The Blog of Toledo Lucas County Public Library
I’ve spent a decent amount of time on all the marvelous women in history. Now it is time for the bad seeds to be seen. Queens, noblewomen, rich ladies, and scoundrels, all these women have one thing in common: history paints an ugly picture of their lives. I should also note that many of these women were not inherently evil or bad, they were just on the wrong side of history. For my entertainment, I will be rating them out of 10 possible bad seed points.
Juana la Loca (1479-1555)
Joanna of Castile, better remembered as Juana la Loca (Joanna the Crazy), was unexpectedly thrust into the position of heir apparent when her sister, brother-in-law, and nephew suddenly died. Her mother was continually appalled by Joanna’s lack of dedication to Catholicism and was routinely physically punished for her rebellious nature. She was married to Philip of Flanders, successfully uniting the Holy Roman Empire with Spain. She had two boys and four girls, all of whom became emperors or queens. When her mother, Isabella of Castile, died, Joanna was declared queen. Her father did not want to give up his power in Castile, Joanna bit back and a civil war almost erupted. Her father ended up ruling as regent, having her declared insane and imprisoned in a convent until his death, upon which, she was Queen of Castile and Aragon. She continued to be imprisoned for her instability and her son ruled as co-monarch. Joanna never had the chance to make many bad decisions since her family locked her up, but if she had been free with her rebellious nature, temperament, and personality, she might have been a very terrible queen. She also may have been the result of her situation with a domineering mother and father, but we will never truly know. 4/10 bad seed.
Bloody Mary (1516-1558)
As a child, were you ever dared to go into a dark room and recite into the mirror “bloody Mary” three times, turn on the lights and be spooked by the ghost of Mary Tudor? Just me? Mary Tudor, or Mary I of England, was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Mary’s childhood was tumultuous. Her mother, a devote Catholic, was cast aside for a protestant bride, resulting in the entire country being split from the Catholic Church. By this time, Mary was a young woman and devoutly Catholic like her mother whom she was not permitted to see. Her father mistreated Mary, making her serve as a lady in waiting to his new bride. Fast forward to when Mary inherited the protestant throne upon her brother’s death. She took it as a calling from God to return England to the true faith. In doing so, she brutally ordered the deaths of heretics and protestant worshippers. She is said to have had over 300 religious dissenters burned at the stake (her violent father only executed 81 people for heresy). Was she a really a bad seed, or was she just doing what she thought was right for the world? Either way, her sister, Elizabeth I, converted the country back to Protestantism upon her ascension. 6/10 bad seed.
Grace O’Malley (1530-1603)
Gráinne Ní Mháille, in Irish, assumed the responsibility and lordship of her father’s ancestral land in Southwestern Ireland upon his death. Her brothers should have inherited the land, but she did instead and was considered the legal retainer of the family’s land and seafaring activities. As a child she was a stubborn Irish lass. Her father told her she could not go on a sea adventure with him to Spain because her long hair would get tangled in the ships rope. She cut it all off and insisted on going. As an adult, she sailed the seas, attacking and conquering castles. She was rebellious against English rule yet had the gumption to ask Elizabeth I’s favor in Ireland. She wouldn’t bow before the monarch, threw a borrowed handkerchief in the fire (a mannerly affront), and demanded Bingham (her biggest rival) be removed from Ireland. O’Malley is remembered as a defiant, pirating, plague on the English, but as a heroine of Ireland. Unfortunately for O’Malley, the English had better record keeping, so she is on the bad seed list. 3/10 bad seed.
Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614)
This one is a bad seed through and through. Credited with murdering over 650 girls and women, it is said that Elizabeth believed if she bathed in their blood, she would retain her youthful beauty. It is also recorded that she kept a book of the victims in her private collection. What in the…? Bathory was a Hungarian noblewoman. What is going on with Eastern Europeans and blood (We are looking at you, Vlad Tepes)? Not only did Bathory kill the girls and women, but she was also accompanied with four accomplices in their torture and killing between 1590-1610. She was convicted by 300 witnesses and survivors and the evidence of brutally murdered dead, dying, and imprisoned girls upon her discovery. Her family didn’t see fit to kill Elizabeth for her crimes; she was merely locked away in a tower and died in 1614. Some say she was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), but there is no evidence to prove this. Definitively 10/10 bad seed.
Catherine de Medici (for the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre)
Not of royal blood, Catherine de Medici might have always felt the need to protect and prove herself and offspring as Queen of France. While she was a confident mother and queen, some of the things she did to “protect” her kingdom might have come from a rotting part of her. During a time of religious conflict, it is believed that Catherine, Queen Mother to Charles IX at this time, organized the assassination of many Huguenots in Paris shortly after her daughter, Marguerite’s wedding. The butchering got out of control, lasted for weeks, and ended up killing anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 people. The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre crippled the French Huguenots and was a turning point in the wars of religion in France. However, it painted Catholicism as again, a bloody and treacherous religion in the eyes of many protestants. Did Catherine save her son’s throne? Perhaps, but at the cost of thousands of innocent lives. 6/10 bad seed.
Marie Antoinette (1755-1793)
While not inherently evil, Marie Antoinette is still one of history’s most hated queens. It isn’t how Marie really was that mattered, it is how the people saw her. Her image was horrible. Pamphleteers, cartoonists, and the press, all created a powerfully symbolic women that was tone-deaf, frivolous, self-absorbed, and disinterested in her people. For being the symbol of the monarchy’s excessive lifestyle, she was executed at age 37. And no, she most likely did not say “Let them eat cake” to the peasants that had no bread. Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote something similar about an insignificant noblewoman when Marie was merely 11 years old. There is no evidence of Marie’s horrible self really being the “Austrian Whore”. History is written by the victors, and in this case, it was the French Revolutionaries. Still, Mare is symbolized as a glutton and the epitome of everything that is wrong with monarchy even to this day. Probably not a bad seed, 2/10.
Ranavalona I (1778-1861)
Ranavalona was adopted into the King of Madagascar’s family as a reward when her father discovered a plot to assassinate the king. Not by merry chance, but by murder and betrayal, did Ranavalona ascend to the throne of Madagascar. She held her throne, tried to keep European influence from squashing native life, but did invite French dress into her court. A good bit of Ranavalona’s reign was peaceful, but as she got older, she seems to have gotten angry. She suppressed Christians, ousting many, killing and making martyrs of 14, and continued to resist European influence (which is not bad, but remember history is written mainly by the victor and since Madagascar became a French colony in 1896, this is what we are left with). Later, Ranavalona ordered a buffalo hunt… seemingly harmless until at least 50,000 people were gathered to go on this expedition. Slaves, underlings, nobles, etc. embarked on a very unplanned adventure where at least 10,000 of them perished under harsh conditions. They never recorded even shooting a buffalo. How does this even happen? Ranavalona: seemingly bad seed, 8/10.
Delphine LaLaurie (1787-1849)
Marie Delphine McCarthy was born to Irish immigrant parents in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was widowed twice when she finally married a wealthy physician, Leonard LaLaurie. Together, the couple and their blended family bought the infamous house at 409 Royal Street. It was in this house that Delphine tortured and murdered her slaves. She was known in polite society and not suspected until a fire broke out in the kitchen. The fire Marshall and police found her elderly slave chained to the stove. The woman said she lit the fire to end her own life so that she might not be punished in the attic. They then began upstairs to find the horrors that Delphine had wrought upon her slaves. Hanging, mutilated, and tortured for months, the slaves were taken to the county jail so the public might see what Delphine had done. Two perished there. Delphine, her husband, and her children fled in the night to Mobile, AL where they caught a ship to France and evaded punishment. Their house was sacked by an angry mob and was left abandoned. Disturbingly, 100% 10/10 Bad Seed.
Bonnie Parker (1910-1934)
Twenty-three-year-old gun slinging, cigar smoking, thieving, murderess Bonnie Parker is arguably one of the most famous women of the Great Depression Era. She did not seem to have a trouble childhood, other than her father dying when she was a year old. She dropped out of high school at 16 and married a man with a temper. They separated, and at 19 she met infamous Clyde Barrow. Clyde had not gotten in much trouble yet but was sentenced to prison where he was sexually and mentally abused beyond repair. Upon his release, his main goal was retaliation against the Texas Correctional Institution (which he eventually got) and Bonnie never left his side. Their gang traveled around multiple states, sticking to the state lines to avoid capture, robbing banks and gas stations. They started shooting back at police and successfully killed many. At one interval, their car ran off the road and flipped into a ditch, catching fire, and burning Bonnie’s leg to the bone, hip to ankle. Yet, they still evaded the authorities. Police found a film roll at one of their abandoned hideouts, publishing the photos in the papers, giving Bonnie and Clyde public notoriety and fame. One of my favorite things I read about Bonnie was that after kidnapping an officer, they left him on the side of the road with a clean shirt, a few dollars, and a note from Bonnie asking the newspapers to clear up that she “doesn’t actually smoke cigars”. Cheeky. Bonnie and Clyde met a young death at 24 and 25, on a country roadside where they were ambushed with 120 bullets. They had previously kidnapped an undertaker named Darby. When Bonnie found out he was an undertaker, she laughed and said some day he might be working on her. He did. Pretty bad seed, 7/10.
Griselda Blanco (1943-2012)
“Cocaine Godmother,” “Black Widow,” and “Godmother” are some of the names that Griselda Blanco made for herself. One of the biggest names in the cocaine industry, Griselda was ruthless. She was born in Columbia, grew up in poverty, and might have committed her first murder at age 11. Thus began a boisterous life of crime, drugs, money, and hedonistic partying. Seeking to oust her competitors in the 1970s, Griselda launched an offensive that riddled the Miami area known as the Cocaine Cowboy Wars. She is credited with smuggling over 3 tons of cocaine into the US every year. That is about $80 million worth of drugs. She spent about 21 years in jail (still ruling her drug empire) and was released and deported to Columbia where she was shot in the street by a motorcyclist (her own invented form of assassination) in 2012. Bad, bad seed 9/10.
Sandra Ávila Beltrán (1960-)
I am personally not sure if Sandra even stood a chance at not being a bad seed. Born to cartel involved parents, both sides of her family had numerous connections. She was a third-generation drug trafficker. She apparently had several affairs with well known drug barons in her youth, married twice, widowed twice, and was not afraid of using violence when ensuring her turf was undisturbed by other traffickers. She was very good at hiding her tracks but was eventually arrested and imprisoned in Mexico. She then spent time in a US Federal prison but was released in 2015 and now lives in the city of Guadalajara. Sandra is our only female bad seed that is still alive. I’d say she is a pretty bad seed since drugs ruin lives, 7/10.
Other “Bad Seeds” to investigate:
Irma Ida Grese
Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova
Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg
Empress Irene of Athens