History’s Crazy Rich Ancients (premiering with back-to-back episodes Sunday, July 17 at 10pm ET/PT) gives a nod to the hit movie Crazy Rich Asians in its title and theme, but History takes the concept of wealth and turns back the clock, looking at the lavish lifestyles of some of the world’s most mega-moneyed icons.
From the foods they ate to the parties they had and the palaces they built, it’s one jaw-dropping story after another. Here we look at some of the themes and individuals explored this season.
The prized possessions of some of history’s richest people haven’t been castles, jewels or fine art. Meet the monarchs and millionaires who spent their fortunes collecting wild animals.
Kublai Khan (1215-94) This fierce 13th century warlord conquered all of China and almost all of Asia, and it’s quite possible that no one in history has owned more dogs.
William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) The early 20th century media mogul built a multimillion-dollar estate on the California coast that doubled as the world’s largest private zoo and wildlife preserve that included giraffes, chimpanzees and Bengal tigers.
Moctezuma II (1466-1520) This powerful Aztec ruler of the early 16th century had an entourage that included multiple wives, concubines, bodyguards and not one, but four menageries? These animal exhibitions were filled with every type of creature in the known world.
When you’ve got a lot of stuff that’s worth a lot of money, you need to protect it. These three figures broke the bank on security features designed to prevent break-ins.
Ikeda Terumasa (1565-1613) This Japanese warlord loaded his castle with so many booby traps that it could double as a Bond villain’s lair. Centuries later it did, making a cameo in You Only Live Twice.
Rana Kumbha (reigned from 1433-68) He’s the man behind the Great Wall of India, one of the largest fort complexes in the world. Running one lap around this stronghold would basically equal a marathon.
Josip Tito (1892-1980) No one could ride out the apocalypse in more style than this former president of Yugoslavia, who built a nuclear fallout shelter with so many amenities, it could have doubled as a luxury hotel.
These rich ancients built palaces that are literally some of the largest, most luxurious buildings to ever grace the surface of the Earth.
Nero (37-68) The Roman emperor named his palace “Domus Aurea”; in Latin, that literally means Golden House. It includes history’s largest lawn ornament: a 120-foot-tall bronze statue of the emperor.
Louis XIV (1638-1715) In addition to needing a staff of up to 10,000, the French king transformed a sleepy little hunting lodge into one of Europe’s largest palaces: Versailles.
Yongle Emperor Zhu Di (1360-1424) The most powerful ruler of China’s famed Ming Dynasty needed just 14 years and millions upon millions of dollars to build the largest royal residence in the history of the world in the heart of Beijing: The Forbidden City.