5 Historical Nepo Babies Who Make The Roys Look Regal
Nepotism is a hot topic nowadays, though it’s certainly nothing new. We’d all love to live in a meritocracy, where people’s jobs and success are defined by their abilities, but when a huge opportunity opens up in business or government, it’s important to choose somebody who has lifelong experience with things like expunged DUIs and a web of NDAs. Anyone who’s ever had to work under an owner or manager’s kid in their day-to-day employment might even say we’re blessed to have them stuck in some meaningless position collecting a glorified pension.
Regardless, it’s pretty much unavoidable. Whether it’s offices appointed by local mayors or starring roles in After Earth, we’re all living at the whims of one big family barbecue. Among the most popular shows right now is the nepotistic emotional bloodbath of Succession, a tale of a father unable to decide which would be a worse successor: an addict, a pervert or an opinionated woman. It’s positively regal, calling back to the scores of historical rulers and figures who were unqualified at best, actively homicidal at worst.
Here are five historical nepo babies that make the Roys look like angels…
First off, we have to give credit to the folks who were the origin of the phrase. If you’re going off of never having looked into the history of the Church beyond “Jesus died and came back,” you might like to believe it’s some sort of moral high ground. If you overlook details like the indulgences, the Crusades, the Inquisition and rampant child sexual abuse, sure… maybe? Even his High Hatness, the Pope, isn’t an office that’s been squeaky clean.
Way back when Popes were still allowed to fuck, their children would get all sorts of titles and power as a result. In the 11th century, Pope Gregory VII shut down the dicks of all Popes forever by requiring celibacy. Without direct descendants to fill up the church’s open positions, they turned to other male relatives. People eventually began to grumble about every cardinal being a holy Cousin Greg, and families like the Borgias stacking up a whole lot of control. The word “nepotism” from the latin nepos, meaning “nephew” and Italian nipote, loosely meaning “relative,” became the insult du jour for the practice, and the term stuck around even after Pope Innocent XII finally limited popes to making only one of their relatives a cardinal.
To avoid nepotism, you have to strive to ask yourself honest questions about the capabilities of the person earmarked for ascension. You have to look at their negative traits, asking yourself, are they greedy? Cruel? Vindictive? Short-sighted? Henry VIII checked all these boxes, by which I mean, he was all of the above and more. If the American education system was functional, he’d probably be the top answer on a Family Feud board of “worst kings ever.” He certainly has the honor of an article to that exact effect on History.com.
For starters, let’s look at the actual job he did, before we get into any of his nightmarish tendencies to kill a whole lot of people. Henry VIII’s reign was not a reign of peace, or a reign of victories. The guy absolutely loved going to war, despite being truly awful at it. It’s like Elon Musk and tweeting, if unfunny tweets had a body count. His widespread executions are what he’s best known for, though — of his wives, of people who opposed the Church he created to divorce more of his wives, of nuns. As Kendall Roy might say, the optics aren’t great.
Tsar Nicholas II
The tale of Tsar Nicholas II rings pretty close to true for the general criticisms of nepotism new and old. Kinder coverage of his early life describes him with polite digs like “...would have had a happy and useful life as a private landowner,” and less kind descriptions call him out as a massive, completely unprepared spoiled brat. According to History.com, some of his first words upon becoming Tsar were, “What is going to happen to me... to all Russia?” Not exactly a reassuring mission statement.
So how did that all turn out? Well, the fact that his modern title is often “The Last Tsar of Russia” might give you some indication. Can’t imagine that Papa’s ghost would be too pleased to hear that you tanked a 300-year dynasty. Over time, Nicholas found that he quite enjoyed power, but he didn’t ever get any better at utilizing it. He was famously autocratic and suspicious of any competent advisors, removing or ignoring them in favor of trying to personally handle every single facet of the Russian government. Basically, he was one of history’s worst micro-managers, which eventually got him overthrown and later executed.
Virgin women, required to dance topless for a chance to be his wife. Frequent indulgences in the finest goods and gambling while the people of his kingdom live in poverty. Young women kidnapped to be wed. It all reads like something describing the time before a historical revolution, followed by peasants getting a whole lot of use out of the local guillotine. Instead, these are all relatively recent events in the country of Swaziland, under the rule of King Mswati III. Since his rise to the throne, he’s done his darndest to live the life of an old-timey despised royal, while the people he rules suffer at his expense. He remains the king today, though it certainly seems like Swaziland might be on the short-list for a good old-fashioned uprising someday soon.
Deep as their cruelty and indifference might be, it may be truly impossible to find a single figure in history less qualified for their position than Incitatus, who the Roman Emperor Caligula reportedly planned to make a consul, stopped only by his assassination. This is because Incitatus was a horse. Like, an honest to god hoof-having hay-loving horse. I mean, by all accounts, Incitatus was an excellent horse, but that’s still not much of an argument.
Could you say that this is not, in fact, nepotism, but instead cronyism, as Caligula was not related to his horse? You could. But can we just skip the pedantry and end this article by enjoying the idea of a brain-wormed Emperor attempting to raise a thoroughbred to the role of His Honorable Magistrate Hee-Haw?