Show Mobile Navigation
History |

10 Unusual Exploits By Children Of World Leaders

by Gordon Gora
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Being the offspring of a high-profile world leader would be a daunting task for anyone. While some children of such leaders led quiet, uneventful lives, others decided to live differently from their influential parents. Many had ordinary lives and became notable in their own right for whatever reason; others were headaches for their already burdened parents.

10 Mark Thatcher Financed A Failed African Coup

Thatcher leaves court after coup-related hearing

The late Margaret Thatcher has always been a controversial figure in Britain. Prime minister for several years, Thatcher’s conservative ideology has long been a point of contention among historians and political writers. Her son, Mark, became a prominent businessman and eventually became entangled with the central African nation of Equatorial Guinea, which is controlled by a rigid dictatorship.

The exact details of what occurred and how involved Mark was with anti-government conspirators is subject to debate. Simon Mann, a veteran of the British Armed Forces, organized a plot to overthrow the government, which included the hiring of 89 mercenaries. Mann and Thatcher knew each other and had worked together in the past, which raised suspicions from the government. Soon, it became clear that Mark had indeed played a part in the plot in the form of providing finances: He had paid for a helicopter.

In 2004, Mark was detained in South Africa after his role came to light. The 89 mercenaries claimed that they were simply employed as protection for mines in the Congo Republic, which is southeast of Equatorial Guinea. Thatcher himself claimed that he bought the helicopter for a mining operation in Sudan, but his defense fell apart, and he was convicted. He got off relatively easy, however: He was fined $500,000 and given a four-year prison sentence, which was suspended.

9 Galina Brezhnev Became A Scandalous Alcoholic And Married Circus Performers

Galina Brehnev(a)

Photo credit: Russian Government

Galina Brezhnev (also referred to as Brezhneva) never stood a chance in life. She was the daughter of Leonid Brezhnev, a politically ambitious Soviet official who would become the most powerful man in all of Russia. Because of her position, she was forced to live a very sheltered life. While her father was lenient on some things (he allowed her to drive his Mercedes any time she pleased), he was strict in matters of the heart. Galina responded in the only way she knew how—by defying every order her father gave.

Galina Brezhnev lived in a unique time in the Soviet Union’s history. After the despotic rule of Joseph Stalin and the bumbling tenure of Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Union entered a period of economic stagnation—conditions neither improved nor got any worse. Due to their general dissatisfaction with life in a communist country, many of the younger Soviet elite took to drinking and partying. Galina was one of them. Her alcoholism was an embarrassment to her father, who wished her to be a model Soviet woman. However, the more he tried to hold onto her, the more she slipped away.

Galina’s life became even more complicated when she ran away with a circus acrobat at age 22. She couldn’t escape her father, however, and he found her. Galina’s fascination with circus performers only deepened. She married repeatedly to various performers, only to have the marriages nullified by her father. In 1982, a performer close to her was arrested for smuggling, causing a major scandal. That same year, Leonid Brezhnev died. The greatest obstacle to Galina’s happiness was now removed, but things only went downhill from there. Her alcoholism worsened as she slowly faded into obscurity. She died in 1998 at 69 years old.

8 Hannibal Gadhafi Married A Lingerie Model And Partied In Europe

Hannibal Gaddafi and Aline Skaf

For decades, Muammar Gadhafi served completely unopposed as the dictator of Libya. Because of his unlimited power, his children were granted lives of privilege. Hannibal Gadhafi took full advantage of his father’s position, living as debauched and flamboyant of a life as he pleased. Before the Libyan revolution overthrew his father, Hannibal seemed untouchable.

Hannibal and his wife, Aline Skaff, a former lingerie model, were a party couple that toured Europe and lived the high life on Muammar’s dime. They traveled in a yacht or a private jet, both of which were equipped to be as lavish as possible. Several photographs of Hannibal and Aline were found on a laptop. They clearly showed a couple that wished to flout every rule they could. Photographs show alcohol being consumed, even though it was banned in Libya. Several pictures showed Skaff in suggestive poses; some were explicitly pornographic. The pair shopped at designer boutiques and stayed in luxurious resorts in Rome and Egypt. The couple drew attention to themselves after an incident in 2008. While they were staying at a hotel in Geneva, Switzerland, they reportedly assaulted two former servants. The charges didn’t stick after diplomatic intervention.

All of that privilege, however, soon came to an end once Muammar Gadhafi was overthrown.

7 Tricia Nixon Dated Both George W. Bush And Prince Charles


Photo via Wikimedia

Being the daughter of a US president is hard, but being the daughter of Richard Nixon is another thing entirely. Richard Nixon is remembered today for his scandalous administration and his resignation, but before any of his activities came to light, he was actually a reasonably popular president. One factor that made him relatable was his two daughters. Julie Nixon married David Eisenhower, President Eisenhower’s grandson, but her sister Tricia had her share of notable suitors.

Decades before George W. Bush even thought about running for president, his only taste of politics came from his father, who was then a congressman. In the late 1960s, George Sr. set George Jr. up on a blind date at the Apollo 8 celebration gala. That date was Tricia Nixon. Neither had met their future spouses at that point, so it seemed like it might have been a good idea. The date was a complete disaster. As George Jr. later recalled, he spilled a glass of red wine on the white tablecloth, and when he tried to light a cigarette, Tricia politely told him not to smoke. When he later became president, he drove to the White House the same way he had driven Tricia decades before. As he went down the road, he claimed that he could remember the embarrassing ride home with her.

Tricia’s other famous suitor was Prince Charles, before he had married Diana. During his first visit to the White House in 1970, Richard Nixon introduced Prince Charles to Tricia. As Charles recalled in a CNN interview, they wanted to marry him off while he was visiting. While they were seen together on a few public occasions, the relationship never went anywhere after he returned to England.

6 Uday Hussein Abused Drugs And Tortured Football Players

There’s a general consensus that Saddam Hussein was an evil man. The longtime dictator of Iraq was known for his ruthlessness and his thirst for power. However, while Saddam was mostly cruel due to his desire to remain powerful, his son, Uday, tortured and raped innocent people for for his own amusement. While his father was still in power, Uday lived an extravagant life that most of us could only dream of.

Uday was spoiled by his father. Being the son of the most powerful man in Iraq meant that he had access to anything and everything that he could ever want, whether it was luxury cars, private planes, expensive clothes, or alcohol-fueled parties. This sort of lifestyle, however extreme, never harmed anyone, but his darker desires led him to increasingly indulge in sadistic behavior. He was said to demand any woman who caught his eye, no matter who she was. These women would be taken to his palace, where he would rape and attack them. Inside his palace, which had crude erotic murals painted on the walls, Uday was said to have had a secret torture chamber where he would take his victims. There were also large amounts of drugs and even an HIV testing kit.

While his father would turn a blind eye to his behavior, Uday’s habits were noticed by others in power. After Uday shot one of his uncles in the leg, however, Saddam had had enough. He exiled his son to Switzerland, and when Uday returned, he was all but disinherited from any real power. Despite this, Uday was still allowed to engage in cruel, malicious behavior. During a party in 1988, he violently murdered one of his bodyguards in front of guests.

Uday took an interest in football. According to those around him, Uday didn’t care about the sport. Rather, he simply wanted to see his teams win. He brought his depraved mindset to the game as an overseer and allegedly kept a “private torture scorecard,” with which he wrote how many times to cane the soles of players’ feet after poor performances. During games, if he saw his team losing, he would tell players that he would cut off their legs and feed them to dogs.

In 1996, a gunman fired on Uday’s Porsche, severely injuring him. Afterward, he could hardly walk, and his anger increased. Many of the punishments that players were subjected to during this time seem too barbaric to have occurred in the modern age. They can be read here. After the invasion of Iraq, Uday and his brother, Qusay, were killed in a firefight in Mosul in 2003.

5 Randolph Churchill Was Mentally Unstable And A Reckless Drinker

Randolph Churchill

Photo via Wikimedia

Winston Churchill certainly holds an important position in English history. As a leader, he was witty, strong, and unwavering. During World War II, Churchill almost single-handedly led the British people during their darkest hour. Without his leadership, there’s no telling how different history might have been. Randolph Churchill, being the son of such a man, must have been a respectful individual, right? Wrong.

Randolph Churchill lived without boundaries throughout his life. He was infamous for his temper and extreme mood swings. One moment, he would be completely reasonable; the next, he would violently lash out at anyone around him. As Randolph described his fits: “If I can stop it before it reaches my knees I will be all right, but once it gets above them a black fog envelops me and I just don’t care what I say.” Today, psychologists and historians have speculated that Randolph may have suffered from bipolar disorder. While today, sufferers can be treated more easily, medical officials were completely unequipped to handle such a disorder in Randolph’s time. Like so many other patients who couldn’t find help, Randolph turned to drinking.

As he grew older, his behavior became even more worrisome. Once, after being ticketed for reckless driving, Randolph refused counsel and defended himself, saying that he drove the way he did because he was on “a safe highway.” The judge didn’t agree with this reasoning and fined Randolph. Because of his scandalous behavior, Winston Churchill refused to acknowledge his son, which led to only more self-loathing for Randolph.

4 Steven Ford Tried To Become An Actor But Became An Alcoholic

Son of late Betty Ford shares stories of alcoholism, redemption

Gerald Ford is an interesting figure in US politics. Ford never ran for president. In fact, he never desired to become president, but after both Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned, Ford, who had previously served as speaker of the house, stepped up and took the mantle. He only served as president for two years before leaving office. His greatest legacy involves his wife, Betty, who started the Betty Ford Clinic after battling addiction. Betty wasn’t the only Ford to deal with addiction; her son struggled, too.

After Gerald’s presidency, the Ford family settled in Rancho Mirage, California, which put them in close proximity to the Hollywood scene. Steven Ford was starstruck by the lifestyle and soon began trying to break into the acting world. He had very little success and started drinking heavily because of his failure. All the while, he avoided the press. While his mother used her status to shine a light on addiction, Steven didn’t acknowledge his own problem. His drinking affected his personal life to the extent that he had to cancel his own wedding.

He only spiraled further downward as the 1980s went on. Finally, Steven had an epiphany as he was showering in a hotel. He said that he tried to “wash the shame off” and realized the pain he had caused to his loved ones. He received the help he needed and joined his mother in trying to help other substance abusers. He has been sober for some time now but still knows that relapse could be right around the corner: “My addiction is sneaky. It’s always outside the door, doing pushups, waiting for me to fail.”

3 Yakov Stalin Surrendered To The Nazis After A Lifetime Of Emotional Abuse

Yakov Stalin

Photo via Wikimedia

Joseph Stalin, being the dictator of Soviet Russia, was a man who had to be ruthless to survive, so he wasn’t very compassionate when it came to his children. He was cold to all of them, particularly to his eldest child, Yakov.

Joseph was also abusive to his wives. Allegedly, his first wife committed suicide after he flicked his cigarettes at her during dinner. Yakov didn’t escape his father’s cruelty, either. No matter how hard he tried, he constantly disappointed his father, who always expressed his anger when he had a chance to do so. When Yakov was 18, he fell in love, only to have his father’s wrath brought down upon him. Yakov attempted suicide with a gun but only succeeded in injuring himself. Joseph reportedly said of his son’s suicide attempt: “He can’t even shoot straight.”

In 1937, in a last-ditch effort to gain his father’s approval, Yakov joined the Soviet military. He soon disappeared. It seems that Yakov surrendered to the invading Nazi forces, which led to even further embarrassment for Joseph Stalin. After the Nazis offered a prisoner exchange to return Yakov, all Stalin had to say was, “You have in your hands not only my son Yakov but millions of my sons. Either you free them all or my son will share their fate.” In 1943, Yakov tried to escape from his concentration camp, only to die after being electrocuted by an electric fence and being shot in the back.

2 Romano Mussolini Was An Extremely Talented Musician

Caravan – Romano Mussolini sextet 1986

In the aftermath of World War II, Benito Mussolini suffered both public humiliation and execution. Italy was tired of their fascist leader, and their hatred toward him showed. Since the time of his execution, Mussolini has been an embattled figure in Italian history. Some believe him a cruel despot, while others consider him a well-meaning leader who was led astray. Romano Mussolini tried to rehabilitate his father’s legacy into the latter category.

Romano Mussolini was never really involved in politics. His father, the most important man in the country, treated Romano with respect. Benito Mussolini encouraged his son’s talents, the greatest of which was jazz music. Romano was one of the greatest jazz musicians in Italy, and his tastes were never dampened by the fact that jazz music was censored by his father’s fascist government due to its African influences. Romano wasn’t the only one talented in music; his father was an accomplished violinist. Romano taught himself the piano and mostly distanced himself from his father. Because of this wise move, he was spared the fury of the Allied Forces.

After the war, Romano’s interests in jazz were allowed to flourish, and he became an acclaimed figure. In 1963, Romano and his band won an Italian Critic’s Award. Whatever animosity was held toward Romano because of his last name finally fell apart in the 1990s, when Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi ran a popular administration similar to Mussolini. In 2004, Romano wrote a memoir, in which his father was portrayed in a positive light. Rather than languish in the shadow of his tarnished father, Romano Mussolini made something of himself. He died in 2006.

1 Zoia Ceausescu Was A Promiscuous Drinker And A Mathematician

Secretele Zoei Ceauşescu

Memories of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania range from nostalgic to nightmarish. Some claim that he was the best leader the country ever had, while others say he was a ruthless, paranoid dictator. Like most communist dictators of the time, Ceausescu lived a far more comfortable life than his people, and that extended to his children, who all lived in complete luxury. Zoia, his only daughter, later became notorious for her lifestyle.

Zoia lived under circumstances similar to Galina Brezhnev. They both lived under controlling parents and sought solace in the bottle. In Zoia’s case, she was known to have such a capacity for alcohol that she remained perpetually drunk, keeping a massive bar in her residence at the Primaverii Palace. She twice went to clinics to dry out and twice failed, always returning to liquor the first chance she got.

It wasn’t just her fondness for alcohol that caused controversy. She was described as a “nymphomaniac” by some. She found partners from all walks of life, from ministers to bartenders to ex-convicts. She would seduce bodyguards and soldiers alike. Anyone who said no to her would be exiled to remote parts of the country.

Zoia was the head of mathematics at a technical institute. Her mother, Elena, who was given a doctorate in chemistry mainly due to her husband’s influence, was in a similar scientific position when it was revealed that much of her scientific writing was plagiarized. Whether or not Zoia’s own career in academia was falsified is not known.

After Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife were executed in 1989, the children were spared. Of the three siblings, Nicu, the youngest, was the most like Zoia. He, too, loved drinking, which led to him indulging in large amounts of liquor while gambling away enormous sums of money. He wasn’t executed like his father, but he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was released on medical grounds in 1992 and died in 1996 from alcohol-related illnesses. According a Romanian newspaper, Zoia died from cancer in 2006. The only surviving child is Valentin, the oldest, who is a nuclear physicist.

Gordon Gora is a struggling author who is desperately trying to make it. He is working on several projects but until he finishes one, he will write for Listverse for his bread and butter. You can write him at [email protected].

fact checked by Jamie Frater