5. The Duke of Clarence Betrayed His Family Once Too Often
After betraying his brother Edward IV, George, Duke of Clarence, started to mistrust his father-in-law, “the Kingmaker”. So he switched back to his own Yorkist family and supported the restoration of his brother. Edward IV returned to England in 1471, defeated the Lancastrians in a battle during which the Kingmaker was killed, and was restored to the throne. He ensured that the twice-deposed Henry VI would trouble him no more by having him murdered, after having already executed Henry’s son and sole heir. Edward pardoned his younger brother George and restored him to royal favor.
In 1478, George was once again caught out plotting against his brother. Finally fed up with his wayward sibling, Edward IV ordered George arrested and jailed in the Tower of London, and had him tried for treason. Personally conducting the prosecution before Parliament, Edward secured a conviction and Bill of Attainder against George, who was condemned to death. On February 18th, 1478, George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, was executed by being dunked into a butt, or big barrel, of Malmsey wine. He was forcibly held under the surface until he was drowned.
4. Julius Caesar Might Have Been Killed by His Own Son
Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger (85 BC – 42 BC) was made famous or infamous by the “Et tu, Brute” quotation from Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. Brutus was Julius Caesar’s friend, and although he might have also been Caesar’s biological son, that family tie did not stop him from becoming Caesar’s best-known assassin. A patrician, he was born to Marcus Junius Brutus the Elder, who was treacherously murdered by Pompey the Great, and Servilla, who became Julius Caesar’s mistress for many years.
After his father’s murder, Brutus was raised by his maternal uncle, Cato the Younger, one of Rome’s leading conservatives and a staunch advocate of returning to the values and lifestyles of the Roman Republic’s early days. Brutus had been a close ally of Julius Caesar and a supporter of his Populares faction. However, as Caesar sought greater power, Brutus came to view him as a tyrant. So he switched to Caesar’s conservative Optimates opponents. Brutus fought within the Optimates ranks and under the leadership of his father’s murderer, Pompey the Great, in the civil war against his erstwhile friend, mother’s lover, and probable father.
3. Family Ties Did Not Prevent Brutus From Murdering Caesar
Julius Caesar won the civil war, then pardoned Brutus and restored him to favor. Paradoxically, that just enraged Brutus even more, as he resented the fact that any Roman should have the power to pardon another Roman in the first place. Caesar eventually assumed dictatorial powers. When he started acting increasingly like a monarch, a faction of Roman senators, styling themselves the “Liberators”, formed to assassinate him. They recruited Brutus, whose family name and descent from Lucius Junius Brutus, the Roman Republic’s founder who did away with the monarchy and expelled the last Roman king, carried significant symbolic weight.
Brutus betrayed Caesar and delivered one of the stab wounds during the dictator’s assassination on the Ides of March in 44 BC. Afterward, the Senate declared an amnesty for the killers, but rioting forced Brutus and the other assassins to flee Rome. The following year, Caesar’s nephew and heir, Octavian, secured a resolution revoking the amnesty and declaring Caesar’s assassins murderers. That led to another round of civil war, which culminated at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC. The combined forces of Octavian and Mark Antony crushed those of Brutus and the surviving assassins. Brutus committed suicide after the defeat.
Shaka Zulu (circa 1787-1828) was a tribal warrior who rose to become chief of the Zulus, then launched a ruthless campaign of conquest against other Southern African tribes. A military visionary, he revolutionized tribal warfare in the region, bringing it to a hitherto unprecedented pitch of destructiveness. By the time he was done, he had established Zulu Empire. His fall came not from defeat at the hands of his open enemies, but at the hands of his own family.
When Shaka came to power, tribal warfare in Southern Africa was a low-intensity affair. It was dominated for the most part by rituals and display, with warriors parading in front of their respective armies, shouting challenges and defiance at the enemy, and throwing the occasion spear. There with relatively little actual fighting, and thus few fatalities. Shaka was of a bloody-minded bent, however, so he set about changing that. He introduced fighting formations, organized his men into regiments known as impis, and transformed the Zulus into a disciplined army.
1. Shaka Zulu Killed Millions Before He Was Killed by His Family
Shaka Zulu revolutionized tribal combat tactics by abandoning the throwing spears used in the region for centuries. This taught men to use short stabbing spears, emphasizing shock tactics and decisive close combat. Zulu tactics and training made them unstoppable, triggering a catastrophe known as the Mfecane, meaning the “crushing” or “forced migration”. Tribes forced to flee Shaka’s onslaught were forced to encroach upon their neighbors, who were then forced to fight or become refugees, encroaching upon their neighbors in turn. The result was a cascade of violence that claimed the lives of millions.
Shaka’s reign finally came to an end in 1828. That year, he sent a regiment raiding up to the borders of the Cape Colony. When it returned, rather than allow it the customary rest, he ordered the regiment out on yet another raid. That and increasingly megalomaniacal behavior led to widespread grumbling. Taking advantage of the disgruntlement, Shaka’s half-brother Dingane organized a plot within the conqueror’s own family. At a signal one day at camp, he and his co-conspirators fell upon Shaka and stabbed him to death.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading