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Sometimes, it feels that the world is on your shoulders. In severe cases, we might even believe that the universe is conspiring against us, looking for ways to break our knees and shake us off the paths we chose. The truth is, there is no vendetta against us by higher powers or universal energies; there is just life, and life can be unfair at times. All we can do is persist, stiffen that upper lip, and keep on keeping on.

But in rare instances, when you hear what some have endured throughout their lives, you cannot help wondering which deity of bad luck they have insulted or what type of curse was placed upon their parents, and every generation to come after that. Here are ten unfortunate people who had the universe conspire against them.

Related: Top 10 Luckiest Unlucky People Whose Luck Nearly Killed Them

10 Lady Jane Grey (c. 1537–1544)

Have you ever wondered who had the shortest reign in England’s royal history? Well, look no further, as Lady Jane Grey only held the throne from July 10-19, 1553, a total of nine long days.

At the tender age of 16, Lady Grey ascended to the throne after the young King Edward VI passed away. His dying wish was that she take the throne in the hopes of keeping England as Protestant as possible, as opposed to Catholic, which the king’s eldest half-sister Mary—the one with the most direct path to the throne—would promote.

Jane was the great-granddaughter of King Henry VII through his daughter, Mary Tudor, and was, therefore, a grandniece of King Henry VIII and a first cousin once removed of Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. The people rose in favor of the direct lineage, and Jane was out less than ten days later.

After being deposed, Jane was charged with high treason—along with several others—but the now Queen Mary took it easy on them, allowing them to remain high-profile prisoners in a sort of house arrest arrangement rather than have them executed. It was shortly after that that Jane became involved in a rebellion against the ever-unpopular Queen Mary. However, Mary was still willing to spare her should she convert to Catholicism. She refused, and Lady Grey was executed for treason in February 1554.[1]

9 Miltiades (d. 489 BC)

Miltiades was an Athenian general in the Greek army, known for his military prowess and understanding of war tactics. He has been recognized over the years as an important part of the victory of the Persians and, in particular, the Battle of Marathon. This was where he scored a miraculous victory by helping change the Greek military tactics.

How was that considered unlucky? Allow us to explain. After scoring a victory over the Persians, Militiades was sent, along with a fleet of around 70 ships, to conquer those territories that sided with the Persians. The campaign was a failure, and upon his return, the short-sighted masses demanded his head.

He was accused of dissent, fined 50 talents, and after suffering an injury to his leg, developed a serious bout of gangrene, which ultimately cost him his life. There are even versions of the story that suggest he was imprisoned and died in captivity.[2]

8 Adolphe Sax (1814-1894)

Perhaps it’s inaccurate to suggest Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone, is an unlucky person. Perhaps, if you think about it, the contrary rings true. Be that as it may, it’s not all people who are bombarded with so many mishaps as Sax.

In short, Sax fell down a flight of stairs at age three, leaving him bedridden for a week (possibly comatose). He swallowed and passed a needle in a time when medical intervention was limited, as well as swallowing a toxic cocktail of white lead, copper oxide, and arsenic, surviving the ordeal. If that weren’t enough, he also fell onto a burning stove, receiving severe burns but avoiding infection, and even survived falling into river rapids at the age of 10. He was discovered later face down in the water near a mill and still pulled through.

He then went on to be blasted by an exploding container of gunpowder and avoided his death when a large slate tile dropped from a roof onto his head, again sending him into a deep coma. A life condemned to misfortune and smooth jazz.[3]

7 Diego de Almagro (1475–1538)

De Almagro was a man who was instrumental in the fall of the Incan civilization as he and his Spanish conquistador friends wreaked havoc on South America. But the man did not have it all his way—in fact, he had quite an unfortunate life.

For starters, the man lost an eye to a javelin thrown at him during a skirmish with one of the local armies. He then pushed on and on into Chile in the hopes of finding silver and gold, a land of riches beyond measure. But all he found was mountains. He lost most of his army to the treacherous Andes mountains and the Mapuche Natives and was forced to turn around after two years.

Back in Panama, he was met with a civil war with his Spanish counterparts over whom he first had the upper hand in battle. But after reinforcements arrived, his forces succumbed. He was arrested and sentenced to death by garotte, an iron collar that slowly tightens around your neck. His body was decapitated and displayed to the public as a warning. Ouch![4]

6 Rosalind Franklin (1920–1958)

Rosalind Franklin passed away at the young age of 37 from an aggressive ovarian cancer—a terrible plight and enough to suggest that fate had its cards stacked against her. But her death alone is not the reason she made this list.

You see, when James Watson and Francis Crick announced that they had discovered the DNA double-helix and the very building blocks of our human existence, they left out a crucial fact. Rosalind Franklin was instrumental to his discovery through her x-ray diffraction image of the DNA. Franklin was never mentioned in their announcement.

Watson and Crick became Nobel Prize winners, only mentioning Franklin’s work as inspiration for their discovery. Franklin meanwhile missed out as she passed away (possibly from radiation experienced during her research) four years before the award was given, making her ineligible to receive it. Her unfortunate legacy lives on.[5]

5 Pheidippides (530–490 BC)

When you can’t imagine anything worse than getting up early on a weekend and running a 5K, spare a thought for Pheidippides, a runner for the army and the man who inspired the marathon. Literally.

Pheidippides was an Athenian messenger who was pivotal in the Greek’s success as he was required to carry messages between armies and fighting hotspots. His greatest achievement, however, came when he made the desperate trek from Athens to Sparta in the hopes of convincing them to come to Athen’s aid before heading back to Athens. An almost 300-mile run, only to learn that the Spartan’s reinforcements would not arrive on time to join the battle.

Before he made his final bow, Pheidippides made the 25-mile run from a battlefield in Marathon to Athens, where he dropped dead from exhaustion.[6]

4 Helen Palmer Geisel (1898–1967)

The name Dr. Seuss has become synonymous with funny rhymes and stories that often act as a strong moral compass. But all is not always as it seems, and the wife of the famous Dr Theodore Seuss Geisel was not filled with fairy tales and joy.

Helen Palmer, the first wife of Dr. Seuss, had a torrid life. Although Dr. Seuss was guilty of infidelity, he remained married to Helen until her untimely death. It has been suggested even that Geisel was having an affair (with his future wife, no less) while his beloved wife was suffering from severe depression as well as a disease known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disease that attacks the nervous system.

Helen had polio as a child and had a limp; she struggled with infertility and later in life developed cancer for which she required intensive treatment and radiation. Then came partial blindness and deafness, which ultimately caused an addiction to barbiturates, a sedative, to cope with all her ailments. Helen eventually took her own life by overdosing on barbiturates.[7]

3 Alan Turing (1912–1954)

Philosopher, dreamer, mathematician, and computer scientist before it was a thing, Alan Turing had a lot going for him. However, the age into which he was born was not one of those things. A man who made countless contributions to modern computer science and was a valuable asset during the Second World War deciphering enemy military code, he should be heralded as a national treasure. The opposite happened.

Turing was treated as a common criminal due to the fact that homosexuality was illegal. Convicted under Victorian laws, he was slapped with the label of criminal and forced to undergo a process known as chemical castration. Eventually, Turing had enough and ingested a lethal dose of cyanide.

In 2009, the British Government apologized for his treatment, and in 2013, he received a royal pardon. But unfortunately, that did not make up for a life of misery.[8]

2 Ignaz Semmelweis (1818–1865)

Imagine a world where you advocate for physicians and surgeons to apply proper hygiene principles and then receive the scorn of the entire medical community.

Semmelweis, a gynecologist now known as the Father of Hygiene, realized that the spread of puerperal fever (and other ailments) could be prevented by the use of proper hand disinfectants. The world all but ignored, criticized, or attacked him, and the preventable deaths continued, much to his frustration.

Semmelweis began to suffer from numerous complications: severe depression, absentmindedness, manic obsessiveness, and turning all conversations to his much-ignored solution to a common problem. He developed a cognitive disability that could have been Alzheimer’s, mental exhaustion, or advanced-stage syphilis before eventually being referred to a mental institution where he was beaten to death by his attendants. Unfortunately, he did not receive credit for his work until years later.[9]

1 Carlos II of Spain (1661–1700)

King Carlos II of Spain was the last monarch of the Habsburg dynasty but was also known as Charles the Bewitched (nowhere is the unforgiving nature of humanity more clear). The unfortunate King Carlos had a relatively short life, defined by constant ill health.

The problem was the Habsburg’s policy of keeping the crown in the family, literally. Years of inbreeding had left Carlos physically disabled and disfigured, with a large tongue that made speech difficult. He was bald at a young age, and by the end of his life, he was hindered by epileptic seizures.

The final three years of Carlo’s life (which was also the last three years of the reign of the Habsburgs) were dominated by succession problems, as the unfortunate king could not father children. This led to the war of succession and the ultimate dismembering of Spain’s European possessions.[10]

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