Royal Portraits That Will Make You Thankful For Modern Cameras

If you’re someone that’s convinced they are unphotogenic, be thankful that you don’t live in a time when the only way to have your image captured was by drawing or painting. Not only did this process take hours, but it’s unlikely that it ever turned out to look exactly the way you wanted and is the only way history will remember you. To make you feel better, these are the most unflattering portraits of royals throughout history.

Leopold I Of The Holy Roman Empire

Portrait of Leopold
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The second son of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III, Leopold I was the Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary, Croatia, and Bohemia. During his reign, he experienced several conflicts with the Ottoman Empire in the East and with his first cousin, Louis XIV, in the West.

He would go on to be the longest-ruling Habsburg emperor, ruling for almost 50 years. This is a portrait of him in a theatrical costume dressed as Acis in La Galatea by Thomas Jan in 1667.

Maximilian I Of The Holy Roman Empire

Portrait of Maximilian
Imagno/Getty Images
Imagno/Getty Images

Maximillian I of the Holy Roman Empire was never officially crowned by the Pope, and instead by Julius I at Trend, which went against the tradition of a true Papal coronation. During his reign, he was described as being morbidly depressed, and from 1514 until his death in 1519, everywhere he traveled he brought his coffin along with him.

His burial requests were that his hair was to be cut, his teeth knocked out, and his body was to be whipped, covered in with lime and ash as “publicly displayed to show the perishableness of all earthly glory.”

Ferdinand II Of Spain

Portrait of King Ferdinand II
Imagno/Getty Images
Imagno/Getty Images

With his marriage to Isabelle I of Castile in 1469, Ferdinand II and her reign is described as the “cornerstone in the foundation of the Spanish monarchy.” Ferdinand II was described as the first king of Spain during his lifetime and played a role in the European discovery of the New World, financing Christopher Columbus’ first voyage.

By the time of his death in 151, he controlled all of the territories that make up modern-day Spain. This particular portrait was done by Michael Sittow between the 15th and 16th centuries.

James II Of Scotland

Portrait of James II
National Galleries Of Scotland/Getty Images
National Galleries Of Scotland/Getty Images

Although the artist is unknown, this is a portrait of James II of Scotland. After his father was assassinated in 1437, at the age of six years old, James succeeded the throne as James II of Scotland.

The Scottish king had the nickname “Fiery Face” due to a birthmark on his face that his people associated with his temper. Overall, his rule from 1437 to his early death at 29 in 1460 due to a cannon explosion has been described as rather successful, although his murder of the Earl of Douglas remains controversial.

Ivan The Terrible Of Russia

Portrait of Ivan
Michael Nicholson/Corbis via Getty Images
Michael Nicholson/Corbis via Getty Images

Ivan IV Vasilyevich, otherwise known as Ivan the Terrible was the Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547 and the first Tsar of all Rus from 1547 to 1584. Although there is no doubt that Ivan took Russia into a new age, his personality is what stands out. Highly intelligent, he was also prone to fits of rage, paranoia, and mental instability.

For example, he murdered his eldest son and heir along with his sons unborn child. His youngest son, Feodor Ivanovich would then ascend the throne, leading Russia into what is known as the Time of Troubles.

Henry VII Of England

Picture of Henry VIII
Heritage Images/Getty Images
Heritage Images/Getty Images

This portrait of Henry VIII of England was done by Cornelius Massys in 1547, and by the looks of it, Massys didn’t think highly of the ruler. Henry VIII was the King of England from 1509 until 1547. He is noted in history for his six marriages with the most well-known being Catherine of Aragon, which he had annulled.

His actions resulted in the English Reformation which led to his ex-communication from the church. She showed much promise in his youth, but as he aged, he became lustful, overly extravagant, and paranoid.

Charles II Of Spain

Portrait of Charles II
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images via Getty Images
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images via Getty Images

Also known as the Bewitched, Charles II of Spain was Spain’s king from 1665 to 1700. Not much is remembered from his reign except for the physical ailments that he was plagued with throughout his life.

Due to inbreeding in the family, he suffered from the “Habsburg jaw,” as well as health issues such as combined pituitary hormone deficiency and distal renal tubular acidosis. Becoming king at the age of four in 1665, with historians claiming that “his beginning was his end; from the day of his birth, they were waiting for his death.” Giordano Luca did this portrait in 1693.

Caroline Of Brunswick

Picture of Caroline
Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The Princess of Wales from 1795 to 1820, Caroline of Brunswick was also the Queen of the United Kingdom and Hanover for a short period of time and was the wife of King George IV from 1820 until her death the following year.

While George is known to have hated Caroline, the people of England loved her and in turn disliked the king for his mistreatment of her and his attempts to divorce her, although she refused. This portrait of her in a blue gown was painted of her in 1829 by James Lonsdale.

Mary Queen Of Scots

Portrait of Mary Queen of Scots
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Mary Stuart, also known as Mary, Queen of Scots, was the only surviving child of King James V of Scotland and was only six days old when he died and took the throne. Because of her young age, Mary spent most of her youth in France before returning to Scotland in 1561.

After being accused of murdering her first husband, she fled to England to seek protection under her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England. However, Elizabeth was threatened by Mary, imprisoning her for 18 years until finally executing her after finding her guilty of plotting to assassinate her.

Elizabeth I Of England

Picture of Queen Elizabeth
Print Collector/Getty Images
Print Collector/Getty Images

Although Queen Elizabeth is considered one of England’s greatest monarchs, this portrait of her in the late 15th early 16th century doesn’t capture her image well. Also known as the Virgin Queen, Victoria was the last of the five monarchs from the Tudor family, being the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boelyn.

She was an incredibly successful monarch, protecting England against the Spanish Armada in 1588, among countless other achievements. Although she was expected to produce an heir, she never did despite numerous courtships.

Charles V Of The Holy Roman Empire

Portrait of Charles V
Photo12/UIG/Getty Images
Photo12/UIG/Getty Images

Here is an engraving of Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, who had several titles that included Holy Roman Emperor, Archduke of Austria, King of Spain, and Lord of the Netherlands throughout his 58 years of life.

Despite all of his power, Charles V suffered from poor health that included Habsburg’s jaw and epilepsy. He also developed gout that became so severe that he was carried around in a chair that could be wheeled around with ramps leading into rooms.

King Philip IV Of Spain

Portrait of Philip IV
‘The Art Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images
‘The Art Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

Philip IV was the King of Spain from 1621 until 1665 and the King of Portugal as Philip III from 1621 to 1640. Considered to be both a good and bad king of both countries, Philip was also a known lover of the arts and was a frequent patron of Diego Velasquez.

Philip led Spain during the 30 Years War, and by the time he died in 1665, the Spanish Empire was more than 4.7 million miles in size, with an impressive population to go along with it.

Henry VII Of England

Portrait of Henry VII
Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images
Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images

The first monarch from the House of Tudor, Henry VII, was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 1485 until he died in 1509. Henry earned his throne after defeating Edward IV’s brother, Richard III, at the Battle of Bosworth Field, which is considered the climax of the War of the Roses.

Henry did not let kingship’s power go to his head and focused on bettering his territories, for which he is remembered. He was peacefully succeeded by his son, Henry VIII, after a 24-year-long reign.

Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales

Portrait of Prince Henry
Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The eldest son of King James I, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, was the heir apparent to England and Scotland when he was born in 1594. Throughout his youth, Henry appeared to be a promising king until tragedy struck.

Before he ever came to power at the young age of 18, the young Henry passed away of typhoid fever. His younger brother Charles would then become the heir apparent to the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones. In this portrait, it’s estimated that Henry was just nine or ten years old.

King Ferdinand VII Of Spain

Portrait of King Ferdinand VII of Spain
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

In his youth, Ferdinand II grew up as the heir apparent to the throne, which he ascended in 1808. However, that same year, he was taken over by Napoleon until finally regaining power in 1813, in which he reestablished the absolute monarchy and cast aside the liberal constitution of 1812.

Under his kingship, Ferdinand lost almost all of its territories in the Americas, and Spain broke out into a civil war. Today, he is widely described as an “incompetent” ruler.

George III Of Great Britain

Picture of King George III
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

King George III’s reign was marred in conflicts, including his own kingdoms, the Americas, Africa, parts of Europe, and Asia. On top of losing the American War of Independence, King George III also lost his mind in his later years.

Today, it is assumed that he had bipolar disorder or possibly the blood disease porphyria. In his final years, his dementia worsened, and he became completely blind and almost fully deaf, known to speak nonsense for hours on end, and was unable to walk the last years of his life.

James I Of England

Portrait of James I
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

James VI, also known as James I, was the King of Scotland as James VI and the King of England and Ireland as James I. The son of Mary, Queen of Scots, he ruled all three kingdoms for 22 years in a time known as the Jacobean era.

Although he was the king of Scotland, he referred to himself as the “King of Great Britain and Ireland,” only going to Scotland on a few occasions. History has treated him relatively well, although the artist Zucchero may not have when he made this portrait of him as a boy in 1574.

Nero, Emperor Of Rome

Portrait of Nero
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus was the fifth emperor of Rome, ruling from 54 to 68 AD. Nero succeeded his adoptive father Claudius to the throne when he was 17 years old, already demonstrating hints of tyranny.

His reign is often marked by extravagance, death, torture, and debauchery, as Rome suffered under his leadership. He was known to be so ruthless that at one point, he killed his own mother. In 68 AD, Nero committed suicide after an uprising.

King Louis XVI Of France

Picture of King Louis XVI
Universal History Archive/Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Bornin 154 and dying in 1793, Louis XVI was the last King of France before eliminating the monarchy during the French Revolution. Louis was known for furthering the American colonies in the war of independence against the British, although France’s support would eventually lead to an uprising against the monarchy.

Although Louis tried to reform the French government to fit in with the Enlightenment ideas of the time, he was executed by beheading during the French Revolution.

Peter III Of Russia

Portrait of Peter III
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Peter III was Emperor of Russia for just six months in 1762. However, because he was German-born, hardly spoke Russian, and supported the pro-Prussian policy, he was particularly unloved by his subjects.

It didn’t take long before he was overthrown by troops that were loyal to his wife, Catherine, the former Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst. Peter would die in captivity not long after being overthrown, possibly under his wife’s orders, although it is rumored that his death may have been accidental.