Since my first few weeks in secondary school, under the influence of a fantastic teacher, I have become a history geek, fascinated by the strange doings of people and a few historical villains! To state that history is “boring” is to say that people are boring. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these historical villains and see what you think!
1. Jack the Ripper
Perhaps one of the most famous of all historical villains is one whose identity remains a mystery to this day. Nicknamed Jack the Ripper by the London newspapers of 1888, the first reality star (yes, believe it or not, he was considered a celebrity) was responsible for the grotesque mutilation and murders of five prostitutes during 10 dark, stormy autumn weeks in 1888. Whilst murder was not uncommon in Victorian London, these irrational, patterned and seemingly motive free murders continue to shock the world to this day. There are many theories and suspects about the Whitechapel murders, including the Royal Family and secret societies – Da Vinci code, eat your heart out!
My absolute favourite villain of all time, both in reality and fiction, is Rasputin. I’ve been fascinated by him since he became the “baddie” in the animated film Anastasia, which I had to watch a minimum of 4 times a week as a child (yes, I was a strange child). The “evil monk” was a poorly appointed adviser to Tzar Nicholas II of Russia and it was believed that he was the only one who knew how to treat the haemophiliac heir to the Romanov Dynasty – by placing cobwebs over his wounds to clot the bleeding. He was reputed to study the dark arts, to host wild orgies in the winter palace, to have romanced the tzarina herself and to drink a daily dose of poison to build immunity. This immunity came in handy when the Russian nobles took it upon themselves to murder the dark monk. Having poisoned his food with enough to kill 7 men, they were startled when he awoke and started to choke the unfortunate noble who was checking his body. He fled, and then was shot several times – again, he survived and continued to stumble into the dark, onto the frozen lake. The ice broke, and he fell. Upon discovering his body it was proven that he in fact froze to death rather than drowned! Continuing his strange legacy, Russia’s first ever (and hopefully, only) museum of sex and erotica exhibit his preserved 12 inch penis is a jar…
3. Henry VIII
Predictable, yes, but a deserved spot on the list nonetheless. Best known for his 6 wives, two of whom he had beheaded, this English king was also responsible for an average of 5 executions a day over his 38 year reign! Yup – almost 70,000 of his subjects!! Add this to ripping his country in two, countless wars, an overindulgence in food and women and bastardising his two daughters, you’ll see why he has a firm spot on my list!
4. Bloody Mary
Following in her father’s footsteps, Queen Mary I of England is often misunderstood, but usually labelled a villain. Having been responsible for burning 300 people at the stake, she quickly was dubbed “Bloody Mary” by her opposition. The victims of her flames were Protestants, who had refused to accept Catholicism as the one true faith. Blinded by her religious fanaticism, she believed by burning the Heretics of England, she was saving their souls from eternal damnation…
5. Oliver Cromwell
Best known for being the Puritanical head of state who had the King beheaded following the civil war. An unattractive man, inside and out, he coined the phrase “warts and all” after he demanded that his portraits were not painted in the usual flattering manner, but, instead to include all his flaws. None of these reasons place him on my list, but the following does: this dude banned Christmas!
6. H.M. Stanley
Seen far too often as one of the heroes of the British Empire for his African exploration, the crimes committed by this man are inexcusable. In the name of “empire and expansion,” Stanley was responsible for the massacre of 8,000,000 natives in the Congo, for deserting the American army twice and for handing a child over to cannibals to feed his curiosity.
7. Matthew Hopkins
Known as the Witch Hunter General, Hopkins was responsible for the condemnations and executions of 260 innocent women in 14 months. This was more than any other witch-hunter in the 160 year hysteria experienced in England. It has been said that it was at this time the retractable blade was created, so that a woman who didn’t bleed when “stabbed” would be condemned.
Of course, there are many obvious villains omitted from the list, as there are some atrocities committed by man that I don’t wish to discuss in a light-hearted manner. However, I hope you are intrigued at least by the ones noted above! Which villains are you fascinated by and why?