The Empress of Russia for almost 35 years, Catherine the Great was the country's longest-ruling female leader. An ambitious ruler, she rapidly expanded the Russian Empire and is credited with modernizing the country along Western European lines. She supported the ideals of the Enlightenment and the period of her rule—the Catherinian Era—is considered the Golden Age of Russia.
Louis XIV of France reigned as the King of France from 1643 to 1715. Louis XIV is the longest-reigning monarch of a sovereign country in the history of Europe. Under his rule, France often asserted its military prowess and emerged as the most dominant European monarchy. His life inspired several films, such as The Taking of Power by Louis XIV.
Many biographers consider Anne, the Queen of Great Britain, a weak and irresolute woman. It is said that she lacked political astuteness and was easily influenced by others. Though she was troubled by poor health throughout her life, she became increasingly obese and ill during her 30s and eventually died at the age of 49.
The King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for almost six decades, George III had a reign that was longer than those of any of his predecessors. His reign was marked by a series of military conflicts. He suffered from mental illness in his later years.
Widely regarded as one of the most influential and important monarchs of the Zulu Kingdom, Shaka reigned as the king of the Zulu Kingdom from 1816 to 1828. Through a series of influential and wide-reaching reforms, Shaka was able to re-organize the Zulu military into a formidable force. His life and work inspired the 1986 South African TV series, Shaka Zulu.
The mother of 16 children, Maria Theresa was the only female monarch of the Habsburg empire which she ruled with absolute power. She was known for industrial and educational reforms which led to the development of Austria during her 40-year reign. The devout Roman Catholic, who overtly disliked Jews and the Protestants, was sometimes criticized for her religious intolerance.
Louis XVI of France reigned as the last king of France from 1774 to 1792 before the French Revolution, which ended the monarchy in France. During his reign, Louis made attempts to remove land and labor tax, abolish serfdom, and improve tolerance toward non-Catholics. However, the proposed reforms were opposed by the French nobility.
Regarded as the first gentleman of England, King George IV of the United Kingdom saw his empire consolidating its position as the global hegemon, particularly after the Napoleonic Wars. His regency during the illness of his father and then his 10-year reign were marked by royal extravagance.
Nader Shah reigned over Iran as the Shah of Iran from 1736 until his death in 1747. He is widely regarded as one of the most powerful rulers in the history of Iran. He has also been described as the Napoleon of Persia, thanks to his military genius, which was evident in his several campaigns.
Philip V reigned as the king of Spain from November 1700 to January 1724, and again from September 1724 to 1746. Philip introduced the centralization of monarchy and imposed the Nueva Planta decrees. Philip's accession initiated the 13-year War of the Spanish Succession. His final years were marred by depression.
Joseph II reigned as the Holy Roman Emperor from 1765, and as the sole ruler of the Habsburg lands from 1780, until 1790. Son of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis I, and brother of Marie Antoinette, he laid down policies now known as Josephinism. He died without heirs.
Catherine I of Russia was the second wife and Empress consort of Peter the Great. She served as the Empress regnant of Russia from 1725 until her death in 1727. The daughter of a peasant, she had an adventurous life as a young woman and eventually married Peter the Great who was taken by her beauty. They had 12 children.
Françoise d'Aubigné was a French noblewoman. She was secretly married to King Louis XIV and was one of his closest advisers. She was never considered the queen of France and served as the royal children's governess. She was born in an impoverished family and was previously married to poet Paul Scarron. She married Louis years after Scarron’s death.
Louis XVIII of France was the king of France from 1814 to 1824, except for the duration of the “Hundred Days” in 1815. He was the son of Louis, Dauphin of France, and his wife Maria Josepha of Saxony. He ruled for slightly less than a decade. He was not popular as a king.
Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha reigned as the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld from 9 December 1806 to 12 November 1826. He oversaw the construction of many projects, including a court theatre, in Coburg. Ernest is also remembered for the educational, constitutional, and economic development of his territories.
Peter III of Russia reigned over Russia as the emperor for just six months in 1762 before being deposed by people loyal to his wife Catherine II, who then succeeded him. In his short reign, Peter made progressive reforms, including the abolishment of the secret police, which was renowned for its extreme violence. Peter is often portrayed in films.
Jean-Jacques Dessalines was an important figure and leader of the Haitian Revolution. He went on to rule an independent Haiti, which became the first country to abolish slavery permanently. Considered one of Haiti's founding fathers, Dessalines reigned as the emperor of Haiti from 1804 until his murder in 1806. Today, he is regarded as an icon of Haitian nationalism.
Baji Rao I was a peshwa, or chief minister, of the Maratha empire in India. His conquests led a massive blow to the Mughal Empire. In spite of being married to Kashibai, he took a second wife, half-Muslim Mastani, a story that was retold in several movies later.
Yongzheng reigned over the Qing dynasty as its fourth Emperor from 1722 to 1735. He was also the third Qing emperor to reign over the Eighteen Provinces. Remembered for his hard-working nature, Yongzheng's most prominent objective was to come up with an effective government at minimum expense. Yongzheng, who cracked down on corruption, is credited with forming the Grand Council.
Marie Louise was an Austrian archduchess who reigned as Duchess of Parma from 1814 until her death. The eldest child of Emperor Francis II of Austria and his second wife, Maria Theresa, she grew up during a tumultuous period in the history of Austria. She was married to Napoleon I from 1810 to 1821. She died of pleurisy in 1847.
Mahmud II reigned as the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1808 to 1839. His reign was marked by the extensive military, administrative, and fiscal reforms which he initiated. The reforms that he initiated eventually led to the formation of the modern Turkish Republic. He is also credited with rebuilding a strong naval force for the empire.
The Soldier King Frederick William I of Prussia is remembered for transforming his nation into a prosperous state. He was known for his simple lifestyle, as opposed to his father’s kingly excesses. His experience at the War of the Spanish Succession led him to strengthen Prussia militarily, too.