When we think of a brutal or a leader or a dictator, most of us would think it is pretty obvious that trait or character is associated with the male gender. However, women have in the past proven that power and brutality have nothing to do with gender.
The history of women and leadership goes way back even though some communities were initially against women taking up such positions.
In some countries the rise of empowered women who were confident to step up as rulers began as early and had been normalized within the first 10 years of the 21st Century. Over the years, women have been perceived as nurtures and peacemakers but this does not cut across the entire female species. Some have shown such a brutal character when they are in power or during times of war.
However, check out below 10 world’s most wicked women rulers in human history:
1. Countess Elizabeth Bathory of Hungary
She has been described as the most vicious female serial killer in all recorded history. Where fact ends and fiction begins in her horrible story is now impossible to determine, but in her fame as a legendary vampire she is outrivalled only by Count Dracula. Born in 1560, she was endowed with looks, wealth, an excellent education and a stellar social position as one of the Bathory family, who ruled Transylvania as a virtually independent principality within the kingdom of Hungary.
When she was 11 or 12 Elizabeth was betrothed to Ferenc Nádasdy of another aristocratic Hungarian family, but a year or two later she had a baby by a lower-order lover. Nádasdy was reported to have had him castrated and then torn to pieces by dogs. The child, a daughter, was quietly hidden from view and Elizabeth and Nádasdy were married in 1575 when she was 14. Because Elizabeth socially outranked her husband, she kept the surname Bathory, which he added to his own. The young couple lived in the Nádasdy castles in Hungary at Sárvár and Csetje (now in Slovakia), but Ferenc was an ambitious soldier and was often away. Elizabeth ran the estates, took various lovers and bore her husband four children. She was 43 when he died in 1604.
Word was beginning to spread about her sadistic activities. It was said that she enjoyed torturing and killing young girls. At first they were servants at her castles, daughters of the local peasants, but later they included girls sent to her by local gentry families to learn good manners. She believed that drinking the blood of young girls would preserve her youthfulness and her looks. Witnesses told of her stabbing victims or biting their breasts, hands, faces and arms, cutting them with scissors, sticking needles into their lips or burning them with red-hot irons, coins or keys. Some were beaten to death and some were starved. The story that Elizabeth used to bathe in their blood seems to have been added later on.
A Lutheran minister went to the Hungarian authorities, who eventually began an investigation in 1610. In December of that year Elizabeth was arrested and so were four of her favourite servants and intimates, who were accused of being her accomplices. They were tried and found guilty. Three of them were executed and the fourth was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Elizabeth herself was not put on trial, because of her family’s standing, but she was shut up in Csetje Castle, held in solitary confinement in a room whose windows were walled up. She was 54 when she died there in 1614.
2. Queen Elizabeth I of Spain
No one expected the Spanish Inquisition, except for Queen Elizabeth I of Castile, the evil queen of Spain, who began the campaign to purify her country, Isabel is also known for financing Christopher Columbus’ famous voyage in 1492, but is best known for her formidable streak, beginning with her four-year war in the succession of Castile, against her niece Joanna.Queen Elizabeth and her husband Ferdinand expanded the power of the monarchy, purging the influence of the nobles, and reinstating Catholicism as the supreme religion of Spain, Pope Alexander VI declared them Catholic Monarchs, because the Spanish Inquisition oppressed the Jewish and Muslim minorities, who were killed or banished if they did not convert.
3. Queen Tamar of Georgia
Tamar the Great, 1160 – 18 January 1213, reigned as the Queen of Georgia from 1184 to 1213, presiding over the apex of the Georgian Golden Age. A member of the Bagrationi dynasty , her position as the first woman to rule Georgia in her own right was emphasized by the title mepe (” king “), afforded to Tamar in the medieval Georgian sources.
Tamar was proclaimed heir and co-ruler by her reigning father George III in 1178, but she faced significant opposition from the aristocracy upon her ascension to full ruling powers after George’s death. Tamar was successful in neutralizing this opposition and embarked on an energetic foreign policy aided by the decline of the hostile Seljuq Turks . Relying on a powerful military élite, Tamar was able to build on the successes of her predecessors to consolidate an empire which dominated the Caucasus until its collapse under the Mongol attacks within two decades after Tamar’s death.
Tamar was married twice, her first union being, from 1185 to 1187, to the Rus’ prince Yuri , whom she divorced and expelled from the country, defeating his subsequent coup attempts. For her second husband Tamar chose, in 1191, the Alan prince David Soslan , by whom she had two children, George and Rusudan, the two successive monarchs on the throne of Georgia.
Tamar’s association with the period of political and military successes and cultural achievements, combined with her role as a female ruler, has led to her idealization and romanticization in Georgian arts and historical memory. She remains an important symbol in Georgian popular culture.
4. Empress Julia Agrippina of Rome
Julia Agrippina also referred to as the Younger or Agrippina Minor was the niece and fourth wife of Roman emperor Claudius and mother of Nero, the last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Considered one of the leading ladies of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Agrippina was known to be ambitious, powerful, dominating, and merciless. She was the daughter of Germanicus, an eminent general of the Roman Empire who once became heir apparent of the empire under Tiberius. Agrippina the Elder, her mother, was great-granddaughter of Augustus, the first Roman Empire. Agrippina the Younger faced exile for a couple of years for conspiring against her brother, Caligula, who succeeded Tiberius as the Roman Emperor. Her first husband and Nero’s biological father, Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, died of edema. Her second husband, Gaius Sallustius Passienus Crispus, died of poisoning. Ancient historians believed that her uncle and third husband, Claudius, also died of poison, and many sources implicate Agrippina. Upon Claudius’s death, Nero, his stepson through Agrippina succeeded the throne. Initially Agrippina made efforts to play regent and dominate the empire, which eventually failed as Nero rose to power prompting power struggle between mother and son. Agrippina was later executed on Nero’s order.
5. Warrior Queen Zenobia of Palmira
Zenobia was a Syrian queen, 240-after 274 C.E. After her husband’s death, she became a powerful military leader in her own right, conquering both Egypt and much of the Eastern Roman Empire.
The descendant of various royal ancestors, Zenobia became queen of the Palmyrene Empire as the second wife of King Septimius Odaenathus. When he was assassinated, she executed his killer and became the new ruler with her infant son. A woman of broad education, she protected both Jews and “heretics” as queen.
In 269, she challenged Rome by conquering Egypt, defeating the Roman prefect Tenagino Probus. She then proclaimed herself queen of Egypt and conquered parts of Anatolia (modern Turkey), Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon, taking vital trade routes from the Romans. In 274, she was defeated by the forces of the Roman Emperor Aurelian and taken as a hostage to Rome.
6. Empress Wu Zetian of China
Wu Zetian was born on February 17, 624 in Lizhou, China. She grew up in a wealthy aristocratic family and her father was a high ranking minister in the government. Unlike many girls of her time, Wu was given a good education. She was taught to read, write, and to play music. Wu was an intelligent and ambitious girl who learned all she could about politics and how the government worked.
When Wu was fourteen she moved into the imperial palace to serve the Emperor Taizong. She continued her education at the palace until the emperor died in 649. As was the custom, when the emperor died she was sent to a convent to become a nun for the rest of her life. Wu had other plans, however. She became romantic with the new emperor, Emperor Gaozong, and soon found herself back at the imperial palace as consort (like a second wife) to the emperor.
Back at the palace, Wu began to gain influence over the emperor. She became one of his favorite wives. The emperor’s main wife, Empress Wang, became jealous and the two women became bitter rivals. When Wu’s daughter died, she hatched a plan against the Empress. She told the emperor that Empress Wang had killed her daughter out of jealousy. The emperor believed her and had Empress Wang arrested. He then promoted Wu to Empress.
Over the next several years, Wu established herself as a significant power behind the throne. She built up strong allies in the government and eliminated rivals. When the emperor became sick in 660, she began to rule through him.
In 683, Emperor Gaozong died and Wu’s son became emperor. Wu became regent (like a temporary ruler) while her son was still young. Although she didn’t yet have the title of emperor, she had all the power. In 690, Wu had her son step down as emperor. She then declared a new dynasty, the Zhou Dynasty, and officially took the title of emperor. She was the first and only woman to become emperor of China.
It was difficult for a woman to maintain power in Ancient China. Wu managed this by using secret police to spy on people. She developed a large system of spies who helped determine who was loyal and who wasn’t. Wu rewarded those who were found loyal, but had her enemies put to death.
Another reason that Wu was able to keep power was because she was a very good emperor. She made intelligent decisions that helped China to prosper. She surrounded herself with competent and talented people by promoting people based on their abilities rather than by their family history.
During her reign, Empress Wu expanded the borders of China by conquering new lands in Korea and Central Asia. She also helped to improve the lives of the peasants by lowering taxes, building new public works, and improving farming techniques.
Empress Wu died in 705. Her son, Emperor Zhongzong, took over as emperor and reestablished the Tang Dynasty.
7. Messalina Valeria
Messalina Valeria was her name. She was the third wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius and pretty young at the time of their wedding in 38 AD. In the beginning, things were good between those two; she even bore him a daughter Octavia and a son Britannicus. The only problem was that in the spare time she was attending some strange parties, better known as orgies! She was a nymphomaniac. Yeah, you read it well. As the years were passing by, her insatiable appetite for men and enormous sexual desire messed up her conscious and judging. Messalina gained the reputation for promiscuity because of her lesions with more than 100 men and because she was spending evenings working at a local brothel, probably undisguised. By controlling her husband, who allegedly wasn’t aware of her many adulteries, she became very influential. Like a true predator, devious and greedy Messalina killed and exiled a great number of innocent people through her plots and conspiracies. One of them cost her life! In an attempt to overthrow her husband by marrying her lover Gaius Silius, she was killed by her husband’s centurion. As a revenge, heartbroken Claudius ordered a damnatio memoriae, so that her name would be removed from history. Being related to the Caligula and Nero, it’s not a mistake to say that insanity runs in the family, right?
8. Queen Mary 1 of England
Mary I, 18 February 1516 – 17 November 1558, also known as Mary Tudor , was the queen of England from July 1553 until her death. She is best known for her vigorous attempt to reverse the English Reformation , which had begun during the reign of her father, Henry VIII . Her attempt to restore to the Church the property confiscated in the previous two reigns was largely thwarted by parliament, but during her five-year reign, Mary had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake in the Marian persecutions , which led to her denunciation as ” Bloody Mary” by her Protestant opponents.
9. Isabella I of Spain
Isabella I of Spain, April 22, 1451–November 26, 1504, was the queen of Castile and León in her own right and, through marriage, became the queen of Aragon. She married Ferdinand II of Aragon, bringing the kingdoms together into what became Spain under the rule of her grandson Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. She sponsored Columbus’ voyages to the Americas and was known as Isabel la Catolica, or Isabella the Catholic, for her role in “purifying” the Roman Catholic faith by expelling Jews from her lands and defeating the Moors.
Henry’s first marriage ended in divorce and without children. When his second wife, Joan of Portugal, gave birth to daughter Juana in 1462, the opposition nobles claimed that Juana was the daughter of Beltran de la Cueva, duke of Albuquerque. Thus, she’s known in history as Juana la Beltraneja.
The opposition’s attempt to replace Henry with Alfonso failed, with the final defeat coming in July 1468 when Alfonso died of suspected poisoning. historians, however, consider it more likely he succumbed to the plague. He had named Isabella his successor.
Isabella was offered the crown by the nobles but she refused, probably because she didn’t believe she could maintain that claim in opposition to Henry. Henry was willing to compromise with the nobles and accept Isabella as his heiress.
Isabella married Ferdinand of Aragon, a second cousin, in October 1469 without Henry’s approval. The cardinal of Valentia, Rodrigo Borgia (later Pope Alexander VI), helped Isabel and Ferdinand obtain the necessary papal dispensation, but the couple still had to resort to pretenses and disguises to carry out the ceremony in Valladolid. Henry withdrew his recognition and named Juana as his heir. At Henry’s death in 1474, a war of succession ensued, with Alfonso V of Portugal, prospective husband of Isabella’s rival Juana, supporting Juana’s claims.
In 1480, Isabella and Ferdinand instituted the Inquisition in Spain, one of many changes to the role of the church instituted by the monarchs. The Inquisition was aimed mostly at Jews and Muslims who had overtly converted to Christianity but were thought to be practicing their faiths secretly. They were seen as heretics who rejected Roman Catholic orthodoxy.
Ferdinand and Isabella were given the title “the Catholic monarchs” by Pope Alexander VI in recognition of their role in “purifying” the faith. Among Isabella’s other religious pursuits, she took a special interest in the Poor Clares. an order of nuns.
Isabella and Ferdinand planned to unify all of Spain by continuing a long-standing but stalled effort to expel the Moors, Muslims who held parts of Spain. In 1492, the Muslim Kingdom of Granada fell to Isabella and Ferdinand, thus completing the Reconquista. That same year, Isabella and Ferdinand issued an edict expelling all Jews in Spain who refused to convert to Christianity.
10. Queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar
Ranavalona I, also called Ramavo, 1778 – August 16, 1861, also known as Ranavalo-Manjaka I, was sovereign of the Kingdom of Madagascar from 1828 to 1861. After positioning herself as queen following the death of her young husband, Radama I , Ranavalona pursued a policy of isolationism and self-sufficiency, reducing economic and political ties with European powers, repelling a French attack on the coastal town of Foulpointe, and taking vigorous measures to eradicate the small but growing Malagasy Christian movement initiated under Radama I by members of the London Missionary Society . She made heavy use of the traditional practice of fanompoana (forced labor as tax payment) to complete public works projects and develop a standing army of between 20,000 and 30,000 Merina soldiers, whom she deployed to pacify outlying regions of the island and further expand the realm. The combination of regular warfare, disease, difficult forced labor and harsh trials by ordeal using a poisonous nut from the Tangena shrub resulted in a high mortality rate among soldiers and civilians alike during her 33-year reign, with Madagascar’s population reducing from 5 million in 1833 to 2.5 million in 1839.
Although greatly obstructed by Ranavalona’s policies, foreign political interests in Madagascar remained undiminished. Divisions between traditionalist and pro-European factions at the queen’s court created opportunities that European intermediaries leveraged in an attempt to hasten the succession of her son, Radama II . The young prince disagreed with many of his mother’s policies and was amenable to French proposals for the exploitation of the island’s resources, as expressed in the Lambert Charter he concluded with a French representative in 1855. These plans were never successful, however, and Radama II was not to take the throne until Ranavalona’s death in 1861 at the age of 83.
Ranavalona’s European contemporaries generally condemned her policies and characterized her as a tyrant at best and insane at worst. These negative characterizations persisted in Western scholarly literature until the mid-1970s. Recent academic research has recast Ranavalona’s actions as those of a queen attempting to expand her empire while protecting Malagasy sovereignty against the encroachment of European cultural and political influence.
Mary was the only child of Henry VIII by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon , to survive to adulthood. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI , succeeded their father in 1547 at the age of nine. When Edward became mortally ill in 1553, he attempted to remove Mary from the line of succession because he supposed, correctly, that she would reverse the Protestant reforms that had continued during his reign. Upon his death, leading politicians proclaimed Lady Jane Grey as queen. Mary speedily assembled a force in East Anglia and deposed Jane, who was ultimately beheaded. Mary was—excluding the disputed reigns of Jane and the Empress Matilda —the first queen regnant of England. In 1554, Mary married Philip of Spain , becoming queen consort of Habsburg Spain on his accession in 1556.
After Mary’s death in 1558, her re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed by her younger half-sister and successor, Elizabeth I .