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They put the evil in Medieval

It's no secret that George R.R. Martin based many of the characters and events in "A Song of Ice and Fire," -- the series of epic fantasy novels that has become HBO's "Game of Thrones" -- on history and on the historical fiction he loves. But viewers and readers might be excused for assuming that Martin exaggerated the vicious skullduggery in the historical record for the sake of drama. Incest, child murder, impromptu executions of allies, regicide, rampant fornication, recreational torture and countless other vices abound in Martin's Westeros, after all. Could the real-life counterparts of his characters have been quite so very, very bad?

They were. If anything, Martin downplays the ruthless bloodthirstiness of the Middle Ages and the people who ruled them. When Ving Rhames says "I'ma get medieval on your ass" in "Pulp Fiction," he's offering a truly terrifying threat. Make no mistake: Beneath the fairy-tale trappings -- velvet robes and golden crowns, stately castles and the lofty rhetoric of chivalry -- most rulers in the Middle Ages were essentially warlords. Herewith, a few of the worst, and some of their dastardly deeds.

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