Fun Facts: Royalty
"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."
William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part II
Shi Huang-Ti was the first emperor of a united China and founder of the
dynasty. Were he a European ruler, he would likely be considered
great. The Chinese, however, have given him a negative
reputation because of his ruthlessness, massive conscription of labour,
wars, harsh laws, and burning of books in 213 B.C.
In 213 B.C., the Chinese emperor Shi Huang-Ti ordered all of China's
books to be burnt, except for a few on subjects such as medicine and
agriculture. He ordered the burning because several of these writings
were used to criticize the emperor, and also because
Shi Huang-Ti styled himself as the "First Emperor," with whom history
should begin. A large amount of
valuable works were lost; only through the efforts of a few brave
teachers did any of China's earlier literature survive. It was not safe
to bring the surviving books from their hiding place for nearly 150 years
Queen Boadicea is believed to be buried on a site now covered by the number 10 platform of King's Cross Station.
It is said that Vitellus, Emperor of Rome briefly in 69 A.D.,
spent over £1,200 a day on food alone. He was capable of downing
1,000 oysters a day as well as vast quantities of other delicacies.
After a short reign he was deposed by the Roman citizens, driven to
revolt by the excesses of their emperor, and his body was dumped in
the River Tiber.
Commodus (161–192), who was emperor of Rome between 180 and 192,
fought and won 1,031 battles in the gladiatorial arena.
"Old King Cole" was a real person. Coel was a fourth-century British
prince who is said to be the father of St. Helen, who was the mother of Roman
emperor Constantine. Coel appreciated music, which may be why the nursery
rhyme makes mention of "his fiddlers three".
Sunday first became a day of rest in the year 321.
Roman emperor Constantine chose Sunday to please
both Christians (the day of the resurrection) and pagans (many of
whom worshipped one of the sun-gods of the empire).
In 695, Leontius, the leader of a group of rebellious
Constantinopolitans, seized the emperor, Justinian II, and had
Justinian's nose cut off in the belief that, being disfigured,
Justinian would never again attempt to regain
the throne. Three years later, in 698, Leontius was himself
overthrown by troops under General Tiberius, who became Emperor
Tiberius III, and who then cut off Leontius' nose. Seven years
after that, Justinian II then retook the throne and publicly
humiliated and executed both Leontius and Tiberius III.
Canute (also spelled Knut), King of England (1016–1035) and of
Denmark and Norway for most of that time, is well-known for having ordered
the tide to retreat. However, he did not do so because he believed that he could actually stop it. He did it to
demonstrate to sycophants that he was not omnipotent.
Richard the Lion-Hearted took up cannibalism before the Crusades.
Charlemagne collected berets.
William the Conqueror always insisted that he had not come to
England as a foreign invader. He argued that, as a close relative
of the English royal family, cousin to Edward the Confessor (King
of England 1042-1066), he had been promised the crown. The Norman
Conquest thus became, in his eyes, simply a case of the rightful
King of England making good his claim to the throne.
Queen Berengaria, the wife of Richard the Lion-Hearted, never
set foot on English soil. Berengaria, who was the daughter of
King Sancho VI of Navarre, married Richard in Cyprus in 1191 in
Cyprus while Richard was crusading. She spent most of her eight-year
reign in Italy and France.
The largest king's ransom in history was raised by Richard I
to obtain his release from Holy Roman Emperor
Henry VI in 1194. The English people had to pay nearly
150,000 marks to free their king.
King Richard the Lion-Hearted of England spent only six months of his ten-year reign in England, being there only briefly in 1189 and 1194. Much of his reign was spent either on the Third Crusade or in France.
When King John ascended the English throne in 1199, he gave one of the
most fantastic Christmas parties recorded. 200 gallons of various
wines, 400 oxen, 1,000 capons, 1,000 eels and 200 lampreys were
devoured by his hungry guests.
Carta was not signed by King John in 1215. The monarch could not write his
name and granted the Magna Carta by placing his seal on it.
John I of France (1316) became king at birth, but died five days later.
King John II of France was captured by the English at the battle of
Poiters in 1356 and was taken hostage. His gaol, such as it was, was
London's Savoy Palace, and he enjoyed fine food, hunting, and horseback
outings, as well as a busy social schedule. By 1360, England and France
agreed on a ransom of 3 million gold crowns, and three of John's sons
were retained as hostages in England while John went back to France to
raise the cash. In spite of the burdensome taxes he imposed, he couldn't
raise the required capital. So, when one of his sons escaped from custody,
John returned to England to replace him and honour his commitment. He
died there in 1364.
The Ming Emperor Hung Wu (1368-98) has been called the harshest and
most unreasonable tyrant in all of Chinese history. He had so many
people executed that, midway through his reign, government officials
got into the custom of saying their last goodbyes to their families if
they were required at a morning audience and of exchanging congratulations
with fellow officials if they survived until evening.
Akbar, third Moghul Emperor of India (1556-1605), was
not only a brilliant general and ferocious fighter, but also imported
rare plants and grasses, grafted trees, crossbred doves, maintained zoological
notebooks, commissioned translations of Aristotle and other Greek
philosophers, wrote letters to the Pope and to two Spanish kings, and
initiated the first Anglo-Indian diplomatic relationship when he
corresponded with Queen Elizabeth I.
The fourth Moghul Emperor, Jahangir, who ruled from 1605 to 1627,
had a harem of 300 royal wives, 5,000 more women, and 1,000
young men for alternate pleasures. His stables contained
12,000 elephants, 10,000 oxen, 2,000 camels,
3,000 deer, 4,000 dogs, 100 tame lions, 500 buffalo, and 10,000
The Taj Mahal in Agra, one of the world's most beautiful buildings,
was built by the Moghul emperor Shah Jahan (1627-1659)
as a mausoleum for one of his wives, Mumtaz Mahal, who, on her deathbed in
1631, extracted a promise from her husband to take care of her children
and to build a suitable monument for her. Masons from northern India,
calligraphers from Baghdad and Shiraz, and various specialists from
all around the Muslim world designed and supervised building activities
as well as planning the garden. The work was coordinated by Ustad Isa
King Christina of Sweden (all Swedish monarchs were given the title
of King regardless of gender; only the spouse of a monarch would be
called Queen) was so terrified of fleas that she ordered the
construction of a tiny 10 centimetre long cannon so that she could fire
miniature cannonballs at the fleas that infested the royal bedchamber.
It is not known whether she ever managed to hit any.
The first six Moghul Emperors of India ruled in an unbroken succession
from father to son for nearly 200 years, from 1526 to 1707, a remarkable
feat as there was no tradition of primogeniture and the contest for the
throne was often bloody.
King Louis XIV of France hated washing. He took only three baths during his lifetime (1638–1715).
King Peter II of Yugoslavia is the only European monarch to be
buried in the United States. He became king at the age of 11 in 1934,
when his father, Alexander I, was assassinated. His uncle, Prince
Paul, ruled Yugoslavia as regent for all of his reign except for the
last ten days (after Paul signed an agreement with Hitler and Mussolini
in March 1941). After World War II, Tito set up shop in Yugoslavia,
leaving Peter without a kingdom. He died in Denver, Colorado on
November 4, 1970 and is buried at the Serbian Church monastery in
Pharaoh Pepi II of Egypt, who reigned from around 2294 B.C. to about
2220 B.C., had the longest known reign of any monarch (74 years).
Other long-reigning monarchs are: King Alfonso I of Portugal (1112–1185,
73 years), King Louis XIV of France (1643–1715, 72 years), and Prince John II
of Liechtenstein (1858–1929, 71 years).
Queen Victoria survived seven assassination attempts during her reign.
King Alexandros I of Greece (1917-1920) died from blood poisoning after
being bitten by his pet monkey.
King George V of England died on January 26, 1936, at
11:55 P.M. It was revealed in 1986 that the King's doctor, Lord Dawson, had
given him a lethal injection of cocaine and morphine. Dawson wanted the King
to die before midnight so that his death could be announced in the morning
Times instead of in a less prestigious afternoon paper.
Queen Elizabeth II
is descended from King Egbert (802–839), the first king of all of
England, and of King Fergus Mor Mac Eirc of Dalriada (now part of Scotland),
who reigned around the year 500.