Power Plays

Fatal Family Feuds: Kim Jong-un, Adolf Hitler & More (Photos)

North Korea’s young dictator executed his uncle and No. 2, but it’s only the latest turmoil among famous ruling clans. From Hitler to the Huns, a look at more lethal games of thrones.

The Daily Beast

The Daily Beast

Once-powerful North Korean leader Jang Song Thaek was executed on the orders of none other than his nephew Kim Jong-un, state media reported Thursday. It’s not the first time familial ties have gone sour in a power-rush. Here are some other famous clans with blood so bad it boiled over.

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Kim Jong Un

On Thursday, North Korea announced leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle was executed for allegedly attempting to overthrow the state. Jang Song Thaek was Pyongyang’s second in command and a mentor to Kim after his father’s death. This week, rumors surfaced that Jang had been “purged” after footage appeared of him being publicly dragged from a government meeting. State media declared he had abused power, was “engrossed in irregularities and corruption,” and was taking drugs.

Wikimedia Commons

Ivan The Terrible

This 16th-century Russian ruler certainly earned his moniker. Ivan the Terrible’s oldest son, also named Ivan, apparently discovered his father attacking his wife. Rushing to her defense, the two began fighting, and Ivan hit his son over the head with a staff, killing him in 1581. On his deathbed, the younger Ivan forgave his father, reportedly saying, “I die as a devoted son and most humble servant.”

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Alexander The Great

The death of Alexander the Great’s father, Philip, is a point of contention among historians. The old man was stopped in 336 B.C. by a man named Pausanias, but some suspect Alexander was in on the assassination plot. The evidence is scarce, but theories that Philip’s new wife could have born him a son to take the throne make for a pretty good incentive.

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King Herod

This notoriously brutal and bloody ruler of Judea went through eight wives, but was very fond of his second spouse, Mariamne. Despite this, jealousy led him to kill not only her, but her two sons, brother, grandfather, and mother. In his later years, while planning for succession, he disinherited and murdered his first son, Antipater.


Attila the Hun

Attila, King of the Hun, was only trying to eliminate all competition when he killed his older brother and co-ruler, Bleda the Hun. He hoped to unite the Hun empire and reign over it as the sole king. No cause of death was recorded, but sources of the time believe Attila murdered Bleda, possibly on a hunting trip.

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Genghis Khan

The man responsible for one of the deadliest reigns in history got his start in a fittingly murderous fashion. Born around 1162, he was left with just his mother and six siblings at a young age. Aiming to take control of his household, a 10-year-old Khan, then called Temujin, killed his older half-brother, shooting him with a bow and arrow, according to legend.

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Adolf Hitler

Though he may not have realized it, Hitler, a consummate mama’s boy, ended up including a family member in the millions killed during World War II. In 1940, the Nazi campaign to eliminate the mentally ill gassed Aloisia Veit, Hitler’s second cousin, once removed, at an Austrian mental institution. According to medical files, she was plagued by schizophrenia and depression. But it seems the Gestapo may have known of her connection: Her line of the family was marked as “idiotic progeny,” in a secret report.