We all heard about badass and famous rulers such as Alexander the Great, Charles the Great, King Leonidas, etc. Hollywood make epic bestsellers about them; writers talk about their deeds; and scientists try to analyze their personalities and understand the core of their success.
But not so many people know about the most miserable rulers, whose weakness could deserve an epic black comedy with outstanding global fails, and ridiculous mistakes sometimes can become just one stupid mistake that can ruin everything.
Top 5 Most Miserable Rulers in History
Alexander the Great once said: "I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion."
By “an army of lions led by a sheep” Alexander apparently meant Darius III, the last Persian king who was a coward and an unwise ruler and who lost all of his Empire to Alexander during Greek’s Asian invasion.
Darius lost in two battles. At the first battle of Issus in 333 BCE, Darius had a bigger army, help of his satraps, and service of Greeks mercenaries who were familiar with Macedonian army. But, despite all of that advantages, he still lost to Macedonians, fled, and left his wife, sisters and mother at the mercy of Macedonian soldiers.
Then, at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BCE, Darius, with a good number of troops and the help of several of his satraps, coupled with the geographical advantages, tried to take revenge and outflank the Macedonian army. But his attempt shamefully failed as he was the first one to flee when he saw fearless Alexander fighting in the front line of the battle among Macedonian troops.
Darius tried to get the third army, but after his ridiculous failure his own people betrayed and killed him; they left the Persian king’s dead body to be found by one of the Greek’s soldiers. Alexander was very confused by that as he wanted to get Darius with his bare hands. Later Alexander ordered that Darius be given a magnificent royal funeral; hereafter, Alexander’s rulership of Persia became official.
Nicholas II was the last Russian emperor and it seems that he became a ruler by a matter of bad luck. He was a very sensitive person and was very good at history and languages, but, ironically, he struggled with the economy, politics, and the affairs of state. Nicholas II was afraid of assuming his role of a monarch and during his coronation, he secretly confessed to a close friend: "I am not prepared to be a tsar. I never wanted to become one. I know nothing of the business of ruling."
During his time as the ruler of Russia, the empire was on the edge of collapse: economic crisis, social stratification, and a tyranny of Russian orthodoxies church swallowed all of Russia. The situation escalated very fast, and the country needed a strong ruler, whom Nicholas II apparently wasn’t. To make matters worse, The Russian public didn’t like their monarch, as he lost in the war with Japan, and incurred major losses in WWI due to his bad military decisions. This atmosphere was perfect for different political opposition groups, such as Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin, the most famous and influential separatist, whose entire family was involved in revolutionary activities.
Nicholas should have executed his worst enemy, but, instead, he sent Lenin in exile to Europe because Nicholas thought that killing a person who attempts to take over the power in a country would be too much. In Europe, Lenin gained more power, and soon enough he returned to Russia, took power in his own hands and ordered the execution of the Emperor and his entire family. Nicholas ordered to save Lenin’s life, but that eventually helped Lenin to destroy the last monarchy family and create the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was the last French king in the line of Bourbon monarchs preceding the French revolution of 1789. Physically strong and healthy but very indecisive and shy, Louis XVI, who had been suffering from depression during his last years of ruling, was doomed to bring the French Revolution and was executed afterward.
Louis XVI was orphaned very early and was raised by his tutors who taught him that austerity is a strong character of a monarch, making him more shy and inconvenient. He became a monarch at the age of twenty, and in the beginning he wanted to be a good king and help his subjects. His audience welcomed him and his reforms, but, due to his lack of confidence, Louis XVI could not resist the influence of court factions and stick to his own reforms to improve France’s government. In the early years of his ruling, his foreign policy led the country to near bankruptcy in the mid-1780s.
Unstoppable parties, gambling, expensive jewelries and clothes --- the extravagant and wild lifestyle of Louis’ spouse Marie Antoinette during the financial turmoil and poor harvests ignited the hate of the French audience. Louis XVI could not resist his vivacious and outgoing consort due to his shyness and lack of self-confidence. Despite her infamous behavior, she started building extravagant retreat like the Hameau de la Reine, which made her even guiltier in the eyes of the people. Marie Antoinette became a perfect symbol of the evils of the monarchy in the face of the French revolution. On September 21, 1792, the Legislative Assembly proclaimed the First French Republic. Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette were found guilty and executed in the Palace de la Revolution.
Stefan Uroš V of Serbia
Stefan Uroš V of Serbia was king of Serbian Empire, but unlike his father Stefan Uroš IV Dušan, Stefan was very soft and could not resist the impact of his mother and Serbian nobility. The huge Serbian Empire was soon enough amputated by his uncle and his mother. Later on, Stefan Uroš V himself gave up his throne and then he became a ruler of a small territory between the Šar Mountain and the Danube.
Stefan Uroš V died childless and was called “the weak” because of his bad ruling and exceptional modesty. The Serbian Empire was divided on several small realms and then conquered by the Turks.
Nero was a Roman tyrant who killed his own mother and two wives, burned Rome, and pointed a finger at Christians. Even though he is considered as a tyrant, he is known more as an evil clown than a lavish despot.
At the beginning of his reign, Nero was a generous and reasonable emperor who carried out reforms to benefit his people. But after murdering his mother Agrippina, who was trying to control his public and private affairs, Nero’s behavior went out of control: he started spending a huge amount of money on his public performances as a poet and musician, which was a huge shame for a Roman emperor. One time, Nero went on a trip to Greece, which was under the rule of Romans at the time, to participate in several Greek festivals where he won about 1,808 first prizes for his artistic presentations. He was very satisfied with his journey and, therefore, freed Greeks from paying taxes afterward.
On the night of July 18, 64 AD, a huge fire started in Rome which burned out of control very fast and almost destroyed the entire city. But when the fire stopped, Nero put finger on Christians as a population minority and ordered to brutally execute them for starting the fire. It’s also believed that Nero burned Rome to make room for his villa, and ancient writers also claim that he “fiddled while Rome burned”. This information is far from certain, but it’s documented that after the fire died down, he started building a new palace Domus Aurea with a huge statue of him.
That led the empire to bankruptcy which increased gossips among people. Soon enough everyone, even Nero’s bodyguards, turned against him, so the emperor decided to flee, but his attempt failed, and he committed suicide with words: “What an artist dies in me!”