These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All

Larry Holzwarth - July 25, 2019

Even the most vile rulers in history are sometimes given a break by historians and screenwriters, their crimes minimized as their attributes are presented in favorable terms. Genghis Khan, whose conquests led to the deaths of more than 10% of the world’s population at the time, is often praised for his military skills, for example. Qin Shi Huang is recognized as creating the first unified China, but his obsession with building a wall to keep out undesirables led in part to the destruction of any education system throughout his empire, as well as the creation of a peasant class. They are but two of the most hated rulers in history, though they thought quite highly of themselves. Here are thirty of history’s most hated leaders.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Tamerlane, also known as Timur, has been the subject of romanticized art and literature despite his tyrannical and despotic reign. Wikimedia

1. Tamerlane (Timur) built towers from the skulls of his enemies

Tamerlane was of Turkic stock, though he believed himself to be a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. His empire, which lasted four decades, was built upon the slaughter of uncounted thousands, the destruction of cities, and the torturing to death of those who refused to convert to his religion of choice, Islam. From their skulls, he had towers constructed in the cities he conquered. He styled himself as the sword of Islam, and it was he who defeated the Christian Knights Hospitaller at Smyrna. His military campaigns in Asia, Europe, and Africa led to the deaths of an estimated 17 million people. Despite his penchant for torture and mass executions, some scholars extol his virtues as a patron of the arts and an architectural visionary. His great empire crumbled quickly after his death in 1405.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Few rulers in history have had a more negative impact on the education of their people than China’s Qin Shi Huang. Wikimedia

2. Qin Shi Huang destroyed the educational system of China

Qin Shi Huang distrusted the educated, believing them to be a threat to his rule, and destroyed books on an epic scale, virtually eliminating education in the Chinese provinces he conquered. The killing of Confucian priests was also high on his list of priorities. The building of a wall to keep undesirables out of his lands (a forerunner to China’s Great Wall) and the use of forced labor for both the wall and a roads system led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Qin declared all under his rule to be equal, eliminating the class system and creating a nation of peasants which were little more than slave labor, and had them build a huge hidden tomb with a terra cotta army to accompany him to the next world. His unified China collapsed less than ten years after his 210 BCE death.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Jesus stands before Herod who, according to the gospels and like Pontius Pilate, could find no fault with him. Wikimedia

3. Herod Antipas managed to antagonize virtually everyone under his realm

Often referred to as King Herod, a title which he did not hold, Antipas played a direct role in the death of John the Baptist, an indirect role in the Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth (he refused to find Jesus guilty of crimes and ordered him returned to Pontius Pilate), and was eventually accused of conspiring against the Roman Emperor Caligula. His divorce of his first wife led to a war with King Aretas, his former father-in-law, as well as the condemnation of John the Baptist. Herod was thus denounced by Jews, early followers of Christ, and the Roman authorities, and eventually, his position as Tetrarch in Galilee and Perea became untenable. He was sent in exile to Gaul with his second wife, Herodias, where he died sometime after 39 CE.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Tsar Ivan IV displays some of the wealth he extracted from his people to an emissary dispatched to the Russian Court by Elizabeth I of England. Wikimedia

4. Ivan the Terrible was the first of the Russian Tsars

Ivan became Tsar of all the Russias, establishing Moscow as the premier Russian state, at the age of seventeen. Under his reign, Russia was transformed into the Russian Empire from the medieval state which he inherited, though his increasingly erratic behavior ensured that it was costly to the people under his rule. Ivan was actually quite popular among the lower classes of the people; it was the nobility which he distrusted and which he purged. He created the first Russian political police – the Oprichniki – which he used to arrest and execute members of the Russian nobility, confiscating their lands and money to his own treasury. The taxation demands levied on the peasantry occupying the lands became excessive, and by the time of his death, Ivan the Terrible was reviled by nearly all of Russia.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Stalin, seated beside a standing Lenin, ensured that his own image was ubiquitous throughout the Soviet Union and its satellites. Wikimedia

5. Josef Stalin contained his enemies through executions and imprisonment

Stalin managed to present himself as a man of the people even as his secret police forces repressed and murdered them by the hundreds of thousands. Famines which occurred under his rule, some of them created through his own policies, led to the death of millions. He executed thousands of Soviet army officers in purges in the years before the Second World War and sent millions to vanish in the Gulags. Just under 800,000 documented executions took place during the years of his rule in the Soviet Union. He also dispatched assassination teams to kill his enemies around the world. He endorsed the rapes committed by Soviet troops as they overran Eastern Europe in 1945, saying to a Yugoslav communist leader, “…and what is so awful in his [Soviet soldiers] having fun with a woman, after such horrors?” in reference to the campaign against the Germans.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Cortes and his conquistadores committed genocide in the cause of spreading Catholicism to the natives of the New World. Wikimedia

6. Marquis of the Valley of the Oaxaca, Hernan Cortes

The man most readily identified with the Spanish conquerors known as the Conquistadores, Hernan Cortes was feared, distrusted, distrusting, cunning, and cruel. His career was self-serving, largely an attempt to achieve wealth and power through the exploitation of the indigenous peoples he encountered, enslaving some and killing others. He used some tribes as allies, fighting against both the Aztec Empire and Spanish troops sent to recall him, establishing himself as the de facto ruler of the lands which were formerly those of the Aztec before being recalled to Spain. The absence of scholarly information regarding Cortes leaves him a man of questionable reputation, but there is little doubt that during his lifetime he endured the enmity of Spanish rivals and the peoples he ruthlessly enslaved and exploited.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
The coffins of Ferdinand and Isabella. Forever linked with Columbus in American lore, they were enthusiastic supporters of the Inquisition against Jews and heretics. Wikimedia

7. Ferdinand and Isabella prosecuted the inquisition in Spain

Although best remembered – especially in America – as the patrons of the voyages of Columbus, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon used authority bestowed upon them by the papacy, as well as funding from the same source, to aggressively battle religious beliefs which were foreign to the Catholic Church for decades. Jews who refused to convert to Catholicism were forcibly expelled from their realms, their property confiscated. Jews who claimed conversion falsely were tortured into confessions and executed. Protestantism was similarly treated, with those accused of heresy by the Office of the Inquisition subjected to death by burning at the stake. The same year Columbus left on his first voyage to the west, Ferdinand and Isabella issued the Alhambra Decree, banishing Jews from Spain if they did not convert to Catholicism within four months.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
A hapless pawn of the Hapsburg Dynasty, Maximilian of Mexico was hated by the Mexican people. Wikimedia

8. Maximilian was installed as the Emperor of Mexico

During the French intervention in Mexico in the mid-nineteenth century the United States was unable to enforce the principles of the Monroe Doctrine, occupied as it was with the American Civil War. Maximilian, brother of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, was installed by French Emperor Napoleon III as Emperor of Mexico, supported with troops of the French Empire. The Mexican aristocracy largely opposed the Emperor, as did the revolutionaries led by Benito Juarez. When the American Civil War ended, US support of Juarez became more overt, and the departure of the French in 1866 led to the collapse of the Mexican Empire. Maximilian, lacking support among the Mexican people, was arrested, tried for treason, and executed by his former subjects, most of whom had never fully accepted him as the legitimate ruler of Mexico. His refusal to restore democracy to Mexico led to his demise, and he remains controversial in Mexico today.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Akhenaten was so reviled his name and image were banished from Egyptian history for centuries. Wikimedia

9. Akhenaten is regarded as the most widely reviled of the Egyptian Pharaohs

Akhenaten was a pharaoh of the 18th dynasty who ruled more than 13 centuries before the Common Era. Also known as Amenhotep IV, the name under which he reigned in the early years of his rule, Akhenaten drew the ire of his subjects by commanding a semi-monotheistic religion centered on worship of the god Aten. His subjects, polytheistic for centuries, did not welcome his initiatives. The result was that Akhenaten, whom some believe to be the father of Tutankhamen, was banished from Egyptian history following his death at the end of a reign of 17 years. Monuments and memorials which he had had constructed were destroyed, and references to him were removed from records. He would have been forgotten forever had the site he had built for the worship of Aten not been discovered in the 19th century. In 1907 his mummy was discovered, and in recent years DNA analysis has established that the mummy was the father of the man known as King Tut. Possibly the most famous of the ancient pharaohs were fathered by the most hated. That hatred was large because he had the temerity to tamper with the religious beliefs of his subjects.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
The link between Vlad the Impaler (seated) and the fictional vampire Dracula is tenuous, but he was nonetheless a hated and feared ruler. Wikimedia

10. Vlad the Impaler may have been the inspiration for Count Dracula

Vlad Dracul, the father of the man known to history as Vlad the Impaler, was believed to have inspired Bram Stoker to name his fictional vampire Count Dracula in the gothic novel which gave birth to the vampire genre of literature and film. The son, known as Vlad the Impaler, claimed the title of Prince (Voivode) of Wallachia, and used extraordinarily cruel methods to enforce his claims against his enemies real and imagined. Vlad’s favorite method of torturing and executing his enemies, which included Saxons, Ottomans, Wallachians, Hungarians, Bulgars, and others, was by impaling them, from the rectum to the chest, to hang upon the stake until merciful death overcame them. Feared and hated throughout Transylvania, stories of his cruelty were common during his lifetime, including those of his having men, women, and children boiled to death in large cauldrons constructed for the purpose. Today he is widely considered a national hero of Romania.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Commodus, who declared himself to be a god, fought in the Colosseum after ensuring his opponents had been weakened by wounds. Wikimedia

11. Lucius Aurelius Commodus came to believe himself a god

Commodus ruled as Emperor of Rome alongside his father, Marcus Aurelius, from 177 to 180 CE, after which he ruled solely for another dozen years. He was 18 years of age when his father died, leaving him the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. His rule, though for the most part peaceful when considering foreign wars, was increasingly capricious and dictatorial, and the senatorial order of Rome which he taxed heavily grew to hate as well as fear him. He remained popular with the people through his staging of gladiatorial spectacles in which he frequently took part. He ensured he would emerge from combat victorious by disabling his opponents in a manner hidden to the audience before they entered the arena. He erected statues portraying him in godly status throughout the empire, and eventually bestowed the name of Commodianus upon the people and governmental infrastructure of the empire, implying they were all his children. He also renamed Rome after himself, calling himself the reincarnation of Romulus. Delusional and despotic, he was assassinated in 192. After his death, his statues were destroyed and he was declared an enemy of the people.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Murad IV, whose reign was marked by fratricide and increasing paranoia while consolidating his personal power. Wikimedia

12. Murad IV was the epitome of the brutal Ottoman ruler

Murad IV was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from the age of 11; his mother ruled through him during the early years of his reign. Murad grew fearful of the corruption he saw surrounding him during this period, and at the age of twenty, in 1632, he moved to consolidate his power. An early step in that direction was the arrest and execution of his brother-in-law. He banned the consumption of coffee, alcohol, and tobacco (since people gathered in shops to use them, and where people gathered corrupt bargains loomed) making those violating the edict subject to death. Civil law was strengthened and strictly enforced. Imams who opposed him or counteracted his civil laws with religious edicts were executed. Murad may have banned consumption of alcohol by his subjects, but he did not extend the ban to himself, nor to his many concubines when in his presence. He died in his capital of Istanbul in 1640, at the age of 27, of cirrhosis of the liver.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Although he is honored with an ornate tomb, no British monarch has taken his name since the hated reign of King John. Wikimedia

13. There is a reason no British King has taken the name John since the days of the Magna Carta

Richard I, known to posterity as Richard the Lionheart, was King of England when he departed on the Third Crusade late in the twelfth century. His brother attempted to rebel against Richard’s interests, and during the King’s absence ruled as King John, later inheriting the throne on Richard’s death in 1199. John’s record as both an administrator of the government and a leader at war have been assessed and reassessed every other generation or so since, leading his reputation to be both tarnished and redeemed. Most historians agree that he was vindictive, petty, and possessed an often demonstrated inclination towards cruelty. Following a failure to defeat the French in 1214 John returned to England to find the Barons united in rebellion against him, and he signed the Magna Carta imposed upon him in 1215, though he largely ignored the conditions to which his signature signaled agreement. No English monarch has taken the name John ever since his reign ended after his death from dysentery.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Queen Ranavalona had the temerity to resist the imperialism of the French and British, despite the suffering her policy imposed on her people. Wikimedia

14. Ranavalona I sacrificed her people in opposition to European colonialism

As Queen of Madagascar, a title she assumed in 1828, Ranavalona was virulently opposed to both the influence of the European governments – chiefly France and Great Britain – and the work of Christian Missionaries within her realms. To stop them, she implemented policies which included heavy taxation of her people and the requirement to perform forced labor or military or service – or both – in order to pay them. She also engaged in warfare with the Europeans, intent on preventing the creation of permanent settlements on her island nation. She was opposed by her son, who negotiated with the French to create treaties of mutual benefit, with the French exploiting the island’s resources and the son, Radama, receiving their support claiming the throne. The conspiracy failed, Radama did not achieve power until the death of her mother, by which time the policies of the latter had reduced the native population of Madagascar by nearly half. After her death in 1861, European histories and those of the colonies they established depicted Ranavalona as a hated and deranged ruler. She is still widely considered so in Madagascar today, though a growing movement praising her for maintaining Malagasy culture and tradition has evolved.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
The last Tsar (to date) with his family, all of whom were murdered by the Bolsheviks, in a portrait taken just before the onset of World War I. Wikimedia

15. Nicholas II was the last ruler of a 300-year-old dynasty

The Romanov Dynasty as rulers of the Russian Empire came to an end with the deposing of Tsar Nicholas II. Nicholas’s reign as the Tsar was marked throughout its more than two decades with economic collapse, crop failures, military defeats, anti-Semitic pogroms, the execution of dissidents, and the denial of reforms. During his reign, he was known among the people of his empire as Nicholas the Bloody, Vile Nicholas, and other less than flattering names. World War I and the heavy casualties suffered by the Russian Army, officered by members of the nobility but its ranks filled with conscripted peasants, led to the February Revolution. Nicholas abdicated his throne in favor of his son Alexei, expecting to go into exile. Instead, he and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks in July 1918. Part of the rationale for executing the Tsar was his being related to both the British King and the German Kaiser, as well as several other crowned heads of Europe. Although some have since defended his personal character, the consensus of history is that Nicholas was an inept ruler, and he was widely hated among his people.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
An 1862 political cartoon depicts Lincoln creating what would in a later day be called “fake news”. Wikimedia

16. Abraham Lincoln was widely reviled by the press and public

As Abraham Lincoln was on his way to Washington to be inaugurated as President, an article appeared in a newspaper which compared him unfavorably to a “braying ass”. It was not a national newspaper but rather the Salem Advocate, published in Lincoln’s former hometown. More widely read newspapers were less than supportive, one, the Brooklyn Eagle, said the newly elected President, after being smuggled through Baltimore to avoid an assassination plot, should be treated with “the deepest disgrace that the crushing indignation of a whole people can inflict”. It wasn’t just the nation’s newspapers which demonstrated hatred for Lincoln; throughout his first administration, he received letters which contained threats on his life, referred to him as an ape, an orangutan, a baboon, a jackass, and other even less complimentary terms, most of which also appeared in editorial columns and cartoons. Even his Emancipation Proclamation was greeted with derision by many, the Chicago Times called it “a criminal wrong, and an act of national suicide”.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Belgium’s king Leopold II ruthlessly plundered his private colony in the Congo throughout the increasing protests over his cruelty. Wikimedia

17. Leopold II of Belgium ruled the Congo as a privately held colony

Leopold II was King of Belgium from 1865 – 1909. In 1885 he established the Congo Free State as a private colony, from which he extracted great wealth which was used for private and public projects in Belgium. Beginning with ivory, and later expanding to the wealth attained from rubber, Leopold exploited the native population of the Congo through forced labor. He maintained his iron grip on the natives by using administrators who resorted to torture and executions. Laborers in the rubber plantations and processing facilities faced quotas which often killed them through overwork and exhaustion, and those who failed to meet the quotas established by the King were subjected to beatings, the amputation of limbs, and other atrocities. Approximately 10 million Congolese died under his rule. In 1908, concerned about the rising condemnation of other nations over the activities in the Congo, the government of Belgium established control over the colony, which became the Belgian Congo, free from Leopold’s direct control. He died the following year, having never visited the colony which he ruled with such ruthlessness.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Robespierre was both a leading proponent of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror and eventually a victim to it. Wikimedia

18. Maximilien Robespierre created the period of French history known as the Reign of Terror

The French Revolution became noted for its atrocities against the nobility and clergy of France, especially during the period of mass executions known as the Reign of Terror. During the period, wagons known as tumbrils rolled through the streets of Paris and other French cities, carrying the condemned to their appointment with the guillotine. In truth, the Reign of Terror was directed against the political adversaries of Robespierre and their supporters. Much of the condemnation directed towards Robespierre is now debated by scholars, though there is little question that during the time of the terror, roughly 1793 – 1794, he was one of the most feared and hated men in all of France. The wavering fortunes of the Revolutionary armies against England and Austria weakened his political position in early 1794, and his enemies succeeded in having Robespierre arrested for treason (shot through the jaw, whether by his enemies or in attempted suicide remains debated) and executed on the guillotine in July of 1794.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
King Louis XVI went from being a monarch popular with the lower classes to a hated victim of the guillotine in revolutionary France. Wikimedia

19. Louis XVI went from universal popularity to being the most hated man in France

Louis XVI, King of France at the time of the French Revolution, was initially a monarch popular with his people and the nobility. During his relatively short reign, his popularity with both dwindled rapidly. The nobility and the church despised him for his weakness in dealing with the earliest symptoms of revolution. The peasantry and merchant class grew to blame him for failing harvests, famine, and rising taxes. The image of the King as a parasite living luxuriously at the expense of his people was propagandized by the revolutionaries, and Louis found himself in danger as France was beset with military enemies. After he attempted to flee, he was arrested and taken to Paris as a prisoner. The revolutionaries presented a case against him of attempting to leave France to raise armies among his fellow crowned heads of Europe to crush the revolution. By then his popularity had ebbed to its nadir, and Louis and his family were among the most hated people in French history. His execution on the guillotine was one of the most memorable events of French history, with his head held aloft to the cheering crowds which witnessed it.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Lyndon Johnson scored one of the biggest landslide victories in American political history before finding his presidency besieged by protests over the Vietnam War. LBJ Library

20. Lyndon Johnson became one of the most hated Presidents in American history

When Lyndon Johnson assumed the Presidency upon the murder of his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, he was immediately popular, a stance which he exploited to win election to the office in 1964 in one of the greatest landslides of US history. Within four years that popularity was squandered, and Johnson chose not to attempt re-election in 1968. He was hated by liberals for his support of the Vietnam War and the draft. Conservatives hated his prosecution of the war as being too limited. They also hated the Civil Rights Act which he pushed through Congress and the Voting Rights Act which followed. His support of desegregation and civil rights brought him additional hatred, not only in the Deep South but in liberal bastions such as Boston. Supporters of law and order thought his administration was too soft on crime, especially regarding the civil rights demonstrations in the South. “Hey hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” became a protest chant heard daily. Johnson was not driven to lose the Presidency, he simply abandoned it.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Catherine the Great was thoroughly corrupt, consumed with lust for power as well as more carnal vices, and generally hated by the Russian nobility. Wikimedia

21. Catherine the Great overthrew her husband and usurped the throne from her son

Catherine the Great of Russia acceded to the throne as empress after participating in a coup which led to the arrest of her husband, Peter III. Six months later Peter was assassinated while under house arrest by another plotter of the coup, though in fairness to Catherine there is no evidence that she ordered or was even aware of the plot to kill Peter. There were others with claims to the throne following Peter III. One was Ivan VI, who had spent nearly his whole life incarcerated, and who was assassinated on Catherine’s order in response to an attempted coup against her. Another was the Grand Duke Paul, her son with Peter III, who should have claimed the throne upon reaching the age of majority, with Catherine as empress regent until then. The serfs of Russia simmered with growing resentment throughout her reign, exploding into open rebellions, all of which failed, and led to even harsher conditions. Today she is widely regarded as an enlightened despot by scholars.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Tsar Paul I of Russia, son of Catherine the Great and a father whose identity remains in dispute among historians and scholars. Wikimedia

22. Paul I of Russia antagonized his subjects during his short reign

Paul I of Russia was the son of Catherine the Great, believed he was the rightful Tsar during most of her reign, and acceded to the throne upon her death from a stroke. His attempts to reform the army led to the resentment of the nobility, reforms over the treatment of the peasant class increased the resentment, and four years into his reign a conspiracy was formed among his closest advisors to assassinate him and place his son on the throne. His son was in the palace where the assassination of the Tsar took place, though there is no evidence that he was part of the conspiracy. Paul I fought back against his attackers, who eventually killed him by strangling him and kicking his inert body, after which they informed the new Tsar, Alexander I, to assume the throne. Alexander was 23, and in one of his first acts as Tsar decided not to prosecute or otherwise punish the conspirators who killed his father.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Oliver Cromwell at the head of his troops at Dunbar. Cromwell remains both a beloved and hated figure of British history. Wikimedia

23. Oliver Cromwell was a hated figure among Catholics and Royalists

Cromwell, one of the men to sign the warrant of execution for King Charles I, has been hailed as one of the greatest Britons of all time by some, and a genocidal tyrant by others. Crushingly brutal treatment of Irish Catholics followed his departure from Ireland, which has led some scholars to place the blame for the atrocities on other generals. Cromwell however was certainly aware of it and did nothing to stop the deportation of thousands to Barbados, Bermuda, and other locations as indentured servants or prisoners of war. Women and children were among the more than 50,000 Irish so treated. During his military campaigns in Ireland, he reported to London the killing of 3,000 Irish troops, though he appended the phrase “and many inhabitants” during the destruction of Drogheda in September 1649. Cromwell’s several massacres were based on religious prejudice, and he himself wrote that he would not allow “the exercise of the Mass” wherever he held power.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Caligula’s name remains a symbol of excess, debauchery, and murder in the 21st century. Wikimedia

24. Caligula declared himself a god during his terroristic reign

Caligula was one of several Roman emperors who inspired terror in the hearts of his subjects, including the Senate. His proclivity for sexual excess has been widely reported, some of it exaggerated and some of it likely true. Anyone suspected of treason under his rule was subject to arrest, torture, and execution, and treason was defined as acts against the emperor rather than against the state. Declaring himself to be a god antagonized many of the subjects of his realm, including both the Jews and emerging Christian sects. Caligula strove to increase the personal power of the emperor, weakening the balancing powers of the Roman government and using the wealth of the empire to erect luxurious palaces for himself. A conspiracy of Roman senators, members of the court, and the Praetorian Guard plotted the assassination of the hated emperor in 41 CE, after a reign just two months short of four years. Caligula had planned to move to Alexandria, from whence he would reign and be worshiped as a god, thus stripping Rome of its political power and prestige.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
A caricature of Ugandan strongman and tyrant Idi Amin Dada. Library of Congress

25. Idi Amin Dada Oumee became President of Uganda through a military coup

Idi Amin was an officer in the Ugandan armed forces of the British Empire when Uganda gained its independence in 1962. In 1971, he was the commander of the Ugandan Army when it was discovered by the President of Uganda, Milton Obote, that Amin had been enriching himself through embezzling funds intended for the army. Before Obote could have Amin arrested the latter launched a coup, deposed Obote, and made himself president while retaining command of the army. Amin was a despotic tyrant who persecuted several different ethnic groups, protected himself politically through nepotism and extrajudicial executions of enemies, and suppressed all forms of dissent. Up to a half-million Ugandans were executed under his rule, which ended when he was forced to flee after Tanzanian troops invaded Uganda. Amin lived the final years of his life in exile in Saudi Arabia, financially supported by the Saud family.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Milton Obote in the Oval Office with then President John F. Kennedy, before the former was ousted by his fellow grafter Idi Amin. National Archives

26. Milton Obote, ousted by Idi Amin, was a hated ruler of Uganda as well

When Idi Amin overthrew Milton Obote’s government while the latter was attending a meeting in Singapore it was widely welcomed by the Ugandan people, which allowed Amin to consolidate power quickly. Obote was a corrupt and tyrannical ruler, implicated (with Amin) in plots smuggling both gold and ivory during his term as prime minister. In response to such accusations, he suspended the Ugandan parliament, declared martial law, named himself president and through that office issued emergency decrees which effectively suppressed dissent and opposition to his policies. Following an attempted assassination in 1969, Obote used the Ugandan secret police, run by his cousin, to terrorize the Ugandan people, and those who dared to speak against his regime were sentenced to life imprisonment without trial. Obote’s personal corruption and despotism led to the people supporting the overthrow of the hated ruler, who fled to exile in Tanzania. He later returned to power in Uganda, in a regime which was equally as bad as his first.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
The history of the Ottoman Empire is replete with stories of rulers hated by their peoples and their own close relatives. Wikimedia

27. Ibrahim bankrupted the Ottoman Empire through his extravagances

Ibrahim was the brother of Murad IV, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and as a result was sentenced to imprisonment by the insane Murad, who had his other three brothers executed. Ibrahim was only spared due to the pleadings of his mother, who was also the concubine who had given birth to Murad (the other brothers were from other concubines). When Murad died Ibrahim became Sultan and became so infamous that it was widely believed his imprisonment had affected his sanity. Ibrahim spent his time and the empire’s treasure on personal extravagances, banishing or imprisoning any who opposed him, and elevated women of his harem to high offices. Eventually even Ibrahim’s mother called for his removal, responding to a member of a conspiracy for the purpose, “The whole society is in ruins. Have him removed from the throne immediately”. After he was removed from the throne his mother, who had once pled for his life, gave her consent to his assassination.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Repercussions from the Iranian overthrow of the hated Shah still dominate US-Iranian relations four decades later. Wikimedia

28. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, ruled Iran for over 37 years

The rule of the most recent Shah of Iran was marked by an ongoing decline in the support of the working class and religious leaders of the Shi’a sect of Islam. He also entered into conflicts with the merchant class, banned most opposition political parties and meetings, and used his secret police, SAVAK, to crush dissent across Iranian society. But it was Shi’a clerics who opposed the support of the United States and the United Kingdom of the Shah who stirred up much of the opposition to the Shah’s regime, including his allowing women to vote. As more and more dissidents protested against the Shah and the perceived westernization of the country SAVAK arrested and imprisoned hundreds. By 1978 more than 2,000 political prisoners were being held in its jails. That number increased quickly as Iran descended into a full-blown revolution and Pahlavi and his family fled from Iran in January 1979. The monarchy was abolished following the departure of the Shah, though his legacy in Iran still affects US – Iran relations four decades later, with much of the hatred for the Shah transferred to the United States.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Images, statues, and monuments honoring Francisco Franco have been removed from Spanish society and culture as the atrocities of his reign have been exposed. Wikimedia

29. Francisco Franco ruled by oppression and the use of propaganda

For nearly four decades the schoolchildren in Franco’s Spain were taught the Generalissimo had been sent by a Divine Providence to save the nation from anarchy and atheism. As adults, they were reminded of this through the use of propaganda posters and broadcasts. Those who found room for disagreement were repressed through prisons and firing squads, and hundreds of thousands died over the course of his fascist regime. As his rule lengthened it also softened in some respects, but since his death in 1975 memorials to his regime have been gradually taken down. Franco had his name assigned to numerous streets, government buildings, and other edifices. Beginning in 2007 referral to the Franco regime on such structures has been banned by the Spanish government. In many instances, they have been replaced with memorials to Franco’s many victims. By 2008 the last statue of Franco extant in Spain was removed.

These 30 Rulers in History Were Hated by All
Vidkun Quisling chose to betray his people and country in order to retain his rule over them as a puppet of the Nazis. Wikimedia

30. Vidkun Quisling’s last name became synonymous with betrayal

Vidkun Quisling was the prime minister of the Norwegian puppet government established after the German occupation of Norway during the Second World War. Though Quisling held little power independent of the Nazis he required little supervision carrying out German policies and programs. Quisling was a whole-hearted supporter of the Nazis, forcing the Norwegian security apparatus to support the Final Solution. Quisling supported the forced exile of Norway’s Jews, helped raise volunteers from Norway to serve in the SS, and created a single-party state in Norway. Over the course of the war, he made several trips to visit Hitler, hoping to secure independence for Norway from German control, with his country aligned as a German ally. After the war, the hated Quisling was tried, convicted, and executed for his actions during the coup which brought him to power and other crimes. Today the word quisling signifies a collaborator or traitor in several countries, in several languages.


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