In the era of the great monarchies, the royal families of European nations were people of dignity and culture, above the low and filthy lifestyles of the poor. At least, that’s what they wanted people to believe. The reality, though, is a bit different. There was enough inbreeding between the monarchs of Europe to spark some strange decisions—and some truly disgusting lifestyles.
10 Henry VIII Had A ‘Groom Of The Stool’
Among his many reforms, King Henry VIII introduced an all-important job to the English monarchy: the groom of the stool. One lucky boy, chosen from the sons of his most trusted nobles, got the job of following the king around with a portable toilet.
The groom of the stool needed to be ever vigilant. He was expected to watch the king as he ate, make notes of what he consumed, and prepare for the job to come. When the moment came, the groom would help the king undress and then clean up his mess.
This was actually a highly respected job. The groom of the stool was trusted with unparalleled intimate access to the king. He also got to live in the castle with a handsome salary.
Wiping up after the king of England became a proud tradition that continued for almost 400 years.
9 Christian VII Pleasured Himself So Often That It Became A National Crisis
Denmark’s 18th-century King Christian VII knew no love greater than his own hand. He spent so much time at it that the Danish government organized meetings to figure out what to do about it.
The doctors who looked after him were convinced that chronic masturbation was the cause of all his problems. Christian VII was mentally ill, afflicted with porphyria. In reality, mental illness was probably the root of his masturbation problems.
His chief physician, Johann Friedrich Struensee, wrote a whole book about Christian’s “masturbatic insanity.” When Struensee couldn’t get the king to put his pants back on and focus on ruling a kingdom, the doctor ended up taking over. He did most of Christian VII’s decision-making for him, which freed up some time for the king to follow his passions.
8 Joanna Of Castile Traveled With Her Husband’s Dead Body
Joanna of Castile, the mother of Emperor Charles V of Spain, spent the better years of her life married to a man known as Philip the Handsome. Apparently, she thought Philip deserved his nickname because she refused to let anyone bury him when he died.
Instead, Joanna kept her husband’s dead body in her room. Over 12 months, while Philip’s body slowly decayed, Joanna went on acting as if he was still alive. Whenever someone asked, she would simply insist that he was asleep and would wake up soon.
She would sleep with the body at night, and she would make the servants treat it with the respect due to a king. In a fit of jealousy, she wouldn’t let any women enter the room with the dead body, apparently worried that they would be overwhelmed by lust.
7 King Charles II Kept A Wig Of His Mistresses’ Pubes
In 1651, King Charles II started a new project. Every time he slept with a woman, he plucked a few hairs from under her skirt. Then he stitched them all together into a wig that gradually grew into an unnervingly thick mane of female hairs.
When the wig got big enough to cover a man’s head, Charles II donated it to a Scottish drinking club called the Beggar’s Benison Club. They loved it so much that they wore it during their ceremonies. One person even stole it and used it to start his own club, where he made people kiss it.
In 1822, King George IV took up the tradition again and kept a box full of his lover’s lower locks for his own collection. Like Charles II, George planned on making them into a wig but tragically died without ever fulfilling his dream.
6 Queen Maria Eleonora Slept With Her Husband’s Heart
Queen Maria Eleonora didn’t love her husband, King Gustavus Adolphus, for his power or his money. She loved him for his heart. When he died, she had his heart ripped out of his body so that she could sleep with it.
Maria Eleonora kept her dead husband’s organ in a golden box that she placed above her bed each night. On some nights, she even made their daughter climb into bed with her so that she could be close to her father’s heart.
It was a traumatizing experience that her daughter never forgot. She later wrote that her mother was horribly abusive and never stopped crying, saying that she “carried out her role of mourning to perfection.”
5 King Farouk Had The World’s Largest Porn Collection
Legend has it that King Farouk of Egypt had the greatest and largest collection of pornography in the world. He boasted that he had “warehouses full of the stuff” scattered around the world, with whole storage compartments filled to the brim in Rome, Monaco, and Cairo.
Writer and former pimp Scott Bowers claims that he convinced Farouk to ship several crates of porn to the famous sexologist Alfred Kinsey. According to Bowers, the crates arrived filled almost exclusively with pictures of Arab men with young boys.
When Farouk’s empire fell, looters scavenged his porn collection. Little pieces of it started showing up around the country, flooding a market with a whole new type of monarchy memorabilia.
4 King Adolf Frederick Ate Himself To Death
Swedish King Adolf Frederick had a habit of eating a dessert called semla, which is a sweet roll filled with cream. This, in itself, is not disgusting, but he ate so many that it killed him.
In 1771, the Swedish king sat down to a meal of lobster, caviar, and every other decadent food you can think of. When the meal was done, he wolfed his way through 14 semlas in a single sitting.
When he managed to stand up, his stomach, unsurprisingly, was bothering him, and he died shortly after. He went down in history as the king who ate himself to death—which wasn’t totally fair. King Henry I of England had already died from eating too many lamprey eels, apparently unable to get enough of the slimy taste.
3 King James I Only Cleaned The Tips Of His Fingers
According to a less than flattering description from Sir Anthony Weldon, King James I wasn’t the most hygienic person. Legend has it that King James never bathed, and according to Weldon, James needed to.
“His tongue,” Weldon wrote, was “too large for his mouth.” Whenever James drank, the liquid would dribble down the side of the king’s chin. James wouldn’t do much about it. “He never washed his hands,” Weldon claimed, “only rubbed his fingers’ ends slightly through the wet end of a napkin.”
This was apparently the only type of hygiene the king ever practiced. It might have been out of necessity. King James made regular use of his fingers. According to Weldon, they were “ever in that walk fiddling about his codpiece.”
2 Charles VI Didn’t Change His Clothes For Five Months
King Charles VI of France was horribly mentally ill. He would break into fits where he would run wildly through his home. On other days, he became convinced that he was made of glass and would not move a single muscle. The worst bout lasted for five long months—during which he did not bathe or change his clothes even once.
For nearly half a year, the king just stayed very still and carefully tried to avoid bumping into anybody. Then, at last, he had a brief moment of lucidity that lasted long enough for someone to change him and to clean what must have been the most disgusting pair of pants in history.
1 Louis XIV’s Throne Doubled As A Toilet
Of all the people in history, French King Louis XIV must have been the smelliest. His throne doubled as a toilet, and he would use it while conducting court sessions.
One would expect the court to notice the smell. But when Louis XIV was in the room, there were enough smells going around already to block it out. The man only bathed three times in his entire life, which was on the low side even by 17th-century standards.
The king made up for the stench by filling his rooms with flowers and dousing himself in perfume. In fact, he had a team design him a new perfume every week.
He would also change his shirt three times a day, which he firmly believed was all one really needed to do to stay clean. Like the toilet, his wardrobe changes were never affairs to be done behind closed doors. Every morning, the king of France called 100 men into his room to watch him while he got dressed.