"Rah, rah Rasputin, lover of the Russian Queen!" The catchy 1978 song by Boney M hints at the sordid love affair of Tsarina Alexandra, back in the 1800s. True or not, it's a timeless tune indicative of our fascination with the ruling class. But what came first, our interest in the shocking behaviour of our political elite, or the shocking behaviour itself? The question is a ponderous one, but as long as we have people in power we'll be witness to the abuses of it.
The facts and figures make it clear that men are usually the ones who hold positions of power, despite the constant fight for equality. The old saying 'behind every great man is a great woman' may be true, and it's certainly true that the world's First Ladies tend to hold a fascination for us. When they deviate from proper, appropriate behaviour it's often much more shocking than if their husbands were to do the same. We're leafing through the pages of history to look at some such incidents, to bring you tales of the sometimes surprising and sometimes horrifying actions of First Ladies around the world.
Living life in the public spotlight can't be easy, and for some on this list it was coupled with debilitating mental illness that really isn't fair to use against them. Others on the list are downright malevolent, absurd and shamelessly extravagant. While we may be familiar with their husbands, and in some cases their husband's own eyebrow-raising behaviours, these ladies have done their part to ensure that their own shocking behaviours made the history books.
10 Alexandra the Tzarina - 1890s
Alexandra, as in the Boney M song, was the last Tsarina of Russia and married to Tsar Nicholas, Emperor of Russia. Alexandra was by all accounts a supportive wife, although it is said she was also pretty good at dishing out bad advice to her husband. She fervently believed in autocratic control of the country, and didn't think it all that important to gain support of the people as a ruler. She eventually bore a son, Alexei, and passed on to him the haemophilia disease.
9 Mary Todd Lincoln - 1860s
Mary Todd Lincoln is a sympathetic figure for those who know the history of the Lincolns. She is known as the "crazy" first lady but she didn't start out that way. Back when her and Abe were newly in love, Mary was a smart, politically savvy, sweet young woman and over the years she proved herself to be Abe's true love and his greatest, unwavering supporter.
8 Simone Duvalier - 1950s
7 Imelda Marcos - 1960s
6 Margaret Trudeau - 1970s
Margaret Trudeau is the only lady on the list to bounce back from adversary and regain a positive reputation, although in the 70s she made a name for herself as the rather scandalous 22-year-old wife of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Though they married happily, the marriage fell apart quickly, with Margaret having difficulty accepting the 24 hour work schedule of her husband.
5 Elena Ceauşescu - 1970s
Elena Ceausescu is widely accused of being responsible for two disastrous Romanian policies of the 1970s and 1980s. As the wife of Romania's Communist leader Nicolai Ceaușescu and Deputy Prime Minister of Romania herself, Ceausescu was certainly no proponent of women's rights. At her insistence, the country made abortion and birth control illegal, while women under the age of 40 were required to have a minimum of four children, a number that was later changed to five.
4 Mirjana Marković - 1990s
3 Ana Mae Endara - 1990s
2 Grace Amai Mugabe - 2000s
1 Sara Netanyahu - 2000s
The third wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sara is also notorious for shoes - at least, for throwing them. Long known for a boisterous and brash personality, one of her more infamous scandals occurred when she tossed a pair of shoes at an assistant who hadn't properly shined them. Apparently she screeched that "If the prime minister were to have seen what you did to his shoes, he would have butchered you, butchered you!"
Her image is generally of a controlling, obsessive wife who enjoys luxury perhaps a little too much. It was reported that in 2006 during the Lebanon War, Sara travelled with her husband to London, England, where she spent a huge wad of cash on superfluous items. While she has won a couple of libel suits, she was most recently the subject of scrutiny again when, in 2010, an Israeli newspaper reported that the Netanyahu's housekeeper was suing her for withholding wages, unfair working conditions and verbal abuse. Like the wicked step-sister the country never asked for, Sara will likely continue to shine as a beacon of dubious First Lady behaviour.
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