The boring thing about modern democracy is that we almost never elect truly crazy people. Oh, sure, we'll vote in somebody with mild eccentricities or sexual appetites, and we may refer to some extremist as "crazy," but back when rulers took the throne based only on their bloodline, a nation could wind up under the fist of someone who was literally "howl naked at the moon" insane.
Don't get us wrong -- we're sure it was a nightmare for everyone involved. But it does make for hilarious stories down the line.
5Justin II of Byzantine Heard Voices, Bit People on the Head
Justin II was a sixth century emperor of Byzantine, which was how they rebranded the Roman Empire after it wasn't cool to be the Roman Empire anymore. Also, apparently they let pretty much anyone be emperor in those days, because Justin II was nucking futs.
History remembers Justin mainly as a kind of shitty leader who wound up losing most of Italy to Persia, which, if you're the emperor of Rome, is dropping the ball pretty badly. But the ancient historian John of Ephesus recounts some interesting facts about Justin's personal life, like how he would hear voices in his head and scream and hide under his bed to escape them. Apparently, the only way his servants could help him out was to play organ music throughout the palace to drown out the voices.
They'd have had better luck with dubstep.
That part of the story is key: the fact that nobody knew how to treat mental illness back then. So it wasn't much fun to be around the palace when Justin II went into full crazy mode -- it's said that when his servants were rushing around trying to restrain him, he would fight back by biting them, often on the head. Eventually, the servants had to go to greater lengths to entertain him, and came up with a solution that would appeal to any toddler -- building a makeshift throne on wheels and pushing Justin around the palace on it, to his great delight. As John of Ephesus puts it, "... having placed him on it, his chamberlains drew him about, and ran with him backwards and forwards for a long time, while he, in delight and admiration at their speed, desisted from many of his absurdities."
"Couldn't you just ride hookers like a regular monarch?"
Are you imagining this? You have an apparently very mentally ill man who A) nobody knows how to treat, B) has the power to have you imprisoned or killed if you cross him, and C) cannot be removed from power. You have a palace full of underlings desperately trying to keep a lid on his madness. Let's put it another way: At some point, a legend even arose that Justin II actually ate two of his servants. And there wasn't a goddamned thing anybody could do about it.
4Charles VI of France Thought He Was a Wolf and/or Made of Glass
Charles "the Mad" VI was king of France from 1380 (when he was 12) to his death 1422, all during the Hundred Years' War with England, and when your country is fighting something called the "Hundred Years' War," it's really unfortunate if the man sitting on the throne is nicknamed "Charles the Mad." Unless it means he's really angry. (It doesn't.)
"What if we just add an extra "D" and tell people he really hates drunk driving?"
In 1392, during a trip through a forest to look for a fugitive who had attempted to murder an adviser of his, Charles VI randomly attacked his own knights, killing some of them, until they all managed to hold him down and carry him back to the castle. They concluded that he was probably just under a lot of stress, as it was the first time that Charles had shown signs of not really being totally right in the head.
In the following years, Charles would go through episodes of forgetting people's names, including his own, and the fact that he was king. Oh, and he would also run through his castle pretending to be a wolf, howling at people. And he freaked out when people touched him because he thought he was made of glass.
"Bring me the head of the one they call Bruce Willis."
Eventually, Charles' batshittery reached such a fever pitch that the monarchy of France broke down into civil war, with his brother vying for power on one side and his first cousin leading the other. That's a war breaking out during another war. This infighting allowed rival countries like England to attack with impunity, and by the end of Charles VI's rule, much of France was occupied by foreign powers. He could have done something about it, but, you know, somebody might have touched him.