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Top 10 Most Evil Queens in History

VO: JB
Written by Sean Harris These ruthless rulers are responsible for some of history’s darkest hours. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 most evil queens in history! For this list, the individuals do not necessarily have to have held the title of queen, as we’re including anything equivalent in power - from wicked regents to unforgiving empresses. Special thanks to our user Daniel Fong for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Most Evil Queens in History


These ruthless rulers are responsible for some of history’s darkest hours. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 most evil queens in history!
For this list, the individuals do not necessarily have to have held the title of queen, as we’re including anything equivalent in power - from wicked regents to unforgiving empresses.

#10: Empress Zhao Feiyan of China
32-1 BC

Heading back to the Han Dynasty, Zhao Feiyan and her sister Zhao Hede were born to Imperial servants, but both rose through the ranks to become favoured consorts of Emperor Cheng. Feiyan became Empress, but as neither her nor her sister bore Cheng an Imperial heir, they reportedly went to great and grisly lengths to ensure that no other concubine could produce a son - from forced abortions to infanticide. Upon Cheng’s death, Zhao Hede committed suicide, while Zhao Feiyan clung to power for a further five years – until she killed herself at 31.

#9: Olga of Kiev
890-969

A princess who became a saint, Olga probably has a better reputation than most on today’s countdown – but she also led one of the most brutal revenge missions ever. In the year 945, her husband Igor of Kiev was killed by his enemies, the Drevlians. So, Olga hatched various schemes to settle the score. She had 20 Drevlian messengers buried alive; she had another delegation of 20 burned to death; she attended a Drevlian feast and oversaw the slaughter of 5,000 more; and she supposedly burned down an entire city by lacing pigeons with sulphur. That’s one way to vent your anger.

#8: Catherine de’ Medici, Queen of France
1519-1589

Queen of France between 1547 and 1559, Catherine de’ Medici had some influence over her husband Henry II’s reign, but when he died her powers grew. As Regent, she guided the turbulent rule of her three sons, during a series of Huguenot rebellions. The throne’s increasingly harsh policies are often attributed to Catherine, culminating in the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre – a weeks-long killing spree which resulted in thousands of Protestant deaths. Rumoured links with the Occult also surrounded the former Italian noblewoman, who owned a talisman created by Nostradamus. Master manipulator or blatant witch? You decide.

#7: Mary I of England
1516-1558

Given that history has dubbed her ‘Bloody Mary’, this queen carved quite a reputation during her five-year reign. Determined to reverse the Reformation instigated by her father, Henry VIII, she sought to reinstate Catholicism across the realm. Almost immediately upon ascending to the throne, Mary had leading Protestant clergymen imprisoned, while hundreds more were forced into exile. She then arranged the execution of over 250 prominent Protestants, forcing many to watch their peers be burned at the stake before suffering the same fate.

#6: Isabella I of Castile
1451-1504

As one half of The Catholic Monarchs, Isabella of Spain was a prominent figure behind the Spanish Inquisition, and the expulsion of Muslims and Jews from the country. Alongside Ferdinand II of Aragon, she turned Catholicism into a compulsory faith, forcing up to 200,000 people to convert, or else flee. Those who continued to practice alternative religions in secret were imprisoned, often tortured and sometimes burned alive. And Isabella was keen to see her hard-line policies adopted elsewhere, as she and Ferdinand financed Christopher Columbus and the colonization of the Americas.

#5: Agrippina the Younger
15-59

The fourth wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius, directly following Valeria Messalina who supposedly sought to execute Claudius herself, Agrippina was also Caligula’s sister – so you could say evil was in her blood. She was actually exiled for plotting against Caligula, but returned following his death, and married. Agrippina quickly sought to eliminate her rivals in variously ruthless ways, and in a bid for long-lasting power she persuaded Claudius to adopt her son, Nero. She allegedly poisoned her husband soon afterwards, and Nero became Emperor. But it also ended badly for Agrippina, who was ultimately assassinated by her son. Families, eh!

#4: Irene of Athens
752-803

Assuming power over the Byzantine Empire as Regent for Constantine VI – who was just nine-years old when he inherited the throne – Irene of Athens is remembered for her controversial efforts to restore the worship of religious icons. A divisive figure then and now, maintaining power was everything to her – no matter the cost. When Constantine was old enough to rule, she proved an exceptionally overbearing mother, until he sought to break free from her authority. Their rivalry was ended when Irene framed her son for conspiracy; Constantine had his eyes gouged out as punishment. Brutal.

#3: Fredegund of Soissons
545-597

Queen Consort with Chilperic I, a sixth-century Frankish king, and Regent for her son Chlothar II, Fredegund rose through the ranks from royal servant, to the King’s mistress, to a cold-blooded murderer ready to kill whenever necessary. Amongst other things, she arranged for Chilperic’s previous wife to be strangled; she started a fierce 40-year feud with that woman’s sister, Brunhilda; and she tried to crush the skull of her own daughter, using a treasure chest. If you got on her bad side, you were usually killed – and often in an unpleasant manner.

#2: Wu Zetian of China
624-705

Taking control of China after millennia of male rule, and steering the empire through a relatively stable period in its history, Wu could well be judged as a very successful leader. However, her time at the top was drenched in blood. She employed a secret police to find and murder potential opponents, and she had no qualms with attacking her own. She’s heavily implicated in the death of her own infant daughter – who was supposedly strangled so that Wu could frame a rival – and her accusations of witchcraft or treason led to various executions, including those of most of her own family.

#1: Ranavalona I of Madagascar
1778-1861

Also known as the Mad Queen, Ranavalona entered into the Madagascan royal family a commoner, but fought off various claimants to the throne, and eventually ruled for over 30 years. Remembered for her fierce policies, such as banning Christianity, she led an exceptionally harsh regime, characterised by forced labour practices and brutal executions. Cross Ranavalona and you were beheaded, boiled alive, or thrown into a ravine. Estimates say that up to 75% of the Madagascan population died during her reign, through war, disease or by Ranavalona’s own orders.
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