Marcus Aurelius played an important role in the Roman Empire. A Stoic philosopher, Marcus was part of the Five Good Emperors and the last emperor of the Pax Romana—a 200-year-long period of relative peace in the Roman Empire. Also a writer, his work Meditations is regarded by many as one of the greatest works of philosophy.
Catherine de' Medici was an Italian noblewoman who played a key role in the political affairs of France during the rule of her sons, a period which came to be known as the age of Catherine de' Medici. Catherine is credited with saving the monarchy from deposition during the French Wars of Religion.
Charles V served as the Holy Roman Emperor, King of Italy, and King of Germany from 1519 to 1556. From 1516 to 1556, he ruled as the King of Spain. His personal union of the American and European territories was the first collection of kingdoms that were described the empire on which the Sun never sets.
Nero was the fifth Roman emperor whose rule was associated with tyranny. Five years into his reign, he had his mother Agrippina killed. The Great Fire of Rome, which occurred during his reign, is believed to have been instigated by him for political reasons. He was also responsible for eliminating many Christians from the empire.
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor reigned as the King of Sicily, King of Germany, King of Italy, and King of Jerusalem. An avid patron of the arts and science, Frederick played an important role in supporting literature. He promoted the Sicilian School of poetry, which played an influential role in developing literature in Italy.
Umberto II, the only son of King Victor Emmanuel III, was the last king of Italy and ruled for just 34 days, from May 9 to June 12, 1946, and then went into exile. Also known as Re di Maggio, he was the de facto head of state since 1944.
Romulus Augustus went down in history as the last Western Roman emperor. The son of Orestes, who was killed by German warrior Odoacer, Romulus was spared and allowed to move to southern Italy. Though not much is known of him, it is believed he lived till the rule of Theoderic.
A 15th-century lord of Florence, Piero the Unfortunate was the eldest son of Italian statesman Lorenzo de' Medici. Throughout his 2-year rule, he made foolish errors such as making an agreement accepting all the demands of French king Charles VIII, leading to a revolt in his kingdom.
The second-born daughter of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Lucilla was married off to his father’s co-ruler, Lucius Verus, who was twice his age. After both Verus and Aurelius died, Commodus, Lucilla’s brother, came to power. Though Lucilla was politically conscious, she was eventually executed in her early 30s for plotting the murder of Commodus.
Victor Emmanuel II of Italy reigned as the king of Sardinia from 1849 to 1861. He then became the first king of a united Italy in 1861 and reigned as its king until his death in 1878. Since he played a major role in the Second Italian War of Independence, Italians started referring to him as Father of the Fatherland.
Older brother of Napoleon, Joseph Bonaparte, had been the king of Naples and Spain. After Napoleon’s fall, he was exiled to New Jersey, U.S. Later, in Europe, he lived a lavish life at Point Breeze, surrounded by all the wealth he had inherited, along with a classy collection of paintings.
The second wife of Roman Emperor Nero, Poppaea Sabina, apparently used her charms to get Nero to murder his mother, Agrippina, and then execute his first wife, Claudia Octavia. According to Roman historian Tacitus, a heavily pregnant Poppaea eventually succumbed to Nero’s anger, when he kicked her in her belly.
Umberto I of Italy reigned as the king of Italy from 1878 until his death in 1900. His reign witnessed an attempted colonial expansion by Italy into the Horn of Africa, successfully annexing Somalia and Eritrea. Loathed by anarchists because of his approval of the Bava Beccaris massacre, Umberto I of Italy was assassinated by an anarchist named Gaetano Bresci.
Mary of Modena, the second wife of King James II of England, who was also James VII of Scotland, reigned as the queen of England, Ireland, and Scotland. It is believed she induced James to escape to France during the Glorious Revolution, when William of Orange invaded England.
It is believed that the Margherita pizza that is a popular dish today was actually first made by a pizza maker in Naples to treat Margherita of Savoy, who had grown tired of the royal gourmet food. The wife of King Umberto I, Margherita was the queen of Italy.
The second daughter of Italian king Victor Emmanuel III, Princess Mafalda of Savoy grew up as any aristocratic lady would, learning 5 languages and various musical instruments. Known for her charitable spirit, she spoke against Hitler and was sent to a concentration camp, where she died in an Allied bombing.
After her father died, Joanna I was made the heir to the throne of Naples by her grandfather, King Robert the Wise. Her life was marred by the murder of her first husband and the attacks of the Hungarian king Louis I. She was eventually imprisoned and killed by Charles of Durazzo.
The queen consort of Spain Maria Luisa was the wife of Spanish king Charles IV and the daughter of Duke Philip of Parma. She often served as the muse of Spanish artist Goya. She also started the Order of Queen Maria Luisa to reward noble women. She was later exiled with Charles.
An ideal elite Renaissance woman, Bona Sforza was the queen of Poland and the wife of Sigismund I the Old. She is remembered for her fiery resistance to the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, when he suggested Bona be planted as a Habsburg spy to counter the Jagiellonian dynasty.