One of the essential characteristics of a leader is their ability to make sound decisions and think straight and right despite all the pressures, criticisms, and possible threats they are getting. However, when mental health awareness was not a thing yet, some kings and queens sat on their thrones, regardless of their capabilities (or the lack thereof), to make sensible decisions for the people. Here are some monarchs who suffered from mental illnesses.
Queen Maria I of Portugal
Dona Maria, I reigned from February 24, 1777, as the Queen of Portugal. She was the eldest daughter of King Dom Jose I and Infanta Doña Mariana Victoria of Spain. She was the heir to the throne and was placed in power when her father died. She was 42 at that time. She married her uncle Infante Dom Pedro in 1760. They had six children, three of which survived infancy.
Once she was placed in power, the first thing that she did was dismiss her father’s powerful chief minister, Sebastiao Jose de Carvalho e Melo, the first Marquis of Pombal. Maria was doing great in leading the country: Portugal’s economy grew, and she ordered the construction and renovations of national buildings, including the completion of the Palace of Queluz and the inauguration of the Palace of Ajuda.
She was a fantastic queen until her husband died in 1786, and her performance began spiraling down. At first, she had to be carried back to her apartments in a state of delirium. Soon, she banned any court entertainment and replaced it with religious ceremonies.
Queen Maria got worse when her eldest son died from smallpox two years later. She would always say that she was going to hell and that demons were torturing her deceased father’s blackened corpse. Francis Willis diagnosed her with mental illness and wanted to take her to England for treatment, but the Portuguese court refused. Maria’s second son took over the government in place of her, although he only took the title of Prince Regent in 1799.
As for the queen, she would stay and lie in her apartments all day, with visitors complaining about her screams that echoed throughout the palace.
Erik XIV of Sweden
Eric XIV was the King of Sweden, beginning in 1560 until 1569. He was the eldest son and heir of Gustav I and Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg. He was known to be an intelligent and artistically skilled leader, with the majority of his reign dominated by the Livonian War and the Seven Years’ War of Scandinavia.
Beginning in 1563, Erik started to show signs of paranoia that turned his rule to violence. People caught laughing, smiling, or whispering within an earshot’s distance from the king would be charged with treason and sentenced to death. His suspicions reached the Sture family when he accused Svante Stensson Sture’s son, Nils, of treason. He changed his mind and instead sent Nils to marry Renata of Lorraine. When Nils returned, Erik suspected him of high treason and murdered several family members of the Stures, with Erik himself stabbing Nils.
After the murder that he perhaps saw as execution, the king wandered into the woods and did not return for three days. At one time, he thought he was his brother. Incapable of leading, it was his brother who took over the throne. As for Erik, he died in 1577 due to a poisoned pea soup.
Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg
Maria Eleonora was a German princess who became the Queen of Sweden after marrying King Gustav II Adolph. For many years, she tried to give him a son who would be their heir. However, things were not easy as Maria Eleonora had multiple stillbirths and miscarriages.
Finally, she gave birth to a live baby that the fortune-tellers predicted would be a boy. However, she instead gave birth to a girl. King Gustavus Adolphus was happy to have a daughter and named her after his mother. However, Maria Eleonora was devastated that their daughter Christina was not a son. Upon seeing her, she screamed, “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 attempted to make their daughter suffer or probably kill her on many occasions. Once, a beam mysteriously fell on her cradle. Another time, she “accidentally” fell on a flight of stairs. On another, a nursemaid was blamed for dropping poor baby Christina onto a stone floor that injured her shoulder. Finally, because of that, the baby was placed under the king’s sister.
When King Gustavus died in the Battle of Lutzen, Maria Eleonora mourned for a long time and shut herself out from the world with her black-draped curtains. She would also light candles day and night. Christina, who was seven years old, was reunited with her mother. Maria Eleonora made her sleep under where her father’s heart was hung in a golden casket. She witnessed how her mother became seriously ill, developing an ulcer on her left breast that caused terrible pain and high fever. Maria Eleonora did not let her husband’s body be buried underground until 18 months later, so she could sometimes touch it.