, marry his daughter Mary off ASAP and pray for a grandson, or blame it all on Catherine, ditch her, and find someone new.
The third option was probably the most complicated and definitely the cruelest—but it involved Henry getting a hot, young, new wife. Which do you think he chose?
80. He Liked Sisters
So how did Henry pick his future wife? Easy. He was already sleeping with the beautiful Mary Boleyn—most people assumed that Henry was the real father to Mary’s two young children—so Henry made the obvious choice: Mary’s younger sister, Anne! But, he would soon learn, Anne Boleyn was no easy target…
81. He Picked A Heck Of A Woman
By 1525, Henry was completely fed up with Catherine and falling head over heels for Anne Boleyn. However, he didn’t count on one thing: Anne wasn’t into it. At all. Anne was young, intelligent, charismatic, and entirely uninterested in becoming yet another of Henry’s floozies. She resisted for as long as she could—but this is Henry VIII we’re talking about. He almost always ended up getting what he wanted—and Anne was no exception.
82. He Was A Babe
Henry VIII was undoubtedly an absolutely brutal man, but keep in mind: He was actually pretty hot. Despite the rotund portraits from his later life, Henry was actually a complete stud in his youth. He was tall, athletic, and incredibly charismatic. Women tended to love him—until he turned on them, at least. So while Anne Boleyn resisted at first, soon enough she fell right into Henry’s arms.
She didn’t know it yet, but she’d made a terrible mistake.
83. He Decided To Abandon His Wife
Henry finally came up with a solution to “The King’s Great Matter.” He chose the cruelest, riskiest, and most complicated option: He was going to leave Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. It sounds like a pretty simple matter, but in the 16th century, it was anything but. Henry’s blind desire would end up tearing his country apart.
84. So He Made His Own Church
All because he thought marrying Anne Boleyn would give him a son, Henry VIII set off the English Reformation. This massive schism would set off a vicious religious conflict that continued for centuries, but Henry didn’t care. He got what he wanted, and that was that.
85. He Kicked His Wife Out
Henry and Catherine had been married for 24 years, but in the end, not one second of it mattered to Henry. Before their divorce was even official (if you can even call it that), he unceremoniously banished her from the court and gave her rooms to Anne Boleyn. The king rejoiced, convinced that his problems were finally over—but in reality, he had only taken the first step down an incredibly twisted path.
86. He Was Technically A Bigamist
Henry actually married Anne Boleyn and knocked her up before his split from Catherine of Aragon was official. He’d spent a quarter of a century waiting for a son, and he was done wasting time. Finally, several months after his wedding to Anne Boleyn, Henry had his marriage to Catherine declared null and void. Basically, Henry claimed that since Catherine had married his brother (for five months), their marriage was “unnatural.”
Was it a good reason? No. Did Henry care? Not one bit.
87. He Started Having Second Thoughts
Henry VIII found the gorgeous Anne Boleyn irresistible…when he couldn’t have her. Turns out, married life was a different story. Anne was stubborn, independent, and had a temper—a far cry from the demure, submissive trophy wife he wanted. And if things got off to a rocky start, they only got worse from there.
88. He Blamed His New Wife
The birth of Princess Elizabeth was a huge disappointment for Henry. Anne got pregnant again soon after—but if Elizabeth was disappointing, this next pregnancy was a disaster. Anne had a miscarriage in 1534, and Henry was not pleased. He’d left his wife of 24 years just so Anne could give him a son, and now she couldn’t even do that! Was it her fault? Of course not, but there was no telling Henry that.
Anne’s miscarriage cast a shadow over the entire English court—but dark rumors suggested things were even more messed-up than they seemed.
89. Anne Might Have Had A Secret
Anne Boleyn wasn’t exactly happy with her marriage, but she was smart enough to know that angering Henry wasn’t in her best interest. She was desperate to give him a son—and some people believe she was willing to do anything to make it happen. Many in England didn’t believe that Anne had had a miscarriage at all. Rather, they claimed she lied about the whole pregnancy.
Things were clearly not going well in Henry’s household—but this was just wife number two. He had a lot more bad husbanding to go from here…
90. He Kept Sleeping Around
How did Henry VIII cope with his miserable marriage to Anne Boleyn? The same way he’d coped with his miserable marriage to Catherine of Aragon: Mistresses. As his union with Anne started falling apart, he fell into the arms of a minor lady named Madge Shelton. However, some historians differ and claim it was Madge’s sister Mary. Maybe it was both—we know that Henry had a thing for sisters…
91. An Accident Made Everything Go Wrong
The tension in Henry VIII’s court came to a boiling point around the New Year in 1536. Anne Boleyn was pregnant yet again, totally aware that if the child was not a son, her days were numbered. Things were tense enough as it is, then one day, news of a terrible accident reached the palace. During a jousting tournament, a rival had knocked Henry off his horse, leaving him horribly injured.
That accident would change Henry forever. If he’d been cruel before, he was about to take things to a whole new level.
92. He Lost Another Son
When Anne heard about Henry’s accident, it shocked her so much that she suffered another miscarriage. And, to put salt in the wound, doctors revealed that the child had been a boy who potentially could have ended the Queen’s woes. In a strange twist of fate, the miscarriage happened on the exact same day that Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s forgotten first wife, passed of a mysterious illness.
Not only did Anne mourn the loss of her child, she knew that she probably wouldn’t get another chance. Still, no one expected Henry’s response to be as disturbing as it was.
93. He Let His New Mistress Move In
Even though his wife recovered from her miscarriage, Henry was clearly done with her. First, he began refusing to grant political offices to her family. Then, in an unprecedented move, he moved his latest mistress, the 28-year-old Jane Seymour, into swanky new rooms in his palace. It was basically a slap in the face for Anne—but if that had been the end of it, she should have considered herself lucky.
94. He Accused His Wife
Henry finally did what his wife so feared in the spring of 1536. He had Anne, her brother, and four other men thrown in the Tower of London. The courts accused each of the men (including her own brother) of sleeping with the queen, an act of treason. Henry accused Anne of adultery as well, along with incest and witchcraft for good measure.
95. He Beheaded His Own Queen
There was essentially no evidence for any of these accusations, but since when had Henry ever needed evidence? The headsman claimed the five men on May 17, 1536, and Anne followed suit two days later. A crowd gathered to watch this never-before-seen spectacle: The Queen of England herself, beheaded like an animal.
Henry barely waited until her head had stopped rolling before he was already onto the next one.
96. He Moved On Quick
In a move that surprised no one, the 45-year-old Henry VIII became engaged to the almost 20-years-younger Jane Seymour the day after Anne Boleyn’s execution. Their marriage took place 10 days later. For any other king, this would have been a scandal beyond measure—but for Henry, this was pretty much just business as usual.
So, after two catastrophic marriages, this would finally be the one that would work out, right? What do you think…
97. He Finally Had A Son
Henry VIII’s marriage to Jane Seymour got off to the best possible start. On October 12, 1537, Seymour gave birth to a…wait for it…boy! The entire nation breathed a sigh of relief as Prince Edward finally meant an end to the chaos that had lasted nearly a decade at this point. But it took less than two weeks for tragedy to strike, throwing Henry’s court into upheaval once again.
98. But He Paid A Terrible Price
Jane Seymour had access to the best doctors in England—but unfortunately, the best doctors in 1537 weren’t worth that much. Edward’s birth was agonizing, and the queen suffered a terrible infection. The doctors proved helpless, and Henry had to watch as his beloved wife—the first to give him a healthy son—withered away.
Jane Seymour succumbed to her infection on October 24. Unfortunately, that meant yet another poor woman would end up calling Henry VIII her husband.
99. Not That He Cared
Jane Seymour passed from this life with her head still intact, but don’t go thinking that Henry actually cared for her. During her agonizing labor, doctors told the king that it may come down to saving either the child or the queen. Henry’s reply was utterly heartless: “If you cannot save both, at least let the child live,” he said. Twisting the knife in, he then added, “For other wives are easily found.”
Henry got what he wanted, and the child lived instead of the mother—but karma would come for him soon enough.
100. His Advisor Made A Horrible Mistake
Henry’s devious advisor Thomas Cromwell suggested he marry the 25-year-old German Duchess Anne of Cleves. It seemed like a perfect match, and Anne’s father could prove a vital ally if a religious war happened to break out. There was only problem: Political marriages were all well and good, but Henry wasn’t about to marry someone he’d never even seen! What if she was ugly?! But don’t worry, Cromwell had the perfect solution…
101. He Agreed To A Marriage Without Meeting Her
If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a portrait’s gotta be worth, I don’t know, at least 300? Henry sent one of the best portrait artists in the world to paint Anne so he could judge her for himself. When the painting finally made it back to him—along with Thomas Cromwell’s assurances that Anne was basically his dream gal—Henry was finally convinced.
Little did he know, he was in for a rude awakening.
102. He Regretted The Decision Instantly
Reportedly, when they finally met, Henry VIII took one look at Anne of Cleves and realized he’d made a horrible mistake. Whether it was her looks or her personality, Henry was already looking for an exit before they’d even tied the knot. They lasted a whopping six months, and if we’re to believe Henry’s word, they didn’t even consummate the union—but it gets even more awkward.
103. He Made His Wife His Sister
In one of the most awkward titles in history, after Henry annulled his marriage to Anne of Cleves, he dubbed her “The King’s Sister.” As far as consolation prizes go, that’s about as bad as they get. But don’t worry—in the end, Anne would end up getting the last laugh. She was one of the rare wives who actually managed to outlive Henry VIII.
104. His Next Wife Was The Youngest Yet
Whatever it was, Anne of Cleves just didn’t do it for the now-46-year-old Henry. But you know who did? The 17-year-old Catherine Howard. Apparently, Henry realized that political marriages weren’t for him and went back to marrying whoever he had the hots for. But not before getting his revenge against the man who’d suggested he marry Anne of Cleves…
105. He Got Two Birds With One Stone
Henry had Cromwell beheaded—and to twist the knife, he didn’t even bother to show up at his friend’s execution. He was busy getting married for the fifth time! He tied the knot with Catherine Howard the very same day. Not only was she less than half his age, she was also Anne Boleyn’s cousin and former lady in waiting. Awkward… The timing of the nuptials even allowed Henry to give his wife a particularly nice wedding gift: He gave his new queen all of Thomas Cromwell’s lands! Not like he using them anymore.
106. His Latest Wife Turned The Tables
Catherine Howard ended up meeting a similarly dark fate to Henry VIII’s other wives, but at least she gave him a taste of his own medicine. See, while Catherine hadn’t yet turned 20, she still managed to get around. She had several notorious affairs even before she married Henry, and putting a ring on it didn’t slow her down one bit.
But, as she would learn, crossing Henry VIII rarely ended well.
107. He Didn’t Believe His Wife Would Cheat
Almost as soon as she wed Henry, Catherine Howard began an affair with one of his courtiers, a man by the name of Thomas Culpeper. Since there are no secrets in a royal palace, news of the tryst soon got back to the king. This time though, it seems as though Henry was head-over-heels in a way he hadn’t been in years. He refused to believe the rumors and stood by his queen.
Soon enough though, a man from Catherine’s past would seal her fate for good.
108. He Couldn’t Deny The Truth
Before she was a queen, Catherine Howard had had an affair with another Tudor courtier, Francis Dereham. They’d actually been engaged at one point before Catherine caught the king’s eye. Strangely, Howard hired Dereham to work for her when she married Henry—and it turned out to be the last mistake she’d ever make.
Dereham confessed to having an affair with Catherine in the past—but even worse, he outed her relationship with Culpeper. Finally, Henry had to admit the truth: After years of cheating on his wives, this time, he was the one wearing the horns.
109. His Wife Tried To Save Herself
Give her credit, Catherine Howard didn’t go down without a fight. When officials questioned her about Dereham’s claims, she came back at him twice as hard. She claimed she never cared for him, and in fact that he’d forced her into an adulterous relationship against her will. We’ll never know the whole truth of what went on between them. All we know is what happened next.
Henry charged Catherine, Dereham, and Culpeper with treason, and sentenced them to beheading.
110. She Begged For Mercy
Allegedly, Catherine Howard did not take the news that she was going to lose her head well. The now-19-year-old queen allegedly broke free from her guards and ran through the halls, screaming for Henry to show her mercy. She never made it to him, however—in fact, she would never see the king again. According to legend, her ghost remains in those same halls to this day, and people have often claimed to have heard her screams for mercy in the infamous Haunted Gallery.
111. He Beheaded Yet Another Queen
No amount of screaming could save Catherine or her two lovers from their fate. On February 13, 1542, Henry had all three of them beheaded. That makes five wives down, two of them by Henry’s own hand. You’d think he’d finally call it quits at this point. After all, he had an heir, he was growing old, fat, and infirm, and fate didn’t seem to be on his side.
But when it came to women, Henry VIII couldn’t help himself. He just had to have one last go at it—and finally, this time, Henry would be the one who didn’t make it out of the marriage alive.
112. His Last Marriage Was The Least Dramatic
In July 1543, Heny VIII wed for the last time. His latest bride was Catherine Parr, and she couldn’t have been more different from Henry’s previous wives. First of all, she was almost age-appropriate, at 31 years old. She was also remarkably stable, compared to his previous wives. There were no wild cheating scandals or swirling rumors.
In fact, Catherine Parr managed to do something none of Henry’s other wives ever did: She made a somewhat decent man out of him.
113. He Made Up With His Kids
Years earlier, as a way of sticking it to his various hated wives, Henry had cut his two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, out of the line of succession. They spent the subsequent years in a tense limbo, unsure if their father would turn on them. Parr made Henry bury the hatchet with his two daughters, and he finally brought them back into the line of succession.
So basically, without Catherine Parr, England would have missed out on Queen Elizabeth, one of its greatest monarchs ever.
114. He Became Grotesque In His Old Age
While the young Henry VIII had been quite the piece of meat, the old Henry VIII was a different story entirely. By this point, his waist had ballooned to 54 inches, and he could barely even walk. He needed attendants to wheel him around wherever he went. The weight was just the beginning of his problems, though: The worst part was the gout, which left him covered in excruciating, pus-filled boils.
Finally, Henry VIII looked as bad on the outside as he was on the inside.
115. His End Wasn’t Pretty
Anyone who knew Henry VIII near the end could tell that the grim reaper wouldn’t be long. He passed of an illness related to his obesity at age 55. With that, Catherine Parr and Anne of Cleves could at least claim they were the only wives to outlive the murderous king. In a surprising request, Henry asked his attendants to bury him right next to Jane Seymour, the only wife he didn’t abandon.
Goes to show, after all of his wives, there was only one thing Henry actually cared about: He wanted to lay next to the one wife who gave him a son.
116. There Might Be More To Anne Of Cleves’ Story
Anne of Cleves is now infamous as Henry’s rejected queen, but was it really so simple as “Henry found her ugly and cast her aside?” Modern historians suggest a more disturbing reason for his disgust. Anne’s first meeting with Henry was a diplomatic blunder: Making their way to London, Anne’s party stopped on New Year’s Day 1540 at Rochester, where she took time to look at bull-baiting from the window. Suddenly, an old burly stranger entered the room—and everything went horribly wrong.
117. He Disguised Himself
You see, this stranger was really Henry VIII in disguise. He had wanted to creep in and get a sneak peek of his new bride-to-be. He also expected that she would see through his costume via the power of “true love”…or something. Spoiler: This was not a good idea. When he approached Anne, her response made his blood run cold.
118. She Shut Him Down
Depending on the account, either Henry tried to get Anne’s attention and she politely ignored him, or he outright tried to kiss and grope her, which understandably horrified the young woman. Either way, it was a disaster, and Henry left the encounter angry, embarrassed, and possibly ready to take revenge…
119. He Never Forgave Her
Some modern historians believe that this ill-fated early encounter between Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII sealed her fate. According to them, Anne’s lack of enthusiasm for Henry (even in disguise) made the king put up his defenses. If he didn’t impress her, he may have decided she didn’t impress him either, no matter what. And the rest, as they say, is history.