The Bloody King Who Had a Thousand Kids

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this monarch sired the highest number of progeny ever recorded in history

ElMehdi El Azhary
Nov 17 · 3 min read
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Sultan Ismail of Morocco’s harem—Pinterest

Moulay Ismail was born in Sijilmassa, Morocco, around 1645. He was the second ruler of the Alaouite Dynasty, the royal house still ruling Morocco to date. Seventh of fifteen sons, he was governor of the Kingdom of Fez and the north of Morocco from 1667 up until his half-brother’s death in 1672.

He was infamously ruthless, his reign supposedly began with the display of 400 rebel heads on the walls of Fez, as he was contending to the throne against his nephew before being proclaimed Sultan at Fez in 1687 to begin a rule that would last 55 years, the longest of any Sultan in Morocco.

Accession to power and military centralization

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Sultan Ismail’s Black Guard — Yabiladi

The reign of Moulay Ismail was perhaps a highlight in the royal history of the country. Not only has it been the longest reign of any monarch before or after him, but it was also one of the strongest periods militarily speaking.

Prior to him taking power, Moroccan monarchs usually relied on tribes (that often rebelled) to supply them with men. During his reign, he relied highly on two main military corps: the Guichs, privileged tribes established by Moulay Ismail to limit subject region, and the Black Guard, also known as Abid al-Bukhari (Bukhari’s slaves), an army of black slaves totally devoted to the Sultan.

Moreover, Moulay Ismail also controlled a large fleet of corsairs based at the Old Salé (current Salé) and the New Salé (current Rabat). This fleet constantly supplied the Sultan with Christian weapons and slaves through its raids from the Mediterranean all the way to the Black Sea.

The Kingdom of Morocco established important diplomatic relationships during Ismail’s reign, notably with the Kingdoms of France, Great Britain, and Spain. The Europeans nicknamed him “the Bloody King” or “the Bloodthirsty” due to his cruelty and ruthlessness. In Morocco, he was known as “the Warrior King”.

A legacy of a thousand kids

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Painting of Sultan Ismail—Pinterest

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Moulay Ismail fathered 888 children, the highest progeny throughout recorded history that can actually be verified.

In a report, Dominique Busnot, a French diplomat who frequently went on expeditions to Morocco, says the Sultan may actually have had 1171 children from four wives and 500 concubines. At the time of the report, Ismail was 57 and had ruled for 32 years.

The numbers seem fairly high. That is why a group of scientists ran a simulation to verify how many times Moulay Ismail should have had sex to father that many children and how many concubines were actually needed for that.

According to the simulation developed by the Anthropology Department at the University of Vienna, the Sultan needed to have sex an average of 0.83 to 1.43 times per day to sire that many offspring. Moreover, the researchers suggested he needed a harem of only 65 to 110 women to do so (considering fertility cycles).

In spite of the bloody reputation he has, Moulay Ismail is celebrated as the first ruler under whom Morocco finally experiences peace. In the country’s history, his reign is considered a golden age during which security and order ruled. He unified the country, considerably extended it, and undertook an extraordinary amount of construction around the kingdom.

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ElMehdi El Azhary

Written by

Storyteller. Mental health activist. History buff. This is your daily dose of unconventional writing. elmehdielazhary4@gmail.com

Lessons from History

Lessons from History is a platform for writers who share ideas and inspirational stories from world history. The objective is to promote history on Medium and demonstrate the value of historical writing.

ElMehdi El Azhary

Written by

Storyteller. Mental health activist. History buff. This is your daily dose of unconventional writing. elmehdielazhary4@gmail.com

Lessons from History

Lessons from History is a platform for writers who share ideas and inspirational stories from world history. The objective is to promote history on Medium and demonstrate the value of historical writing.

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