From March 12 – 31, 2020, thirty-two of history’s most scandilicious women competed in a series of matches to see who led the most scandalous life. Here’s the final result!

As some of these women are better known than others, here are quick precis of each person to help with your voting (and betting). A few notable facts are listed, along with a link to a longer article and/or podcast episode about each person.

** Also please note that the factualness of each scandal can vary: some women are listed here because of things we know they actually did (e.g. murder people, usurp kingdoms) and some because of rumours spread about them (e.g. meeting a lover in dreams, being a female Pope) and some because of how the society they lived in viewed their actions, etc. Just because a woman is listed here as a contender does not mean at all that I personally disapprove of what they did or consider them at all shameful (except for maybe a few of the murders). This is a celebration of women whose lives were so interesting they stood out from the (mostly) partiarchal societies they lived in, and I think that’s great.

VERY VERY LONG AGO

Hatshepsut
c. 1507 – 1458 BCE, Egypt (Monarch)

  • Egyptian monarch who ruled in her own right as well as the wife of the King
  • Was presented in art as both male and female
  • Read more


Tawosret
d. 1189 BCE, Egypt (Monarch)

  • Likely not of noble birth
  • She had her male advisor killed so she could rule truly on her own
  • Read more

Phryne
c. 365 – 319 BCE, Greece (Courtesan)

  • Modeled for the first ever nude statue in ancient Greece
  • Stripped naked while on trial in her own defense
  • Read more

Livia Drusilla
58 BCE – 29 CE, Roman Empire (Monarch)

  • The third wife of the Emperor Augustus; they were married for fifty-one years
  • Schemed to get her son Tiberius named as the next Emperor, even though he very clearly didn’t want the job
  • Read more

Agrippina the Younger
15 – 59 CE, Roman Empire (Monarch)

  • Potentially murdered two of her three husbands
  • Became Roman Empress when she married her Uncle
  • Died following an accident involving a trick boat designed by her son, Emperor Nero
  • Read more

Messalina
17 – 48 CE, Roman Empire (Monarch)

  • Had a fucking contest opposite a sex worker
  • Was executed for publicly marrying her adulterous lover
  • Read more

Septimia Zenobia
240 – 274 CE, Palmyrene Empire, Syria (Monarch)

  • Claimed to be a descendant of Cleopatra VII
  • Was very likely involved in her husband’s assassination
  • Led a rebellion against the Romans
  • Read more

Thaïs
c. 4th century CE, Greece (Courtesan)

  • Instigated Alexander the Great’s burning of the Persepolis
  • Is a resident in Hell as per Dante’s Divine Comedy
  • Read more

MEDIEVAL TIMES (NOT THE RESTAURANT)

Empress Theodora
c. 500 – 548 CE, Greek (Courtesan, Monarch)

  • Worked as a child burlesque performer/sex worker
  • Had a religious conversion and fell in love with the Emperor’s son
  • Read more

Queen Seondeok
606 – 647, Monarch, Silla, Korea (Monarch)

  • The first reigning Queen of Korea
  • Met with a peasant man in her dreams where he would advise her on matters of state
  • Read more

Wu Zetian
624 – 705 CE, Chinese (Concubine, Monarch)

  • Was the concubine of the Emperor, then married his son
  • Only Chinese woman to ever wear yellow robes
  • Read more

Pope Joan
c. 11th. century, Italy (Pope)

  • Disguised as a man, was elected Pope
  • Biological sex was revealed when she gave birth during a parade
  • Read more

Héloïse d’Argenteuil
c. 1090 – 1164, France (Scholar)

  • Had a son out of wedlock and named him Astrolabe, after the scientific instrument
  • Was forced to live in a nunnery by her lover, even though she felt no calling to that life
  • Her love letters were published and became very famous

Isabella of France
1295 – 1258, England (Monarch)

  • Led an army to usurp and then kill the King
  • The King she usurped was her husband, and she replaced him with their son
  • Read more

Jeanne de Clisson
1300 – 1359, French (Privateer)

  • Former noblewoman
  • Became a privateer to avenge her husband’s execution
  • Read more

Agnes Sorel
1422 – 1450, France (Mistress)

  • Introduced tit-exposing low-cut necklines to French court
  • Was always painted with her left tit hanging out
  • Read more

Renaissancaissance

Juana of Castile
1479 – 1555, Castile, Spain (Monarch)

  • Rightful heir of Castile but was shut out by male relatives who claimed she was insane
  • Went insane after being locked up in a castle most of her life
  • Read more

Lucrezia Borgia
1480 – 1519, Italy (Noblewoman)

  • Had several affairs, potentially one with her brother
  • Allegedly wore a hollow ring she filled with poison for to-go poisoning opportunities
  • Read more

Diane de Poitiers
1500 – 1556, France (Mistress)

  • Taught Catherine de’Medici how to fuck her husband’s crooked dick
  • Died from drinking too much gold, which she’d been doing to preserve her beauty
  • Read more

Grace O’Malley
c. 1530 – c. 1603, Ireland (Pirate)

Veronica Franco
1546 – 1591, Italy (Courtesan, Writer, Philanthropist)

  • Wrote and published her poetry and letters
  • Was found innocent of charges of witchcraft
  • Read more

Marguerite de Valois
1553 – 1615, France (Monarch)

  • Her wedding to Henri of Navarre partly instigated months of murderous religious riots
  • She allegedly kept her lover’s beheaded head with her for the rest of her life
  • Read more

Isabella de Luna
d. 1564, Italy (Courtesan)

  • Mimed using legal summons as toilet paper
  • Was a paid sex worker to numerous men, paid a female sex worker for her own pleasure
  • Read more

Frances Howard
1590 – 1632, England (Noblewoman)

  • Hired a virginal doppelganger to impersonate her during a mandated virginity test
  • Was found guilty of spearheading a plot to murder Thomas Overbury
  • Read more

The Other One

Aphra Behn
1640 – 1689, England (Noblewoman, Writer, Spy)

  • First Englishwoman to earn a living as a writer
  • Was selected by the King to work on his behalf as a spy in Belgium
  • Claimed to have been born in Surinam
  • Spent some time in debtor’s prison
  • Read more

Nell Gwynn
1650 – 1687, England (Actor, Mistress)

  • Snuck laxatives into her rival’s cake in order to become the King’s mistress
  • Continued her acting career even while being his mistress
  • Read more

Julie d’Aubigny
c. 1670 – 1707, France (Singer, Swordfighter)

  • Set a convent on fire to abscond with her female lover who had been exiled there
  • Killed at least ten men in illegal fencing duels
  • Read more

Jeanne de la Motte
1756 – 1791, France (Con Artist)

  • Instigated the notorious Affair of the Diamond Necklace jewel heist against Marie Antoinette
  • Escaped from prison while disguised as a boy
  • Read more

Georgiana Cavendish
1757 – 1806, England (Noblewoman)

  • Lived in a throuple with her husband and her best friend/his lover
  • Had a child out of wedlock while married to someone else
  • Read more

Mary Wollstonecraft
1759 – 1797, England (Writer)

  • Was held hostage in France during the revolution
  • Pretended to be married, but was not married, which came out when she went to marry another guy
  • Read more

Ching Shih
1775 – 1844, China (Sex Worker, Pirate)

  • Took over her late husband’s pirate business
  • Became the most successful pirate in history, with over 300,000 employees including women and children
  • Read more

Empress Cixi
1835 – 1908, China (Monarch)

  • Seized power in a murderous coup
  • Ruled for over forty years
  • Read more