A Salacious Guide to History's Horniest Monarchs
Most European history classes focus on civil wars, scientific discoveries, and social reformation. Screw that: we want to know about the sex. This very important investigation highlights some of the most notorious (or just remarkable) philanderers in royal history. Their sordid personal lives span several nations and several eras, but their libidos would all make Don Juan jealous.
Emperor of Rome, 37-41 AD
Caligula is such a well-known, enduring hedonist, SNL lampooned him in "The Tales of Sober Caligula" just two years back. On top of marrying four women and almost definitely sleeping with his sisters (dude...), Caligula was known to seduce senators' wives right in front of them, bring home prostitutes, and engage in affairs with pantomime actors (specifically, a dude named Mnester). He was also violent and insane, so it's not particularly surprising that his own guardsmen killed him after just five years on the throne.
King of England, 1100-1135
You can probably thank England's first King Henry for the term "royal bastard" -- the man left behind over 20 illegitimate kids. (He's been called the "undisputed royal record holder for fathering illegitimate children," which, as you'll see, is an impressive stat to hold in that family.) Henry only married twice in his lifetime, first to Matilda of Scotland and then, after she died, to Adeliza of Louvain. He had just two kids with Matilda (the son died) and none with Adeliza. But his lineage was more than secured thanks to numerous affairs with very fertile women. One of the longest-running mistresses was Sibyl Corbet, but if we're talking best-named, Ansfrida nabs an uncontested win.
King of England, 1509-1547
The most famous philanderer of the bunch, Henry established a pattern pretty early on. Step one: get a wife. Step two: tire of her easily when she can't produce a male heir. Step three: acquire a sidepiece. Step four: get rid of wife through divorce or death. Step five: marry mistress, repeat cycle. Henry whored around outside his circle of six wives, though. He slept with his second wife's sister, Mary Boleyn, and may or may not have fathered her two kids.
Before that, he shacked up with Elizabeth Blount, who popped out a kid named Henry Fitzroy (whom Henry actually acknowledged). He would also fool around with a Boleyn cousin, Margaret ("Madge") Shelton. Or maybe her sister Mary. Historians aren't sure -- some even think Madge is an amalgam of the two -- but it was definitely a Shelton girl. There are a bunch more besides them (historian Kelly Hart insists he had at least 12 mistresses outside his wives, possibly twice that), confirming that Henry VIII would've anchored the best episode of Maury ever.
Henry IV and Margaret of France
King and Queen of France, 1589-1599 (through 1610 for Henry)
During their marriage, neither Henry nor Margaret had an easy time with the whole fidelity thing. Henry was nicknamed "The Green Gallant" for his popularity with the ladies. He was known to ditch his armies to shack up with one of his many mistresses (Charlotte de Sauve and Gabrielle d'Estrées, to name just a few) and almost got wiped out by gonorrhea. He would eventually annul his childless marriage to Margaret so he could marry Marie de Medici of the famous and wealthy Florentine family.
But Margaret was no nun: even the encyclopedia notes she was "known for her licentiousness." Her most famous affair was with Joseph Boniface de La Môle, who was later tortured and executed for conspiring against the king. The whole thing was dramatized in Alexandre Dumas' novel La Reine Margot, published one year after better-known jam The Three Musketeers.
King of France, 1638-1715
Just like Gretchen Weiners, the Sun King had big hair that was full of secrets. His career of conquests started with Catherine-Henriette Bellier, who basically taught Louis XIV about, ahem, business time when he was a teen. He then had four kids with this impressively-named lady, a daughter with Claude de Vin des Œillets, and seven kids with the Marquise de Montespan while he was married to Queen Marie-Thérèse (who gave him six kids herself). And those were just the baby mamas! He fooled around with many others, and even had a secret wife in Madame de Maintenon.
King of the United Kingdom, 1901-1910
His mother Queen Victoria might've been associated with prudishness, but Edward VII was a very proud man-slut. Historian Anthony J. Camp believes he had over 50 affairs, including ones with actresses Lillie Langtry and Sarah Bernhardt, the Countess of Warwick, and even Winston Churchill's mom. Many illegitimate kids are attributed to him, but, in true deadbeat dad fashion, he never acknowledged any of them. That left all the power to his five heirs (there were six, but one died as a kid) produced with Queen Alexandra.
Marie of Romania
Queen of Romania, 1914-1927
Even though her husband Ferdinand I was ostensibly in charge, Marie was a powerful and popular figure the world over. And like so many other powerful and popular figures, she thought monogamy was overrated. Her favorite mister was Prince Barbu Stirbey, whom most historians believe was the actual father of her youngest son, Mircea. But she was also rumored to have affairs with Lieutenant Zizi Cantacuzène, Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich, Canadian adventurer Joe Boyle, and newspaperman Waldorf Astor. Clearly, she didn't have just one type.
Carl XVI Gustaf
King of Sweden, 1973-Present
Carl is such a stern-looking royal figure, the Internet's made a sport of Photoshopping him with silly hats. So you can imagine Sweden's surprise when Carl XVI Gustaf: The Reluctant Monarch hit shelves in 2010. The book claimed Carl used to frequent strip and sex clubs in his younger days, conduct naked Jacuzzi parties with models, and host the errant orgy or two. (At least one prominent mistress, pop singer Camilla Henemark, was also mentioned.)
Now of course, Carl could've written this off as tabloid fodder the second it hit -- most of the sources were anonymous -- but he made matters exponentially worse by holding a press conference in which he denied absolutely nothing. In fact, it kinda seemed like he was admitting to everything. Several months later, he backpedaled and said it was all lies, but by that point, pictures had already surfaced of him in one of the strip clubs. And his buddy Anders Lettström confessed to contacting a supposed mob boss about covering up the photos. Maybe just sit this next one out, Carl.
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.
Kristin Hunt is a staff writer for Thrillist, and kinda wants to hang that picture of Carl in the pink bunny hat in her apartment. Follow her to frame shops at @kristin_hunt.