Unsung Villains

Tom Doran started this one with his suggestion for historical figures who don’t get as bad a press as they should, and nominated the first on the list. One of my correspondents suggested each one ought to have ‘profited from their sociopathology and have at least one Cassandra in their story’. I’m not sure I’ve kept to that rule, but here is what we came up with:

  1. Erich Ludendorff – Lost the First World War almost single-handed; blamed Jews and Marxists, originating the ‘stab in the back’ myth; undermined Weimar; and ended up an obscure lunatic too deranged even for Hitler.
  2. Guy Fawkes – ‘Terrorist and ally of continental absolutism. Now a cuddly folk hero,’ said Matthew Forrest.
  3. Winston Churchill – Nominated by Pete Deveson: ‘His successes are well known, but many people don’t know about the Bengal famine, or setting troops on miners in the General Strike.’
  4. Che Guevara – ‘Mass murderer,’ said Dan Fox. ‘A megalomaniac who agitated from ideology for a nuclear war that would have killed millions of his own people,’ according to Robert Kaye.
  5. Hugo Chavez – In a similar vein to Guevara. ‘Absolutely horrific man and pretend-democrat, who many on the Left still idolise,’ said Rob Marchant.
  6. Henry VIII – Nominated by Will Cooling: ‘Remembered for his wives but his tyrannical self-obsessed rule leading to more than a century of religious strife is often overlooked.’ The only doubt about Henry VIII is whether his villainy is unsung enough.
  7. John F. Kennedy – ‘An appalling, sleazy, dangerous bastard held up as some kind of hero,’ suggested Chris Mochan.
  8. Augustine of Hippo – For the corrosive guilt, self-doubt and shame he embedded, by elaborating the doctrine of original sin so firmly in the Western mind, according to Matthew Tomalin.
  9. Richard I – ‘Useless king who spent zero time in England during his reign, and bankrupted the country fighting in the Holy Land,’ according to Neil Powell.
  10. Eamon De Valera – ‘A terrible human being who is somehow remembered as an Irish hero. And he signed the book of condolence for Hitler’s death purely to annoy Britain,’ said Kevin Feeney.
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