The Most ‘Evil’ Rulers of the Middle Ages

Death of Andronikos I Komnenos

These medieval rulers would earn the nicknames like the Bad, the Cruel and the Accursed! While in the Middle Ages there were many rulers who could be harsh and destructive, we choose these six men because of their personal treachery towards even their family members and the hatred they earned from their contemporaries.

1) Andronikos I Komnenos – Byzantine Emperor (1183-5)

“I shall fall upon your family like a lion pouncing on a large prey, and I shall exact fitting revenge for the injuries I have sustained at your hands.” – after having spent years imprisoned by his family members, Andronikos would work his way back to power in Byzantium and eliminate much of the Imperial family. His two-year reign was marked by numerous sexual liaisons and incest, increasing paranoia and creating a state of terror. One historian describes Andronikos as “a man of violence, cruelty, mutilation and murder.”  When his rule collapsed, he would be caught by a mob in Constantinople and tortured for three days before being torn apart.


2) Pedro the Cruel – King of Castile and León (1350-69)

He got his nickname for the numerous murders he ordered (and some he did personally), including that of his wife and half-brothers. He would meet his end in The Most Dramatic Moment of the Middle Ages!

3) John – King of England (1199-1216)

Before becoming king, John had already betrayed and rebelled against his father Henry II and brother Richard I. His reign is marked by his imprisoning and probable murder of his nephew Arthur, losing Normandy, and having his English subjects rebel and force him to sign the Magna Carta.


4) William the Bad – King of Sicily (1154-66)

According to one chronicler, when his subjects rebelled and tried to put his 9 year-old son on the throne, William responded by kicking the boy to death.

5) Sviatopolk the Accursed – Grand Prince of Rus’ (1015-9)

Even though he succeeded to throne on the death of his father, he was still too wary that his brothers Boris and Gleb would challenge him, so Sviatopolk had assassins murder them.

6) Christian the Tyrant – King of Norway and Denmark (1513-23)

His most notorious act was the Stockholm Bloodbath of 1520, when he executed 82 nobles in the Swedish capital after promising amnesty.

Top Image: Death of Andronikos I Komnenos