Who were the most ruthless female rulers?

Oct 2013
Planet Nine, Oregon
Erzsebet Bathori

A beautiful countess turns into a monster after the death of her husband, goes a vengeful rampage against her subjects and uses blood for rejuvenation.


A beautiful countess single-handedly runs the largest estate in all of Hungary, owns more land & peasants and makes more money than the King himself. Her main accuser (Gyorgy Thurzo) benefits directly from her fall.
The Countess is accused of doing nearly every heinous act in existence. She is not present at her trial and is sentenced to isolation.
Swedish metal band Bathory is named after her.
Oh yeah, she was awful!


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
Any female ruler back in the day had to be extremely ruthless to show that she was not a 'weak and feeble woman' but a strong and effective ruler. To this end they had to do things that perhaps a man in the same situation could have avoided without loss of credibility.
Dec 2017
Regnum Teutonicum
Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba qualifies. She was the half sister (different mothers) of the Ngola (king) of Ndongo. When he died under mysterious circumstances, she made an illegal power grab and become Ngola. It was illegal, because 1. people who were enemies of the former Ngola, were not allowed to be successors, 2. as Ndonga was a matrilinear society, she wasn't a relative of the king, 3. she was part of a lineageless part of society and 4. woman were not allowed the title of Ngola. When it was favourable to her she switched her religion, which showed that the loyalty of and for her people weren't high on her agenda. For one fort she opened her country for portuguese missionaries and slave hunters. All rivals were eliminated. When she was in war and Ndongo gave the title to another person, she allied with Imbangala warriors and fought against her former ally Portugal. She used a vacuum and became ruler of Matamba. Then she allied with the dutch, who became her best custumers and sold them thousands of slaves. In the 1640s she sold the dutch 12,000 - 13,000 slaves a year. When the dutch left the region, she submitted to Portugal, in exchange for staying in power and profiting from slave trade. She was called the "african sister of Machiavelli".
Aug 2012
Would Elena Ceausescu qualify? She wielded power through her close relationship with her husband Nicolae, and proved just as willing to promote her own cult of personality. Hailing from peasant stock, she was depicted by Romanian media as being a brilliant scientist. Not only was she given baseless awards by foreign bodies, but I believe she actually took credit for the hard work of Romanian scientists to make herself look better?
At her trial, she was clearly indifferent to the suffering of her people, and the violence which had occurred during the Christmas Revolution. All in all a very venal, unpleasant character.