Every kid has dreamed of being king or queen of the world. Who wouldn’t want unlimited power to abolish bedtime and mandate candy for dinner?
In real life, of course, being a ruler isn’t all that simple. History is full of stories of underaged kings, queens, emperors, and tsars who found out that leading a nation is tough at best and traumatizing and scandal-ridden at worst.
Here are the wild, fascinating tales of 15 child rulers from all across the world.
Mary, Queen of Scots, became queen when she was just six days old.
Obviously, a six-day-old baby wasn’t running things: Mary’s mother took the reins while her daughter grew up in France.
But when 18-year-old Mary eventually did rule Scotland on her own, things got dicey: She married the man suspected of murdering her husband and was deposed. She fled to England, where she hoped she’d be protected by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. But Elizabeth kept Mary in captivity for the next 18 years.
Mary was eventually implicated in a plot to assassinate Elizabeth, and she was executed in 1587, at age 44.
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica, BBC
Russian tsar Ivan the Terrible got his nickname for a reason.
Immediately upon his father’s death in 1533, 3-year-old Ivan was named the grand prince of Moscow and rightful heir to the throne. A few years later, Ivan’s mother also died, leaving the young boy orphaned and leaving Moscow under the control of a group of aristocrats known as the boyars.
The boyars abused young Ivan, who grew up hungry, angry, isolated. Finally, at age 16, Ivan called the boyars into a meeting and threw one of them into a pack of hunting dogs. It was an effective display of authority: The boyars relinquished their powers and Ivan became tsar.
During his 37-year reign, Ivan did plenty to earn his “terrible” moniker, including creating a special police force that publicly executed disloyal citizens. (Its officers rode around on black horses with dog’s heads hanging from their saddles.) He also attacked his pregnant daughter-in-law and murdered his own son by bashing his head in with a scepter.
Ivan himself died suddenly of a heart attack in 1584.
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica, Marquette University
Pope Benedict IX, history’s youngest pope, was described as a “demon from hell.”
Benedict IX became pope in 1032, when he was likely just 12 years old. Back then, popes weren’t just leaders of the Catholic church — they were rulers of land known as the Papal States.
Not much is known about his policies, but it’s clear that Benedict wasn’t well liked. (Historian Ferdinand Gregorovius called him “a demon from hell.”) Soon, political enemies tried to murder him, so he fled St. Peter’s Basilica and spent time in Rome, where he “stole, murdered and committed other, unspeakable deeds,” according to one account.
Benedict became pope two more times before he was driven out of the Vatican.
Source: INSIDER, Encyclopedia Britannica
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