North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is officially married to Ri Sol-Ju, the mystery woman he has been seen with in public. Although the marriage announcement was buried casually in a TV news report, the news is significant.
By introducing his wife to the nation, analysts suggest that Kim is beginning a more open rule and presenting himself more like a normal guy.
Not much is known about Ri, except she’s not the pop star Hyon Song-wol, the singer of propagandistic “Excellent Horse-Like Lady” that everyone thought may be his wife.
We know a lot about the wives of other famous dictators, though.
Here are the wives of 10 of the most notorious dictators in the modern era:
1) Eva Braun (April 29, 1945 - April 30, 1945), wife of German dictator Adolf Hitler
2) Jiang Qing (1938-1976), wife of Chairman Mao Zedong
3) Mirta Diaz-Balart (1948-1955), Dalia Soto del Valle (1980-present), wives of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro
Del Valle met Castro in 1961. She was a secretary in the Sugar Workers’ Union, and he was working on his literacy campaigns. They married quietly in 1980 and have had five children together.
"It can hardly be seen as accidental that all of the women Fidel became deeply involved with were of one precise profile: all were upper class, Americanized, English-speaking, beautiful (most, but not all, were blond), and from 'old families' who had fought against the Spaniards,” notes Georgie Anne Geyer, author of Guerilla Prince: The Untold Story of Fidel Castro.
4) Ekaterina Svanidze (1906-1907), Nadezhda Alliluyeva (1919-1932), wives of communist dictator Josef Stalin
Alliluyeva, the daughter of a political revolutionary, was Stalin’s second wife. She met him as a child in 1911 when one night, her father sheltered Stalin after he escaped from Siberian exile; Stalin may have saved her from drowning once when she was even younger. After the 1918 revolution, Alliluyeva worked as a confidential code clerk for Lenin. She married Stalin in 1919 and had two children with him. But they had a difficult marriage, especially because she suffered from a psychological illness, probably bipolar disorder. One night in 1932, she had a public argument with Stalin and was later found in her bedroom, dead with a revolver. It’s unclear whether she committed suicide or Stalin killed her. In any case, no one knew the truth until after Stalin’s death -- official reports said she died of appendicitis.
When Franco became head of state during the Civil War in 1936, Polo became the first lady, or La Señora. She instantly became an image of glamour, with fancy dresses and signature pearl necklaces. She often went on foreign trips abroad alone, and played an important role in electing Carlos Arias Navarro as Prime Minister and censoring the press.
Mussolini actually met Rachele in 1910. They married in 1915, renewed their vows in 1925, and had five children together. During the Mussolini regime, Rachele was the symbol of the fascist wife and mother. She was loyal to him, although Mussolini wasn’t loyal back -- he was killed by Italian partisans while with one of his mistresses. After a brief time in prison, Rachele ended up owning a pasta restaurant. (Trivia: After Rachele’s father died, her mother became the mistress of Mussolini’s father. Eek).
7) Kim Young-sook (Unknown - 2011) and Ko Young-hee, wife and mistress of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il
Kim Young-Sook was the North Korean dictator’s official wife. The daughter of a high-ranking official was picked to marry Kim Jong-Il by his father, Kim Il-Sung. The couple had a daughter from the marriage, but they were on bad terms for a long time.
His second mistress, Ko Young-Hee, is the mother of Kim Jong-Un. Ethnically Korean but born in Japan, she began working as a dancer in Pyongyang in the early 1970’s. The North Korean public knows her as “The Mother of Pyongyang,” but they do not know her real name or personal details. Her Korean-Japanese heritage and family association with the imperial Japanese army would be a mark of shame, so they have become family secrets.
8) Sally Hayfron (1987-1992), Grace Mugabe (1996-present), wives of Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe
Grace Mugabe, whom Mugabe married in 1996, was a secretary to Mugabe as president and became his mistress while still married to her former husband. She is known as “Dis Grace” and “The First Shopper” for her extravagance. One of her palaces, named “Graceland,” caused controversy for its huge lavishness. In a trip to Paris, she dropped about $120,000 on shopping.
9) Sajida Talfah (1937-2006), Samira Shahbander (1986-2006), wives of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein