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11 Monarchs Who Went Insane

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With election season in full swing, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and be glad that neither candidate makes out with corpses or thinks they have bones made of glass. Whether they were born with mental illness or slowly descended into lunacy as a result of leading tragic lives, these 11 rulers definitely make both of our candidates look better.

1. Queen Maria I of Portugal. Queen Maria exhibited some eyebrow-raising behavior prior to her husband/uncle’s death in 1786, but it was that sad event that really set her on the road to madness. When her eldest son and only daughter followed soon after, Maria’s already fragile mental state took a nose dive. The religious fanatic became convinced she was going to hell and reported visions of her deceased father’s blackened corpse being tortured by demons. Visitors to her apartments would complain that they were tired of her constant screaming and wailing. According to some reports, she also became rather fond of wearing children’s clothing.


2. Charles VI of France. Charles had many manic episodes, including one in 1392 where he slaughtered four of his own men after being startled when a page dropped a lance. After the massacre, Charles fell into a comatose state for two days and had to be carried home on a cart. But the most interesting delusion King Charles had was that his bones were made of glass. To prevent himself from shattering, the king had iron rods sewn into his clothes.

3. Otto of Bavaria. Otto was brought in to replace his insane brother, King Ludwig II of Bavaria. No one was banking on the fact that Otto was actually in worse mental shape than his sibling. The New York Times reported on November 5, 1913, that Otto was replaced after being found in a “pathetic” condition: “He stammered some inarticulate words. When [members of the delegation] withdrew from the room they heard a great crash, and on going to see what had caused it they found that Otto had dashed to the floor a tea tray, which had been set for the Deputies, and had smashed all the costly porcelain.”

Recent theories state that both of the brothers were in perfect mental health; the “insane” behavior was completely fabricated to make it easy to overthrow them.

4. Vlad the Impaler. Anyone who tortured people to the extent and numbers that Vlad of Walachia did had to be insane as well as cruel. His favorite form of torture, impalement, wasn’t just used as capital punishment; he took pleasure in it to the point of complete and total obsession. When Vlad and his evils were finally brought to an end via house arrest in Hungary, he obsessively continued to torture and impale any living thing that had the misfortune to cross his path - birds, rats, mice.

5. Juana of Castile. Although Juana’s marriage was arranged by her famous parents, Ferdinand and Isabella, she fell completely and totally in love with her husband, Philip the Handsome (you be the judge) of Austria. Juana was so in love, in fact, that when Philip died of typhoid fever in 1506, Juana had his tomb reopened several times so she could gaze at her husband’s face, which surely was no longer quite as handsome as it once had been. When she had to flee town to escape the plague, she demanded to take Philip with her and had the tomb opened once again to make sure he was still inside. He was still there, and presumably still decaying, but that didn’t stop Juana from kissing and caressing the corpse.

6. Erik XIV of Sweden. King Erik’s paranoia completely consumed his life and his sanity. It wasn’t unusual for people caught laughing, smiling or whispering within Erik’s earshot to be sentenced to death for treason. He had an entire family imprisoned in his castle and later murdered simply because he believed they were too influential. After the executions, King Erik wandered outside to the woods and disappeared for three days. He believed himself to be his own brother for a period of time, and in 1568, that brother really did take over the throne after advisors deemed Erik too compromised to wear the crown. Though Erik took his paranoia to the extreme, he may have been justified: when he met his end in 1577, it was the result of poisoned pea soup.


7. Fyodor I of Russia, AKA Fyodor the Bellringer. Fyodor, son of Ivan the Terrible, wasn’t thrilled about ruling and left most of it up to his brother-in-law, Boris Godunov. Known for his “vacant gaze,” Fyodor’s undoing seems to have happened when his only daughter died at the age of two. He took to wandering up and down Russia, obsessed with ringing all of the church bells in the land.

8. Princess Alexandra Amalie of Bavaria. By all accounts, Alexandra of Bavaria was a lovely, charming princess who became convinced that when she was a child, she had swallowed an all-glass piano. It's said she also had an obsession with cleanliness and would wear only white clothing. Too bad she never made it across the sea to meet Emily Dickinson - the two of them could have compared notes (through a door, of course) on how to get their whites whiter.

9. Mustafa I of Turkey. You can’t really blame this guy for being crazy: being locked in a room for 10 years at your own brother's behest might cause a screw or two to come a little bit loose. After his brother died, Mustafa was released from his “golden cage,” but was sent back after just a few months when his brother’s son took the throne instead. When his nephew was assassinated just four years later in 1622, Mustafa was again dragged from the safety of his cage to have the crown plopped on his head. He was frequently found running through the palace, knocking on doors and screaming for his dead nephew to come back and rule Turkey again.

10. Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg. Maria Eleonora was desperate to give her husband a son, but after a couple of miscarriages and stillbirths, she kind of lost it when the baby she finally delivered in 1626 was a girl, screaming, “Instead of a son, I am given a daughter, dark and ugly, with a great nose and black eyes. Take her from me, I will not have such a monster!”

She tried several times to kill baby Christina, “accidentally” dropping her or shoving her down the stairs. Though King Gustavus Adolphus was happy to have a daughter, he was killed in battle less than two years later. Maria Eleonora responded with hysterical grieving that included keeping her husband's body above ground for 18 months so she could periodically touch it. Additionally, she made Christina sleep under a golden casket that contained her father’s heart.

Miraculously, Christina grew up to be a completely functioning woman and queen.

11. Ferdinand I of Austria. The product of inbreeding - his parents were double first cousins - Ferdinand was epileptic, encephalitic, rarely talked and had problems doing simple tasks. As Emperor, it's been alleged that the only words he uttered were, “I am the Emperor, and I want dumplings.” However, Ferdinand did keep a perfectly coherent diary, suggesting that he wasn’t crazy at all, just a guy with the misfortune to be born to a family obsessed with keeping the bloodline "pure."

For more stories like these, check out Mad Kings & Queens: History's Most Famous Raving Royals.

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Richard Bouhet // Getty
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science
4 Expert Tips on How to Get the Most Out of August's Total Solar Eclipse
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Richard Bouhet // Getty

As you might have heard, there’s a total solar eclipse crossing the U.S. on August 21. It’s the first total solar eclipse in the country since 1979, and the first coast-to-coast event since June 8, 1918, when eclipse coverage pushed World War I off the front page of national newspapers. Americans are just as excited today: Thousands are hitting the road to stake out prime spots for watching the last cross-country total solar eclipse until 2045. We’ve asked experts for tips on getting the most out of this celestial spectacle.

1. DON’T FRY YOUR EYES—OR BREAK THE BANK

To see the partial phases of the eclipse, you will need eclipse glasses because—surprise!—staring directly at the sun for even a minute or two will permanently damage your retinas. Make sure the glasses you buy meet the ISO 12312-2 safety standards. As eclipse frenzy nears its peak, shady retailers are selling knock-off glasses that will not adequately protect your eyes. The American Astronomical Society keeps a list of reputable vendors, but as a rule, if you can see anything other than the sun through your glasses, they might be bogus. There’s no need to splurge, however: You can order safe paper specs in bulk for as little as 90 cents each. In a pinch, you and your friends can take turns watching the partial phases through a shared pair of glasses. As eclipse chaser and author Kate Russo points out, “you only need to view occasionally—no need to sit and stare with them on the whole time.”

2. DON’T DIY YOUR EYE PROTECTION

There are plenty of urban legends about “alternative” ways to protect your eyes while watching a solar eclipse: smoked glass, CDs, several pairs of sunglasses stacked on top of each other. None works. If you’re feeling crafty, or don’t have a pair of safe eclipse glasses, you can use a pinhole projector to indirectly watch the eclipse. NASA produced a how-to video to walk you through it.

3. GET TO THE PATH OF TOTALITY

Bryan Brewer, who published a guidebook for solar eclipses, tells Mental Floss the difference between seeing a partial solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse is “like the difference between standing right outside the arena and being inside watching the game.”

During totality, observers can take off their glasses and look up at the blocked-out sun—and around at their eerily twilit surroundings. Kate Russo’s advice: Don’t just stare at the sun. “You need to make sure you look above you, and around you as well so you can notice the changes that are happening,” she says. For a brief moment, stars will appear next to the sun and animals will begin their nighttime routines. Once you’ve taken in the scenery, you can use a telescope or a pair of binoculars to get a close look at the tendrils of flame that make up the sun’s corona.

Only a 70-mile-wide band of the country stretching from Oregon to South Carolina will experience the total eclipse. Rooms in the path of totality are reportedly going for as much as $1000 a night, and news outlets across the country have raised the specter of traffic armageddon. But if you can find a ride and a room, you'll be in good shape for witnessing the spectacle.

4. PRESERVE YOUR NIGHT VISION

Your eyes need half an hour to fully adjust to darkness, but the total eclipse will last less than three minutes. If you’ve just been staring at the sun through the partial phases of the eclipse, your view of the corona during totality will be obscured by lousy night vision and annoying green afterimages. Eclipse chaser James McClean—who has trekked from Svalbard to Java to watch the moon blot out the sun—made this rookie mistake during one of his early eclipse sightings in Egypt in 2006. After watching the partial phases, with stray beams of sunlight reflecting into his eyes from the glittering sand and sea, McClean was snowblind throughout the totality.

Now he swears by a new method: blindfolding himself throughout the first phases of the eclipse to maximize his experience of the totality. He says he doesn’t mind “skipping the previews if it means getting a better view of the film.” Afterward, he pops on some eye protection to see the partial phases of the eclipse as the moon pulls away from the sun. If you do blindfold yourself, just remember to set an alarm for the time when the total eclipse begins so you don’t miss its cross-country journey. You'll have to wait 28 years for your next chance.

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Pop Culture
IKEA Publishes Instructions for Turning Rugs Into Game of Thrones Capes
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HBO

Game of Thrones is one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced, but even the crew of the hit HBO series isn’t above using an humble IKEA hack behind the scenes. According to Mashable, the fur capes won by Jon Snow and other members of the Night’s Watch on the show are actually sheepskin rugs sold by the home goods chain.

The story behind the iconic garment was first revealed by head costume designer Michele Clapton at a presentation at Los Angeles’s Getty Museum in 2016. “[It’s] a bit of a trick,” she said at Designing the Middle Ages: The Costumes of GoT. “We take anything we can.”

Not one to dissuade customers from modifying its products, IKEA recently released a cape-making guide in the style of its visual furniture assembly instructions. To start you’ll need one of their Skold rugs, which can be bought online for $79. Using a pair of scissors cut a slit in the material and make a hole where your head will go. Slip it on and you’ll look ready for your Game of Thrones debut.

The costume team makes a few more changes to the rugs used on screen, like shaving them, adding leather straps, and waxing and “frosting” the fur to give it a weather-worn effect. Modern elements are used to make a variety of the medieval props used in Game of Thrones. The swords, for example, are made from aircraft aluminum, not steel. For more production design insights, check out these behind-the-scenes secrets of Game of Thrones weapons artists.

[h/t Mashable]

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