You’d be surprised how often in life I get asked the question I am here going to set out to answer. “Dan” people ask. “Who were the hottest European Monarchs of history?”. Well, they can wonder no more, because the results are in. The votes have been cast. The panel has debated. The ballots have been totted up and I can finally reveal the answer we’ve all been waiting for. I mean, technically there was only one voter and only one panel member and both of those people were me, but whatever.
It should be noted that I am entirely reliant in this quest upon painted portraits and that before the Renaissance, portraiture was more representative than it was accurate. The earliest vaguely accurate picture of a European monarch we have is of Richard II of England and he was never hot. Various members of the Plantagenet dynasty were described as handsome, but bear in mind that the Plantagenets were a spiky lot and liable to cut the heads off those that offended them. Without accurate portraits, we can only wonder how true these descriptions are.
All that aside, let’s get on with it!
5. Henry IV of France
Also a contender for Best King of Anywhere Ever, the man who promised to rule with “A sword in the hand and [his] arse in the saddle”, It’s Henry IV of France and III of Navarre, shown here having a vanquish over the Lernaean Hydra. I’m not usually one for the greying daddy type, but He’s so marvellously camp as tits in this picture, I can’t help but love him. Henry was the first Bourbon king and sadly his looks and charm were somewhat lacking in his descendants. Got done in by a knife-wielding assassin in a traffic jam for not being catholic enough. Such is the way of things.
4. Alfonso XII of Spain
Ruling only from 1874 – 1885 before dying of dysentery and tuberculosis at the age of 27, I’ve mainly included Alfonso for having probably the most outrageous facial topiary of any European monarch. He doesn’t seem to have been a bad man, as kings go, but died too soon to really know. His son, unborn at his death, was an out and out git of the highest order, though.
3. Frederick III of Germany
OK, I take it back. Maybe Frederick’s whiskers were more prodigious than Alfonso’s. Another one who contrived to die only a few months after ascending the throne (of cancer this time) *and* to sire a complete arse in the form of his son Wilhelm II, Frederick was a liberal, who looked set to clash with his highly conservative chancellor; Bismarck. In the end he died before making much of an impression, Wilhelm dismissed Bismarck and all hell was let loose. Just goes to show. Quite what I’m not sure. In the above portrait, I am fairly convinced that Frederick is on his way to apply for a job producing coffee art in an ironic Berlin cafe.
2. William the Silent, Prince of Orange
Also known as William the Taciturn or William of Orange (not to be confused with the other William of Orange, who was his great-grandson), William was not, in fact, entirely silent, which would have made his rule considerably less interesting, I suspect. An adversary of certified hottie John of Austria (who gets no mention in this list purely by dint of never actually being a monarch of anywhere, much to his chagrin) and his masters Charles V (of amusing jaw fame) and Philip II (of marrying Bloody Mary and Armada fame), he founded the house of Orange-Nassau, brought independence to parts of the Netherlands and was the progenitor of that country’s entire royal family, before being assassinated.
1. Nicholas II of Russia
Becoming Tsar at the age of 26 without the faintest idea of how to do it, Nicky is our hottest of the hot. He seems to have been a nice enough man, if a bit of a twit. He refused to allow greater freedom and a constitutional monarchy in Russia on the grounds that he had taken an oath to be an autocrat at his coronation and, therefore, an autocrat he would be. Unfortunately, being an autocrat was never really in his nature, so he was never very good at it. His father declined to teach him anything of statecraft before he was thirty, which is all well and good, but he died when Nicholas was still only 26. Seemingly impressed by the machinery of democracy, he nevertheless stuck fast to the idea that Russia could only ever be an autocracy, before famously succumbing to the guns of the Russian revolutionaries in 1917. Probably not such a bad man, if he hadn’t been such an idiot. Pretty, though. Let’s have another pic to celebrate.
I simply cannot leave this without mentioning a couple of other contenders: William II of Orange. Bit of a weak face, this one. He looks like a china doll, but look at his lovely hair. Henry III of France. Bit pasty, perhaps, and a dreadful king. His brother Charles IX was kind of hot as well. And last but not least. Or maybe least, actually, James V of Scotland. I can never quite make my mind up about James. Hot or not? Perhaps we will never know.