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These Radical Rulers of History are the Real Emily Kaldwins

Presented by 'Dishonored 2'. Emily Kaldwin is the rightful heir to the throne in 'Dishonored 2', but she'll have to fight to get it. But she won't be the first to do so.

by VICE Staff
03 November 2016, 5:00pm

Emily uses her "Far Reach" ability. Artwork courtesy of Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks

Presented by 'Dishonored 2'

Dishonored 2 is imminent, and though you can choose to play Arkane's sequel to the studio's 2012 stealth hit as a more grizzled version of the original game's protagonist, Corvo Attano, there's also the option to step into the shoes of the grown-up Emily Kaldwin, rightful heir to the throne and total badass.

Emily's not alone in her royal rebelliousness, though – monarchs, rulers and emperors throughout time, our own history, have done brave, daring and radical things. Maybe they're not all secret assassins, but these real-world royals have all done amazing things quite unexpected of their positions.

Boudica

Boudicca, Boudica, Boadicea – the woman was as difficult to overthrow as her name is to spell. When her husband died, he left his kingdom to be ruled over jointly by the Romans and his daughters – but the Romans weren't keen to share, and instead took the kingdom for their own, flogged Boudica and raped her daughters. Unsurprisingly, Boudica was very pissed off, and she gathered 100,000 British rebels to fight back against the bastard Romans trying to colonise her country.

A series of spectacular successes in battle had the Romans scared, and burning down the settlements of Londinium and Verulamium (modern-day St Albans) made them even more upset, because that was where all the good Starbucks were. Unfortunately for Boudica (but, ultimately, fortunately for British civilisation) the Roman forces were organised, disciplined and well trained, and eventually the rebel forces were defeated. Boudica's last badass move was to (probably) take poison to avoid the Romans taking her hostage and putting her through any more humiliation.

Queen Tomyris

Queen Tomyris was a Scythian ruler who probably killed her military rival, Cyrus the Great – which is badass enough in itself, but there are some historical accounts that then detail how she cut off his head and dunked it in blood. Why? Because she promised that she would "quench [his] thirst for blood" and she wasn't one to break a promise.

Also, she's in Civilization VI, which is cool.

Wu Zetian

Wu Zetian was the only woman in 5,000 years of Chinese history whose title was that of a full emperor, rather than just a wife, concubine or co-ruler. Even more impressive, she was a commoner who ascended the ranks through sheer will, resolve and general badassery. She was smart, stubborn and ambitious, encouraged by her father who made sure that she was well-educated and confident enough to stand on her own.

Even her toughest critics agreed that she was very good at her job, expanding the Chinese empire far beyond what it had ever been before, contributing to the building and creation of art and architecture, and cementing Buddhism as one of the major religions of the country.

She also has a really cool horse story.

When she was young, her husband – the emperor – gave her a wild horse. It was called "Lion Stallion", and it was apparently so huge and untamed that no one could actually climb onto it. Wu Zetian said she could tame it with just three things – a whip, a hammer, and a knife.

When her husband was (predictably) confused, she replied:

"I will whip it with the iron whip. If it does not submit, I will hammer its head with the iron hammer. If it still does not submit, I will cut its throat with the dagger." Damn.

Emily Kaldwin's "Shadow Walk" ability allows her to quickly get up close to enemies, and ruin their day completely

Isabella of France

Isabella was nicknamed "The She-Wolf of France", which might give you some idea of what she was like (hairy, fond of howling, lives in caves – or maybe just intimidating and driven). Generally, the best women in history are the ones who inspired bitchy nicknames, because it means people were afraid of them.

Isabella put up with a marriage at only 12 years old to Edward II, the King of England. The main issue with that was that Edward had a boyfriend called Piers. Isabella kept to her duties, bearing his children and being remarkably cool about the whole boyfriend thing, until Piers died and Edward got a new boyfriend, Hugh.

Hugh was not a cool guy, and Isabella hated him. After Edward and Hugh teamed up to confiscate Isabella's lands and property and putting her children in the custody of Hugh's family, who must have been very confused about the whole thing, Isabella ran to France, started an affair with a guy called Roger Mortimer, and brought a bunch of soldiers back to England to depose Edward. And succeeded.

She had Hugh executed, but made sure that it was the most unpleasant way to die – dragged around by a horse, hanged until mostly dead, disembowelled and then decapitated. Revenge is sweet.

As for her arsehole of a husband, well, he may have had a fitting punishment too. She had him imprisoned, and then he mysteriously accidentally died – rumour has it, by having a red-hot poker shoved up his back passage.

Hell hath no fury, and all that.

Hatshepsut

Though Hatshepsut was not the first female pharaoh, she was one of the longest reigning. She commissioned so much artwork and architecture that almost every major museum in the world has work from her reign – which was just 20 years.

Her foreign policy was instrumental in re-establishing international trading for Egypt, which is how she was able to encourage an unprecedented calibre of architecture – one that would not be matched for centuries. In her reign, the two tallest obelisks in the world at the time were constructed, one of which still stands today. There's probably a joke about phallic symbols in there, somewhere.

Statues and carvings of her give us a valuable insight into how she wanted to be portrayed, too. Outside her mortuary temple stand great statues, accompanied by all the regalia of a pharaoh, but with all her defining feminine characteristics obscured. This may have been her way of asserting her position as a true pharaoh rather than just a pharaoh's wife. In other paintings and art, she is depicted as wearing tight dresses instead – more likely the outfits that were more comfortable and natural for her to wear than fake beards and big hats.

Scholars have suggested that Hatshepsut died from bone cancer that was caused by a carcinogenic skin lotion found in her tomb. Even in Ancient Egypt, women were suffering for beauty.


Dishonored 2 is released on November 11th for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. For more information, and to order the game, visit its official website.

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